Will It Pop?

Find out what happens when grains, seeds and cereals beyond the usual corn kernels come into contact with heat and a little bit of oil.
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Photo By: Heather Ramsdell ©©Food Network 2016

Photo By: Heather Ramsdell ©©Food Network 2016

Photo By: Heather Ramsdell ©©Food Network 2016

Photo By: airdone ©airdone

Photo By: Heather Ramsdell ©©Food Network 2016

Photo By: Heather Ramsdell ©©Food Network 2016

Photo By: Heather Ramsdell ©©Food Network 2016

Photo By: Heather Ramsdell ©©Food Network 2016

Sure, Popcorn Is Great

But if you can pop corn, why not quinoa? In search of more munchable healthy snacks, we put some of our favorite grains, seeds and cereals to the test. Here's what happened.

Photo: egal/iStock

All other photos courtesy of Heather Ramsdell


Will it pop? Yes.

Amaranth seeds pop like crazy little jumping beans. They are tons of fun and taste like teeny-tiny, buttery popcorn (even without any fat added). These are perfect sprinkled on a soup or salad, or as a crust for chicken or pork.

How to pop it: Add 1 tablespoon amaranth to a hot nonstick skillet. Cover with a lid, but leave it slightly cracked. Cook, occasionally swirling the pan so that nothing burns.


Will it pop? No.

Bulgur is dried cracked wheat. And because the grain is cracked, not whole, pressure can't build up inside the hull to cause it to pop. The bulgur in our experiment burned in the pan.


Will it pop? No.

Though some have reported success, we couldn't get any popping action.


Will it pop? Yes.

The corn we pop is a different strain than the corn we eat off the cob. It has a hard outer hull that surrounds a softer inner mixture of starch, water and oil. When heated, the water inside the hull expands, the hull softens, and the starch puffs up into the popcorn shape we know and love.

How to pop it: Heat 1/2 cup popcorn with 3 tablespoons vegetable oil in a large heavy-bottom pot with a lid over medium-high heat. Cook, covered, shaking occasionally, until the sound of popping slows and most of the kernels are popped.

Photo: airdone/iStock


Will it pop? Yes.

About half of the tiny seeds in our batch truly popped. The remainder stayed whole but turned crunchy and toasty and were definitely edible. Popped quinoa makes a nice topper for butternut or squash soup.

How to pop it: Almost as soon as quinoa pops, its outer shell begins to burn. The trick is to dump small amounts of quinoa into hot oil and then remove them as quickly as possible once popped. We heated 1 tablespoon vegetable oil in a shallow nonstick skillet, then added 1 tablespoon quinoa and cooked over medium-high heat.


Will it pop? Yes.

Sorghum pops up into tiny little puffs that look like popcorn for hamsters. The end result is both crunchy and fluffy, with more half-popped crunchy kernels leftover than popcorn. It makes a tasty snack served straight and would be fun to make into kettle "corn" with honey and coconut sugar.

How to pop it: Sorghum is best popped in small batches. Heat 2 tablespoons sorghum in a dry nonstick skillet and cook uncovered over medium-high heat.

Wheat Berries

Will it pop? No.

Wheat kernels don’t have enough internal moisture to pop like popcorn. To introduce moisture, we tried boiling them for 15 minutes and then pop-frying them when they were dry. The results were not-quite-edible, hard yet chewy little balls.

Wild Rice

Will it pop? Yes.

This is totally fun and delicious. Wild rice pops almost instantly and tastes like little rice crackers. And we love the pretty contrast between wild rice's dark outer hull and its light, puffy interior. We can't wait to try the popped rice crushed up as a breading for fish.

How to pop it: Preheat 1 tablespoon vegetable oil in a shallow nonstick skillet over high heat. Add 2 tablespoons wild rice and toss to coat with the oil. Cover and cook over medium-high heat.

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