A perfect side dish for Cinco de Mayo, all the best parts of your favorite Mexican street food (Elote) are made simple in this quick and easy Esquites corn salad that doesn’t even require corn on the cob.
All the best parts of your favorite Mexican street food (Elote) are made simple in this quick and easy Esquites corn salad that doesn’t even require corn on the cob.
Esquites are one of my all-time favorite side dishes. I love corn in basically any form, and my diet it basically 93% corn on the cob during the entire month of August, but sometimes you just want something with a little more zip and pep to it. Enter Esquites.
What is Esquites?
Esquites is basically on off-the-cob form of the street food Elote, which is corn covered in mayonnaise, lime juice, chili powder, and cheese. Like I mentioned, esquites takes the corn off of the cob, and allows you to eat the dish without dripping lime juice down your chin. So if you’re the sort of person who doesn’t like to eat messily in front of people, esquites is the dish for you.
Different states in Mexico have vastly different takes on elote and esquites. Some areas make them with bacon and mushrooms. Some areas boil the corn instead of frying, and some places they’re a far sweeter dish than what I’m presenting.
When I make it, I choose to go with a “standard” version.
If I have cotija or queso fresco, I’ll use that but Feta works just as well. (Side note: apparently Latinos are more likely to be lactose intolerant than many other races, so most “traditional” versions of elote and esquites don’t involve cheese at all – we Americans have added that – we love our cheese.)
Most recipes you’ll find online involve stripping the corn off the cob to make this corn salad, and while that is an excellent version, I want this dish year-round, and have started making it with frozen corn. I up the amount of oil called for, and let it really sit and char in the pan and honestly it’s just as good as any version made with fresh corn. In the summer, when fresh corn is plentiful I will definitely make it the more traditional way, but with this recipe you can have this dish whenever you want it, even in the dead of winter.
Seed and dice one jalapeno pepper. Thinly slice just the white and light green parts of 3 green onions. (Save the dark green parts for garnish). