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Mexican Street Corn Salad (Esquites)

This Mexican Street Corn Salad – also known as esquites – is a delicious way to enjoy the last of the summer sweet corn! Serve this creamy corn alongside tacos, fresh guacamole or salsa, and tortilla chips for an incredible summer meal.

Overhead view of a bowl of Mexican street corn salad with all the toppings: lime wedges, sliced chilies, cotija cheese, and cilantro

There is a local restaurant a couple of towns over that had the absolute best Mexican Street Corn Salad.

My dad and I were absolutely obsessed with it last summer and ordered it for takeout with tacos more times than I care to admit.

I’m telling you the stuff was amazing – until it wasn’t. It seemed like one day the restaurant changed the recipe and it went from a 5 star dish to almost inedible.

The texture of the corn was off the toppings changed and it was just overall a real bummer. We kept ordering it though thinking maybe it was a fluke, but after tossing most of it in the trash on more than one occasion, I decided it was time to make my own Mexican Street Corn Salad.

Ingredients for Mexican street corn salad arranged on a countertop

WHAT IS MEXICAN STREET CORN SALAD?

If you have never experienced the magic that is Mexican Street Corn Salad, you have to change that immediately.

I love authentic Mexican street corn, or elote. Corn on the cob is grilled, then slathered in mayonnaise or Mexican crema and topped with cotija cheese, chili powder, and lime. 

Elote is a super popular street food throughout Mexico, and so is the spoonable version, esquites or elote en vaso – aka, Mexican Street Corn Salad. 

Spatula stirring charred corn in a skillet

Esquites is basically the same corn simply cut off the cob and tossed with chili, cotija, and a mayonnaise, lime, and crema dressing and topped with more cotija cheese and chili powder. 

I’m not always able to drive into town where the best esquites are, so I decided to make my own, trying to stay as true to what the dish is meant to be as possible.

Spatula combining charred corn, cotija cheese and chili powder in a metal bowl

IS MEXICAN STREET CORN SALAD SERVED COLD OR WARM?

Traditionally, esquites are served hot, and I think this recipe is best when served warm! Preferably alongside some Flank Steak Tacos, Spicy Guacamole or Salsa Ranchera, and tortilla chips.

You can definitely serve it cold though if you prefer. 

Whisk combining the dressing for Mexican street corn salad in a small white bowl on a blue countertop

HOW TO MAKE ESQUITES

Most of the ingredients you’ll need for this Mexican Street Corn Salad recipe can be found at any major grocery store. 

A few things you might need to look more closely for are:

  • Cotija cheese
  • Mexican crema
  • Tajín (chili-lime seasoning)

I can usually find all three of these ingredients at my grocery store, but I will often swing by my local Mexican grocery to pick them up along with the best tortillas in town. 

Bowl of freshly made Mexican corn salad, ready to be topped with garnishes

If you’ve never checked out your local Mexican grocery, you definitely should! They’ll have everything you need to make this recipe and it’s great to support local small businesses. Some of them also serve tacos and other street snacks – like elote and esquites!

To make this recipe, you’ll start by charring the corn. Heat vegetable oil in a skillet until it is shimmering and hot. Working in batches, add the corn in a single layer, then cover and let it cook for 3 minutes.

Don’t be tempted to peek or stir the corn! Just let it cook for the full 3 minutes. You want the corn to char on the bottom. 

Hand squeezing a wedge of lime over the top of a bowl of Mexican street corn salad

Once all of the corn is charred, add Cotija cheese, garlic, chili powder, and some salt and pepper. 

In a small bowl, whisk together the dressing ingredients:

  • ½ cup mayonnaise
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • ¼ cup Mexican crema
  • Juice of 1-2 medium limes 

When you’re ready to serve, add the dressing to the corn. Stir to combine and serve warm with additional crumbled cotija cheese, Tajín, lime wedges, cilantro, pickled onions, and/or thinly sliced serrano or jalapeño peppers.

Mexican street corn salad being held up to the camera on a spoon

CAN THIS RECIPE BE MADE AHEAD?

