Cocoa-Cayenne Popcorn Balls Recipe
A little hot, slightly citrusy, and nice and chocolaty, these popcorn balls have flavor that just won’t quit.
Special equipment: You’ll need a reliable candy/fat thermometer for this recipe.
Game plan: The popcorn balls will last up to 5 days when stored at room temperature in an airtight container.
This recipe was featured as part of our Popcorn Balls for the Holidays project.
- 9 cups plain popped popcorn
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1/3 cup light corn syrup
- 1/3 cup water
- 1 teaspoon distilled white vinegar
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter (1/2 stick), cut into small pieces
- 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
- Zest of 1 medium orange
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Coat a large heatproof bowl with butter, vegetable oil, or cooking spray and place popcorn in the bowl.
- Place sugar, corn syrup, water, vinegar, and salt in a medium saucepan and stir to combine. Place over high heat, stirring until sugar has dissolved, about 2 minutes. Bring to a boil and cook until mixture registers 260°F on a candy/fat thermometer, about 5 to 7 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in butter, cocoa, orange zest, cayenne, and vanilla until melted and smooth.
- Immediately drizzle sugar mixture over popcorn. Stir continuously with a rubber spatula, scraping the bottom of the bowl, until popcorn is thoroughly coated and cool enough to handle, about 3 minutes.
- Using buttered or oiled hands, tightly press mixture (it may still be a bit warm) into 3-inch rounds. Place on waxed or parchment paper to cool completely, about 15 to 20 minutes.