Crunchy Popcorn Balls

Indulge in the delightful crunch of homemade Crunchy Popcorn Balls! These sweet, buttery spheres are easy to make and perfect for parties or a fun snack. Combining simple ingredients, they offer a blissful balance of salty-sweet flavors.


  • 1.5 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons butter, in pieces
  • 3/4 cup light corn syrup
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 to 2.5 quarts popped popcorn


Preparation. Start your popcorn adventure by buttering the sides of a 2-quart heavy saucepan. This is not just for fun—it’s crucial for the magic to happen!

Syrup Creation. In the saucepan, combine sugar, water, corn syrup, and salt. Turn the heat to medium and stir until the sugar dissolves. This is like a sugar spa—everything relaxing and melting together.

Cooking the Syrup. Now, let the syrup cook without stirring. You’re aiming for the hard ball stage of 255°F. No, this isn’t a sports reference—it’s candy thermometer talk! But it is only true if you are sea level. 

At higher elevations like Orem, Utah, water boils at a slightly lower temperature due to the reduced atmospheric pressure. This means that the hard ball stage in candy making will also be at a slightly lower temperature. The exact temperature adjustment due to elevation can vary, but as a general guideline, you can subtract approximately 1-2 degrees Fahrenheit for every 1,000 feet (305 meters) above sea level. Orem is at an elevation of around 4,768 feet, so you might subtract roughly 5-10 degrees Fahrenheit from the sea-level hard ball stage temperature. Got it? If you’re me, peering out my kitchen window at snow-clad Mount Timpanogos, go for 245 to 250°F, or when  you place a drop of the hot candy into a cup of cold water and you can use your fingers to form it into a little hard ball. 

Finishing Touches. Once you hit the sweet spot, remove the saucepan from heat. Stir in the butter and vanilla, transforming the syrup into a golden, fragrant bliss.

Popcorn Coating. Pour this skin scorching mixture over the popcorn. Stir with a wooden spoon. It’s like giving your popcorn a hot, buttery-sweet bath.

Shaping. Once coated, butter your hands lightly (it’s okay to get a little messy) and shape the popcorn into balls. This is where you get to play with your food. But be careful, this stuff is hot! The harder you pack it, the more teeth you’ll pull out later.

Cooling. Let these beauties cool on a baking rack or a greased cookie sheet. They need their beauty rest.

Wrapping. Once cool, wrap them individually in clear plastic wrap or waxed paper. It’s like tucking each one into a cozy little bed where they are safe from evil humidity that turns crunchy into sticky and chewy.  

Serving Suggestions. Makes 8-10 good-sized balls. Serve them at your next party, movie night, or as a delightful snack for the kids. They’re a hit with all ages and a nostalgic nod to childhood treats. My parents used to make these at Christmas time for their children and grandchildren.

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