It’s time to share the recipe we’ve been making all summer for our family and guests here at The Barbecue Lab. We call it Mexican Street Corn Salad, and it’s the perfect side dish for everything barbecue.
This dish is called many things if you search the web. Grilled Esquites, Elote in a bowl, Elote Salad, Mexican Street Corn off the cob, Mexican Street Corn Salad… no matter what you call it, we call it delicious, and we’ve been making this side dish to go with grilled chicken, brisket, smash burgers, shrimp tacos, pulled pork, and more all summer long.
It’s become a favorite around our house, and we want to share it with you so you can put a smile on the face of anyone who steps into your backyard.
Note: Some of the links in this article may be affiliate links. This doesn’t cost you any more than normal. Read our disclaimer for more info.
Why is it called Mexican Street Corn?
Here in the U.S., we call it Mexican street corn because it is a delicacy commonly sold by street vendors throughout Mexico. However, in Spanish the word “elote” means corn.
If you’ve ever had Mexican street corn, you know it is served significantly differently than what we’re accustomed to in the states.
Traditionally Mexican street corn is served on a stick (for easy portability) and slathered in butter, mayonnaise, cotija cheese, cilantro, fresh lime juice, and chili powder.
What’s the Difference Between Elotes and Esquites?
The main difference between Elotes and Esquites is the cob. Elotes are served on the cob and Esquites is served in a bowl with a fork or spoon. The ingredients are basically the same for both recipes, however, elotes are limited to what will adhere to the mayonnaise-covered cobs while esquites do not share the same limitations. Since this Mexican street corn salad recipe is for street corn off the cob, it is therefore technically an esquites recipe.
What is Cotija Cheese?
Cotija cheese is a Mexican cheese made from cow’s milk. It is crumbly in texture and salty in flavor and can be found both fresh and aged. It is not a melting cheese, so cotija cheese is traditionally used as a garnish or finishing ingredient. You can find cotija cheese in most grocery stores near the Mexican cheeses.
Cotija aged mexican cheese is harder and may require a cheese grater, much like parmesan cheese. Fresh cotija cheese is softer and crumbles quite easily by hand.
How to Make Mexican Street Corn Salad
At the Barbecue Lab, we of course use grilled corn for our Mexican street corn salad recipe. We also roast a jalapeño over the open fire as well to give this side dish a nice smokey flavor that we wouldn’t otherwise get. Could we use frozen corn kernels or canned corn for this recipe instead of grilled corn? Sure. But with an outdoor kitchen full of grills, why would we?
One of the reasons why we love this Mexican street corn salad so much is because the ingredients are all so fresh! Living in Indiana means that fresh corn on the cob is easy to come by in the summertime. There’s a sweet corn field growing in every direction.
In addition to fresh corn on the cob, our Mexican street corn salad recipe calls for one jalapeño, some diced red onion, fresh cilantro, lime juice, mayonnaise, cotija cheese, smoked salt (or kosher salt), Tajin seasoning, and chili powder.
Light the grill
Shuck the corn
While the grill is coming up to temperature, it’s time to remove all the husks and silk from the corn cobs.
Roast the corn and jalapeño
Place the corn and jalapeño on the grill. The corn itself doesn’t necessarily need to be over direct heat, however, the jalapeño will need direct heat in order to char fully. We keep a small cast iron skillet on the warming shelf of the grill to melt butter and we baste the corn with a high-heat silicone basting brush every 5 or so minutes as we turn them.
Prep remaining ingredients
While the corn and jalapeño are roasting, this is the perfect time to dice the red onion, chop the cilantro, and crumble the cotija cheese.
Remove vegetables from the grill
After about 10-12 minutes, the corn on the cob will likely be ready to remove from the grill.
Once the jalapeño is nicely charred, remove it from the grill and seal it up in a plastic bag to steam for a few minutes.
Remove kernels from the cob
Ok, so the method we used to use was setting a small bowl upside down inside a large bowl, resing a cob vertically on the small bowl, and cutting the corn off the cob carefully with a knife.
However, we recently picked up this corn cob stripper and it is a total GAME CHANGER. I was hopeful when I ordered it from Amazon, but it completely exceeded my expectations at how easy and effective it is in removing full corn kernels from the cob.
Dice the jalapeño
Remove the jalapeño from the plastic bag and use your knife to gently scrape the charred skin off of the outside.
Do you want to make a spicy Mexican corn salad? Then simply cut off the top stem of the pepper and dice it up, seeds and all.
However, if you’re like me and the kids and prefer things on the more mild side, slice it down the middle and scrape out the seeds first before dicing up the rest of the pepper. The guts of the jalapeño are where the heat is stored. Get rid of the guts, get rid of a lot of the extra spice.
Mix it all up
All the prep work is complete; all that’s left is to mix it all together. Dump all the remaining ingredients in with the corn and mix it gently and thoroughly.
Give it a taste and see if anything needs adjusting. If you’re happy with where it is then you’re ready to garnish. Sprinkle a little more cotija cheese and cilantro on top and then shake a generous amount of chili powder over the top.
Serve Hot or cold?
Honestly, by the time you’re finished cutting the corn and jalapeno and adding the cold mayo, this Mexican street corn salad will not be “hot” anymore; but it will still be warm. Serve it up now and it will be absolutely delicious.
Not ready to eat it quite yet? Stick it in the fridge and let it chill until you are ready to eat. It will still taste amazing.
This Mexican street corn salad can be served warm or cold; either way, it will taste amazing.
Mexican Street Corn Salad Recipe
- 1 grill
- 4 ear corn on the cob
- 1 jalapeño roasted and diced
- ¼ cup red onion diced
- 2 Tb fresh cilantro chopped
- 1 lime juiced
- ⅓ cup mayonnaise
- ⅓ cup cotija cheese grated
- ¼ tsp smoked salt
- ½ tsp tajin
- 4 Tb unsalted butter
- ⅛ tsp chili powder
- Start your grill and bring it up to temperature, roughly 400°
- Shuck the corn completely, being careful to remove all of the silk.
- Place the corn and jalapeño on the grill grates, positioning the jalapeño in the hottest part of the grill.
- Baste the corn with melted butter as you turn it. It will probably take about 10 minutes to roast the corn completely.
- Once the jalapeño is completely charred, remove it from the grill and transfer it to a zip top plastic bag to steam for a few minutes. This will make it so that you can easily scrape the charred skin off of the pepper.
- While the corn is cooking/cooling, prepare the other ingredients. Dice the red onion, chop the cilantro, and crumble the cotija cheese.
- Using a corn cob stripper or a sharp knife, remove all the kernals from the corn cobs into a bowl.
- Season the corn with smoked salt and Tajin seasoning.
- Scrape the outside of the jalapeño with a sharp knife to remove the charred skin. If you like things spicy, dice the jalepeño including the seeds, but if you prefer it on the mild side, remove the seeds before dicing.
- Combine the jalapeño, onion, cilantro, mayo, cotija cheese, and lime juice to the corn and stir to combine.
- Garnish the top of the salad with more fresh cilantro and cotija cheese, and sprinkle generously with chili powder before serving.