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How to Make Popcorn Balls

Published October 31, 2011        by Nicole

Popcorn Ball RecipeHomemade gifts are the best, and there can be nothing more delicious for a variety of occasions than popcorn balls. These crunchy treats can be made to satisfy a sweet or savory craving, and they are popular with kids and adults alike. Who can resist popcorn? Not Americans, it seems. We eat billions of quarts of popcorn a year, and assembling our favorite treat into another form just adds to the fun. Popcorn balls aren’t hard to make, are perfect for snack baskets and they are always crowd-pleasers: that is a recipe for success!

Traditional Popcorn Balls, courtesy of

You need:

  • 2 cups unpopped popcorn

  • 4 tablespoons vegetable oil

  • 1 tablespoon butter

  • 1 cup white sugar

  • 1 cup molasses

  • ½ teaspoon salt

Put one tablespoon of oil in a saucepan, and heat. When the oil is hot, add ½ cup of popcorn kernels. Keep the saucepan moving – just like you would if you were popping Jiffy Pop. When the kernels stop popping, remove from heat. This recipe calls for you to continue doing this ½ cup at a time until all the popcorn is popped; if you want to do it all at once, go for it. If you have never popped in a saucepan before, you may want to go at the gradual pace to avoid burning.

Butter a bowl, and put the popped corn in it. Put this to the side, and melt your butter in a saucepan. Stir in the sugar, molasses, and salt. Boil this mixture on medium heat, and insert a candy thermometer. When it reads 260o, you’re done. If you don’t have a candy thermometer, just wait for the mixture to boil. Pour the syrup over the popcorn, and make sure all of the corn is coated. Butter your hands, and shape the popcorn into balls.

There are other variations, which call for corn syrup that you may want to try.

Caramel Popcorn Balls, from

  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk

  • 1 cup packed brown sugar

  • 3 cups unpopped popcorn kernels

  • ¾ cup white Karo syrup

  • ½ cup butter

Start by popping the kernels and picking out those “old maids,” or unpopped kernels. Put the popped corn into a bowl and set aside.

Mix all the ingredients, save the popcorn, in a saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Boil this for about five minutes. Pour the syrupy mixture over the popcorn, making sure to coat it evenly. This mixture will be hot, so be careful. This recipe calls for you to dip your hands in cold water now and then to prevent burning and sticking. Other recipes, such as the one above, recommend buttering your hands. Experiment and see which works best for you. Shape the popcorn into balls, and enjoy!

Caramel Popcorn Balls Recipe

Rocky Road Popcorn Balls, from

This variation adds a touch of sweet to these excellent treats.

  • 3 cups mini marshmallows

  • ¼ cup butter

  • 8 cups of popped popcorn

  • ½ dry roasted unsalted peanuts (but if you use salted, we won’t tell)

  • ½ cup mini chocolate chips

Start by putting the marshmallows and butter in a saucepan on medium-low meat. Keep stirring them to keep them from burning. When they are melted and smooth, which should take about five minutes, remove from the heat. Working quickly, stir in the popcorn and peanuts. Stir them gently and make sure the popcorn is as evenly coated as possible. Stir in the chocolate chips. Butter your hands or grease them with a bit of oil, and shape the mixture into balls.

If you’re not going to eat or serve these immediately, wrap them in plastic. They make wonderful treats around Halloween or Christmas, and you can always customize the ingredients to add a little holiday flair: try red and green M&Ms instead of chocolate chips for the Rocky Road recipe, for instance. Whatever the flavor, these are a perfect item for gift baskets for kids of any age.