What Type Of Corn Is Used To Make Corn Nuts?

Kids of the 80s spent a great deal of their time socializing at arcades and roller rinks with plenty of quarters in their pockets. Undoubtedly a wealth of those quarters were spent during their turn at the Pac-Man machine. If you were one of those kids, you may recognize the uncanny likeness of Pac-Man to one of your favorite snack logos from that era — Corn Nuts. The logo has long since changed from a piece of almost smiling corn, to the updated emblem that you see in convenience stores across the country.

But, regardless of its branding, "Is it corn or a nut?" may be the first question on top of your mind. Corn Nuts are in fact made from corn. The snack food actually has long sustained humans since the days when Native Americans called it parched corn. The preparation started with dried corn and eventually was roasted. Light to carry and packed with nutrients, you could say that corn nuts are something of an OG when it comes to road trip food. Corn is indigenous to America, after all.

There's the sweet corn you eat straight from the cob, while field corn is what farmers harvest in the fall for livestock, cornflakes, and ethanol products. In addition to these two basic types, specialty corn such as popcorn and white corn used for tortillas are among the kernel lineup. Still, not just any type can be used to make today's Corn Nuts.

Waxy corn is the choice kernel

Also known as waxy maize starch, waxy corn is the kernel of choice for today's Corn Nuts. Brought here by the Chinese at the turn of the 20th century, it didn't gain popularity until World War II when the West Indies cassava (tapioca) starch supply was cut off. It turned out that waxy corn contained the same starch needed to make thickeners as its Caribbean cousin. Read any label that lists corn starch as an ingredient, and it's likely waxy corn played a hand in making that product. 

So, you can thank waxy corn for your favorite dry shampoo which often is made with corn starch. It's also used to make adhesives for those labels you can't ever seem to scrape entirely off, for example. But, if you want to get really technical, the Corn Nut comes from its own hybrid of waxy corn that Holloway's engineers cross-bred with a nuttier starchy Peruvian variety called "choclo" to perfect his formula, which hit the market in 1964. 

While you may not exactly have a stockpile of Corn Nuts hanging out in your pantry these days, we're willing to bet they at least play a supporting role in your snack selections while on the road. So, when you're grabbing some on your next adventure, you'll know exactly what you're eating.