Now that we have made our way past the holidays, it’s time for my next favorite round of parties.
It’s award show season!!!
Please tell me that you have your calendars marked. But in case you need a reminder, we’re kicking things off this weekend with the Golden Globes (Jan. 11), followed by the Screen Actors Guild Awards (Jan. 25), then get ready to jam at the Grammy’s (Feb. 8), and the grand finale is of course the Academy Awards (Feb. 22). And um, need I remind you that Tina and Amy are hosting this weekend?? Yes, please.
Well, if you’re looking for an award-winning snack to serve at your awards show parties, I have one that I’m pretty excited to share with you today. It’s a naturally-sweetened, corn-syrup-free, 2-ingredient, mini-sized, easy-to-make and ridiculously delicious take on classic popcorn balls.
Yep. Honey Popcorn Balls.
I’ll admit — I have long been a fan of the classic popcorn ball. But whenever I have tried them in the past, they have always been disappointing. First off, they are usually crack-your-teeth hard. They are ginormous and make you feel like you’re biting into a mile-high burger. And the recipe developer side of me knows that they’re usually chocked full of corn syrup, and butter, and/or sugar-laden marshmallows to hold them together.
Fun idea? Yes.
Actually good? Not usually.
But when I saw a few popcorn balls being served during the holidays, the idea occurred to me to see if they could be “lightened up” using honey as a sweetener and a binder, instead of the usual less-than-healthy suspects.
After a little bit of experimenting, the verdict is now in.
It can be done!!!
And even crazier? All you really need are 2 ingredients:
Popcorn + Honey.
To make this recipe even easier, I ended up using with one of my new favorite discoveries of the year for one of the ingredients — Kettle Brand Popcorn. Yes, popcorn. I have to admit I had no idea that the brand behind my favorite Kettle Chips made an entire line of popcorn too! (They even have flavors like Sriracha, Salt and Fresh-Ground Pepper and Maple Bacon!) But now that I’ve tried it, I am a mega fan. Plus, just like with their chips, they are committed to using super simple ingredients in their popcorn too. So I could rest easy knowing that their Sea Salt Popcorn uses the exact same ingredients I would use to make it on the stove — popcorn, vegetable oil, and sea salt. Perfect.
Anyway, the key to making these popcorn balls is to heat and partially caramelize the honey. To do so, simply add some honey to a saucepan and heat it until it is simmering. Once it’s nice and heated, immediately drizzle it over a bowl of popcorn.
Then toss the popcorn until it’s evenly coated with the honey. (You may need to let the popcorn rest for a few minutes so that you don’t burn your fingers!)
Then (my trick!) pop the bowl of popcorn in the freezer for 10-15 minutes until it is nice and chilled. Then form the popcorn into balls and place them on a parchment-lined cookie sheet to cool.
But actually, when I say form, I mean mash. The thing about using honey as a binder versus corn syrup or marshmallows is that it’s obviously not as sticky. So in order for the popcorn to stick together, I found that you really had to mash it. (Which just means more tasty popcorn in each bite!)
The easiest way I found to do this was to use a cookie scoop, and press it firmly against the side of the bowl to mash the popcorn into it, and then plop it on a cookie sheet. And then if you want to be cute, you can pop some bamboo sticks or popsicle sticks in the middle of each ball. But you can also just form popcorn balls with your hands, or use a greased measuring cup. (Or you can also press the honey popcorn into a baking dish and cut it into bars!)
However you form the popcorn, though, let me just assure you that you will love the flavor of these popcorn balls. As someone who has loved caramel corn for years, I was worried that the flavor on these would seem a little lackluster, or too overtly honey-ish. But the sea-salty flavor of the popcorn combined perfectly with the honey, and I loved them.
My friends loved them too, even before I explained that they were a healthier version of caramel corn.
Actually, we all agreed that it was kind of nice that they weren’t sickeningly sweet like usual. Instead, we loved the “lighter” flavor balance, the fact that they were more reasonably bite-sized, and — very important — soft enough to actually bite into.
Just like Tina Fey and Amy Pohler — win-win, if you ask me.
Hope you enjoy these guys as much as we did. And happy awards show season!
These naturally-sweetened honey popcorn balls are easy to make with 2-ingredients, and even better than traditional popcorn balls!
6 cups popcorn (I used Kettle Brand Sea Salt Popcorn)
4 tablespoons (1/4 cup) honey
Place popcorn in a large mixing bowl. Set aside.
Heat honey in a small saucepan over medium-high heat until it reaches a simmer, stirring occasionally. Let the honey simmer for 1 minute without stirring. Then immediately remove from heat and drizzle the honey over the popcorn. Toss to combine until the popcorn is evenly coated with the honey.
Transfer the popcorn to the freezer. Let it chill for 5-15 minutes until the honey is chilled and cool to the touch. Remove from the freezer.
Shape the popcorn into small balls using a large ice cream scoop or a (1/4 cup) measuring cup, or by simply shaping the popcorn into balls with your hands. (It may help to grease your hands with cooking spray.) Place the popcorn balls on a parchment-lined baking sheet. If desired, stick a bamboo skewer or a popsicle stick into the center of the popcorn ball. Let cool to room temperature.
Serve immediately or store in a sealed container for up to 1 week.
This is a sponsored post in partnership with Kettle Brand. All popcorn-loving opinions are my own, as always. Thanks for supporting the brands with help make this site possible!
oh yum.. not that much honey either! very nice
These look amazing, and I’d say there’s a 100% chance of Naturally-Sweetened Popcorn Balls heading my stomach’s way.
