Popcorn Balls

Total Time:
25 min
5 min
20 min

14 popcorn balls

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 1/3 cups water
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup
  • 1 teaspoon white vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 18 cups popped corn

In a medium saucepan, combine sugar, water, syrup, vinegar, and salt. Cook over high heat until mixture reaches 255 degrees F (hard-ball stage) on a candy thermometer. Stir in vanilla. Pour over popped corn, tossing gently to coat. When mixture is cool enough to handle, press popcorn into 3-inch balls with lightly greased hands. Cool completely on waxed paper.

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    83 Reviews
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    I just made 4 batches of these! They are WONDERFUL...I had to cook my sugars for about 15-20 minutes and I used a higher meet thermometer...and I also let the mixture sit about 5 minutes before I shaped them. I got 11-13 per batch! AWESOME! Thanks so much!
    These were just like the ones I made growing up! Thanks for recipe! FYI if your are soggy you did not cook liquid long enough takes me almost 30 minutes to get temp right but we'll worth it!
    complete soggy mess
    Soggy mess here also! Terrible recipe!
    Ours turned into a soggy mess--added more popcorn, but it didn't help. Worst recipe ever.
    It made the perfect popcorn balls in the world so yummy, so tasty!
    Very tasty.... I lost this recipe out of my Good Housekeeping book and realized that fact 2 hours before kids were due to knock on my door tonight. (Due to weather our community postponed trick or treating til tonight)... anyway... I think this is the recipe from that book. The popcorn balls were delicious... chewier than I remember, but delicious, and, my brother appeared before the second batch had to be made, so there was someone to drizzle the candy mixture as I folded it in.. Much easier with two people. Thanks for the wisdom in the previous reviews, as greasing the wax paper and the bowl to receive the popcorn were great ideas. If I had wanted more of a hard coating and less chewy, cooking the candy a bit longer would have accomplished that, I'm sure. As it was, the chewiness was great, and the advice to salt the popcorn more helped as well. After popping the corn I was careful to sift out the unpopped kernels, as those can actually cause tooth damage.
    WAY too much water in this recipe. I wound up with a disgusting, soggy mess. There was no forming them into balls, and when I tried I just got sticky hands and still had a bowl full of wet popcorn. I asked my mother for her recipe, and it only calls for 1/4 cup of water (and 3/4 cups of syrup instead of 1/2), and worked MUCH better.
    Excellent flavor but the chemistry of this recipe is all wrong. I was nervous about all the reviews saying the popcorn turned to mush so I tested the syrup at four different temps along the way to the consistency I wanted. I stopped boiling at about 240 degrees F and my popcorn balls were just the right amount of chewy. The end product was pretty vinegary smelling so I'd use a smidge less. I also salted my popcorn extra because we love sweet/salty combos and it still wasn't quite salty enough. I would say next time I'll salt the heck out of the popcorn but I'll probably end up finding a different recipe next time. Sorry Paula, not your best.
    I mixed dried cranberries and peanuts to the popcorn before puring over the syrup mixture. It is best to have a partner to help with this because it sets pretty fast.
    i tried it and husband asked if they came out right i said "dont know " so i tried with really greasy hands and worked halleghuia thx paula you are the best i love paula so much watch your show it is the best it really helps
    Good, but I seemed to have a lot more syrup than I needed. I also will salt the heck out of popcorn next time - I love the sweet/salty mix. And definitely grease the bowl you're mixing in!!!
    What a fantastic recipe!! I searched and searched for the recipe that my mom used to make and here it was. Thank you Paula Deen!!
    Was craving popcorn balls and thought I'd try it since I had some corn syrup in the house. No candy thermometer, so I just kept an eye on it and dripped some into a bowl of cold water every now and then until it looked right. Easily took me 30 minutes of boiling. Mixed some bourbon in with the vanilla, wish I'd used a bit more. But worked great with the popcorn I popped on the stove. I'd recommend greasing the bowl, though, ended up with a big popcorn candy mess in the bottom when i was done.
