How to Make Popcorn Balls

Traditional Popcorn Balls

Contributor: Christine Pittman

Popcorn balls are a classic Halloween treat.

  • Author: Christine Pittman
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Total Time: 35 minutes
  • Yield: 30 servings 1x
  • Category: Dessert
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: American


Units Scale
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 and 1/3 cups water
  • 1/2 cup dark corn syrup
  • 1 tsp. lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 16 cups popped corn (make it or one 5.5 ounce bag like this works)


  1. Measure sugar, water, dark corn syrup, lemon juice and salt into a 5 quart heavy-bottomed sauce pan (we like the one in this set). Attach the candy thermometer to the pot. Make sure that the tip is in the liquid and not touching the bottom or side of the pot. Put a lid on the pot and put it over high heat. It’ll come up to a boil and keep boiling like crazy. That’s ok.
  2. While it’s coming up to temperature, put your popcorn on a big pan.
  3. When the thermometer reaches 255ºF, turn off the heat. That’s the hard candy stage that you’re looking for. It’s ok if the temp rises a bit after that. It can get up to 265ºF and you’re still good to go.
  4. Add vanilla. Stir.
  5. Pour the candy mixture over the popcorn. I advise that you wear oven mitts just in case there’s a spill and any part of your brain thinks it’s a good idea to touch that stuff. It’s hot. It will stick to you. It will not be fun. Keep pouring, working around the pan so that you’re getting some in all the places. The syrup will be sinking to the bottom of the pan as you go. Don’t worry. You’ll get it spread out soon.
  6. Use a spatula or wooden spoon to too the popcorn around to coat it. Be careful because the syrup is still crazy hot. Do not do this with your hands.
  7. Oil your hands with vegetable oil or softened butter. Keep a bowl of oil handy nearby so you can dip into as you form the balls.
  8. When the syrup is cool enough to touch but still warm, form balls. Note, there will be pockets of hot syrup. This is unavoidable. Just be careful. Work quickly because it gets a bit harder to form the balls as the syrup cools. Form 2-3 inch balls of popcorn and put them on wax paper to set.
  9. Popcorn balls will keep up to a week in a sealed container but are best the day they’re made.