Traditional Popcorn Balls

Total Time

Prep/Total Time: 20 min.


20 servings

Updated: Nov. 02, 2023
Having an old-fashioned popcorn ball will make you feel like a kid again. You'll find one batch of this sweet treat goes a long way. —Cathy Karges, Hazen, North Dakota


  • 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 butter, vanilla extract and, if desired, food coloring; 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 into cold water as needed to prevent sticking.
Popcorn Balls Tips

Why won't my popcorn balls stick together?

The specific timing, temperatures and process affect the overall successful formation of the popcorn balls. The popcorn must be kept warm so that the syrup adheres well to the kernels, and the syrup must also be brought to the proper temperature of 235°F, as the recipe indicates. Lastly, the popcorn mixture must cool slightly after the syrup is added before attempting to form the popcorn balls.

What else can I add to popcorn balls?

There are many tasty options for creating fun flavored popcorn balls. Try adding any of your favorite candies, like M&M's minis or chopped Snickers, before forming the popcorn mixture into balls. Mix in crushed Oreo cookies and drizzle with white chocolate for a cookies and cream version, or make a salty-sweet combo by adding chopped salted peanuts. You can even decorate the popcorn balls to resemble festive objects like ornament popcorn balls or popcorn jack-o'-lanterns. Check out more of our flavored popcorn recipes for inspiration!

How should I store popcorn balls?

Popcorn balls will last for up to 5 days when stored properly in tightly sealed containers at room temperature.

Josh Rink, Taste of Home Food Stylist
Candy Thermometers
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.

Nutrition Facts

1 popcorn ball: 177 calories, 6g fat (2g saturated fat), 5mg cholesterol, 203mg sodium, 31g carbohydrate (18g sugars, 2g fiber), 1g protein.