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Marshmallow Popcorn Balls are the EASIEST kind of popcorn balls to make. This simple recipe is done fast without any guesswork and they’re perfect for any occasion. Dress these up with sprinkles or holiday colors if you want! Our daughter loved these so much she couldn’t stop eating them.

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close up of popcorn ball
Table of Contents
  1. Old Fashioned Popcorn Balls Recipe
  2. What are popcorn balls made of?
  3. How to make popcorn balls with marshmallows
  4. Microwave Popcorn vs Fresh Popped Popcorn
  5. Forming Popcorn Balls
  6. Variations
  7. FAQ & Tips
  8. Easy Popcorn Balls Recipe Recipe

Old Fashioned Popcorn Balls Recipe

I have never made popcorn balls before and I’m kind of mad I never did it before now. They’re SO good! Not only are they delicious but they are also easy and fast with this marshmallow version.

I wavered between making a traditional popcorn ball and the marshmallow ones and decided to go the easier route because I hate using a candy thermometer. I feel like making candy is an art and I can do it, but it’s so temperamental.

If you’re like me and haven’t tried these before because you were worried they’d be difficult to make, then THIS is the recipe for you!

ingredients in popcorn balls

What are popcorn balls made of?

These just have a few ingredients and they’re similar to Rice Krispie treats, but the mixture is cooked instead of done in the microwave.

To make the gooey mixture you’ll need:

  • Challenge Unsalted Butter – When it comes to choosing ingredients, you’ll want to pick the best ones. Challenge Butter is my absolute favorite and it is the only butter I use, no matter what I’m making. I’ve eaten it my entire life so it’s natural this blog runs on Challenge.
  • Light Corn Syrup – this helps create the sticky mixture to hold the pop corn balls together.
  • Water
  • Powdered Sugar – makes these perfectly sweet!
  • Marshmallows – making popcorn balls with marshmallows ensures they’ll hold together! Be sure you use fresh marshmallows, otherwise they may not melt right in the mixture.
popcorn balls with challenge butter package

The use of the marshmallows and powdered sugar adds sweetness and a gooey texture without having to cook the sugar to soft ball stage. This eliminates all guesswork and the need for a candy thermometer so this is a FOOLPROOF recipe.

Challenge Butter has no additives, hormones, or fillers and it comes from happy cows at family-owned dairies across California. It’s been churned fresh daily for over 100 years and is available nationally. Challenge Unsalted Butter was also selected as Cook’s Illustrated’s favorite among top-selling brands!

four collage photos of making marshmallow mixture in pan

How to make popcorn balls with marshmallows

  1. Melt your butter in a saucepan over medium heat.
  2. Add the light corn syrup, powdered sugar, and marshmallows and stir until the marshmallows are melted.
  3. Once the syrup mixture boils take it off the heat and add vanilla and salt. (This is also where you’ll add food coloring if you want, see below when I talk about variations.)
hand pulling apart gooey popcorn ball

Microwave Popcorn vs Fresh Popped Popcorn

You can use EITHER microwave popcorn or freshly popped. I’ve done all the figuring and math for you!

First, let’s talk about popcorn conversions:

The recipe calls for 20 cups of popcorn, which is about 5 quarts. One quart = 4 cups popped popcorn. 2 tablespoons (1 ounce) of kernels makes 4 cups or 1 quart of popcorn.

Popping your own popcorn

Measure out 2/3 cup of popcorn kernels and use your favorite method for popping popcorn (I love using an air popper). Make sure to remove any un-popped kernels before making popcorn balls!

Using Microwave Popcorn

Hate popping your own popcorn? Me too. I live on microwave popcorn! Now, not all popcorn bags are created equal. The yield per bag varies across brands and even across bags in the same pack (sometimes you get a dud bag that doesn’t pop right).

Generally, a 3.5 ounce bag of microwave popcorn will yield about 6-7 cups of popped kernels, so you’ll need about 3-4 bags to get enough for the recipe.

Be sure to remove any unpopped kernels and omit the salt in the recipe, because most microwave popcorn brands come salted and buttered in some fashion.

collage of pouring mixture over popcorn and forming balls

Forming Popcorn Balls

It’s important to put your popcorn in a very large pot or bowl. I used a large pasta pot and it was the perfect size.

  • Pour your hot marshmallow mixture over the popcorn and stir. Be sure to get all the gooey mixture off the bottom of the pan so it coats all the popcorn. The mixture is HOT at this point so be careful!
  • When it’s time for form the balls, remember that this is super sticky. I like to rub some extra Challenge Butter on my hands to grease them so the popcorn doesn’t stick. You can also spray your hands with nonstick cooking spray.
popcorn ball covered in plastic with jack o' lantern design

Variations

There are SO many different ways to make popcorn balls and to package them and decorate them.

