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Esquites (Mexican Street Corn Salad)

July 20, 2020 (Last Updated: October 31, 2020)

This delicious toasted Mexican street corn salad (Esquites) recipe is incredible hot or cold, it can be served as just a salad or like a salsa with chips – it’s crunchy, it’s creamy, it’s spiced with smoky, authentic Mexican flavor and it’s also gluten free! 

Perfect for a party with vegetarian friends and spicy food lovers. No grill required!

A wooden bowl of Mexican corn salad on a table with a lace table cloth.

One of my favorite recipes for any barbecue or summer party is elote: grilled corn smeared with mayo or Mexican crema, sprinkled with cotija cheese, chili powder and a little fresh lime juice.

Esquites is essentially elote, but off the cob, and with a few more exciting ingredients.

Elote (spiced and cheese-sprinkled corn) on a plate with 4 lime wedges.

Traditionally, esquites is served hot and eaten as a side dish, or right out of a cup with a fork on the streets of Mexico. But you can also eat it cold.

I like to serve it beside different salsas and dips with tortilla chips at parties. Always a BIG crowd pleaser! Especially when served with these cucumber mint margaritas!

The corn can be grilled or simply sautéed in a pan over high heat to get that lovely char.

Toasted corn with a wooden spoon in a pan.

Here’s the Process!

  1. We’ll slice the corn off the cobs.
  2. We’ll finely dice the vegetables.
  3. We’ll char the corn in butter with a little minced garlic.
  4. We’ll mix it all together with spices, mayo, sour cream, a little lime juice and cheese.

A spoon in a large bowl, mixing all ingredients together.

A Few Tips!

1. Careful! That corn might POP!

You’re going to be cooking the corn over high heat, and after about 4 minutes, the corn is not only hot, but some of them might be EXPLOSIVE and pop right out of the pan.

So either use a screen to cover your pan, or a lid that is not sealed shut, but tilted to allow heat to escape while it browns.

2. If you intend to serve it cold like a salsa…

Traditionally, esquites are served hot, but if you intend to serve it cold, wait until the corn has cooled in the refrigerator for about an hour before adding the mayo and sour cream.

Otherwise the oils from the mayo will separate and it won’t look very nice when cooled.

3. Here’s a great jalapeño cutting trick!

To easily slice and dice a jalapeño, without having to painstakingly cut away those pesky, spicy seeds, use an apple peeler to pull out the core!

Simply slice off the stem, and use the peeler to cut around the white core, and pull the whole thing out, seeds and all!

Hands using an apple peeler to remove the center of a jalapeño pepper.

A Few Common Questions:

1. How far ahead can I make this before a party?

I would make it no more than a day ahead. Especially if you’re mixing the mayo and sour cream into the vegetables and storing in a container over night.

2. What does “esquites” mean?

It literally means “toasted corn,” and is traditionally made with mature corn – corn that is just passed ripe so it’s extra tender.

3. What’s the difference between “elote” and “esquites”?

Elote is traditionally grilled corn on the cob with Mexican crema, mayo or sour cream, cotija cheese, chili pepper and a nice sprinkling of fresh lime juice. Esquites often includes onion, cilantro and jalapeño or fried green chili.

As a matter of fact, the recipe for esquites varies greatly (so does elote) depending on what region of Mexico it’s served in.

Some recipes include bacon, cheddar, chicken, molasses… some even include dust from Cheetos, Takis, and come in bright, colorful colors! They are both traditionally served at fairs, festivals and on the street.

Elote is served right on the cob, whereas esquites is served in paper cups… which is why they are both referred to as “Mexican street corn” by English speakers.

Here’s a fantastic resource on the differences between the two, and all of the wonderful ways they’re served!

4. What do I need to make this recipe?

  • Sharp knife and cutting board
  • Frying pan
  • Wooden spoon or spatula
  • Mixing bowl

How to Make Esquites (Mexican Street Corn Salad) – Step by Step

A collage of 4 numbered images showing how to make Mexican street corn salad.

1. Shuck 3 ears of corn by slicing the kernels off the cob into a bowl.

2. Finely dice 1 jalapeño, cup red onion and ⅓ cup red bell pepper. Finely chop ¼ cup cilantro, mince 2 cloves of garlic and slice 1 lime in half.

