I rediscovered Flamin’ Hot Cheetos a couple months ago when I was feeling nostalgic (i.e. tipsy at Ralph’s). They pair nicely with a glass of white wine and an awful romcom.
A note about ingredients: This recipe calls for a few unusual ingredients you may not have. They are necessary if you care about this tasting as close to the original as possible. Without them it’ll still be pretty good, but not super accurate.
Cheese powder: You are probably thinking, “I’m a normal person, so of course I don’t own cheese powder.” I got it at a regular grocery store near the spices, but higher quality versions can be found at fancy stores or online.
Citric acid: Sounds like weird science chemicals but is just the powdered version of the stuff that makes citrus fruits sour. It will give your seasoning the sour kick it needs that really makes it taste like the original. It can be found online or at health food stores.
Monosodium Glutamate: MSG is delicious and not bad for you. This recipe will not be as good without it. It can be found at grocery stores as a “salt alternative,” or at an Asian grocery store or, of course, online.
For The Seasoning Mix:
This ratio makes a mixture that is slightly less spicy than actual Hot Cheetos. Adjust the amount of cayenne if you want it more or less spicy
1 teaspoon paprika
1 1/4 teaspoon cheddar cheese powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon + a pinch onion powder
1/4 teaspoon + a pinch garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon cayenne powder
1/8 teaspoon + a pinch MSG
1/8 teaspoon + a pinch citric acid powder
1 pinch chili powder
A lot of these amounts have a pinch added to them. That’s because the first amount wasn’t quite enough and needed a little more to make it just right. This makes enough for the amount of popcorn listed below. Just combine everything in a small bowl and stir it so that it’s evenly mixed.
For The Popcorn:
Makes enough for 2-3 people
a bit less than 1/2 cup of popping corn (fill below the line)
2 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons neutral oil, separated (I used light olive oil)
a pretty big pot (The one I used was 5 quarts. When the corn had popped, it was full except for a few inches at the top.)
Ignore this if you’ve made popcorn in a pot before. If not, pour your 2 tablespoons of oil into the pot and turn the heat to medium. While it heats up, measure out your corn. Put a couple of kernels into the pot and put the lid on. Stay nearby and listen for a minute. When they pop, you know it’s hot enough. Pour in the rest of the corn and put the lid back on. In a minute or so you should start to hear popping. When the popping is continuous, holding the lid down, shake the pot back and forth, keeping it above the heat, while the kernels pop to keep everything evenly heated. Shake for a minute or so until the popping subsides. When the popping slows down and almost stops, turn the stove off and take the pot off the heat. Now you need to coat your popcorn with a little bit of oil so that the magical powder sticks. Evenly drizzle on a little of your remaining 2 teaspoons of oil, and fold in with a big spoon. Pour on a little more oil and stir again, and so on until you’ve used up the oil. Add your seasoning the same way. Shake some on, mix, and shake some more on until it’s coated to your liking.