Old-Fashioned Popcorn Balls Recipe

Use this old-fashioned recipe to make these delicious popcorn balls, and delight the youngsters this Halloween with a real treat.

September/October 2018

  • Sweet homemade popcorn balls are ready to be wrapped or eaten.
    Photo by Adobe/Brent Hofacker

Yield: About 12 balls

Jonathan’s mom used to hand out these classic New England treats for Halloween in Dublin, Ireland. The children had never tasted anything like them, and the balls rapidly attained legendary status in the row house neighborhood. You can substitute any type of syrup or molasses in the recipe — even corn syrup — but the mellow maple mixed with fruity cider syrup makes for a deeply satisfying combination.


  • 2 tsp sunflower oil
  • 1/2 cup popcorn kernels
  • 1/2 cup cider syrup (recipe)
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 tbsp butter, plus more for buttering hands
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 cup chopped nuts


  1. Heat the sunflower oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the popcorn kernels, and heat, shaking the pan frequently once the popping gets going, until most of the kernels have popped, about 5 minutes. Transfer the popcorn to a large bowl (allow plenty of room for stirring in the syrup).
  2. Combine the cider syrup and maple syrup in a 2-quart saucepan. Add the sugar, and cook and stir over medium heat until the sugar is dissolved. Add the butter, and continue cooking, stirring constantly, until you reach the soft ball stage (240 degrees Fahrenheit on a candy thermometer). Reduce the heat, if necessary, as the syrup starts to rise. After you’ve reached the right temperature, remove the pan from the heat.
  3. Add the baking soda, stirring constantly. The mixture will foam up.
  4. Carefully fold the hot syrup into the popcorn, and stir to coat it evenly. Stir in the nuts. Set aside until cool enough to handle.
  5. Place a large sheet of parchment paper on the counter. Butter your hands well. Form the mixture into apple-sized balls, using a light touch. Place the balls on the parchment paper, and let cool completely. Store the popcorn balls in a sealed container, or wrap them individually in wax paper. They keep well, but are best eaten within a few hours, when still at peak chewiness.

For more cider recipes visit Apple Cider is the Perfect Ingredient for Fall Recipes.

Excerpted from Ciderhouse Cookbook © by Jonathan Carr and Nicole Blum, with Andrea Blum; photography © by Colin Price and © by Mars Vilaubi; used with permission from Storey Publishing. You can buy this book from our store: Ciderhouse Cookbook.

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