This Mexican street corn salad features sweet and smoky grilled corn that's tossed in a tangy, creamy sauce of mayonnaise and lime juice with salty cotija cheese and a little spice from chili powder to balance out the flavor. It goes great with grilled meats and barbecue and it's a perfect side dish for the summer.
What is Mexican Street Corn?
Mexican street corn, also known as Elote, is a popular street food in Mexico where vendors serve grilled corn on the cob slathered in creamy mayonnaise and lime juice and topped with cotija cheese, cilantro, and spicy chili powder.
They also often sell street corn salad called Esquites, where the corn is cut from the cob and served in cups with the same toppings.
Preparing your corn
The sweet and smoky grilled corn is the star of this dish, so fresh is best if possible. You can use canned or frozen if needed, but try to find roasted corn to get that smoky grilled flavor.
To prepare fresh corn you can roast it right in the husk or wrapped in foil. To grill corn in the husk, first peel back the husk and remove the silk, then replace the husk and soak it in water for 15-20 minutes to help avoid burning or catching fire. Grill the corn over medium high heat for around 20 minutes, rotating it occasionally. The corn will usually get a little char when cooking in the husk but if not you can carefully remove the husk and grill it for a few more minutes until charred.
To grill the corn in foil, remove the husk and silk, then wrap your corn tightly in foil and seal up the ends. Grill the corn over medium high heat for around 15 minutes, rotating it occasionally. Then carefully remove the foil and grill for another 5 minutes again rotating it occasionally until slightly charred.
- Cotija cheese
- Fresh lime juice
- Chili powder
- Combine the mayonnaise and lime juice in a large bowl and stir to combine.
- Add the corn, cheese, cilantro, chili powder, paprika, and salt, and stir well.
- If time allows, cover the dish and refrigerate for 30 minutes to 1 hour to allow flavors to combine.
- Top with additional cheese, cilantro, and chili powder, and serve.
Tips and FAQs
Yes! In fact, I prefer to make this dish at least 30 minutes to an hour ahead of time if possible to allow the flavors to combine. To make ahead, prepare the dish but leave off the additional toppings and refrigerate for up to 3 days in a sealed air tight container. When ready to serve top with additional cheese, chili powder, paprika, and cilantro.
For a spicier dish try adding diced jalapenos with the seeds removed. You can also replace some of the chili powder or paprika with cayenne pepper for a little more kick.
If you have trouble finding cotija cheese, queso fresco or feta will work too.
The grilled corn is the star of this dish and gives it a smoky and sweet flavor but it does take some time to prepare. You can use frozen corn or canned if you prefer but try to find some that's already roasted for the best results.
What to serve with Mexican street corn salad
This dish is a perfect side dish for grilled meats or barbecue such as pulled pork, smoked chuck roast, or smoked spare ribs.
It's also great with Mexican dishes such as my sheet pan chicken fajitas or these cheesy chicken enchiladas with red sauce.
Mexican Street Corn Salad
- 6 ears grilled corn, about 4 cups
- ⅓ cup mayonnaise
- 2 limes, juiced
- ½ cup cotija cheese, crumbled, plus additional for topping
- 2 Tablespoons cilantro, chopped, plus additional for topping
- 1 teaspoon chili powder, plus additional for topping
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
- Grill your corn over medium high heat for 20 minutes, turning occasionally. If grilling the corn in foil, carefully remove the foil for the last 5 minutes of cooking so it gets slightly charred.
- Allow corn to cool then cut the kernels from the cob.
- Combine the mayonnaise and lime juice in a large bowl and stir. Add in remaining ingredients and stir until well combined. If time allows, cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes to an hour to let flavors combine. Before serving top with additional cheese, chili powder, and cilantro.
- In many traditional Mexican street corn recipes they also include Mexican crema in the sauce. If you're not a big mayonnaise fan you can reduce the mayo to ¼ cup and add ¼ cup of Mexican crema or sour cream to the sauce.
- If you want a spicier dish you can add cayenne pepper or diced jalapeños as well.
* All nutrition information we provide are estimates based on third party calculators. We encourage you to calculate these on your own for accurate results.