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Traditional Popcorn Balls Recipe

Traditional Popcorn Balls Recipe

Kids of all ages enjoy these old-fashioned holiday treats. One batch goes a long way. —Cathy Karges, Hazen, North Dakota
TOTAL TIME: Prep/Total Time: 20 min. YIELD: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


  • 1. Place popcorn in a large baking pan; keep warm in a 200° oven.
  • 2. 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).
  • 3. 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.
  • 4. When mixture is cool enough to handle, quickly shape into 3-in. balls, dipping hands in cold water to prevent sticking. Yield: 20 servings.
Editor's Note: We recommend that you test your candy thermometer before each use by bringing water to a boil; the thermometer should read 212°. Adjust your recipe temperature up or down based on your test.

Nutritional Facts

1 serving (1 each) equals 177 calories, 6 g fat (2 g saturated fat), 5 mg cholesterol, 203 mg sodium, 31 g carbohydrate, 2 g fiber, 1 g protein.

Reviews for Traditional Popcorn Balls

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Reviewed Feb. 16, 2016

"Nice recipe"

Reviewed Oct. 26, 2015

"I do not own a candy thermometer? How can i judge when ready?"

Reviewed Sep. 2, 2015

"When I was a kid back in the 60's and 70's the lunch ladies would make these treats for us on holidays or special fairs and they would flavor them with Kool-aid (the unsweetened envelopes)--usually orange or raspberry!"

Reviewed Jun. 23, 2015

"The hardest part of this recipe is waiting for the popcorn to cool! I think my teenagers ate half of the hot popcorn mix before we could even form them into the classic popcorn ball. As a volunteer food editor for Taste of Home, I love re-discovering old classic recipes!"

Reviewed Nov. 2, 2014

"I haven't had a home-made popcorn ball in 50 years. My mother use to make them and they seemed so difficult. I just made this recipe and it was so easy and tasted wonderful."

Reviewed Dec. 4, 2013

"I absolutely love this app. Thank you."

Reviewed Nov. 5, 2013

"Don't forget to take the unpopped "old maids" out of the popcorn before forming into balls. We learned that the hard way. Recipe is delicious, though. :)"

Reviewed Dec. 22, 2012

"This was super easy and had a great flavor. I loved how chewy they were but not too sticky to handle. I gave these as Christmas gifts! They were so fun to make."

Reviewed Dec. 21, 2012

"Easy recipe to follow and the popcorn balls look and taste great."

Reviewed Dec. 19, 2012

"After you coat the popcorn if you let the popcorn cool just a minute or two they form into balls better. They taste great though and I made them into mini balls both green and red and wrapped them in cellophane with a little ribbon. I put them in a bowl and set them out for my littlest guests."

Reviewed Dec. 17, 2012

"I never seen a recipe like this before., but it looks wonderful., especially at this time of year., and for kids of all ages too., deb m."

Reviewed Dec. 15, 2012

"You tint the syrup after it has boiled; when you add the vanilla and butter"

Reviewed Dec. 15, 2012

"If you were to tint the popcorn balls, do you tint the syrup or the popcorn?"

Reviewed Dec. 15, 2012

"Jackigene, try adding some cinnamon flavored candy flavoring. I believe you can get this from Wilton's. Cooks use it to flavor things like homemade lollipops."

Reviewed Dec. 15, 2012

"What would I do to make these cinnamon flavor? Any suggestions. Love this recipe. Thank you."

Reviewed Sep. 13, 2011

"Tastes Great! but I couldnt get mine to stay into I just layed it out on a sheet pan and voila Caramel Corn ;)"

Reviewed Feb. 18, 2011

"I have made these 3 times now and they turn out perfectly every time. It is a great old-fashioned treat. I put sandwich bags over my hands when shaping them, which prevents a person's hands from getting too sticky when forming them into balls."

Reviewed Sep. 25, 2009

"These came out wonderful. My son and I had fun making them too, we got sticky popcorn all over the kitchen. I'm thinking of wrapping them in orange colored cellophane with green ribbons to look like pumpkins."

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