    I thought 1 1/3 cups of water seemed like too much, but went exactly by the recipe using my new digital candy thermometer to get it to the exact temp recommended. When I poured the mixture onto my Orville Redenbacher's popcorn (popped on the stove, not microwave, it turned into a big pile of mush.  
    What a waste of time and ingredients. I expected better from Paula Deen
    First of all this recipe is a joke. I wasted 2 cups of sugar on this thing. When I added the liquid ingredients to the popcorn it turned into a big pile of mosh. Number one rule of cooking water and popcorn don't go well so don't use large amounts. I wouldn't even rate this recipe But I had to so I gave a number one but really it should be a negative 5.
    Tonight my friend and I made these, and other than cleanup and forming the balls, it was very simple! I think to make the formation of the balls easier and better, we needed to stir up the caramel sauce more thoroughly in the bowl of popcorn. We used orville redenbacher kernels, and it worked perfectly. Also it was a nice ratio of caramel to popcorn.
    its easy to make them and kids will snack on them every day
    I read the reviews before trying out this recipe. If you get the mixture to the proper temp/ consistency the popcorn will not get soggy.
    Living down south in the humidity, you have to make these when the weather is perfect! I added a little extra popcorn since there was so much of the liquid, had trouble forming them into balls but my kids couldn't get enough!
    After reading some of the reviews I was a little nervous to try these... But they were great. We make them around the holidays and everyone seems to look forward to them. They only thing I did diffrent is I used butter flavored popcorn oil and I also cooked it to a soft ball instead of a hard ball because I didn't want the balls to be too crunchy.
    i really did love it lol but i could not get it into balls
    Not good recipe soggy balls 
    Not even the right taste 
    Couldn't salvage to runny
    I used microwavable popcorn and it worked great. The downsides outweighed any good, they were way to sticky and overly sweet. Not worth all the time, effort, and mess to make them.
    To all the people that had a hard time with this recipe: I have found out that it depends on the popcorn you are using. To verify this conclusion: Last year when I first tried this recipe I brought a 1 pound bag of popcorn from Shop Rite. The recipe was a hit and I even did it without a candy thermometer. This past Holiday, I tried to do it again. I went to Shop Rite to buy the popcorn but the brand I had gotten the year before they don't sell it anymore. So, I bought the next brand. When I tried to make the recipe my popcorn melted and was soggy. I tried it 3 more times with the same results. So, I went to Wegmen's and brought a candy thermometer and some more popcorn. Success. That is when I realized it was the popcorn. I noticed it was a different kernel. This kernel was bigger and a little harder then the other one I bought before. So to all those that failed at this recipe: It is not the recipe; it's the popcorn.
    You should edit this recipe and state that, prevent disaster like we had. The recipe I now use, that incorporates marshmallows, works on ALL types of popcorn
    This was my first time making popcorn balls. Great recipe; would definitely make again. Didn't have vinegar so omitted; they turned out fine. Didn't use a candy thermometer, just boiled on med-high heat until hard ball stage when dipped in cold water. Used 1/4 cup margarine and food coloring at the end with the vanilla. Allowed to cool 5-10 minutes while we made popcorn in the popcorn maker. Followed directions of other reviews by spraying the mixing bowl and spoon with cooking spray. Poured mixture slowly over popcorn once cooled. Very quick and easy to make. Thanks for the recipe.
    Easy. Kids loved them. We added mini chic chips and Christmas sprinkles to make them more festive.
    Not good. The popcorn disintegrated. Just a bunch of mush. Other recipes I've read say to keep the popcorn warm but I'm not too sure this would have helped. It was just mostly popcorn soup.
    This was ok but it didn't have that flavor I remember as a child and ones I have had in the past. Is it butter that is missing? Seems like I put butter in for some reason. No pun intended there Paula. I think the secret to getting the temp to go up is just don't stir.
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