  • Food Coloring: add a few drops of food coloring into the mixture before pouring it over the popcorn. Red food coloring would make these fun for Christmas!
  • Sprinkles: once you have the mixture all coated on the popcorn you can add some sprinkles then or add them to the top of the balls after they’re rolled.
  • Size: make these as big or as small as you want! You could also press them into a 9×13-inch pan to make popcorn treats.
  • Turn them into Jack O’ Lanterns by wrapping them in plastic wrap and drawing cutout faces on the front.
  • Decorate them for a holiday by placing them in a cupcake liner, wrapping with plastic and using colorful ribbon. This would work for Christmas, Halloween, or even a birthday party!
  • Extracts: Make flavored popcorn balls by swapping the vanilla extract with any other flavor! You could use peppermint extract, orange extract, rum – so many options.
popcorn in green muffin liner wrapped in plastic with christmas colored ribbon

FAQ & Tips

Why won’t my popcorn balls stick together?

After pouring the hot mixture over the popcorn make sure to stir it to coat evenly. If the popcorn isn’t coated in the gooey mixture then it won’t stick together.

How many does this recipe make?

It can make up to 20 popcorn balls, depending on size.

How do I avoid unpopped kernels?

Did you know you can FREEZE unpopped popcorn? This will help reduce the amount of unpopped kernels you get in your batch. When it comes to microwave popcorn, you can’t really avoid it. Just be sure to remove them all before making the balls.

My marshmallows won’t melt into the hot mixture!

This is most likely because they aren’t fresh. Be sure and use a new bag of marshmallows for best results.

How long will popcorn balls keep?

If they’re sealed well, wrapped in plastic and placed in an airtight container, they’ll last close to a week but they’re best within 3 days of being made.

Can popcorn balls be frozen?

I don’t recommend freezing these as they might get soggy when they defrost.

Other favorite recipes to try:

Have you made this recipe?

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close up of popcorn ball with words on photo

Popcorn Balls Recipe

5 from 1 vote
Marshmallow Popcorn Balls are SO easy and fast and they're totally foolproof. These are a perfect classic childhood treat that you can dress up for any holiday or occasion.
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes
Yield 20 servings
Serving Size 1 serving

Ingredients
 

  • ¾ cup (177ml) light corn syrup
  • ¼ cup (57g) Challenge Unsalted Butter plus more for greasing your hands
  • 2 teaspoons (10ml) water
  • 2 ½ cups (283g) powdered sugar
  • 1 cup (50g) mini marshmallows see note
  • 20 cups (140g) plain popped popcorn see note
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract

Instructions

  • Place popcorn in a large pot or bowl.
  • Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add corn syrup, water, powdered sugar and marshmallows. Heat and stir the mixture until it boils. Remove from heat and stir in salt and vanilla.
  • Pour the mixture carefully over the popcorn and stir to coat each kernel. Do this carefully – the mixture is very hot.
  • Grease your hands with additional butter and shape coated popcorn into popcorn balls. Work quickly to make all the balls before they cool.
  • Wrap each ball in plastic wrap. Decorate as desired. Store at room temperature.

Recipe Notes

Popcorn Conversions: 20 cups of popcorn is about 5 quarts. (One quart = 4 cups popped popcorn.) 2 tablespoons (1 ounce) of kernels makes approximately 4 cups or 1 quart of popcorn).
To pop your own popcorn: Pop 2/3 cup kernels either on the stove or in your popcorn popper according to package directions. Remove any un-popped kernels before making popcorn balls.
To use microwave popcorn: Microwave bags of popcorn vary across brands but a 3.5 ounce package is approximately 6-7 cups. Make sure you remove all unpopped kernels before measuring out popcorn, some bags end up popping more than others. You’ll need 3-4 bags of popcorn to get the right amount of popcorn for the recipe. Omit the salt from the marshmallow mixture as microwave popcorn usually comes buttered and salted.
Note about marshmallows: it’s best to use fresh marshmallows when you’re melting them. Fresher marshmallows will melt faster and easier than old ones.

Recipe Nutrition

Serving: 1serving | Calories: 738kcal | Carbohydrates: 148g | Protein: 18g | Fat: 9g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Cholesterol: 6mg | Sodium: 51mg | Potassium: 449mg | Fiber: 21g | Sugar: 27g | Vitamin A: 71IU | Calcium: 11mg | Iron: 5mg
Nutritional information not guaranteed to be accurate
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Author Dorothy Kern
Keyword popcorn
close up of popcorn ball with words on photo

Easy Marshmallow Popcorn Balls are a homemade recipe perfect for Halloween, Christmas, Fall or any occasion. Learn how to make easy Popcorn Balls and how to decorate them for the holidays!

This post was sponsored by Challenge Dairy in 2020, and all opinions are my own. I used their butter in the recipe so you know they must be good!

Last Updated on September 14, 2022

Dorothy Kern

Welcome to Crazy for Crust, where I share recipes that are sometimes crazy, often with a crust, and always served with a slice of life.

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1 Comment

  1. I haven’t made this recipe, I plan on it, but you know what is even easier, and better in my opinion, than popping your own corn, be it microwave or stove top? Buying the bag of smart pop popcorn from costco!!! It is always popped perfectly and salted lightly and there are rarely any unopposed kernels in the bag. Biting into an unpopped kernel is me just asking for a cracked tooth! The popcorn is often on sale for $4 a bag. I suck at making popcorn, so this is the way to go for me!