Coconut Caramel Popcorn Balls Without Corn Syrup

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by Maggie Turansky

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You really don’t need to use corn syrup when making any kind of candy – these popcorn balls included – as I’ve proved time and time again in recipes like my homemade lollipops, chewy caramels, peanut brittle or marshmallows. And that is good news for those who don’t have easy access to corn syrup (which is most people outside of North America) or simply would rather not use it.

Corn syrup (and invert sugar, in general), is used in candy making to effectively make it a fool-proof process. However, so long as you follow the simple steps I’ve outlined below, this method is effectively foolproof, as well.

Coconut Caramel Popcorn Balls
Coconut Caramel Popcorn Balls

How to Make Popcorn Balls Without Any Corn Syrup!

So the first step is to pop your popcorn. While there are lots of recipes where I recommend doing a number of things simultaneously, this isn’t one of them.

That’s why I recommend having your popcorn popped before making your caramel so you can devote all of your attention to the latter when the time comes.

Ingredients for this recipe
Ingredients for this recipe

Though I’m all for using microwave popcorn for a snack, I do recommend popping your own kernels on the stovetop for this recipe. This is so simple – all you need to do is add a bit of oil to a medium saucepan (make sure it’s a bigger pan than you think you’ll need!).

Add a couple of popcorn kernels to the oil, cover the pan and set over high heat. Once both of the kernels have popped, go ahead and add the rest of your popcorn kernels, put the lid on and pop the popcorn until all of the kernels are popped – shaking the pan to avoid any burning.

Transfer the popped popcorn to a large, heatproof bowl and then move on to prepping the caramel.

Popping the popcorn
Popping the popcorn

Before you start with the caramel, it’s important to get all of your ducks in a row. First and foremost, fill a glass with cool water and set it beside the stove with a pastry brush. Also, line a baking sheet with parchment paper and add some unsweetened desiccated coconut to a shallow dish.

Once you’ve done this, add some caster sugar to a large saucepan along with a little bit of water. Also known as superfine sugar, I recommend using caster sugar here because its smaller granules allow it to dissolve more quickly and easily when compared to regular, granulated sugar. However, it’s not absolutely necessary and you can absolutely simply use granulated if that’s all you have.

Right now is the most important step in this entire recipe – and that is dissolving the sugar. Put the saucepan over medium heat and stir constantly in order to dissolve the sugar.

Adding the sugar & water to a pot
Adding the sugar & water to a pot

It is imperative that the sugar is completely dissolved before you allow the mixture to come to a boil. So if you’re a bit concerned about the mixture getting too hot too quickly, then go ahead and periodically take it off the heat if needed.

It can be a bit hard to gauge sometimes if the sugar is dissolved or not, so you can feel on your spatula if it is still grainy or if the mixture is smooth. Just be careful, as the mixture will be hot!

If your sugar is not completely dissolved before the mixture comes to a boil, this can cause an irreversible chain reaction that will result in the whole mixture seizing.

The reason that so many recipes call for corn syrup or some other invert sugar is to prevent this from happening, but so long as all of the sugar crystals are adequately dissolved you don’t need to worry too much.

Once the sugar is dissolved, go ahead and let the mixture come up to a boil. To avoid any crystals collecting on the side of the pan, use your pastry brush dipped in the water to wash down the sides of the pan.

Brushing down the sides of the pot
Brushing down the sides of the pot

Then, make sure to stop stirring entirely once it’s boiling (again, to avoid crystallisation) and let the syrup bubble away until you notice it begin to take on color – this will take about 10-15 minutes.

The mixture can go from pale gold to burnt very quickly, so be sure to remove the caramel from the heat once you see it become a medium amber color.

Turning an amber color
Turning an amber color

Once you’ve reached this stage, add in some coconut oil and a bit of salt and stir it in. Be careful here as the mixture will foam and sputter a bit and it is very hot!

Once the coconut oil and salt are incorporated, go ahead and pour it over your popped popcorn. Use a heatproof spatula to ensure that all of the popcorn is evenly coated in the caramel and allow the mixture to cook for a couple of minutes (but not too long as it will be impossible to form into balls).

Pouring the caramel over the popcorn
Pouring the caramel over the popcorn

In the meantime, put on a double layer of food-safe gloves to prevent burns.

Then, using gloved hands, grab a handful of caramel popcorn and compact it into a ball shape with your hands.

