Survival Food: How to Make Parched Corn

Dried corn ready to be parched
Dried corn ready to be parched

Corn – You can boil it, toast it, roast it, parch it, eat it raw, grill it, steam it, stew it, cream it, grind it, feed humans or animals with it.  You can eat it fresh, freeze it, can it,  dry it, drink it or burn it in your vehicle.  It’s a diverse food that can serve a prepper well if they know what to do with it.

Parched corn was eaten regularly by American Indians warriors and hunters as an extremely lightweight, high energy trail food long before European explorers showed up and was a typical food or treat for the pioneers as well.  It is the original “trail snack” and can also be ground up for stews or soups.

If you’re asking “What is parched corn” at this point, let me fill you in.  Parched corn is a lot like the partly popped kernels in popcorn – you know, the ones with the white stripes down them – except it’s a lot more tender, tastes a bit better and doesn’t get stuck in your teeth. It’s kind of like corn nuts – except it’s the real thing!

Making parched corn is really quite simple – you just take dried corn kernels and roast them over heat and eat them.  But even then there is a variety of things you can do with it – you can season it with onion salt, regular salt, Lowry’s salt, garlic salt – or whatever flavorings you like.  The way I was taught (and the way I’m about to teach) was to cover it in brown sugar – which makes it kind of like eating caramel corn.

My good friend, Justin H. who is a primitive survivalist and one of my heroes, taught me to keep parched corn in a cloth bag and carry it in all my survival kits, I suggest you do the same.

Here is a step by step pictorial on how to make parched corn.

  1. Your corn must be dried.  There are several ways you can dry it but the most common I know of is to hang it in a dry area in your home.  It can also be dehydrated in your oven.  Once dried, you can store the corn on the cob just about forever – this is a great way to preserve your harvest.
  2. Remove the kernels from the cob – this should be as simple as lightly rubbing the cob.  If it is difficult to get the kernels to drop off the cob, your corn is probably not dry enough.ParchedCornShucking
  3. After cleaning all the cobs, you should have a container full of cornParchedCornBowl
  4. Set for around medium heat and oil your skillet, once the oil has heated, coat the entire skillet with oil and drain the excess (we’re not deep frying here).  Add enough corn kernels to almost cover the bottom of the skillet.  Your kernels should only be one level high.  Notice in this picture that the kernels are yellow/white and look rather flat.ParchedCornRawCooking
  5. Stir continuously.  I prefer to shake the pan back and forth, similar to popping corn over a fire.  After 1 – 5 minutes, the corn will begin to turn light brown and will puff up like it’s being filled with air.  It will also begin to pop.  A few pops is fine but if it start popping a lot, you probably have too much heat.  Notice the difference in color and shape of the corn in this picture and the previous one.  If you are adding seasoning you can do it during this part of the process or you can do it in the next step.ParchedCornParching
  6. Once the corn is browned and has a nice round shape, remove it from the heat and place it on a container with a paper towel on it to absorb the excess oil.   Dab the corn with another paper towel to make sure there is as little oil left on it as possible.ParchedCornCooked
  7. Once the oil has been absorbed, you can move it to a container to hold it all in.  At this point, I add some brown sugar in, put the lid on and shake it.  You can add any other flavorings at this point if you didn’t do it previously.ParchedCornBrownSugar
  8. The final product of parched brown sugar corn. ParchedCornFinished
  9. In just a few minutes you can easily create a high energy delicious trail food that can sustain you for quite a long time – and doesn’t need preservatives or crinkly packaging to keep it from going bad!

32 Replies to “Survival Food: How to Make Parched Corn”

  1. Can I do this with bulk dried field/feed corn? I use that for most of my corn flour/meal/grits/hominy uses, and it would be most convenient if it would work here, too.

    Frondly, Fern

    1. I’ve eaten the stuff since I was a kid in the 50’s. Most of the time I just parch it in the oven on the cobb. Sometimes I ring it off after into a bowl and add seasoning, and sometimes I eat it off the cobb.

      1. That’s what I was hoping to find. Just cook it on the cob till it’s parched. As a small child I loved it but no one remembers how to do it. Thanks

  2. Can I do this with bulk dried field/feed corn? I use that for most of my corn flour/meal/grits/hominy uses, and it would be most convenient if it would work here, too.

    Frondly, Fern

  3. Fern, while I’ve only done it with sweet corn from my garden, I have read and heard that you can do it with field corn just fine. I’d love to hear back from you on how it turns out!

