This is one of those perfect treats you enjoy during a movie because it has all the best movie snacks literally rolled into one. Sweet, salty, crunchy, chewy ... everything you want is here. It's also easy to make, and has way, way, way less sugar than anything you can buy at the snack counter of the theater.
 
A tip on selecting your chocolate chips: the darker the chocolate, the less sugar and milk it will contain, so go for as dark as you can find. You can, of course, get unsweetened chocolate, but you have to be a serious chocolate lover to enjoy the bitter bite that unsweetened chocolate offers.
 
These popcorn balls are great the day you make them, but they go stale quickly. I wrapped them tightly in plastic and they were still stale within 24 hours. So make them the day you're going to enjoy them and don't plan on storing them.
 
This recipe is inspired by EatingWell.

Prep time: 20 minutes  

Cook time: 10 minutes  

Total time: 30 minutes  

Yield: 12 treats about 2-inches in diameter

Sweet and Salty Peanut Butter Chocolate Popcorn Balls

Ingredients

  • 6-8 cups popped popcorn
  • 1/4 cup unfiltered honey
  • 1/4 cup creamy unsweetened peanut butter
  • 3 tablespoons super dark chocolate chips (70 or 80 percent dark)
  • 3 tablespoons roughly chopped snack pretzels
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped unsweetened dried cranberries (or other dried fruit)
Cooking Directions
  1. Pop your popcorn. Pour the popcorn into a large bowl and give the bowl a few good shakes back and forth so any unpopped kernels sift to the bottom. Sort those kernels out of the bowl so you have only popped corn left in the bowl.
  2. In a small saucepan over low heat, combine the peanut butter and honey. Stirring constantly, let the ingredients melt until they just begin to bubble. Turn off the heat and immediately pour the mixture over the popcorn. Gently stir the popcorn so it's entirely coated. 
  3. Add in your chocolate chips, chopped pretzels, and chopped dried cranberries (or whatever fruit you select). Stir gently until everything is evenly combined.
  4. Fill a medium bowl half way with ice water. Line a baking sheet or platter with parchment paper. Dunk your hands in the ice water until they're good and cold. Then grab a handful of the popcorn mixture and press it together in your palms to form a ball roughly 2 inches in diameter (or, really, whatever size you'd like). Press firmly so that the ingredients stick together and don't fall apart when you set it down. Set the ball on the parchment paper, and repeat until all the popcorn mixture is used.
  5. Store the popcorn balls in an airtight container until it's time to feast. But remember, these are best enjoyed on the day you make them, as they go stale by the next day.

popcorn balls

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Jaymi Heimbuch ( @jaymiheimbuch ) focuses on wildlife conservation and animal news from her home base in San Francisco.