Pepitas and Palomitas
Carrie Brown, John Werner, and Michael McLaughlin's The Jimtown Store Cookbook, Harper Collins, 2002
Adapted by StarChefs

Pepitas are pumpkinseeds, which we coat with spices and chiles and then oven-toast until they puff and become crisp. Palomitas (little doves) is the fanciful name Mexicans give to popped corn. Both pepitas and palomitas are both very good, but are even tastier and more festive when served together. We serve this combo the way Mexican street vendors often serve popped corn in paper cones with wedges of lime for squeezing (you can also offer the snack in a big bowl with napkins on the side). However you serve them, dont skip the lime its the key to this snacks success.

Yield: 3 1/2 quarts, serves at least 12

  • 2 tablespoons plain, unblended chile powder
  • 1 tablespoon cumin seeds, toasted and ground (see Note)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce, such as Tabasco
  • 1 3/4 cups (about 1/2 pound) raw pumpkinseeds
  • 6 ounces (about 1 cup) lightly salted roasted peanuts
  • 1/2 cup (about 2 1/2 ounces) raw sunflower seeds, hulled
  • 3 tablespoons peanut or corn oil
  • 1/2 cup premium popping corn
  • Wedges of lime


Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 375F. Lightly coat a 9 by 13-inch metal baking pan with no-stick spray.

In a small bowl, combine the chile powder, cumin, cayenne pepper, 1 1/2 teaspoons Kosher salt, and black pepper.

In a large bowl, whisk egg whites until foamy. Whisk in the pepper sauce and then add the pumpkinseeds, peanuts, and sunflower seeds and stir to coat them evenly. Transfer the chile powder mixture to a coarse sieve. Working quickly, so they eggs dont dry out, shake the spice mixture evenly over the egg and nut mixture while stirring to coat evenly. Spread the seasoned nut mixture in the prepared pan and set it in the oven.

Bake for 10 minutes. Stir the mixture with a spatula to break up clumps. Continue to bake, stirring once or twice more, until crisp and brown (about 15 minutes). Transfer immediately to a bowl and cool.


Just before you plan to serve, stir the oil and popping corn together in a large, heavy pot. Cover and set over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. When the first kernels pop, set the pot lid slightly ajar, vent steam. Shake the pot occasionally until the popping dies down (3 to 4 minutes), then remove from the heat. Season to taste with salt.

*Service: Divide the popped corn into paper cones or a large shallow bowl and sprinkle the pepita mixture generously over the top. Serve, preferably still slightly warm, with the lime wedges. (Offer the remaining pepitas on the side or save them for another occasion.)

*Storage: You should prepare fresh popped corn each time you serve, but the pepitas can be prepared up to 2 weeks in advance. Store the mixture airtight at room temperature and heat for about 5 minutes in a 375-degree oven before serving if they lose their crispness.

*Note: Toasted cumin has a rich, nutty flavor we find habit-forming. In a small, heavy skillet over medium heat, dry-toast 1/3 cup or so of whole cumin seeds (a larger quantity is less likely to burn than a few tablespoons), stirring often, until the seeds are fragrant, lightly browned, and a few are beginning to pop, 6 to 8 minutes. Do not over-toast or the cumin will become bitter. Transfer to a bowl and cool. Store the toasted seeds in a jar and grind them (in a spice mill or in a mortar with a pestle) just before using. One tablespoon of whole seeds will yield about 2 1/2 teaspoons ground.