Bacon-Caramel Popcorn Balls


Have you ever been eating caramel popcorn and thought "This is good, but I wish it had pieces of bacon and I could play catch with it?" Well, then you'll love this easy-to-make, sweet, and savory treat. Wrap any leftover balls individually in plastic, and store in an airtight container.

Prep Time:
20 mins
Cook Time:
10 mins
Additional Time:
20 mins
Total Time:
50 mins
10 popcorn balls

As I've gotten older, my eating habits have definitely improved. That isn't saying much, since back in the day a "midnight snack" might have been a full-sized Mission-style burrito. Oh yes, those were the days. Now, we try to limit our late night grazing to small portions of healthier choices. But when it comes to movie-watching munchies, it's really hard to beat popcorn — especially when it's studded with bacon bits and held together with caramel.

As I mentioned, the "balls" part of this operation is totally optional. Once everything is mixed in the bowl, you can simply let it cool, crumble it up, and move on to arguing about what to watch. However, I really like the idea of being able to hold an entire portion in my hand at one time. Since so many of the shows we enjoy have subtitles to read, looking down into a bowl every few seconds can be problematic. But, whether you eat this loose or ball it up, I really do hope you give it a try soon. Enjoy!

Chef John's Bacon-Caramel Popcorn Balls
Chef John

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  • 12 ounces bacon, cut into 1/4-inch pieces

  • 8 cups popped popcorn

  • ½ cup white sugar

  • 2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cubed

  • 1 pinch salt

  • 4 teaspoons water, at room temperature

  • 1 teaspoon unsalted butter, softened


  1. Cook bacon in a pan over medium heat until all the fat has rendered out, and all the pieces are well browned and crisp, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer into a strainer set over a bowl to catch the excess grease. Let bacon cool to room temperature.

  2. Place popcorn in a large mixing bowl. Add cooled bacon and mix lightly until evenly distributed. Set aside until needed.

  3. Pour white sugar into a small saucepan and set over medium heat. As soon as the sugar begins to melt and turn clear around the edges, carefully shake and swirl the pan. Do not try to stir the sugar with a utensil! Just occasionally shake and swirl the pan, which will mix the still granulated sugar into the melted sugar.

  4. When almost all the sugar is melted, and the mixture is turning a light amber color, reduce the heat to low.

  5. Once all the sugar is melted, turn off the heat, and add cold butter cubes to the pan all at once. Carefully shake and swirl the pan until the butter melts into the sugar. Do not use a whisk yet.

  6. Add water and salt and use a whisk to mix until a smooth, thin caramel sauce forms. Some of the sugar may temporarily harden when you add the water, but just keep whisking until everything dissolves and you've achieved a smooth sauce. If it's not melting, turn the heat on low, and continue until it does.

  7. Remove from heat and quickly, but carefully, drizzle caramel sauce over the bacon and popcorn while tossing with a lightly buttered spatula. Continue tossing until the popcorn is evenly coated with the caramel.

  8. Lightly butter your hands, and as soon as the mixture has cooled down enough to stick together, form it into balls. Don't squeeze the balls too hard as you form them, or you will compress the popcorn and it will not be as light in texture. Transfer balls to a pan to cool completely.

Chef's Notes:

Don't squeeze the popcorn balls too hard when forming them; this will take the air out of the popcorn and make them chewy.

You can add peanuts to this if you like.

Nutrition Facts (per serving)

717 Calories
15g Fat
128g Carbs
24g Protein
Nutrition Facts
Servings Per Recipe 10
Calories 717
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 15g 19%
Saturated Fat 4g 20%
Cholesterol 19mg 6%
Sodium 280mg 12%
Total Carbohydrate 128g 47%
Dietary Fiber 23g 83%
Total Sugars 12g
Protein 24g
Calcium 19mg 1%
Iron 4mg 24%
Potassium 530mg 11%

* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

** Nutrient information is not available for all ingredients. Amount is based on available nutrient data.

(-) Information is not currently available for this nutrient. If you are following a medically restrictive diet, please consult your doctor or registered dietitian before preparing this recipe for personal consumption.

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