Popcorn Balls – Budget Bytes

It’s spooky season y’all! And these Popcorn Balls are perfect for the occasion. They’re slightly salty, sweet, chewy, and super fun to make! I always get a nostalgic feeling when I share recipes that were popular during my childhood and this one is no exception. This budget-friendly snack comes together with just a few simple ingredients, and in less than 30 minutes we have a fun Halloween treat that will brings back the feeling of being a kid all over again!😊

Side view of popcorn balls stacked on top of a plate.

But don’t limit this tasty popcorn ball recipe to just halloween, they’re also perfect for Christmas, football games, or any special party occasion!

What Are Popcorn Balls?

If you’ve never heard of Popcorn Balls then you’re in for a treat! They’re a classic sweet snack that’s been around for years and is often enjoyed by both kids and adults alike. They’re made by melting a few sweet ingredients together, like sugar and marshmallows, and then pouring the hot sugar mixture over freshly popped popcorn. Then this is where the fun really begins. 

You can add different add-ins like sprinkles or crushed candies, then shape and form the coated popcorn into fun-sized popcorn balls! You’ll often see these in stores during the holidays like Halloween or Christmas, but they are so much more fun to make at home!

Here are the main ingredients you need to make these sweet, chewy, popcorn balls:

  • Popcorn Kernels  –  We’re making homemade popcorn friends! Yes, the kind that you make on the stovetop. Stovetop popcorn has a much better flavor than microwave popcorn and it’s a whole lot cheaper. We’ll share some brief instructions for making stovetop popcorn below, but if you’re looking for a full step-by-step, check out our How to make Stovetop Popcorn blog post.
  • Sugar and Corn Syrup – A mix of sugar and corn syrup creates the soft candy that coats the popcorn balls. Using a little corn syrup in addition to the sugar helps stabilize the mixture so it doesn’t crystalize, making this recipe much more foolproof and perfect for beginners.
  • Butter – Butter gives the candy coating a nice rich flavor and helps soften the candy just a bit.
  • Marshmallows – Marshmallows add extra sweetness and give the popcorn balls a gooey, chewy, texture similar to Rice Krispie treats.
  • Vanilla extract – And just a little vanilla extract for extra flavor!

Popcorn Ball Variations

Popcorn balls come in lots of fun shapes, sizes, and variations. Here are a some ideas if you want to put a little extra razzle-dazzle on your popcorn balls:

  • Festive Sprinkles – These popcorn balls aren’t just for halloween. Celebrate any occasion with colorful sprinkles like red & pink for valentines day or red, green, and white for Christmas! To add sprinkles, roll the popcorn balls in the sprinkles just after forming, while the candy is still warm so it sticks.
  • Melted Chocolate – We played around with drizzling a little bit of melted chocolate over the top for a little sweetness and contrast. 
  • Food Coloring – Wanna change the color of these to match your party theme or just for fun? Drop a few drops of food coloring into the sugar mixture when you add the marshmallows and butter. For Halloween, it would be super cool to add a few drops of orange food coloring into the sugar mixture, then stick a pretzel stick in the top of the popcorn balls to make mini pumpkins!🎃
  • Miniature candies or marshmallows – If you want to really jazz up your popcorn balls, add in some mini candies like m&ms or mini colored marshmallows. Stir these into the popcorn mixture just before shaping. Just be careful not to add too many extra add-ins or they may not stick to the popcorn balls.
  • Other flavored extracts – You could also use other flavor extracts (in addition to or in place of the vanilla) to flavor the popcorn balls, like peppermint, butterscotch, maple, or even cherry!

Here are a few tips to keep in mind when making these sweet treats:

  1. Be very careful when boiling the sugar and corn syrup. The mixture will be piping hot!
  2. Be fairly swift when mixing the sugar mixture with the popcorn to keep it from hardening too fast. 
  3. Things get pretty sticky pretty fast. So be sure to grease your hands with a little bit of cooking oil or cooking spray before you start touching and shaping the popcorn balls.
  4. Once the popcorn is just cool enough to touch, it’s go time! Move quickly when forming each popcorn ball so your sugar doesn’t harden too fast.

How To Store Popcorn Balls

Enjoy these popcorn balls right away or wrap them in plastic wrap or waxed paper, and store at room temperature for up to 3 days; although they definitely taste better when enjoyed the same day.

Overhead view of popcorn balls spread out on parchment paper with chocolate drizzled over 4 popcorn balls.


Popcorn Balls

These Popcorn Balls made with marshmallows are sweet, chewy, and super fun to make! Perfect for parties and holiday gatherings.

