These Loaded Popcorn Balls are the perfect mix of sweet, buttery, and salty. The marshmallow coating slightly softens the popcorn, while pretzels and Oreos provide hidden bites of crunch!
Loaded Christmas Popcorn Balls, Stuffed with Goodies!
Popcorn balls are an easy, retro treat that really needs to make a comeback, and I am here for it – doing my part with this loaded popcorn ball recipe filled with chunks of Oreos, pretzels, and peanuts. Combined with popcorn and creamy marshmallow sauce, it’s a stellar combination of tastes and textures. Everyone will rave over these sweet and salty popcorn balls!
While a lot of us associate popcorn balls with Halloween, they’re honestly a great treat anytime. Serve them as a special back-to-school snack, a festive Thanksgiving treat, or a Christmas Eve goodie. You can even tint them different colors using food coloring, or roll them in colorful sprinkles before they set. No matter how you decorate them and change them up, they’re sure to be a hit.
(Want a more back-to-basics recipe? Try these plain Marshmallow Popcorn Balls with just homemade marshmallow sauce and popcorn! And be sure to scroll to the end of this post for a gift tag printable!)
What Is a Popcorn Ball Made Of?
A popcorn ball is usually made with something sticky, like caramel or marshmallow, to stick together the popcorn and any add-ins. Here’s my list of must-haves for this loaded version:
For the Popcorn Balls
- Popcorn: Use freshly popped popcorn, or store-bought bagged popcorn.
- Butter: Unsalted butter.
- Marshmallows: Mini marshmallows are easy to work with and melt well.
- Vanilla: Vanilla extract is optional, but adds a really nice flavor to the marshmallow mixture.
- Add-Ins: Mini M&Ms, crushed Oreos, crushed pretzels, and crushed peanuts.
Optional Items for Serving
- Straws: Cut in half, for serving. I used these straws.
- Cellophane: Or clear treat bags. I used these 6×9 inch treat bags.
- Ribbon: To tie off the wrapped popcorn balls.
- Gift Tags: Print the ones included in this post (find the printable gift tag at the bottom of this post, under the recipe!), or use different ones.
How to Make Loaded Marshmallow Popcorn Balls
To make these Yuletide treats, all you need is a little time and a simple stovetop cooking method. This is that method, step by step:
- Prep the Popcorn and the Marshmallow Sauce. First, place the popcorn in a large mixing bowl and set it aside. Next, set a large pot over medium heat. Add the butter and let it melt. Then add the marshmallows, stirring often, until the marshmallows are fully melted. Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the vanilla extract.
- Make the Popcorn Ball Mixture. Drizzle the melted marshmallow mixture over the popcorn, and let it sit for a few minutes to cool down a bit. Give it a stir with a spatula to distribute the marshmallow sauce evenly over all of the popcorn. Then add the M&Ms, Oreos, pretzels, and peanuts to the popcorn mixture. Stir just a couple of times to gently fold everything together.
- Shape the Popcorn Balls. With clean hands, form the mixture into balls, placing them on a sheet of parchment paper as you go. Press in any extra garnishes around the outside of the popcorn balls. (If using straws, cut the straws in half and insert them into the centers of the popcorn balls.)
- Cool and Wrap. Allow the popcorn balls to fully cool for about 20 minutes. Then wrap them in cellophane or clear gift bags, and tie them off with a strip of ribbon and printed gift tag.
Why Won’t My Popcorn Balls Stick Together?
If the mixture keeps falling apart, it might be that the marshmallows weren’t fully melted. You might be able to save them by gently heating the marshmallow-coated popcorn in the microwave for a few seconds at a time, and then stirring, to re-melt and re-coat. Otherwise, you may have to start the recipe over.
Why Are My Popcorn Balls Soggy?
You may find that the popcorn and marshmallow mixture seems too soft – this can happen if you substitute margarine for the butter, or if you have too much marshmallow and not enough popcorn. Make sure to measure your ingredients accurately and use real butter, and you should end up with a good, sticky consistency.
Tips for Success
While these sweet-and-salty snacks are really easy to make, some helpful hints can definitely come in handy, especially if you have never made them before. Read on for my best advice for perfect popcorn balls.
- No Sticking: If the popcorn is sticking to your hands, try buttering your hands or spraying them lightly with non-stick spray.
- Popcorn Options: You can use any type of popcorn for this recipe. I used a store-brand microwaved popcorn. Pre-buttered popcorn will have a slightly buttery flavor that I personally love. I would not recommend using something like kettle corn, since this recipe is already sweet enough. If you pop the popcorn yourself, make sure you remove any un-popped popcorn kernels.
- More Mix-Ins: Candy corn, chopped cookies, chopped candies (like Rolos, bite-sized candy bars, etc.), and colored sprinkles are all great options!
- Add Color: You can use food coloring to color your marshmallow mixture if you like – this is especially cute with plain popcorn balls. With mix-ins, I prefer to leave the marshmallows white so all the different mix-ins can be the star.
How Long Can You Store Popcorn Balls?
Homemade popcorn balls store well in an airtight container at room temperature, for up to 5 days. That makes it convenient to whip them up ahead of time, or just appreciate the leftovers.
Can I Freeze These?
Actually, yes! They can be frozen for up to one month, and thawed before serving. To freeze them successfully, wrap each one in plastic wrap and then place them in a freezer bag or airtight container.
Loaded Popcorn Balls
- 8 cups popped popcorn
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 10 oz mini marshmallows
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, optional
- ½ cup mini m&ms
- ⅓ cup crushed oreos
- ¼ cup crushed pretzels
- ¼ cup crushed peanuts
- Place popcorn in a large mixing bowl with a wide mouth, set aside.
- In a large pot over medium heat, melt the butter and marshmallows, stirring often, until marshmallows are fully melted. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla extract.
- Pour the melted marshmallow mixture over the bowl of popcorn.
- Allow the popcorn to sit for a few minutes to cool slightly, then stir with a spatula to incorporate the marshmallow mixture evenly over the popcorn.
- Add in the M&Ms, Oreos, pretzels, and peanuts to the popcorn mixture. Gently fold the ingredients together.
- With clean hands, form the popcorn balls and place on a sheet of parchment paper. Press in any extra garnishes around the outside of the popcorn balls. (If the popcorn sticks to your hands, try buttering your hands or spraying them lightly with baking spray.
- If using straws, cut the straws in half and insert into the center of each popcorn ball.
- Allow to fully cool, about 20 minutes, and then wrap the cooled popcorn balls in cellophane or clear gift bags, and tie off with a strip of ribbon and a printed gift tag. Enjoy!
- If the popcorn is sticking to your hands while you shape the popcorn balls, try buttering your hands or spraying them lightly with non-stick spray.
- You can use any type of popcorn for this recipe, stovetop or microwaved. I used a store-brand microwaved popcorn. Pre-buttered popcorn will have a slightly buttery flavor that I personally love. I would not recommend using something like kettle corn as this recipe is already sweet enough.
- Other fun optional add-ins: Candy corn, any kind of chopped cookies, candies (Rolos, bite-sized candy bars, etc), colored sprinkles…
- You can also color your marshmallow mixture with food coloring if you want your popcorn balls to be a color. With the mix-ins, I prefer to leave them white so you can see all the different mix-ins.
More Sweet Treats
- Rocky Road Fudge
- The Best Christmas Crack (Saltine Cracker Toffee)
- Rolo Ritz Marshmallow Treats
- Peppermint Patties
- Butterscotch Haystacks
- Millionaire’s Shortbread
- Best Ever Rice Krispie Treats
- Air Fryer Oreos
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