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Ingredients for making spicy Mexican-style street popcorn

Cotija and chile-spiced palomitas

  • Author: Maura Wall Hernandez
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 10 minutes
  • Total Time: 20 minutes
  • Yield: 2-4 servings 1x
  • Category: snacks
  • Cuisine: Mexican


Turn a street food favorite into a family movie night snack! Make your popcorn spicy and tangy with grated queso cotija, chile powder, melted butter and a little squeeze of lime juice!


  • 1/2 cup popcorn kernels, popped
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup Cacique queso cotija, grated
  • Chile quebrado, Tajín or your choice of chile powder, to taste
  • Optional: A squeeze of fresh key lime juice


  1. In an air popper, pop 1/2 cup of popcorn kernels into a large bowl and set aside. (See notes below if you do not have an air popper.)
  2. Grate 1/4 cup queso cotija with a medium-grain cheese grater.
  3. Combine queso cotija and chile quebrado or chile powder in a small dish.
  4. Melt butter in a microwave-safe dish at 15-second intervals, then pour over popcorn in the large bowl.
  5. Sprinkle the mixture of queso cotija and chile powder over the buttered popcorn and toss well, using a large spoon.
  6. Optional: To add a bright, citrusy flavor, squeeze 1-2 key limes over the top of the dressed popcorn and toss to incorporate.


If you can’t find key limes (the tiny kind), you can substitute with the juice of 1/4 of a large lime.

If you don’t have an air popper, you can make the popcorn on the stovetop without any oil. You’ll need a deep pot with a lid. Pour the popcorn kernels in the bottom of the pot and heat over medium heat, gently shaking the pot every 30 seconds until the popcorn begins to pop. It will take around 4-5 minutes before the popcorn starts popping. Once it does, gently shake at 10 second intervals until the popping slows down. Remove from heat, shake a little bit more, then allow to sit for about 1 minute before you remove the lid. Most of the popcorn should be popped, with very few kernels left.