Traditional Popcorn Balls Recipe
Traditional Popcorn Balls Recipe photo by Taste of Home

Traditional Popcorn Balls Recipe

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4.5 18 14
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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.
MAKES:20 servings
Quick Test Kitchen Approved
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

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.


  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.
Originally published as Traditional Popcorn Balls in Taste of Home December/January 1999, p54

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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."

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