Party Popcorn with Southwestern Spice Recipe

by Amber on September 20, 2011

Looking for a last-minute dish to serve at your party—something fast and easy? This party popcorn is sure to please! Or, if you’re like me, this could be dinner.

Chili powder & cumin add a Southwestern kick to this popcorn recipe.

Growing up, popcorn was a standard and appropriate item for Mom to serve for supper. I can picture her standing over the stove in the floor-length, royal blue bathrobe that engulfed her petite five foot frame, looking completely relaxed in anticipation of this easy meal. She was certain it would be a hit!—no complaints from this little kid.

Mom would heat a splash of oil in a large kettle on the stovetop. I’d hear the echoing clink of the popcorn kernels as they clicked into the bottom of the pot. Next, the lid went on, and Mom’s hips would twist back and forth as she used her whole, tiny body to shake, shake, shake the pan, careful not to let the kernels rest and burn.

Moments later, a steaming kettleful of fluffy white kernels tumbled out of the pan and into a large serving bowl. I would shake on the salt and drizzle melted butter. Then Mom would take the overflowing dish, stand over the sink and in rapid motions flip the popcorn into the air, catching it back in the bowl as she made sure the entire batch was coated thoroughly in saltiness.

We’d take our precious cargo into the family room, snuggle under blankets, and turn on a VHS movie. The warm popcorn crunched tenderly between our teeth with its rich, earthy, buttery taste. Such a comforting meal!

I still serve myself popcorn for dinner when my husband is out of town. Today, I pair it with my favorite beer, nestle into the couch, and turn on a girly movie that my husband would never watch. Just me, my beer, and a warm, buttery dish of delicious popcorn. Hey, it’s a whole grain—it must be good for me! (Wink.)

This Spring, my husband and I splurged on an incredible dinner in Sedona, Arizona at the area’s best restaurant, Elote Café. They don’t take reservations, and guests often must wait an hour or more for a table. While you wait, you can grab drinks at the bar along with a bowl of their spicy popcorn. It’s tasty! So tasty, in fact, that I bought their cookbook.

The Elote version of this spicy popcorn is a bit too salty for me, so I’ve adapted it to decrease the salt, increase some of the spices, and add lime juice for a welcome tang balance.

Last week, I attended a family reunion: Mom, my siblings, and all their children. Every night, popcorn was popped and served. Mom still had that same blue bathrobe from my childhood. Some traditions never change.

Party popcorn with Southwestern Spice recipe.

Party Popcorn with Southwestern Spice Recipe
Adapted from Elote Palomitos Seasoning Mix in The Elote Cafe Cookbook  

¼ cup salt
½ Tablespoon sugar
½ teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground chipotle chili powder
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 heaping bowl of popped popcorn with melted butter
Juice from ½ a lime

Farmers’ Marketing Ingredients: popcorn, lime, butter
Supermarket Ingredients: spices, sugar, salt

Combine salt, sugar, garlic powder, cumin, and chili powders in a glass jar. Place the lid on the jar and shake to combine.

Lightly sprinkle the popcorn seasoning to taste onto a large bowl of popped and buttered popcorn (start with 1/2 teaspoon and add more if you want it), and then squeeze the juice from half a lime over the popcorn. Stir to combine, and serve warm.

The remaining popcorn seasoning will stay fresh in the jar for several months, providing you with an easy go-to snack seasoning.

Want more popcorn ideas?

101 Cookbooks kicks up her popcorn with tequila.
Herbivoracious makes spicy nori popcorn.
David Lebovitz stirs up a fall favorite with caramel popcorn.

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Jessica @The Literary Foodie September 20, 2011 at 6:51 pm

Love this, and will be trying it the next time we make popcorn. I have no idea why people use microwave popcorn the taste is definitely inferior to stovetop, especially when you start getting fancy like this. We usually just use butter and smoked salt. Thanks for the new recipe!


admin September 20, 2011 at 8:32 pm

Let me know how you like it! I use an air popper for my popcorn now–though Mom used to use the stove top. So much easier and quicker–and no shaking. :)


Johanna Carson September 21, 2011 at 10:13 am

Thanks for the recipe! What a delightful and spicy take on one of my favorite treats (or dinners) – looking forward to serving it at an upcoming outdoor film night.


admin September 21, 2011 at 10:17 am

Ooh! This would be perfect for outdoor film night! :) What’s the movie?


Johanna Carson September 21, 2011 at 10:42 am

Vertigo! A spooky classic for the first week of Fall ~


The Rowdy Chowgirl September 22, 2011 at 1:26 pm

I can’t wait to give this a try. I am definitely a popcorn lover. I make mine in a saucepan with oil, just like your mom!


admin September 22, 2011 at 3:50 pm

Rowdy Chowgirl, I love that you make it the way my mom does. :) I now use an air popper, but in a pinch, that stove top method is my next go-to. Hope you like this version.


Nicole Del Bosque September 29, 2013 at 9:15 am

This looks like a great recipe! I was looking into popcorn recipes since I’ll be writing some articles celebrating popcorn next week on my blog I wanted to find an easy “elote” popcorn recipe and Google pointed me your way. I’m planning on providing a hyperlink to this post in my own post on how my Mexican husband prefers his popcorn. Please let me know if this isn’t alright.

Muchas gracias, and by the way, I love your last name! (Stott was my maiden name!)
Nicole Del Bosque


Amber October 14, 2013 at 8:51 pm

Nicole, Happy to have you link to this. I wonder if we are long-lost cousins! haha! Thanks for sharing your love of popcorn. It’s one of my favorite snacks.


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