Elote Corn Salad

from 29 votes

Skip the mess and grab a spoon for the best recipe for Elote Corn Salad made with fresh or frozen corn.

A top-down view of a large bowl containing Elote Corn Salad next to two plates loaded with the salad and a lime wedge.

How do you prefer eating corn?

  • A. On the cob
  • B. Off the cob

As simple as the question may seem, we really do have a second tier of questioning to undergo for all those in the “A” camp.

Various sizes of clear bowls containing the ingredients needed for elote salad, including corn kernels, sour cream, chives, diced red onion, cumin, paprika, cilantro and cojita cheese.

Do you eat it in a circle going round and round? Do you eat it from side to side like a typewriter? Do you eat it randomly from place to place based on where the butter is most plentiful? I have so many questions!

If it was up to me, we wouldn’t ever mess with the cob, save the few seconds it takes to shave the corn off of it. My family, and especially my husband, are strictly off-the-cob folks.

Why You’ll Love It

This Elote Corn Salad is for all the off-the-cob lovers out there. It can be made with fresh or frozen corn, and aside from the star ingredient, really only requires a few additional items. It’s tangy, smoky, creamy and perfect for serving as a side salad or a taco/chicken/steak topping. Minimum mess, maximum flavor and no floss required!

A labeled image of all the ingredients needed for Mexican street corn, including corn on the cob, cilantro, butter, cumin, paprika, red onion, limes, sour cream and cojita cheese.

Ingredients Needed

  • Corn: The star ingredient of the salad, corn is typically grilled or roasted to add a smoky and slightly charred flavor. Fresh corn on the cob or frozen, and thawed, corn can be used. 
  • Red onion: If you’re not a fan of red onion or don’t have any on hand, you can substitute it with finely chopped white or yellow onion for a milder flavor. 
  • Butter: Adds richness and flavor.
  • Sour cream: A key ingredient that adds creaminess plus, it balances out the smoky flavors, adding a cool and tangy element. Plain Greek yogurt could be substituted.
  • Lime juice: Fresh is always best! It adds a bright, refreshing flavor and complements the other ingredients well.
  • Spices: Smoked paprika adds a smoky and slightly spicy flavor to the dish, while cumin, a warm and earthy spice, adds depth of flavor. 
  • Herbs: Cilantro and fresh chives add herbaceous flavor to the salad.
  • Cotija cheese: A crumbly Mexican cheese with a salty and tangy flavor. If Cotija cheese isn’t available, you can substitute it with crumbled feta cheese, queso fresco or grated Parmesan cheese. These cheeses will provide a similar salty and tangy flavor.

How to Make Mexican Street Corn Salad (Esquites)

  1. Prepare the corn. If using fresh corn, cook it on a grill or grill pan then use a sharp knife to slice off the kernels. If using frozen corn, thaw and, if desired, char in a cast-iron skillet on medium-high heat.
  2. Toss everything together. Add the kernels and diced onion to a large bowl, and while it is still warm, stir in the butter, sour cream, lime juice, smoked paprika, cumin, cilantro, Cotija cheese, and a pinch of salt and pepper.
  3. Taste, season and serve!
A clear bowl containing corn kernels, diced red onion, chopped cilantro and chives, and crumbled cotija cheese.

Pro Tips for Recipe Success

  • The corn used in this recipe can be fresh, frozen (thawed) or even canned.
  • If you’re making this recipe ahead of time, you can mix everything together up to 1 day in advance and keep it covered in the fridge.
  • Don’t just use it as a side salad! Consider this the ultimate topping for other salads, as well as a filling for tacos and burritos.

My Favorite Corn Gadget

If you love corn but don’t love the hassle of cutting it off the cob, check out my favorite corn gadget on Amazon! This affordable tool makes it easier than ever to remove the kernels from the cob.

What to Serve with Elote

I love serving this alongside my favorite Mexican-inspired dishes: 

It’s also a fantastic addition to summer cookouts and barbecues because it can be made ahead, travels well and can be served at room temp. Plus, it pairs well with grilled meats, burgers, ribs and many other barbecue favorites.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is elote?

