Caramel Popcorn Balls

An utterly addictive treat you'll enjoy from the first days of fall through long after Christmas.

caramel popcorn balls
Photo: Photographer: Isaac Nunn, Prop Stylist: Julia Bayless, Food Stylist: Ruth Blackburn
Active Time:
15 mins
Total Time:
45 mins

Whether popcorn balls take you back to fall carnivals of yesteryear or pretty Christmas tins packed with sugary sweets, you can't deny the satisfyingly sweet crunch that comes from this seasonal snack. Our Caramel Popcorn Ball recipe will let you bring a little bit of that nostalgia straight into your own kitchen—and the results couldn't be easier or tastier. Freshly popped popcorn is the essential crux of this recipe to ensure there are no soggy bits. The simple caramel comes together quickly, comprised of rich brown sugar, sweetened condensed milk, a little corn syrup to prevent crystallization, and vanilla. Once your caramel is cool enough to handle, you'll have to work quickly to roll out your popcorn balls and get them sprinkled with flakey sea salt. Dawdle too long and you'll run the risk of the caramel setting before the salt can stick. Watch the caramel carefully, and as soon as it is just cool enough that you can safely work with it, start rolling.


  • Cooking spray

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter

  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar

  • ½ cup light corn syrup

  • cup sweetened condensed milk (from 1 [14-ounce] can)

  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract

  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt

  • 10 cups freshly popped popcorn

  • ½ cup toasted pecans, coarsely chopped

  • Flaky sea salt, for garnishing


  1. Line two rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper, and lightly grease parchment with cooking spray; set aside. Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add brown sugar and corn syrup and cook, whisking occasionally, until mixture begins to boil, 2 to 3 minutes. Add sweetened condensed milk, and continue cooking, whisking often, until mixture thickens and a thermometer inserted into caramel mixture registers 235°F to 240°F, 4 to 6 minutes. Remove from heat and whisk in vanilla and kosher salt. Cool mixture in saucepan until cool enough to work with, 3 to 5 minutes.

  2. Meanwhile, toss together popcorn and chopped pecans in a large metal bowl. Drizzle warm caramel over popcorn mixture, and stir gently with a rubber spatula to combine. Working quickly, lightly grease hands with cooking spray, and divide popcorn mixture evenly into 12 portions. Gently roll each portion into a (3-inch) ball. Place on prepared baking sheets and quickly sprinkle with flaky sea salt while popcorn mixture is still slightly warm. Cool completely before serving, about 30 minutes. Popcorn balls can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week.

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