If you prefer your Mexican Street Corn Salad served cold, simply make it according to the recipe, cover, and refrigerate until you’re ready to serve it. 

If you want to prep the salad ahead of time but serve it warm, prepare the corn as written but leave out the cotija cheese. Store the corn, cotija cheese, and dressing separately in the fridge until it’s time to serve.

When you’re ready to serve, reheat the corn (either quickly on the stove or in the microwave) and combine it with the cheese and dressing.

Don’t forget to garnish your esquites as desired! I never skip extra lime, cotija, and a sprinkle of Tajín, but the fun part is dressing it up the way you like it.

Close up of Mexican street corn salad topped with lime, cotija cheese, cilantro and pickled onions
Close up of Mexican street corn salad topped with lime, cotija cheese, cilantro and pickled onions

Mexican Street Corn Salad (Esquites)

Yield: 12 servings
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes

This Mexican Street Corn Salad – also known as esquites – is a delicious way to enjoy the last of the summer sweet corn! Serve this creamy corn alongside tacos, fresh guacamole or salsa, and tortilla chips for an incredible summer meal.

Ingredients

  • 6 cups fresh sweet corn (about 4 large ears, shucked and removed from the cob)
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 5 oz Cotija cheese, crumbled
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced or grated
  • 1 ½ tsp chili powder
  • salt & pepper to taste

For the dressing:

  • ½ cup mayonnaise
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • ¼ cup Mexican crema
  • 1-2 medium limes

For serving (all optional):

  • 1 thinly sliced serrano chili or jalapeño
  • cilantro
  • pickled onions
  • Tajín (chili-lime seasoning) or chili powder
  • Lime wedges

Instructions

  1. Add the oil to a  large non-stick skillet and place over medium-high heat. Heat until the oil is shimmering and hot.
  2. Working in batches based on the size of your skillet, add the corn to the skillet and gently stir to coat in the oil. Spread the corn in an even layer across the bottom of the skillet; cover and cook for 3 minutes on medium-high heat. After 3 minutes, remove the skillet from the heat and add the charred corn to a large bowl. Repeat with the remaining corn. 
  3. To the charred corn, add the cotija cheese, garlic, chili powder, and salt and pepper to taste. Stir to combine. 
  4. In a separate bowl whisk together the mayonnaise, sour cream, crema, and the juice of 1 lime. Taste and add additional lime juice and/or salt if desired.
  5. When ready to serve, add the dressing to the corn and stir gently to combine. Garnish as desired with additional crumbled cotija, pickled onions, thinly sliced jalapeños, cilantro, etc, as desired. 
  6. This dish is best served warm, but can be served cold as well. 

Notes

If you cannot find cotija cheese, you can substitute crumbled feta.

If you would like to prep this ahead of time and serve it warm, prepare the corn without the cotija. Store the corn, cotija, and dressing separately. When ready to serve, reheat the corn (either quickly on the stove or in the microwave) and add the cotija and dressing. Garnish as desired. 

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Nutrition Information
Yield 12 Serving Size About 1/2 cup
Amount Per Serving Calories 275Total Fat 19gSaturated Fat 6gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 11gCholesterol 34mgSodium 461mgCarbohydrates 22gFiber 3gSugar 5gProtein 9g

Did you make this recipe?

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Jude

Friday 13th of August 2021

Is the corn used in this cooked or raw?

Jamie

Friday 13th of August 2021

It is initially raw, but gets cooked in the recipe directions in steps 1 & 2. Hope this helps. -Jamie

Angelica

Wednesday 11th of August 2021

Hi! Although this looks delicious it's actually not traditional esquites. The way we eat it en Mexico city is different. First we use white corn, not the yellow one. The yellow one is slightly sweet and the white one has a little more bite to it. The corn is actually boiled in chicken stock to cook it, with epazote and chicken feets to add flavor, really. You can actually buy your esquites with a chicken feet to eat it. Esquites are served with the chicken stock, then the mayo and everything else is added. Yes we eat charred corn too, but usually the whole piece then slathered with mayo and cheese. Wish I could add a photo to show you. They are absolutely delicious

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