Elote, which translates to “corn cob” in Spanish, refers to a delicious Mexican street food featuring charred grilled corn on the cob that’s generously coated with mayonnaise and a squeeze of lime, then rolled in crumbled cotija cheese and chile powder.

What are esquites?

Esquites also known as elote en vaso (corn in a cup) are the off-the-cob version of elote. The corn and toppings are the same, but the corn is cut off the cob and served in a cup. 

Can I use frozen corn?

Yes! Eight cups of frozen corn that has been thawed works great in this recipe. It’s not necessary but if you’d like to char the corn kernels, heat a cast-iron skillet on medium-high heat, then add the corn and sauté 3 to 5 minutes, stirring constantly, until kernels are lightly charred. 

What can I use instead of Cotija cheese?

Queso fresco, grated Parmesan cheese or crumbled feta can all be used in place of Cotija cheese. 

Can this be made ahead?

Absolutely! It’ll taste even better on day 2.

Elote in a large white bowl next to two plates with elote garnished with crumbled Cotija cheese.

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Salad

Elote Corn Salad

Skip the mess and grab a spoon for the best recipe for Elote Corn Salad made with fresh or frozen corn.
Author: Kelly Senyei
5 from 29 votes
A top-down view of a large bowl containing Elote Corn Salad next to two plates loaded with the salad and a lime wedge.
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes
Servings 4 servings

Ingredients 

  • 8 ears corn, husks removed
  • 1/2 cup diced red onion
  • 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 3/4 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
  • 2 Tablespoons chopped fresh chives
  • 1/2 cup crumbled Cotija cheese

Instructions 

  • Cook the corn on a grill or grill pan then use a sharp knife to slice off the kernels.
  • Add the kernels and diced onion to a large bowl, and while it is still warm, stir in the butter, sour cream, lime juice, smoke paprika, cumin, cilantro, Cotija cheese, and a pinch of salt and pepper.
  • Taste and season the salad with additional salt and pepper as desired. Serve immediately.

Kelly's Notes:

  • Eight cups of canned corn or frozen corn that has been thawed works great in this recipe, too. It’s not necessary but if you’d like to char the corn kernels, heat a cast-iron skillet on medium-high heat, then add the corn and sauté 3 to 5 minutes, stirring constantly, until kernels are lightly charred.
  • If you’re making this recipe ahead of time, you can mix everything together up to 1 day in advance and keep it covered in the fridge.
  • Queso fresco, grated Parmesan cheese or crumbled feta can all be used in place of Cotija cheese.
  • ★ Did you make this recipe? Don't forget to give it a star rating below!

Nutrition

Calories: 279kcal, Carbohydrates: 38g, Protein: 9g, Fat: 13g, Saturated Fat: 8g, Cholesterol: 35mg, Sodium: 245mg, Potassium: 537mg, Fiber: 4g, Sugar: 13g, Vitamin A: 950IU, Vitamin C: 17.4mg, Calcium: 111mg, Iron: 1.4mg

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Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Amazing! So good and refreshing. I didn’t even add the butter…don’t think it’s needed.

  2. What is the best way to reheat the next day? Thank you for the great recipe! It’s so yummy!

  3. 5 stars
    SO good! Used half the amount of sour cream and added Mexican table cream (Crema Mexicana) and a sploosh of maple syrup and about another sploosh of sweet n spicy jalapeño juice for sweetness and kick! At the end, crushed Elote corn chip dippers to top it (I’m sure any corn chips would work). New favorite!!

  4. 5 stars
    So yummy. I only used 3 ears of corn so I trimmed down the ingredients to about half what the recipe calls for. Will definitely make again.

  5. easy and delicious. Used Queso Fresco instead of the Cojita and omitted the cumin, as I didn’t have any on hand. Added a little more of the smoked Paprika. Also charred the corn on a high heat skillet. big hit!

  6. My husband said this was the best thing he had all weekend! So delicious! East to make. I could have just made it to eat all myself. Will be making this again!

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