Our salted caramel popcorn balls make a wonderful sweet and savory treat, especially in the fall and winter months. They’re made with crushed bits of pretzel and roasted peanuts to make a hearty, crunchy dessert or snack.
It’s essential to have the largest saucepan you can find in the kitchen while preparing the caramel because the mixture will triple in size during the cooking process. The last thing you want is to clean up a hot, sticky mess. You’ll also want to use caution as the caramel will be extremely hot to touch—this is not a time for the kids to be hanging around the stovetop.
For best results, make sure to layer the popcorn evenly along with the pretzels and peanuts on a flat baking sheet (a bowl will prevent the goods from mixing evenly). If you like a little extra salt on your balls like we do, add an extra pinch of coarse sea salt to the finished balls while they set aside to cool.
Salted Caramel Popcorn Balls Recipe
- 18 - 20 cups popcorn, lightly salted, no butter
- 1 cup peanuts, roasted
- 1 1/2 cups pretzel, broken pieces
- 1 cup unsalted butter
- 2 cups brown sugar, firmly packed
- 2/3 cup light corn syrup
- 1 tsp kosher salt, plus more for sprinkling
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 2 tsp dark rum
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 Tbsp unsalted butter, or canola oil for shaping
- Coat two rimmed baking sheets with cooking spray then add an equal amount of popcorn to each one. Spread in an even layer then distribute peanuts and pretzel pieces equally over the popcorn. Set aside while you prepare the caramel.
- Add butter, brown sugar, corn syrup and 1 tsp salt to a very large saucepan—the mixture will foam up and triple in volume. Bring to a boil over medium heat.
- Once mixture has reached a full rolling boil, reduce heat to medium-low then simmer exactly 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Remove from heat then stir constantly while carefully adding baking soda, vanilla, and rum—the mixture will bubble vigorously and foam up, so be prepared! Drizzle caramel evenly over popcorn mixture then use two wooden spoons (like you are tossing a salad) to coat popcorn mixture in the hot caramel.
- Once caramel has cooled enough to handle, coat hands with a little butter then form balls any size you would like. While they’re still sticky, sprinkle with a bit more salt if desired. Place popcorn balls on parchment paper to cool completely.
Once the caramel is cool enough to touch, work quickly—it sets up fast!