3. Add 2 tbsp. butter to a pan and melt. Gently toss the corn, making sure it’s nicely coated.

4. Sauté corn on HIGH, allowing it to deeply brown (and char a little). It should take about 10 minutes to brown nicely.

A collage of 4 numbered images showing how to mix Mexican street corn salad.

5. Reduce heat and move corn to one side of the pan. Add ½ tsp. butter to the pan and sauté minced garlic until brown, about 2 minutes. Combine with sautéed corn. Remove from heat.

NOTE: If you intend to serve this recipe cold, place corn in a sealed container and refrigerate separately from the other diced/chopped vegetables. Once cold, go to the next step.

6. Mix browned corn and diced/chopped vegetables with 2 tbsp. mayo, 2 tbsp. sour cream, juice from ½ lime and a sprinkle of cayenne pepper, chili powder and smoked paprika. Sprinkle with 2 tbsp. cotija cheese and serve.

I hope you enjoy this incredible esquites recipe!

A wooden bowl of Mexican corn salad on a table with a lace table cloth.

And for more inspiration, follow me on INSTAGRAM @shekeepsalovelyhome, on PINTEREST and FACEBOOK! And if you ever make any of my tasty drinks or treats, take a picture and tag me. I want to see!

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A wooden bowl of Mexican corn salad on a table with a lace table cloth.
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5 from 1 vote

Esquites (Mexican Street Corn Salad)

This delicious roasted corn salad recipe is incredible hot or cold, it can be served as a salad or like a salsa with chips.
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time10 mins
Total Time25 mins
Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: Mexican
Keyword: Mexican street corn
Servings: 6 people
Calories: 158kcal

Equipment

  • Sharp knife and cutting board
  • Wooden spoon or spatula
  • Medium-size mixing bowl
  • Sauté pan

Ingredients

  • 2 cups corn - kernels from 3 ears
  • 2 tbsp.  jalapeño - finely diced
  • cup red onion - finely diced 
  • cup red bell pepper  - finely diced 
  • ¼ cup cilantro - finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp. garlic - minced
  • ½ lime - juiced
  • 2 tbsp. butter  - and a little extra for sautéed garlic
  • 2 tbsp. mayonnaise 
  • 2 tbsp. sour cream - or Mexican crema
  • 2 tbsp. cotija cheese
  • chili powder - just a sprinkle
  • cayenne pepper - just a sprinkle
  • smoked paprika - just a sprinkle

Instructions

  • Shuck 3 ears of corn by slicing the kernels off the cob into a bowl. Finely dice 1 jalapeño, cup red onion and ⅓ cup red bell pepper. Finely chop ¼ cup cilantro, mince 2 cloves of garlic and slice 1 lime in half.
  • Add 2 tbsp. butter to a pan and melt. Gently toss the corn, making sure it’s nicely coated. Sauté corn on HIGH, allowing it to deeply brown. It should take about 10 minutes to brown nicely.
  • Reduce heat and move corn to one side of the pan. Add ½ tsp. butter to the pan and sauté minced garlic until brown, about 2 minutes. Combine with sautéed corn. Remove from heat.
    NOTE: If you intend to serve this recipe cold, place corn in a sealed container and refrigerate separately from the other diced/chopped vegetables. Once cold, go to the next step.
  • Mix browned corn and diced/chopped vegetables with 2 tbsp. mayo, 2 tbsp. sour cream, juice from ½ lime and a sprinkle of cayenne pepper, chili powder and smoked paprika. Sprinkle with 2 tbsp. cotija cheese and serve.

Notes

This recipe will stay delicious and fresh in a refrigerated container for 24 hours
A Few Tips!
1. Careful! That corn might POP!
You’re going to be cooking the corn over high heat, and after about 4 minutes, the corn is not only hot, but some of them might be EXPLOSIVE and pop right out of the pan! So either use a screen to cover your pan, or a lid that is not sealed shut, but tilted to allow heat to escape while it browns.
2. If you intend to serve it cold like a salsa…
Traditionally, esquites are served hot, but if you intend to serve it cold, wait until the corn has cooled before adding the mayo and sour cream, otherwise the oils from the mayo will separate and it won’t look very nice when cooled.
 

Nutrition

Serving: 4ounces | Calories: 158kcal | Carbohydrates: 15g | Protein: 3g | Fat: 11g | Saturated Fat: 5g | Cholesterol: 20mg | Sodium: 128mg | Potassium: 185mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin A: 661IU | Vitamin C: 24mg | Calcium: 43mg | Iron: 1mg

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