P.S. I caught your Amy Poehler-Yes, Please pun :)
Ali, I agree, popcorn balls can be annoying, but it looks like you’ve perfected it. These are sure to be a hit for the award parties and come October!
These look great! We are huge popcorn fans at our house, and my husband is in charge of making it in a large pot on our stove. Every so often, I’ll add honey to mine and I love it. I never think to make popcorn balls though, but I love how these look with the cocktail sticks in them. Great for a party. Putting this ideas aside for my next get together. Thanks for sharing.
these look awesome – I love this idea! yum!!
I’m not a big popcorn person but these are SO.DARN.CUTE I may just have to remedy that. Thanks!
I love this idea… I have never had any luck with any kind of caramel corn/popcorn recipe… I always end up burning the sauce/the popcorn is (just like you said) so hard it could crack your teeth or on the other end so so sticky and chewy. Lol… that’s why I normally don’t attempt recipes in the popcorn category but I seriously want to try these!! :)
Love this idea! I am going to add a drizzle of chocolate over the top, just for fun!
Looks like a wonderful snack!
So yummy and a perfect little lunchbox treat! I first had trouble getting them to stick — I think I just left them in the freezer too long. I just made some more honey and it worked perfectly. A little extra honey never hurt.
What a great idea! I love replacing corn syrup with honey, it works so well as a substitute, and so nice when you can make a treat a bit healthier! These look amazing – and anything involving popcorn sounds pretty awesome to me! :)
YUM! What a neat snack!
I think you’re reading my mind. The hubs and I went away over Christmas and, for some reason, I got this intense craving to try a popcorn ball while there…I have never had one!
I wasn’t able to find anywhere that sold them….and now I can make it. LOVE LOVE LOVE these! Pinned!
Love this idea!
Such a cool post! Love this post!
Love from www.trangscorner.com – a lifestyle, cooking, fashion blog
it looks amazing.your photoes are wonderful.
These are the cutest little popcorn treats ever! If I was to make the recipe. .they definitely would not last for very long – I have no self control when it comes to sweet nibbles like this!
Made these and added a bit of cinnamon. They taste just as good as the ones loaded with syrup and sugar, but they’re practically guilt free (if you make 14 of them, there are only 30 calories per ball)! Definitely have to put in work to make them stick, though.
Thanks for sharing this recipe, it is very simple. I tried your recipe and it was delicious even only with 2 ingredients.
Posted the recipe on my blog and link back to Gimme Some Oven. Thanks
Thanks so much Monica! I’m happy you liked them! : )
I don’t agree with the two ingredients though, the store-bought-popcorn also contains ingredients. So two questions ‘pop’ up -get it- in my head:
* Why not bake your own popcorn? I do it all the time.. It’s pretty quick, easy and alot cheaper.
*Does the combination honey vs sea salt really taste good?
Hi Esther! You can definitely bake your own popcorn, in fact, we love doing that! This recipe uses the store-bought stuff because it’s meant to be quick, that’s all. And we’re big fans of sweet and salty, so we think the honey and sea salt pair really well together.
Hello! I LOVE this approach! Hurray for making them so much healthier (and yummier)! I have a question: I am hoping to make “earth”-like popcorn balls in honor of Earth Day (my son wants to become an astronaut, so it’s a big theme in our house). I was wondering if you have recommendations for how I could color the popcorn. I’ve seen many other sites that suggest using sugar. Do you have any other thought? Or, if I do go the route of using Kool-Aid or similar to color the popcorn (one batch blue, one batch green), would the coloring come off when I put on the heated honey? Like if I color the popcorn first and then try to proceed with your recipe to into balls? Thanks so much for any help you may be able to provide! I really appreciate it!
Thanks Tracy, we hope you enjoy this! And those “earth-like” popcorn balls sound awesome! :) We haven’t tried coloring the popcorn before, but we think fine, blue decorating sugar might be the best way to go. However, we wouldn’t color the popcorn before putting the honey on it. We think the honey would help the sugar/coloring stick and stay in place. We hope this helps — let us know how they turn out! :)
Didn’t work. The honey is not enough to hold the popcorn together.
We’re sorry to hear this didn’t work for you, Sarah! We haven’t had issues with it not sticking, so we’re not sure what went wrong.
Just to let you know, in the printable instructions it says cool 5-15 minutes but in the written instructions it says 10-15 minutes. Other than that, this recipe was amazing!
These are a hit. I found out that if I cut a strip of parchment paper to stick out over a 1/3 cup measuring cup I can pack the popcorn in it and then easily remove it. It worked great.
Now I want to have some on hand to serve company so what’s the best way to store them?
Awesome recipe! A couple of things I figured out while playing around with this recipe:
1- You can use a hot honey like Mike’s. I used my own homemade knockoff, and it’s AMAZING!
2- I used air popped popcorn and lightly salted the end product with sea salt. A lighter option!
3- if you spread the popcorn out on a couple of jelly roll pans or a large flat pan with a lip (I use the bottom part of the broiler pan that came with my oven) and roast in a 250 degree oven for half an hour, stirring halfway through, the honey sets once it cools. This basically turns it into kettle corn, instead of a tacky popcorn ball.
Can I make the balls bigger like the traditional popcorn balls? Or, will I need more honey to hold it together? Thanks!
These were super easy and my daughter said they tasted amazing, BUT we can’t get them to stick together in balls 😩
We’ll keep trying though!