Old-fashioned popcorn balls: 14 delicious classic recipes

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Popcorn balls - Vintage recipes

Old-fashioned popcorn balls rate tops for entertaining (1950)

Popcorn balls please the fancy of children and grownups alike. They’re tops for casual evening entertaining or for the children’s daytime parties.

Popcorn balls are also popular snack-time fare because they’re so easy to make and serve. Just pour a syrup mixture over freshly popped corn, cool a little and shape into balls. Plan on about 20 to 24 balls from four quarts of popped popcorn.

For variation, try several different syrups so guests can choose their favorite flavors. Wrap the balls in colored cellophane for a festive effect.

Old-fashioned popcorn ball recipe (1950)

Old-fashioned popcorn ball recipe (1950)

Yield: 15 popcorn balls


  • 1 cup Karo Syrup, Blue Label or Green Label
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons butter or margarine
  • 2 quarts unsalted popcorn


  1. Combine first four ingredients in saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until mixture boils.
  2. Continue cooking, stirring almost constantly to hard ball stage (260 F) or until a small amount of mixture forms a hard ball when tested in very cold water.
  3. Remove from heat; quickly add butter and blend.
  4. Slowly pour over popcorn in large bowl, while mixing well.
  5. Form into balls, using as little pressure as possible. Butter hands, if desired.

Makes 15 balls about 2-1/2 inches in diameter.


For pastel popcorn balls: Follow above recipe, using Red Label Karo instead of Blue or Green Label, and substitute granulated sugar for brown. Add 2 teaspoons vanilla with butter. Tint syrup desired shade with vegetable food coloring.

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Nutrition Information:
Yield: 15 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 140 Total Fat: 3g Saturated Fat: 2g Trans Fat: 0g Unsaturated Fat: 1g Cholesterol: 4mg Sodium: 61mg Carbohydrates: 29g Fiber: 0g Sugar: 21g Protein: 0g
Click Americana offers approximate nutrition information as a general reference only, and we make no warranties regarding its accuracy. Please make any necessary calculations based on the actual ingredients used in your recipe, and consult with a qualified healthcare professional if you have dietary concerns.

Old-fashioned peanut brittle popcorn balls (1953)


1/2 stick (1/4 cup) margarine
1/2 pound peanut brittle
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup light corn syrup
4 quarts popped corn


Place peanut brittle and water in a saucepan or small skillet. Cover and cook over low heat 5 minutes. Uncover and add corn syrup. Cook and stir until all the brittle is dissolved. Cook over low heat to 265 degrees F, or until a small amount of the syrup dropped into cold water forms a hard ball. Pour over freshly popped corn. Cool a little. Shape into balls.

Old-fashioned popcorn balls recipe (1950)

Variations for more delicious old-fashioned popcorn balls

Recipes for Molasses popcorn balls – Caramel sugared popcorn – Confetti popcorn – Popcorn squares

Old-fashioned molasses popcorn balls

Ingredients: 2/3 cup molasses, 1-1/2 cups sugar, 1/2 cup water, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 3 tablespoons butter, 2 teaspoons vanilla, 3 quarts unsalted popcorn.

Follow the same method as for regular popcorn balls.

Caramel sugared popcorn

Ingredients: two tablespoons sugar, 1 tablespoon light corn syrup, 1/3 cup evaporated milk, 1 cup sugar, 1 quart unsalted popcorn.

Sprinkle 2 tablespoons sugar slowly into a hot saucepan, stirring constantly, heat until melted and lightly brown. Add evaporated milk, corn syrup and 1 cup sugar. Stir until sugar is dissolved. Cook slowly to 238 degrees or until it forms soft balls in cold water. Stir occasionally.

Pour immediately over unsalted popcorn and stir until all kernels are covered. Let stand until cool.

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Confetti popcorn

Ingredients: two cups sugar, 2 tablespoons butter, 1/2 cup water, food coloring, 1 teaspoon flavoring, 2 quarts unsalted popcorn.

Combine sugar, butter and water. Place over low heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Cook without stirring to 330 degrees; add coloring and flavoring. Make balls. You may repeat this with as many colors as you wish.

Popcorn squares recipe

A recipe for popcorn balls can be used to make tasty squares. After the kernels have been thoroughly covered with the boiled syrup mixture, pack in a greased dripping pan and cut in squares.

How to make old-fashioned popcorn balls
Photo by upyanose/Deposit Photos

Seven more sweet popcorn ball recipes (from 1956)

Paris News (Paris, Texas) November 2, 1956

Popcorn has been a favorite year ’round snack for Americans ever since the first Thanksgiving, when the son of an Indian chief brought the early colonists several bushels of “popped corn” in a deerskin bag.

Whether it’s for a July picnic or for Christmas decorations, it still takes only a moment to transform a few ounces of kernels and bubbling oil into a fluffy heap of hospitality and good eating!

Popcorn Balls are always welcome in the Trick or Treat bags of marauding youngsters on Halloween, and busy housewives find that there are many new and different kinds of popcorn balls which lend variety to an old favorite.

Quick caramel popcorn balls
Melt 1/2 lb. package dairy-fresh caramels (28 caramels) with 2 tablespoons water in top of double boiler. Mix thoroughly with 2 quarts popped and salted corn.