Author: Marsha – Budget Bytes

Close up side view of popcorn balls stacked on top of a plate.

  • 3 Tbsp cooking oil ($0.12)
  • 1/2 cup yellow popcorn kernels, unpopped ($0.37)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar ($0.16)
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup ($0.87)
  • 1/4 tsp salt ($0.02)
  • 2 Tbsp butter ($0.26)
  • 1/4 cup mini marshmallows ($0.06)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract ($0.29)
  • Add the oil and one kernel to a 6-quart or larger pot. Place the lid on the pot and turn the heat onto medium-high. Wait for the test kernel to pop. Once the kernel pops, add the rest of the kernels, replace the lid, and give the pot a swirl to coat the kernels in the hot oil. Wait for the kernels to begin to pop.

  • Once the kernels begin to pop rapidly, crack the lid a little bit to allow excess steam to escape. Pop the rest of the kernels. Continue popping until they slow to about one pop every other second. Once popped, transfer the popcorn to a large bowl and set aside.

  • Add the sugar, corn syrup, and salt to a separate medium saucepan and heat over medium-high. Bring the mixture to a boil and stir to dissolve the sugar. Once the pot comes to a boil, boil the sugar mixture for 2 1/2 minutes.

  • Next remove the saucepan from the heat and add the butter, vanilla extract, and marshmallows. Stir quickly to melt the ingredients into the sugar mixture.

  • Once everything has melted, pour the sugar mixture over the cooked popcorn. Mix together quickly with a rubber spatula to coat the popcorn.

  • The popcorn will be slightly hot from the hot sugar mixture, so allow it to cool slightly. Once it’s slightly cool enough to touch, rub a dab (about 1/4 tsp) of cooking oil into your hands, grab a small handful of popcorn, and start to form 3-inch round popcorn balls. Place each popcorn ball on a parchment lined baking sheet to finish cooling and to set.

  • Be sure to work quickly because if the sugar mixture cools too much, it will be hard to form the popcorn balls. You should be able to make 12 3-inch popcorn balls. Serve at room temperature and enjoy!

See how we calculate recipe costs here.


large enamelware sheet pan

Serving: 1ball

Read our full nutrition disclaimer here.

How to Make POPCORN BALLS – Step by Step Photos

Overhead view of one test popcorn kernel in a large pot with oil.

In a 6-quart or larger pot, add 3 Tbsp cooking oil and one popcorn kernel. Place the lid on the pot and turn the heat onto medium-high. Wait for the test kernel to pop. Once the kernel pops, add the remaining 1/2 cup of yellow popcorn kernels, replace the lid, and give the pot a swirl to coat the kernels in the hot oil. Wait for the rest of the kernels to begin to pop.

Overhead view of a large pot full of popped popcorn.

Once the kernels begin to pop rapidly, crack the lid a little bit to allow excess steam to escape. Pop the rest of the kernels. Continue popping until they slow to about one pop every other second. Once popped, transfer the popcorn to a large bowl and set aside.

Overhead view of a small pot with corn syrup and sugar.

In a separate medium saucepan, add 1/2 cup granulated sugar, 1/2 cup light corn syrup, and 1/4 tsp salt and heat over medium-high heat. Bring the mixture to a boil and begin to stir to dissolve the sugar. Once the pot comes to a boil, boil the sugar mixture for 2 1/2 minutes.

Overhead view of a small pot with melted corn syrup and sugar, butter, marshmallows, and vanilla extract.

Remove the saucepan from the heat and add 2 Tbsp butter, 1/2 tsp vanilla extract, and 1/4 cup marshmallows. Stir quickly to melt the ingredients into the sugar mixture.

Overhead view of marshmallow sugar mixture being poured over popped popcorn.

Once everything has melted, pour the sugar mixture over the cooked popcorn. Mix together quickly with a rubber spatula to coat the popcorn.

Overhead view of popcorn balls being formed.

The popcorn will be slightly hot from the hot sugar mixture, so allow it to cool slightly. Once cooled, rub a dab (about 1/4 tsp) of cooking oil into your hands, grab a small handful of popcorn, and start to form 3-inch round popcorn balls. Place each popcorn ball on a parchment-lined baking sheet to finish cooling and to set.

Overhead view of finished popcorn balls on a parchment lined baking sheet.

Be sure to work quickly because if the sugar mixture cools too much, it will be hard to form the popcorn balls.

Close up side view of popcorn balls stacked on top of a plate.

You should be able to make 12 3-inch popcorn balls. Serve at room temperature and enjoy!

Overhead view of popcorn balls spread out on parchment paper with chocolate drizzled over 4 popcorn balls.

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