Homemade Popcorn Balls Recipe

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Here is an easy popcorn balls recipe, along with variations to make them special for various holidays! They are inexpensive, yummy and easy to make!

Homemade Popcorn Balls Recipe

Everyone loves popcorn balls. My daughter’s favorite is the kind that are made with marshmallows. If you don’t have the time to roll them into balls you can just press them into a pan the way you would rice crispy treats and cut into squares.

Don’t think that popcorn balls are only for Halloween, either. You can use popcorn balls for any holiday by coloring them with food coloring or adding some of the different variations to them. (See below)*

Popcorn balls are great fun for birthday parties, hay rides, and snacks for the kids on Thanksgiving (snacks for big and little kids, especially who don’t want pumpkin pie!)

Making popcorn balls is also another great way to use some of that candy you can get on sale after Halloween.


*For different variations on your popcorn balls, add extras like:

  • Red Hots ( Valentines or the 4th of July)
  • Spice drops (Christmas or winter parties)
  • Candy canes, crushed (Christmas)
  • Jelly beans (Easter)
  • Peanuts (nuts are really good when making the caramel corn)
  • Candy corns (Halloween)
  • Sprinkles ( birthday parties or any that match the colors of the different holidays)
  • M and M’s
  • Or any other types of candies


Popcorn Balls Recipe

(Make regular popcorn balls or add 1/2 cup brown sugar and 1/2 tsp. vanilla to make them taste like caramel corn.)

6 Tbsp. butter
5 cups marshmallows
4 qts. popped popcorn*

In a large pan, melt the butter (now is when you add the brown sugar and vanilla if you want to use it), add the marshmallows and stir until melted. Add popcorn (and candies or nuts) and stir until coated. Butter your hands. Roll mixture into balls. Set on wax paper or press into a 9×13 buttered pan. Store in an air tight container or individually wrap in plastic wrap.

*1/2 cup of unpopped popcorn equals 4 quarts popped popcorn.

I dump the popcorn on a clean table and put it back into the bowl by handfuls making sure to leave all the old maids (unpopped popcorn) on the table to throw away (or if you are like me, to eat– I love to eat the burnt ones).


photo by: bkgoddard


  1. Anonymous says

    With a whole slew of holidays right around the corner folks might be using a little more brown sugar than usual.

    By happy accident, I just found a good substitution for brown sugar. I was all set to use a can of apricots passed along to me by someone who got them from someone else :)

    People make apple crisp all the time, so I decided to make apricot crisp in a similar fashion. I had the fruit sliced up and everything was assembled on my counter; except – no brown sugar for the topping!

    I put the “crisp” ingredients together and substituted regular granulated sugar with a little pancake syrup mixed in for the brown sugar I didn’t have.

    In it’s raw form the topping tastes very authentic. It’s baking right now _ I bet it’s going to be equally as tasty when it’s done!


  2. andrea says

    how many does this recipe yield? I was thinking of making these for school & not sure how many batches I would need. Thanks!

  3. Kristin says

    I made this following your directions for a caramel flavor with 1/2 tsp. brown sugar and 1/2 tsp. vanilla melted in with the butter. This didn’t seem like enough brown sugar – it didn’t really affect the flavor at all. Was it possibly supposed to be 1/2 cup brown sugar instead? They tasted good anyway, but was hoping for a more caramel flavor.

  4. says

    I wonder whether a teaspoon or two of molasses would do for the caramel version, as that’s what brown sugar is made from anyway, if one didn’t want to add 1/2 cup of extra sugar.

    I hadn’t heard of making popcorn balls with marshmallows before, but it’s a great idea avoiding the candy thermometer. Is the flavour reminiscent of rice crispy squares, with that marshmallow?

    Thanks for the recipe!

    • says

      It is like rice crispy treats. That is Tawra’s favorite way to make them. I like the more caramel candy kind. I had never heard of them either until after I was married and that is the way my in laws made them. They were horrified at the way I make them but a few years later my sister in law made this really good recipe called poppycock and they all loved it. I didn’t say anything but had to chuckle to myself because it was my popcorn ball recipe just not rolled into balls.

  5. says

    My mother used to make them at Christmas. Especially since that was the treat given when we were taken to see Santa Claus. she often gave them away, etc. They were good. My favorite, though messy were those recipes with Molasses. I had not thought them to be an ecomomical treat.We also thought them to be rather messy to eat, so in a bar pan it’s a great idea. A bag of carmel popcorn would be nice too. Great suggestion.
    Speaking of molasses, I wonder if the cookie is economical?

