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Basic Popcorn Balls Recipe

Basic Popcorn Balls
Difficulty: Easy | Total Time: 40 mins | Active Time: | Makes: 6 (3-inch) popcorn balls

A holiday classic—be it for eating or decorating—popcorn balls are so simple to make that even the kids can help shape and decorate them.

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.

INGREDIENTS
  • 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
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
INSTRUCTIONS
  1. Coat a large heatproof bowl with butter, vegetable oil, or cooking spray and place popcorn in the bowl.
  2. Place sugar, corn syrup, water, vinegar, and salt in a medium saucepan and stir to combine. Place over high heat, stirring until sugar is 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 and vanilla until melted and smooth.
  3. Immediately drizzle sugar mixture over popcorn and 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.
  4. 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.