Forming the popcorn ball
Forming the popcorn ball

Then, roll the balls in the desiccated coconut and set on the parchment-lined baking sheet to cool and set completely.

Repeat with the remainder of your popcorn mixture and let the balls sit until they’re cooled completely and set – this won’t take long!

Letting the popcorn balls cool
Letting the popcorn balls cool
Coconut Popcorn Balls

Coconut Caramel Popcorn Balls (No Corn Syrup)

So long as you keep a keen eye on your caramel and make sure all of the sugar is dissolved before it comes to a boil, making these popcorn balls is quick and easy to do without corn syrup or any special equipment.
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Servings 6
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cooling Time 5 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes



  • Add 1 tbsp of neutral oil to a medium saucepan along with 2 popcorn kernels, Set over high heat and cover. Once both kernels have popped, add the remainder of the popcorn kernels, cover and, shaking the pan, cook until all of the kernels popped. Remove from the heat and transfer the popcorn to a large, heatproof mixing bowl.
    Popping the popcorn
  • Set a glass of cool water and a clean pastry brush next to the stovetop. Line a baking tray with parchment paper and pour the desiccated coconut into a shallow dish. Set aside for later.
    Pastry brush & glass of water
  • Add the sugar and 60ml (¼ cup) of cool water to a small saucepan. Set over medium heat and, stirring constantly, dissolve the sugar. It is imperative that the sugar be completely dissolved before the mixture comes to a boil. If you are concerned that the mixture is heating up too quickly, feel free to periodically remove it from the heat to ensure that the sugar is dissolved entirely before it boils.
    Adding the sugar & water to a pot
  • Once the sugar is dissolved, bring the mixture up to a boil. As soon as the syrup begins boiling, stop stirring. Dip the pastry brush in the water and use it to wash down the sides of the pot to ensure there are no sugar crystals collecting on the sides.
    Brushing down the sides of the pot
  • Allow the mixture to bubble, swirling the pot occasionally but making sure not to stir, until the colour of the syrup begins to take on a medium amber color – about 10-15 minutes from when the mixture began to boil. Be sure not to walk away, as this can happen very quickly and cook times can vary depending on your stove, etc.
    Turning an amber color
  • As soon as the syrup reaches a medium amber colour, remove it from the heat and stir in the coconut oil and salt. It will sputter and foam slightly – do not be alarmed.
    Stirring in the coconut oil & salt
  • Pour the caramel over the popped popcorn and use a heat-proof spatula to ensure that it evenly coats the popcorn. Allow the mixture to cool for a minute or two – use this time to put on a double layer of disposable gloves to prevent burns.
    Pouring the caramel over the popcorn
  • Working quickly and using gloved hands, scoop one-sixth of the caramel popcorn (it will be a large handful) and use your hands to form and compress it into a ball.
    Forming the popcorn ball
  • Roll the popcorn ball in the coconut and then set it on the prepared baking sheet to set. Repeat with the remaining popcorn. Allow the balls to cool completely before eating – only about 5-10 minutes.
    Letting the popcorn balls cool


  1. I recommend using caster sugar (also known as superfine sugar) rather than granulated sugar as it does dissolve a bit quicker. However, if all you have is granulated, this is not a problem and you will still see success so long as the sugar is completely dissolved before the syrup begins to boil.
  2. I highly recommend using the salt by weight because the volume of salt can vary from brand to brand. 1 teaspoon of table salt is going to be far more salt by weight than 1 teaspoon of coarse sea salt. For best results, go by weight.


Calories: 364kcal | Carbohydrates: 61g | Protein: 2g | Fat: 14g | Saturated Fat: 12g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 198mg | Potassium: 81mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 51g | Vitamin C: 0.1mg | Calcium: 3mg | Iron: 1mg

Disclaimer: Nutritional information is automatically generated and provided as guidance only. Accuracy is not guaranteed.

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Making popcorn balls without corn syrup is relatively easy and pretty quick so long as you follow the instructions and tips I’ve outlined above.

Are you looking for a great recipe for popcorn balls? Have any questions? Let me know in the comments!

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Maggie is the creator behind No Frills Kitchen. She is a world traveller, home cook and recipe developer who loves to experiment with new cuisines and techniques at every chance she gets. No stranger to improvising and making do with the equipment and ingredients she has available, she is passionate about sharing her knowledge with others. Read More

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