International Recipes and Cooking Around the World

Popcorn Balls

Popcorn balls

(American caramel-coated popcorn treat)

Image by Raymond Bryson

Average: 5 (1 vote)

Generations of Americans have fond memories of Grandma's old-fashioned popcorn balls — little spheres of sweet perfection, made by hand and loaded with love. Continue the tradition by making learning how to make popcorn balls yourself as Halloween treats or Christmas confections.

Makes about 20 popcorn balls


  • Freshly popped popcorn -- about 5 quarts, or about 1 cup unpopped
  • Brown sugar -- 1 cup
  • Sugar -- 1 cup
  • Water -- 1 cup
  • Light corn syrup -- 1/2 cup
  • White vinegar -- 1 teaspoon
  • Salt -- big pinch
  • Vanilla extract -- 1 teaspoon


  1. Remove any unpopped kernels from the popcorn and keep warm in a large bowl in a very slow oven (250°F).
  2. Add the sugar, water, corn syrup, vinegar and salt to a large saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Continue to boil until the syrup reaches a temperature of 270°F, or hard-ball stage, on a candy thermometer. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla.
  3. Pour the hot syrup over the popcorn and stir until well coated. Set the popcorn aside until cool enough to handle.
  4. Using lightly buttered hands, form 1 cup portions of popcorn into balls and press together lightly. Cool on wax paper. Wrap individually in wax paper or cellophane.

Popcorn Ball Variations

  • Tasty Additions: Stir in some salted peanuts, candy corn, M&M candies, mini marshmallows or crushed candy canes for an extra special treat.
  • Colored Popcorn Balls: Squeeze several drops of food coloring into the sugar syrup along with the vanilla.
  • Peanut Butter Popcorn Balls:
    • Freshly popped popcorn -- about 5 quarts, or about 1 cup unpopped
    • Sugar -- 2 cups
    • Light corn syrup -- 2 cups
    • Chunky peanut butter -- 2 cups
    • Vanilla -- 1 teaspoon
    1. Bring the sugar and corn syrup to a boil and cook until hard-ball stage, or 270°F, on a candy thermometer.
    2. Remove from heat and stir in the peanut butter and vanilla.
    3. Continue with Step 3 above.


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