Lindsey Johnson is a freelance food stylist and photographer, writer and recipe developer. And if that wasn't enough, she's also the mother to three rambunctious kids. Her food blog, Cafe Johnsonia, is the place where she documents the delicious things coming out of her kitchen. She lives in Salt Lake City, UT.

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Chewy Caramel Apple Popcorn Balls

One day last year, I drove over to Allred Orchards in Provo to pick up a gallon (or three) of their famous fresh apple cider.  It hit me that what I needed to do was figure out how to capture the deliciousness of their cider into caramel. I made ice cream and sauces. And then one day this summer as I was dreaming about that cider (knowing it was only weeks away from being available), I came up with the idea of making caramel apple popcorn.


I reduced a quart of apple cider down to a syrup and adapted my regular  caramel popcorn recipe.  I could barely contain my excitement.  It turned out exactly as I’d hoped and I couldn’t help myself from updating my Facebook status to reflect my joy:  I am a genius.

The flavor is incredible.  Sweet, chewy caramel corn with a zap of fresh, tart apple flavor at the end–completely delicious and completely addictive.  I’m not talking apple flavor like Jolly Ranchers here either.  It’s like you’ve bitten into a freshly picked apple that just happens to also taste like buttery, caramely popcorn.  (If that makes sense. 🙂


 And I had to make some with white chocolate drizzled over the tops.  I just had to.  The tangy apple with the buttery caramel was fine, but a little sweet, creamy white chocolate kicked it up another notch.


Run out and make this as soon as possible and then tell all of your friends.  You can thank me later.


(p.s. You’re welcome.)

Chewy Caramel Apple Popcorn Balls
original recipe by Lindsey Johnson

2/3 cup popcorn kernels (or 3-4 bags microwave popcorn)
2-4 Tbsp. canola oil (leave out if using an air popper)
4 cups fresh apple cider
2 cups brown sugar, packed
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup corn syrup
3/4 tsp. salt (leave out if using microwave popcorn)
melted white chocolate, for drizzling (optional)

Pop the popcorn by heating the oil in the bottom of a large, stockpot (6 quart works great.) Turn the heat to high and add the popcorn kernels and stir with a wooden spoon until they start to sizzle. Put the lid on and frequently pick up the pan (with hot pads) and shake as the kernels pop. When the popping slows, remove from heat and immediately pour into a very big bowl. Set aside while you prepare the caramel.

In a small saucepan, bring the apple cider to a boil. Lower the heat and cook until the cider is reduced to 1/2 cup, about 40 minutes. Check after 30 minutes. Pour into a glass measuring cup to see if it’s reduced enough. When it’s completely reduced to 1/2 cup, it will be a bit syrupy. Pour it into a larger, 3-4 quart pan with a tight-fitting lid, and add the brown sugar, cream, butter, corn syrup and salt. Bring to a boil. Lower the heat to medium and cover tightly with a lid. Cook for 3 minutes without removing the lid. Remove the lid, being careful not to drop any water back into the pot. Clip a candy thermometer to the inside of the pan and cook until soft ball stage (236 degrees F to 238 degrees F.) Add the vanilla after the caramel comes to the correct temperature. It will bubble up and splatter, so be careful! Stir and pour over the popcorn, stirring with a large wooden spoon.

Eat out of the bowl, or using buttered hands, form into balls and add a stick for easier eating.

Also, you can drizzle with white chocolate for a special treat.

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Comments (23)

  1. Leanne 09/20/2012 at 8:53 am

    These look so yummy and my kids would love them. Pinned!

  2. Rachael Herrscher 09/20/2012 at 10:14 am

    You ARE a genius!

  3. Becky @ Project Domestication 09/20/2012 at 11:33 am

    These are perfect. I love a good caramel corn ball…and these are even better.

  4. le chateau des fleurs 09/20/2012 at 12:38 pm


  5. jani lebaron 09/20/2012 at 1:06 pm

    Love it! Pinned it!

  6. Summer 09/20/2012 at 1:51 pm

    These look delicious! I am pinning!

  7. Veeda 09/20/2012 at 6:10 pm

    Oh my goodness. I need to get myself some apple cider now so I can try this. Lindsey, you are a clever, clever girl.

  8. Gina 09/20/2012 at 8:24 pm

    Those look delicious! Good thing I have my braces off this year! 🙂

  9. Maria 09/21/2012 at 2:56 am

    Yum, yum! Fall is in the air, those look so good!! If we get apples from the farm this weekend….

  10. Christy 09/23/2012 at 12:40 pm

    How much vanilla?

    • Lindsey Johnson 09/24/2012 at 8:01 am

      1 tsp. Somehow I left that off the ingredient list. Sorry about that!

  11. Doris Calvert 09/25/2012 at 4:38 am

    Do you have a recipe for the ones without the apple to share? You said you adjusted it so just wondering and those sound great too!! Thanks for sharing:)

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  13. A.J. Dub (Amy) 10/02/2012 at 1:24 pm

    If anything could make me like caramel popcorn balls, this recipe would be it.

  14. Katie 10/03/2012 at 5:50 pm

    How many balls will this make? Is 40 stretching it?

  15. tlee 11/18/2012 at 1:06 pm

    how long will the apples last do they have to be kept in fridge

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  17. debbie macleod 05/23/2013 at 12:23 pm

    how many balls does this recipe make?

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  19. domain 10/13/2014 at 5:03 am

    At this moment I am going to do my breakfast, after having my breakfast coming again to read additional news.

  20. Melissa 12/07/2014 at 11:39 pm

    I would triple the popcorn in this recipe. I doubled it, and wish I’d tripled it!