Mexican Street Corn Salad is the perfect summertime corn recipe! Fresh corn cut off the cob and charred a deep brown, tossed in a creamy dressing, and topped with salty cotija cheese and smoky paprika, this is sure to be a crowd pleaser!
Years ago, I was at a Mexican restaurant with some friends and they ordered elotes. On-the-cob Mexican street corn that is charred over the grill, then slathered with mayo, lime juice, cotija cheese, and a sprinkling of paprika, it had everything you'd want. It was salty, crunchy, creamy, cheesy. I was in love! If I see it on the menu, you know I'm ordering some.
Then, I learned about Esquites, the salad version of elotes. And again, I fell. I knew I would have to start making my own version at home so that I could enjoy it whenever I wanted. So here it is, my version of Mexican Street Corn Salad.
Corn - Nothing beats fresh corn for this recipe. However, frozen or canned corn will work also and might be a better option if you're making this during colder months when fresh corn is not in season. I like the method of cutting the corn off the cob before cooking. That allows more of the corn to become nice and brown.
Red Onion - Charred red onion is a delicious companion to the corn. Dice the onion to a similar size as the corn kernels.
Cilantro - Cilantro adds much-needed greenery and great flavor to this dish. However, if you don't like cilantro, you can substitute parsley, chives, or green onions.
Mayo - I use store-bought mayo for this recipe but homemade will work too. You also could use vegan mayo and leave off the cotija cheese for an easy vegan version.
Lime Juice - Gives the whole dish a slightly tangy flavor to balance out the sweetness of the corn and onion and the creaminess of the mayo.
Cotija Cheese - Cotija is a dry crumbly cheese that adds a nice saltiness.
Paprika - I like to sprinkle some paprika on top to add a pop of color. If you want to add some heat to this recipe, you could substitute it with chili powder.
How to Make Mexican Street Corn Salad
Heat oil in a cast iron (my preference) or heavy-bottomed pan over medium heat.
Once the oil is hot, pour in the corn kernels and smooth them into a flat layer. Allow it to cook for about 6 to 8 minutes, only stirring every couple of minutes so that the corn can get a nice char on it.
Remove the corn from the pan and put it into a bowl.
Add the red onion to the pan and cook for 3 to 5 minutes, stirring only once or twice. Remove the onion from the pan and add it to the corn.
In the bowl with the corn and red onion, add the mayo, cilantro, lime juice, salt, and pepper. Stir well.
Spoon the corn salad into a serving bowl. Crumble the cotija cheese over the top and sprinkle with paprika.
This can be served immediately while it is still warm or it can be covered and chilled in the fridge for a couple of hours before serving. Either way, it's absolutely delicious!
More Appetizers You'll Love!
Pepper Beef Nachos with Homemade Queso
Soft Pretzel Bites with Champagne Honey Mustard Dip
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Mexican Street Corn Salad (Esquites)
- 3 cups corn from about 4 ears of corn
- 1 cup red onion diced
- 1 tablespoon canola oil
- ¼ cup cilantro roughly chopped
- 3 ½ tablespoons mayo
- 1 teaspoon lime juice
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
- ¼ cup cotija cheese
- 2 teaspoons Paprika
- Heat the oil in a cast iron or heavy-bottomed pan over medium-high heat.
- Once the oil is hot, pour the corn into the pan and smooth it into a flat layer. Cook for 6 to 8 minutes, stirring only a few times. You want to give the corn enough time to get a nice char on it before stirring. Remove the corn from the pan and place it in a large bowl.
- Add the red onions to the hot pan and sauté, again stirring as little as possible. Cook for about 3 to 5 minutes and then remove and add to the bowl with the corn.
- Add the mayo, cilantro, lime juice, salt, and pepper. Stir well.
- Place the corn salad into a serving bowl and top with cotija cheese and sprinkle with paprika.
- For a vegan version, use vegan mayo and skip the cotija cheese.
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