How to Make Popcorn Balls

Andy Waters
Latest posts by Andy Waters (see all)

Traditional popcorn balls were a very popular treat during the 1950s, and are super easy, nostalgic treats to make from the comfort of your own home.

If you’re wondering how to make popcorn balls, you’ve come to the right place.

In this article, I will provide you with a step-by-step guide on how to make traditional popcorn balls, as well as some useful tips on making these sweet treats.

So, let’s get started.

A Guide On How to Make Popcorn Balls

Equipment That You Will Need

  • Baking parchment
  • A baking pan
  • A sheet tray
  • A heavy-bottomed saucepan
  • A candy thermometer
  • A large bowl
  • An oven mitt


  • 7 quarts of popped popcorn
  • 1 cup of light corn syrup
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • ¼ cup of water
  • ¼ teaspoon of salt
  • 3 tablespoons of butter
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • Food coloring (optional)


Step One – Place the Popcorn in a Baking Pan

To begin, you will need to place the popcorn into a baking pan.

Preheat the oven to 200° and place the popcorn in the oven to keep warm whilst you carry out the next few steps.

Step Two – Combine the Ingredients in a Heavy-Bottomed Saucepan

Once you have placed your popcorn into the preheated oven, it’s time to combine the corn syrup, sugar, water, and salt in a heavy-bottomed saucepan.

Stir the mixture over a medium heat. Add your oven mitt to your hand to ensure that you don’t burn yourself, and then dip your candy thermometer in the mixture. The mixture is ready to remove from the heat once it reaches 235° (also known as the soft-ball stage).

Step Three – Remove From the Heat

Remove the mixture from the heat and stir in the butter, vanilla extract and food coloring if you are using it.

Continue stirring the mixture until the butter has completely melted.

Step Four – Remove Your Popcorn From the Oven

Next, you will need to remove your popcorn from the oven. Immediately pour the mixture over the popcorn, being careful to stir the mixture until all of the popcorn is evenly coated.

Step Five – Allow the Mixture to Cool

When the popcorn has been evenly coated in the syrup mixture, you will need to allow it to cool slightly until it is cool enough to handle comfortably.

When you’re working with hot sugar, it’s incredibly easy to burn yourself. Bearing this in mind, it’s important to be patient, as if you don’t wait long enough you could end up with a pretty nasty burn.

Step Six – Line a Sheet Tray With Baking Parchment

While your popcorn balls are cooling, it’s time to prepare your sheet tray by lining it with baking parchment.

Step Seven – Shape Your Popcorn Balls

Once you have allowed the popcorn mixture to cool for a few minutes, fill a large bowl with cold water. Dip your hands in cold water before you start shaping the popcorn balls to prevent the mixture from sticking to your hands.

Taking a handful of popcorn, begin gently shaping the popcorn into 3-inch balls and place them onto your prepared sheet tray to set.

Make sure that you dip your hands in the cold water again before you attempt to reshape another ball, and make sure that you repeat this process until you have shaped all of the popcorn balls.

Step Eight – Enjoy

Once all of your popcorn balls have been shaped, serve and enjoy!

Tips When Making Popcorn Balls

Wear An Oven Mitt When Working With Hot Sugar

When you’re working with hot sugar, it’s incredibly easy to burn yourself. If you do burn yourself, it’s going to feel like molten lava is on your skin.

To minimize the risk of you burning yourself when you’re making popcorn balls, always make sure that you are wearing an oven mitt to protect the hand that is measuring the temperature of the mixture with your candy thermometer.

This will ensure that your hand is protected, even if any of the mixture gets onto the glove.

Try Different Recipe Variations

You can try different recipe variations by dividing the mixture into a few portions. Once you have divided the mixture into portions, you can try adding a variety of different mix-ins to each portion.

Let your creativity take over, and experiment with different flavor combinations with candies, dried fruit, chocolate, crushed nuts, or even cereal. The options are endless, and it means you can cater towards a variety of different people’s tastes by separating the mixture out like this.

Always Use a Candy Thermometer

While you can use the cold water test to see if the sugar has reached the soft-ball stage, the easiest way to test whether the mixture is done is to use a candy thermometer.

This also means that you don’t need to risk transferring the hot sugar to cold water, which could easily result in you burning yourself if you have to do it several times.

In addition to this, candy thermometers are a super helpful tool for a variety of recipes. From candy, to caramels, to fudge, candy thermometers are hugely versatile tools that are worth investing in for your future recipes.

When Were Popcorn Balls Popular?

Popcorn balls were a hugely popular treat during the 1950s, especially when it came to Halloween.

At the time, trick or treaters often enjoyed a variety of delicious, homemade treats as opposed to the packaged candy you would expect today.

How Long Can You Keep Popcorn Balls?

Provided that you store your popcorn balls in an airtight container, they will keep for up to a week at room temperature.

That being said, popcorn balls taste the best on the day that you make them, as popcorn has a tendency to soften the longer it is left to go stale. As a result, you will want to make sure that you enjoy them sooner rather than later, as with every day that passes, they will deteriorate in taste and texture.

It’s important to note that you won’t want to refrigerate popcorn balls, as this will cause the sugar mixture to harden and will significantly alter the texture of these treats. It’s best to keep them on the kitchen counter until you’re ready to enjoy them.

In Summary

So, there you have it! Hopefully after reading this article you know how to make popcorn balls.

Experiment with different flavor combinations and mix-ins to appeal to a variety of your guests.

Most importantly, have fun and enjoy!