Caramel Popcorn Balls Made Easy two-ways; all store bought ingredients or vintage, with homemade salt caramel and home popped corn kernels.
Vintage Caramel Popcorn Balls
Caramel popcorn balls have been around since I was a kid back in the 50’s. Guess that makes me vintage!
Halloween parties, were often neighborhood gatherings with homemade treats, rather than store bought candy.
Caramel popcorn balls, sometimes with peanuts rolled into them, were always at these gatherings and given as gifts wrapped in colorful cellophane.
Real Caramel For Homemade Popcorn Balls
The caramel was made from melting sugar with a little butter and when the sugar began to turn golden, a little cream was added and left to simmer until it thickened.
Some folks used corn syrup in the melted sugar, however I prefer a pure caramel, which is simply sugar, butter and cream.
That, is what traditional vintage caramel is, and popcorn balls were made from real caramel.
Salt Caramel became a ‘thing’ much later and is really just homemade caramel with sea salt added for that umami sweet and salty flavor.
Modern Caramel Popcorn Balls
As lives got busier, moms were rarely stay-at-home, and candy factories began to mass produce caramel candies, the ingredients changed.
Corn syrup was being used instead of sugar because it was less expensive and vegetable oil instead of butter, for the same reason.
None the less, these highly prized little caramel treats, wrapped in individual wrappers, were sold in nearly every grocery store.
Busy moms felt they could still squeeze in a quick and fun homemade treat for their family.
Remove the wrappers, melt the candy, toss popcorn into the melted candy, form balls and you quickly have caramel popcorn balls.
Why Are Caramel Popcorn Balls Popular?
Presents! Yes, we all love to give and receive presents, especially if they are eatable and sweet, and caramel popcorn balls look like a present!
Caramel or Salt Caramel popcorn balls are easy to make, adorable to wrap individually and scrumptious to receive as gifts.
Party favors, school gatherings, baby showers, birthday parties all make for popular places to offer caramel popcorn balls.
In the chill of autumn, I can’t think of anything easier and more fun to serve around the fire pit, than individually wrapped caramel popcorn balls.
Homemade treats, maybe put little notes on the tags for each guest gathered, feel personal and like a loving hug.
How To Make Caramel Popcorn Balls
Popping the popcorn will be the first step, unless you are in a hurry and choose to buy a bag already popped.
Stovetop method of popping popcorn is the only way I have made popcorn, though many prefer microwave.
I didn’t grow up with microwaves and to this day I really don’t know how to use them. Stove top is fast and yes, it is easy too.
A little oil goes into a large pot. A few kernels are placed in until they pop as testers, removed, then the kernels go into the pot.
Within a few minutes, about ten, the pot is filled with popcorn.
Adding The Caramel To The Popped Corn
Caramel is made simply from melted sugar that gets cooked until it looks like liquid gold, butter cream and salt are added and in a short time you have caramel.
Caramel gets poured over the popcorn, working quickly to form balls; and yes your hands will get sticky, but in a short time you will be so proud of this fun treat you made.
Place a wooden stick in the center of each ball and set these beauties out on parchment paper to cool, while you lick your fingers!
- Popcorn kernels
- Sunflower oil
- Heavy cream
- Tall pot with a lid or my favorite stovetop popcorn maker!
- Measuring cup
- Measuring spoons
- Slotted spoon
- Wooden sticks
- Parchment paper
- Cookie sheet
- Stovetop or burner
Caramel Popcorn Balls Made Easy
- Large pot with lid for popping corn
- Saucepan for melting caramel
- 12 6-inch Wooden sticks
- Sheet pan and parchment paper
- 1/2 cup Popcorn kernels or store bought already popped about 4 1/2 cups
- 1/8 cup Sunflower oil or other neutral oil for popping corn
- Homemade Caramel or 16 oz. store bought
- 2 cups Sugar
- 12 tbsp Unsalted Butter room temperature
- 1 cup Heavy cream room temperature
- 1 tsp Salt
- Pour the oil into a large pot (with lid). Swirl the oil around to cover the bottom. Place 2 kernels in as a tester to see if oil is hot enough.
- Once the test kernels pop, remove them and discard. Add the 1/2 cup of popcorn kernels in an even layer. Cover.
- Gently shake the pot until the corn stops popping, about 10-minutes. Remove from the stove with lid off.
- Make Caramel
- Place sugar in a saucepan, over medium heat, and begin to melt the sugar. Continue cooking the sugar for about 15 minutes or until the temperature of the sugar is no more than 350 degrees.
- Turn off the heat. Whisk in the butter and salt, it will sputter a bit. Add cream and whisk until creamy.
- Pour the warm caramel over the popcorn, tossing gently to coat all of the popped popcorn.
- Working quickly, shape the caramel coated popcorn into balls, placing a wooden stick in the center and set the caramel popcorn balls on a parchment paper lined tray to cool. It helps to keep fingertips damp with water while shaping the balls.
- Other goodies, such as chocolate chips, nuts, colorful sugar sprinkles or even grated cheese can be added while forming the balls.