Save on Pinterest

Traditional Popcorn Balls

Kids of all ages enjoy this popcorn ball recipe as an old-fashioned holiday treat. One batch goes a long way. —Cathy Karges, Hazen, North Dakota
  • Total Time
    Prep/Total Time: 20 min.
  • Makes
    20 servings


  • 7 quarts popped popcorn
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Food coloring, optional


  • Place popcorn in a large baking pan; keep warm in a 200° oven.
  • In a heavy saucepan, combine the sugar, corn syrup, water and salt. Cook over medium heat until a candy thermometer reads 235° (soft-ball stage).
  • Remove from the heat. Add the butter, vanilla and food coloring if desired; stir until butter is melted. Immediately pour over popcorn and stir until evenly coated.
  • When mixture is cool enough to handle, quickly shape into 3-in. balls, dipping hands in cold water to prevent sticking.

Test Kitchen Tips
  • For a fun twist, make the basic recipe and divide it into a few portions. Then add different mix-ins to each. Think candies, nuts, dried fruit, even cereal.
  • Here are five candy-making mistakes to avoid.
  • Nutrition Facts
    1 each: 177 calories, 6g fat (2g saturated fat), 5mg cholesterol, 203mg sodium, 31g carbohydrate (18g sugars, 2g fiber), 1g protein.

    Recommended Video


    Click stars to rate
    Average Rating:
    • jvaliante
      Dec 23, 2020

      How many cups of popcorn is in a quart?

    • Danielle
      Jun 18, 2020

      when i do them i usually use marshmallow it’s so much better we melt the marshmallows with butter in a pan then we mix the food coloring in different bowls. we then mix the popcorn with the marshmallows. we put butter or pan spray on our hands and form to ball. and there just am amazing

    • Roland
      Jun 11, 2020

      My mom used to make popcorn balls at Christmas. She would add some green food coloring to the syrup, form the balls, then stud them with cinnamon candies ("red hots"). Sometimes she would form the whole batch into the shape of a Christmas tree and decorate with red hots on the ends of the "branches". What fond memories,

    • khen56
      Dec 25, 2019

      No comment left

    • Dotty
      Dec 15, 2019

      Great recipe! And, they stay soft like I remember as a kid, not hard and crackly like the ones you see in stores. I'm sorry people rate you down because they don't have a candy thermometer and don't know how to use ice water and figure it out the old-fashion way.

    • Tifelony
      Mar 11, 2019

      This recipe is perfect. Delicious popcorn balls. To those complaining about not having a candy bout using your common sense to google making popcorn balls without a candy thermometer???? Cooking sugar is a chemical process so you cant sit here and complain about an easy and calculated recipe not giving you the the more complex version of a chemical process and its detailed steps. Some people use thermometers to avoid burning a batch of sugar and some can do without (which takes practuce and if youre here complaining about not having a tool needed in this particular recipe then ill guarantee you Will bitch and leave negative comments when you burn your sugar without a thermometer no matter how detailed the instructions are.) Candy making is VERY tempremental. But do yourself a favor and learn how to search for a recipe that calls for the tools you have (or in your case dont) before leaving bad comments and reviews on a perfectly good recipe. Good grief

    • greatwithoutgluten
      Mar 9, 2019

      Easy and delicious. Great treat!

    • Rona
      Dec 24, 2018

      No comment left

    • Janet
      Dec 15, 2018

      To those of you with no candy thermometer, it's not really necessary. Cook to the "soft ball" stage--the stage where the coating, when you drop a small bit into a cup of cold water, forms a soft ball. Not a hard ball--over cooked--and if it doesn't make a ball, you need to cook the syrup longer. Google it for pictures and examples.

    • Makayla
      Oct 25, 2017

      The recipe is great but i do not own a candy thermometer and dont know if the mixture was ready or not