    • says

      Most molasses cookies aren’t that much more then say chocolate chip cookies or cookies with nuts in them. We have a couple of molasses cookie recipes in Dining on a Dime for those of you who like them. Here is one of them that is in the book and it is one of my son’s favorite cookies. I just did some research this week and I think they might have similar ingredients to what New Zealanders call ginger gems.

      Ginger Creams

      1/4 cup shortening
      1/2 cup sugar
      1 egg
      1/2 cup molasses
      2 cups flour
      1/2 tsp. of each salt, nutmeg, cloves,cinnamon,
      1 tsp. ginger
      1 tsp. soda dissolved in 1/4 cup hot water

      Mix all ingredients. Drop by teaspoonsful on a greased cookie sheet. Bake at 400 degrees until brown about 5-7 minutes. Cool and frost with vanilla frosting.
      You do need to watch carefully because these are cooked at such a high heat they can burn.

  6. Brenda says

    I have a crazy question…I have a very good friend who was recently diagnosed with diabetes. With Halloween coming up, she said the thing she will really miss the most are my popcorn balls (I also add cocktail peanuts to mine for an extra crunch). I didn’t know if anyone out there would know how to make a diabetic friendly popcorn ball? Thanks!

  7. rose says

    a woman i worked with when we did the papers was a diabetic .. and she used to make the rice kriapie treats all the time .. i did ask her what she used .. she did tell me and i think she said karo syrup .. i cant be sure and i cant ask her bc she is very very ill and doesnt talk much or remember alot of things .. but i will try to look this up for you .. i will ask my sisters who are diabetic and see if they can tell me .. .. 😀 .. quite curious myself .. i love those popcorn balls and they sell them this time of year but they taste like cardboard ..
    just my opinion ..

      • says

        Daughter of mine ask and you shall receive. Here are 2 recipes I found for you and 4 different sites said to use the same marshmallow recipe we always use that it was ok. I can’t believe these with all this sugar was on so many diabetic sites but they were although one place did say to make the balls a little smaller.

        Popcorn Balls

        18 cup Popcorn, air popped , remove unpopped kernels
        2 cup sugar
        1 cup cold water
        1/2 cup Syrup, corn, light
        1 tsp vinegar
        1/2 tsp salt
        1 tbsp vanilla extract

        1 Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Spray a 17x12x2 inch baking dish with nonstick cooking spray and spread out popcorn. Place in preheated oven to keep warm while making syrup.
        2 Generously spray a 2 quart heavy pot with nonstick cooking spray and add everything but the vanilla. Cook and stir over medium high heat until sugar dissolves and mixture is boiling, about 6 minutes.
        3 Clip a candy thermometer to side of pan, lower heat to medium, and continue boiling at a steady moderate pace, stirring occasionally, until thermometer reads 250 degrees F. (hard ball stage). Adjust heat if necessary to keep mixture boiling at an even rate.
        4 Remove from heat, remove thermometer, and stir in vanilla. Pour mixture over hot popcorn and gently stir to coat. Allow popcorn to cool until easy to handle.
        5 Spray your hands with nonstick cooking spray and quickly roll popcorn into 2 1/2 inch diameter balls (you should get about 20). Wrap in plastic wrap for up to 1 week.

        Popcorn Balls

        Sugar Free Marshmallows & Marshmallow Crème
        3 envelopes unflavored gelatin
        5 Tablespoons Splenda
        3 egg whites
        2 teaspoons vanilla extract
        1/4 cup cold water
        3/4 cup boiling water

        Sprinkle gelatin over cold water in a mixing bowl. Set aside for 5 minutes to soften. Add to boiling water in saucepan; cook and stir until gelatin is dissolved. Remove from heat. Cool to consistency of thick syrup. Stir in Splenda and vanilla. Beat egg whites till soft peaks begin to form. Very slowly, sprinkle a small stream of gelatin mixture into egg white, beating until all gelatin is mixed in. Continue beating until light and fluffy (but not until they’re dry.)
        If you’re making marshmallow crème, pour into a jar (jelly jar, peanut butter jar, etc.) and refrigerate. If making Rice Krispies Treats proceed with the recipe for treats. If making marshmallows, pour into greased and floured pan, cool to set, and cut into size desired. Dust with flour (optional). You could use the marshmallow creme to stick your popcorn balls together!

  8. Grandma says

    I checked the Canadian living mag. site and found nothing.
    then I checked the splenda site also nothing.
    it is possible to cut down on the sugar but the corn syrup I can’t find a replacement.
    I will check out the diabetes site and see if they can help.
    I love popcorn balls but don’t eat them ever since I lost a crown. too much pain for so little gain.

