Place popcorn in a large bowl making sure there are no unpopped popcorn kernels in the bowl. Set aside until syrup is ready.
In a large saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Combine sugar and corn syrup with butter. Bring caramel mixture to a boil.
Add sweetened condensed milk and continue to boil for 5 minutes. Stir constantly to prevent scorching.
Remove from heat and stir in vanilla extract.
Pour caramel mixture over popcorn and stir gently to coat completely. Set mixture aside to cool about 5 minutes.
Scoop out about 1/4 cup measure of popcorn mixture and shape into balls. Place on waxed paper lined baking sheet. Sprinkle lightly with fleur de sel.
Store in airtight container at room temperature.
Tips for making Sweet and Salty Popcorn Balls
This is the best recipe for making salted caramel popcorn balls! You don't need a candy thermometer - just a timer! The ingredients are very forgiving ingredients. Below are some tips for making the best popcorn balls possible!
Be sure to remove any unpopped corn kernels from the popcorn bowl. You don't want someone to hurt a tooth by biting into one accidently!
Once your syrup has come to a boil, immediately add the sweetened condensed milk, then stir constantly the entire 5 minutes of boiling time. Not stirring constantly will give the syrup an chance to burn.
Start a timer for 5 minutes as soon as the sweetened condensed milk is added to the syrup. Don't go over the 5 minute cooking time as you take the chance of hardening the syrup.
As soon as the 5 minutes is up, slowly pour the vanilla extract into it. The vanilla extract will bubble quickly when added so be careful when stirring it in so you don't spatter yourself with hot syrup.
Use cooking spray or butter on your hands when shaping the popcorn balls. This will prevent the syrup from sticking to your hands.
Don't be too anxious to start shaping the popcorn balls. Make sure to let it cool down enough to not burn your hands when shaping.
Variations to this recipe
I have been making this recipe for several years now and I have found it to be the BEST Popcorn Ball recipe out there. It is no-fail and delicious. Below are some other ways I have changed the recipe that you may like also.
Stir in some chopped nuts to the corn mixture before shaping into balls
Instead of vanilla extract, use another flavor that goes well with caramel. I have used banana extract as well as almond
Sprinkle the popcorn balls with some colored jimmies
Drizzle with white chocolate and sprinkles
Dip 1/2 of the ball in milk or dark chocolate
Stir in 1/2 cup chocolate chips or white chocolate chips just before shaping into balls.