Spicy Popcorn Balls


A smart update for popcorn balls: chipotle-spiked caramel.

Modern Popcorn Balls
Photo: © Hector Sanchez
Total Time:
45 mins
36 balls


  • 20 cups freshly popped corn (from 3/4 cup popping corn)

  • 4 cups sweetened puffed-corn cereal, such as Corn Pops

  • 1 1/2 cups salted roasted peanuts

  • 3 cups sugar

  • 1 1/2 cups light corn syrup

  • 1 stick unsalted butter

  • 1/2 cup water

  • 1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped

  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt

  • 1 teaspoon chipotle chile powder


  1. In a very large, lightly oiled bowl, toss the popped corn with the corn cereal and peanuts.

  2. In a large saucepan, combine the sugar with the corn syrup, butter, water, vanilla bean and seeds. Cook over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until the syrup registers 295° (hard-crack stage) on a candy thermometer, about 18 minutes. Stir in the salt and chipotle powder.

  3. Immediately pour the hot syrup over the popcorn mix. Using a lightly oiled wooden spoon, stir to coat. Working quickly, scrape the popcorn onto a large sheet of lightly oiled parchment paper. Discard the vanilla bean. Wearing lightly oiled sturdy rubber gloves and using a very large, lightly oiled ice cream scoop (1/4 cup), form thirty-six 2-inch-wide balls, pressing lightly without compacting. Transfer the balls to a lightly oiled baking sheet. Let cool completely before serving.

Make Ahead

The popcorn balls can be stored in an airtight container for up to 4 days.

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