  9. Grandma says

    I just read the sugar & spice popcorn and you could use an artificial sweetener for the sugar.
    I use brown sugar splenda for this.
    with no corn syrup or mollases it is easy.
    I also found a Canadian brand of splenda like.
    it is half the price and tastes and works the same.
    When I can pay $6. for something instead of the $12 for a brand name I will take it everytime.

  10. Brenda says

    Thank you Rose for checking into this! I did some experimenting, but never could get it right and the experimenting was getting expensive.

  11. rose says

    i will tawra.. i emailed my one sister last nite and she said she would be checking bc her grandkids love the popcorn balls but dont like the ones u can buy at this time of year .. and also bc she is diabetic she would like to have them still have their fav treat but not all that sugar . from the marshmallows ..
    my friend, like i had mentioned, used to make these for our xmas party every yr .. she told me how she did every yr but i simply cant remember ..
    i will keep checking tho .. and let u know ..
    ps i loved the pic of you and jack on hte facebook (it was with him and the red/blue striped jammies .. he is getting to be sooooo big .. 😀

  12. rose says

    here are some variations that i found .. instead of all marshmallows .. add softened peanut butter, a few marshmallows and some choc chips ..
    one man wrote that his wife or grandmother used condensed milk instead (not sure how that would taste) and another man said it was from an old chinese recipe that they used a golden syrup (not sure what tho and neither did the man who mentioned it) ..

    i found this recipe too:

    I’ve had good luck with the following recipe (no marshmallows):

    1 cup white sugar
    1 cup white karo (corn) syrup
    1 cup peanut butter
    6 cups Rice Krispies
    1 cup chocolate chips
    1 cup butterscotch chips

    Mix sugar and karo syrup together and bring to a boil. Stir in peanut butter. Mix in Rice Krispies. Press in cookie sheet. Melt the chips and spread over top.



    oh those were for the rice krispie treats but i saw on some website that for halloween you could make rice krispie balls instead of bars and well i was thinking why not use that idea for the popcorn balls (using marshmallow instead of caramel or the other super sugary substance to hold the popcorn together) ..

  13. rose says

    after going to yahoo.com then i typed in: rice krispie treats for people who cant have sugar and this is what came up to choose from (this is what i clicked on):

    Kellogg’s Rice Krispies Treats – Recipe File – Cooking For …
    … instructions for kellogg’s rice krispies treats … I want to make a friend some sugar free krispies. I can’t … People love them but have no idea what they are.

    this is where i got some of my ideas for above recipes .. will keep looking for the popcorn balls tho .. 😀

  14. rose says

    i posted this twice and it hasnt come up .. not sure why .. but i will keep checking 😀
    yahoo.com then type in pop corn balls for diabetics and then when u click for the web to search .. then click on the first one that comes up .. the recipe uses light corn syrup and sugar ..

  15. rose says

    i looked on the splenda website and it says 1 cup of sugar can be substituted for 1 cup of splenda .. not sure how that would taste in the pop corn balls bc they do use sugar and light corn syrup ..
    also i would think if u made ur own marshmallows and use the splenda instead of sugar .. again i am not sure how this would turn out .. just some ideas ..

  16. rose says

    thanks for posting jill, grandma, bea and brenda ,, and u was surprised to see all that sugar in the diabetic recipes as well jill ..

  17. Grandma says

    I am diabetic so I thought I would get a few cook books for diabetics. After reading them I gave them away.
    recipes I have used for years were more healthy and had less sugar in them than the books.
    one recipe I remember was for peach crisp.
    1 can peaches
    1/2 cups of sugar.
    heat the peaches add the sugar
    put into a casserole
    top with the granola
    and sprinkle butter over the top and bake.
    peaches are naturally sweet in the cans they are sweeter
    granola is loaded with sugar, honey plus the fruit is dried fruit and natually over sweet.
    my recipe is
    fruit, maybe a tbsp sugar only if required. usually none
    brown sugar oatmeal or flour. 1/8 cup of butter or enough to when mixed with the dry ingredients it forms lumps.
    bake in oven.
    This is my go to dessert and it is always a hit.
    the only one I consistently add sugar to is rhubarb.
    It does not spike my husbands sugar count which is good and even I enjoy them because they are not a sickening sweet they still have some tartness.

  18. grizzly bear mom says

    if making popcorn balls for school or diabetics, consider making mini ones. We all know that the first three bites of a treat tastes best, and mini popcorn balls ensures that no one gets too much sugar or syrup.

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