  4. Fern, while I’ve only done it with sweet corn from my garden, I have read and heard that you can do it with field corn just fine. I’d love to hear back from you on how it turns out!

  5. Dang, Phil, you're a week late with your post! I harvested and froze the last of my corn over the weekend. I would have love to have saved some of it for this. I will most definitely try this next year. It looks like a great way to store corn. Looks yummy too.

    1. I tried it with whole corn from the feed store…yeah, it isn’t for human consumption, but was dried field corn, locally grown and cheap. Yummy! 

  6. Okay, I just tried it with field corn, seasoned with popcorn salt. Fun to make – I clearly had the heat too high and it was popping a lot. Then the business phone rang and I handled the call, a wrong number, while holding the pan of browing and popping corn.

    Tasted boring to me, and husband who has a tooth problem was afraid to eat any of it. He may try some next week, when I'll try different seasonings.

  7. I found a few ears while clearing the garden. They were from the summer crop, so they were already dry. I just cooked up a batch of this and they are great! Thanks for the idea, Phil. I used a little bit of melted butter to stick the sugar to the kernels. Worked great. I'm interested in trying this with some other seasonings like ranch, cheese, or garlic.

  8. Hmm, are you sure it isn’t hard as a rock? Looks like unpopped popcorn, which is really hard on the dental work :-)  Or does it soften some in the cooking process (which my popcorn does not!)   I will give this a try – good way to store excess corn! 

    1. I think this process removes the water like popping, but does it much slower, and leaves a more open space in the kernel, so it shouldn’t turn out too hard to crunch…

  9. Looks like you would be better off with true parching varieties (that split open and get very soft—are bred specifically for their parching flavors and characteristics). This looks like flint or sweet corn? Not a good for parching, but good for broken teeth.

  10. We do it differently here in the Caribbean. We do not put oil in the pan, it is roasted dry. Also, remember to shake and blow off the fluff from the corn (that came off the cob). When the corn is nearly done, we pour a bit of salted water in it and roast it for a little bit longer. The salt is cooked in and it remains crispy. Delicious!

  11. Thank you for your good efforts!
    There is ONE ASPECT of your directions that I find VERY ALARMING, although EASILY AVOIDED. The problem is that you suggest a non-stick pan as a preferable utensil, and then suggest that cooks heat the empty pan. Nonstick coating being what it is, this process will release gases into the air. WHILE WE HOMO SAP. CAN SURVIVE INHALING SUCH GASES, BIRDS, ESPECIALLY THE SORTS WE MAY HAVE AS COMPANION ANIMALS, ARE EXTREMELY VULNERABLE TO EVEN NANO-AMOUNTS OF THEM, that we wouldn’t even notice as a faint smell. Other tiny animals may also be poisoned by inhaling them. IF YOU HAVE ANY BIRDS, OR SMALL PETS OF ANY SORT, AVOID USING NONSTICK COOKWARE FOR THIS RECIPE (most bird owners I know just got rid of nonstick entirely, because you never know when some guest may unknowingly do the wrong thing with it.)
    Sincerely, Ann Kilby

  12. If you’re going to use field corn/ dent corn you need to process it by nixtamalization. You need calcium hydroxide/ pickling lime (or you can also use wood ashes because it is alkaline). Boil the cal with the corn for about 60 minutes. Then let it set for 24 hours. Clean the corn and scrub away the outer hull. Grind it up and you can use this for tortillas, tamales, empanadas, pupusas, ect. And fry for corn nuts. You get more nutrition from the corn this way and you will not get pellagra.- a dietary deficiency = diarrhea, dementia, and Good Eats, tort(illa) reform by Alton Brown…(it is on youtube)..Also, how to make hominy is on youtube.

  13. My sixth great-grandfather took part in the siege on Fort Watauga in July of 1776. I found out that the people holed up in the fort subsisted on mostly parched corn during the heart of the fight which lasted about a fortnight before their relief came. I wouldn’t think they’d have fancy sweeteners on hand. Probably a bit of salt, if they were lucky. I may just have to try this as part of my research.

  14. Great article. I’m trying a slight variation. I started drying out my corn on the cob in my carport but ran out of patience. I brought the 5 ears inside and cut off the still mostly wet corn. I placed a layer of aluminum foil in one level of my dehydrator and I’m drying it out like that. I plan on following your directions after I remove my dried corn from said dehydrator. Peace.

  15. my grandmother made this, for us, when I was a young child. She used field corn, which is what she had, great alternative for popcorn.

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