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Popcorn Balls

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Popcorn Balls are a fun and delicious way to celebrate the season. This simple recipe is a great base for so many flavor combinations – the possibilities are endless!

close up of popcorn balls on a counter with a white bowl in the background

This post is sponsored by Karo® Corn Syrup. Thank you for continuing to support the brands that make My Baking Addiction possible.

When I was a child, we always spent Christmas Eve at my great aunt Dorothy’s house.

We’d sip on a batch of holiday wassail that was always simmering on her stove top and munch on a variety of Christmas cookies.

Her home was always in perfect order and smelled of Christmas. At the time, she was the Martha Stewart of our family (I like to think the torch has passed to moi) and had amazing taste in decor.

popcorn balls scattered on a marble countertop

My mom always tells me how proud she’d be of our home since I am also a lover of home decor.

It’s in her living room (with the fancy floral carpet) that I developed my love of pencil trees with twinkling white lights.

She also has a huge collection of vintage Santa figurines that were always on display – each with their own unique character and charm.

Aunt Dorothy also always had a little basket or bowl filled with wrapped popcorn balls. Nothing fancy, just a plain white snowball sized popcorn ball wrapped in cellophane.

As simple as this treat was, it was always one of my favorite things about visiting her on Christmas Eve.

Ingredients for popcorn balls arranged on a counter

MY FAVORITE HOLIDAY FOOD TRADITIONS

Since having Elle, I am always trying to find ways to keep family traditions alive. From my Nana’s pumpkin rolls and my mom’s chicken paprikash, to Eric’s grandma’s date cake.

It’s these food traditions that truly make the holiday season extra special. Now that Elle loves getting in the kitchen with me, I love making holiday memories with her while creating some of my favorite childhood treats.

ingredients for caramel in a saucepan

Each year we roll up our sleeves and whip up a batch or two of these simple popcorn balls. If you’ve never made homemade popcorn balls, you’ll be amazed at how simple they are.

And I’m pretty sure you probably already have all of the ingredients on hand.

Spatula stirring light caramel in a saucepan

WHAT ARE POPCORN BALLS

I have a theory that you either grew up in a family that made popcorn balls every year or you may have never even had one before.

Obviously I grew up in the former, but if you’re in the latter group, you might not be familiar with this holiday treat.

Popcorn balls are kind of like a mix between caramel corn and a rice krispie treat. They’re a little crunchy, a little sticky, a little sweet, and a little salty.

And honestly, it’s really hard to eat just one!

Light caramel being poured over a pan of popped popcorn

HOW TO MAKE THIS HOLIDAY STAPLE

To make these classic popcorn balls, you’ll need:

  • 3 quarts (12 cups) popped popcorn
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup Karo® Light OR Dark Corn Syrup
  • 1/4 cup butter or margarine
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3 tablespoons festive sprinkles (optional)
Hand sprinkling holiday sprinkles over sticky popcorn on a baking pan

Spray a large roasting pan with nonstick cooking spray; add the popcorn and place it in a warm oven. 

Meanwhile, in a saucepan, combine sugar, corn syrup, butter and salt. Bring this mixture to a boil while stirring constantly. Once it starts boiling, boil for 2 minutes – and keep stirring constantly! 

After the 2 minutes has passed, remove the syrup mixture from heat. Stir in vanilla and baking soda. The baking soda will cause the mixture to bubble up, so add it carefully.

Shaped popcorn balls lined up on a sheet tray

Pour the syrup mixture over the warm popcorn, stirring to coat well. Add in the sprinkles and mix to combine.

My aunt always left her popcorn balls simple and white, but my Elle loves sprinkles, so I like to add them in. And I have to say, my little babe is onto something, because they add just the right amount of festive color.

Once the mixture has cooled slightly and is able to be touched, spray your hands with nonstick cooking spray. Work quickly to shape twelve 3-inch popcorn balls.

Popcorn balls on a marble countertop next to holiday baubles

The Karo® Syrup adds just the right amount of sweetness and ensures your popcorn balls will keep their shape.

Spraying your hands with cooking spray before shaping the balls is important because the warm mixture is pretty sticky. It’ll cool a lot faster than you think, though, so make sure you work fast! 

If you’re looking for a fun and delicious treat the whole family will love, give these simple popcorn balls a try! They just might become your new holiday tradition.

Popcorn balls with holiday sprinkles in a white bowl
popcorn balls scattered on a marble countertop

Popcorn Balls

Yield: 12 popcorn balls
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes

Popcorn Balls are a fun and delicious way to celebrate the season. This simple recipe is a great base for so many flavor combinations – the possibilities are endless!

Ingredients

  • 3 quarts (12 cups) popped popcorn
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup Karo® Light OR Dark Corn Syrup
  • 1/4 cup butter or margarine
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3 tablespoons festive sprinkles, optional

Instructions

  1. Spray large roasting pan sprayed lightly with nonstick cooking spray; add popcorn and place in 300ºF oven until warm.
  2. Combine sugar, corn syrup, butter and salt in a heavy 2-quart saucepan. Stirring constantly, bring to boil over medium heat. Continue stirring and boil 2 minutes.
  3. Remove syrup mixture from heat; stir in vanilla and baking soda.
  4. Pour syrup mixture over warm popcorn stirring to coat well. Add in sprinkles and mix to combine.
  5. Once mixture has cooled slightly and is able to be touched, spray your hands with nonstick cooking spray. Working quickly to shape twelve 3-inch popcorn balls.
  6. Cool completely. Wrap individually in plastic wrap.

Notes

Recipe from Karo Syrup's Popcorn Balls.

Nutrition Information
Yield 12 Serving Size 1 popcorn ball
Amount Per Serving Calories 204Total Fat 5gSaturated Fat 3gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 2gCholesterol 10mgSodium 229mgCarbohydrates 41gFiber 0gSugar 39gProtein 0g

Did you make this recipe?

Tag me on social! I want to see what you made! @jamiemba

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Kelly

Friday 27th of October 2023

Very easy to follow! Thanks for sharing! I made these to take to my Farmers Market! I’m sure they will be the first to go!

Jamie

Thursday 2nd of November 2023

I am so happy to hear you enjoy this recipe! Thanks so much for stopping by and leaving your feedback! -Jamie

Nikki Nic

Monday 12th of December 2022

What does the baking soda do?

Jamie

Tuesday 13th of December 2022

Hi there – Baking soda is used in a lot of candy recipes (popcorn balls, caramel corn, peanut brittle, honeycomb, etc). The baking soda is added at the end to create tiny bubbles that give the desired texture to the final product. In other words: it's science! Hope this helps - Jamie

Laura Jones

Saturday 10th of September 2022

Every year my mama makes these for my birthday in lieu of a cake. They’re my favorite!

Jamie

Tuesday 13th of September 2022

Such a fun tradition! Thanks for stopping by and commenting, Laura! Happy baking – Jamie

frieda

Wednesday 23rd of December 2020

can I add food coloring? if so, when?

Jamie

Tuesday 5th of January 2021

Yes, you definitely can!

Betty

Monday 14th of December 2020

If making a double batch. Add a couple drops of red food coloring to syrup. And green to the other batch. They are Christmas Ready!

Jamie

Friday 18th of December 2020

Love this idea, Betty!

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