Keep hands wet or lightly-greased when shaping balls, and be careful not to burn hands with hot syrup.

Light popcorn balls (basic recipe)
2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
1 cup water
3 tablespoons butter

Cook to 260 degrees F or soft crack stage. Pour over 2 quarts salted popcorn. Mix thoroughly and mold into balls.

MORE  42 popcorn recipes you have probably never tried

Variations of basic recipe (above)

Pastel popcorn balls
Delicately tint cooked syrup with food coloring. Add peppermint, lemon, maple, wintergreen or other flavoring.

Chocolate popcorn balls
Add 3 ounces unsweetened chocolate and one teaspoon vanilla or peppermint flavoring to cooked syrup.

Honey popcorn balls
Replace corn syrup with 1 cup honey. When syrup is cooked, add 1 teaspoon vanilla.

Cinnamon popcorn balls
Replace water with 1 cup strained orange juice. After syrup is cooked, add 4 tablespoons crushed red cinnamon candies and grated peel of 1 orange.

Fruit ‘n’ spice popcorn balls
Cook 1 cup mincemeat with syrup. Remove from heat and add 3/4 teaspoon vanilla.

Add coffee to popcorn balls (recipe from 1967)

Of all the many confections we like to make at home, Popcorn Balls are without a doubt one of the timeless favorites. Children and teenagers love to munch them. Even adults, young and old, find them irresistible.

The slight variation in this recipe for popcorn balls is the half-cup of coffee in the corn syrup glaze. You’ll be pleased at the marvelous difference this makes in flavor and color.

If you don’t have a thermometer to measure the temperature the syrup should be when finished, just remember to have a little patience with the cooking. It does take a while before the glaze reaches the right consistency. And do check it with the “water test.”

Coffee Popcorn Balls are not only fun to eat, they are also fun to make. They’re just the thing for an impromptu party when everyone can lend a hand. Perhaps you’ll put on the Flamenco records and whip up a Latin mood!

Coffee popcorn ball recipe

10 cups popped corn
1 can (6 3/4 oz) salted peanuts, chopped
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup light corn syrup
1/2 cup strong coffee beverage
2 tablespoons butter or margarine

Combine popcorn and peanuts in a large bowl. Combine sugar, corn syrup, coffee and butter in saucepan. Stir over low heat until sugar dissolves.

Cook over medium heat, without stirring, to 270 degrees, or until small amount of syrup dropped in cold water separates into threads which are hard but not brittle. Pour syrup evenly over popcorn mixture. Toss lightly. Shape into balls with lightly buttered hands. Makes 12 balls.

Note: Wear clean rubber gloves makes shaping the balls easier. Do not butter the gloves. Also: Do not attempt to double recipe. If more popcorn balls are needed, make up the recipe twice.

Make the prettiest Christmas decorations you’ll ever eat (1968)

Quick ‘n easy — with Jiffy Pop! All it takes is you — or a bunch of you — and the urge to make something personally pretty for the holidays.

Expecting a houseful for Christmas? New Years? in-between? Just hop into the kitchen and start popping.

One basic recipe makes them all. And the fast, simple variations are easy as easy — yet look totally different. Who knows? Before you’re through, you may be creating your own variations! Even if you don’t, your friends and family will still eat ’em up.

Jiffy Pop Popcorn: fun to make — fun to eat.

Personally pretty popcorn decorations

Basic popcorn ball recipe:

1 package Jiffy Pop Popcorn
2/3 cup light corn syrup
2/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons butter or margarine
1 teaspoon vanilla

Pop corn according to package directions. Put into greased large kettle. Mix corn syrup and sugar together and heat, stirring occasionally, until sugar dissolves. Add butter and continue to heat and stir until butter has melted. Add vanilla. Pour over corn and mix well. Heat gently for 3 to 5 minutes until popcorn mixture clings together when stirred. Shape as desired.

Popcorn balls & other vintage Christmas decorations to make from food (1968)

1. Popcorn Tree Balls: Add 1 cup chopped gumdrops to popped corn. Shape into small balls.

2. Party Star: Add yellow food coloring to syrup mixture. Draw outline of star on foil. Press popcorn mixture into pattern. Cool. Decorate with gumdrops and red hots.

3. Holly-Pop Wreaths: Add green food coloring to syrup mixture. Shape into wreaths about 4″ in diameter. Decorate with slices of candied cherries and gumdrop pieces.

4. Candy Cookies: Add 1/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate pieces to syrup mixture. Mix with popped corn. Spoon onto foil. Shape into a large rectangle. Cut into squares when cool. Decorate with candied cherries for poinsettias, and candy mint leaves for stems.

5. Popcorn Fruit Cake: Add 1 (5 oz.) jar mixed candied fruits to popped corn. Shape popcorn-syrup mixture into 2″ x 2-1/2″ cakes.

6. Candy Pop Canes: Add 1/4 cup cinnamon candies and a few drops of red food coloring to syrup mixture. Mix with popped corn. Shape into canes.

Popcorn balls & other popcorn Christmas decorations to make (1968)

Classic Christmas popcorn balls recipe card

Classic Christmas popcorn balls recipe

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