This Popcorn Balls Recipe is great for the holidays, a party or family get together.  There are tons of ways to switch up this recipe to make it work for anytime of the year!

Close up of a popcorn balls with another popcorn balls behind it
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Easy Recipe for Popcorn Balls:

Popcorn balls is nostalgic for me.  My grandmother made them when I was younger around the holidays and my family loved eating this delicious treat.

However, I always thought that it was too complicated to make at home.  Then one of my friends made them and was telling me how easy they are to make.  I knew immediately that I needed to give it a try.

They really are simple to make and everyone loves them.  If you are afraid like I was, I hope you push pass that fear and try this recipe soon.

Multiple popcorn balls lined up next to each other

What are Popcorn Balls?

Popcorn balls are a sticky, chewy treat that combines the flavors of popcorn, sugar and corn syrup. These ingredients combined make a holiday treat that is loved by all.

What are Popcorn Balls made of?

I used to be intimidated to make popcorn balls as it seemed super complicated.  However, they are easy to create.  You only need 6 ingredients for this recipe.

  • Popped Popcorn – I usually use microwave popcorn.
  • Granulated sugar
  • Karo® Light Corn Syrup
  • Butter
  • Salt
  • Vanilla Extract

Some recipes call for baking soda, but I found that it wasn’t really needed to create these delicious popcorn balls.

Close up of multiple prepared popcorn balls

How to Make Popcorn Balls: 

Like I said before, I was really intimidated to try to make my own popcorn balls.

However, I was surprised by how simply this recipe is.  I was able to create these popcorn balls in no time at all.

Close up of a prepared popcorn balls

Step 1:

  • First spray a large roasting pan with nonstick cooking spray.  Then add popcorn to the pan and make sure to remove any unpopped kernels.
  • Then place the pan in the oven at 200ºF until the popcorn is warm.
Popped popcorn in a large roasting pan.

Step 2:

  • Next stir combining sugar, corn syrup, butter and salt in a heavy 2-quart saucepan.
  • Stirring constantly, bring these ingredients to a boil over medium heat stir consistently. Continue stirring and boil for 2 minutes or if you have a candy thermometer, heat until it reaches 255ºF.
The corn syrup mixture being heated in a sauce pan on the stove top

Easy Step 3:

  • After this cooking time, remove from heat.  Next slowly stir in vanilla.  After the vanilla has been combined with the other ingredients, pour the syrup mixture over the warm popcorn stirring to coat popcorn mixture well.
  • Note: If the corn syrup mixture is unable to pour easily, stir in approximately 2 tsp cold water to thin out the mixture.
The corn syrup mixture being poured over the popped popcorn

Step 4:

  • If you want any additional items to be added this is the time you’ll want to mix them in (sprinkles, candy, etc).
  • Then allow the mixture to cooled slightly so that it’s able to be touched. Then spray your hands with nonstick cooking spray and use your hands to quickly shape the mixture into twelve 3-inch popcorn balls.
  • Work quickly to form the balls because the syrup mixture hardens.
Multiple popcorn balls stacked on top of each other in a large pan.
  • Finally after the forming ball stage, place them on parchment paper and allow the popcorn balls to cool completely.  Now they are ready to enjoy!

Why won’t my popcorn balls stick together?

The Karo® Light Corn Syrup is the key ingredient to this popcorn balls recipe to get them to stay together.  I have tried using other ingredients and have found that they don’t hold the popcorn together as well.

Based on my experience, I don’t recommend skipping this ingredient or replacing it with something else.

Also, once you pour the corn syrup mixture over the popcorn, allow the syrup to cool slightly before forming the popcorn into balls.  If the corn syrup is still too watery, it will be difficult to form the popcorn balls.

Close up of popcorn balls with popcorn scattered around it

Easy additions to Quick Popcorn Balls:

My favorite part of this recipe is that you can easily add in many items. This recipe will work for any holiday or family event.

  • Add your favorite type of candy. I love mixing in candy to fit with whatever holiday is coming up.  Mix these items in with the popcorn once the corn syrup mixture is added to the popped corn.
  • Stir in Sprinkles. Also, multi-colored sprinkles work great to make popcorn balls. Perfect for birthday parties for the kids.
  • Add food coloring to the corn syrup mixture to create colored popcorn balls.  I like to make orange ones for Halloween and red and green ones for Christmas. 
  • Make marshmallow popcorn balls by add in 2-3 cups of mini marshmallows to the corn syrup mixture. Then pour this marshmallow mixture over the popcorn and form the popcorn balls.

How long do popcorn balls stay fresh?

These are best to be served the day or the day after they are made.  However, they will keep for a week in an air tight container.  So you definitely can make these a few days ahead of time for your next party or family get together!

Multiple popcorn balls lined up next to each other.

How to Store:

Wrap the popcorn balls individually with saran wrap and place in an airtight container. We recommend placing in a single layer. The popcorn balls will last up to one week at room temperature.

Print this Popcorn Ball recipe below:

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Popcorn Balls

4.71 from 62 votes
Your entire family will love this popcorn balls recipe. Learn how to make popcorn balls. It's easier than you think to make these quick popcorn balls.
Prep Time 15 minutes
Total Time 15 minutes
Servings 12 People
Cuisine American
Course Appetizer
Calories 141



  • Spray large roasting pan sprayed lightly with nonstick cooking spray; add popcorn and place in 200ºF oven until warm.
  • 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 for 2 minutes.
  • Remove syrup mixture from heat; stir in vanilla.
  • Pour syrup mixture over warm popcorn stirring to coat well. Add in sprinkles or add ins (all optional) and mix to combine.
  • 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. Cool completely. Wrap individually in plastic wrap.

Recipe Notes

You can mix in sprinkles, m&ms, chocolate chips, food coloring, or anything fun you want to add in.

Nutrition Facts

Calories 141kcal, Carbohydrates 28g, Protein 1g, Fat 3g, Saturated Fat 2g, Cholesterol 8mg, Sodium 132mg, Potassium 36mg, Fiber 2g, Sugar 19g, Vitamin A 109IU, Calcium 3mg, Iron 1mg

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Your entire family will love this easy popcorn balls recipe. Learn how to make these old fashioned popcorn balls. It's easier than you think to make these quick popcorn balls with Karo syrup.  They are easy to make and everyone loves them too! #dessertsonadime #popcornrecipes #popcornballs #easydesserts

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About the Author

Hi, I’m Carrie. Welcome to Desserts on a Dime!

I’m on a mission to help you cook delicious meals without busting your budget. Together we are going to cook real food… for real families.

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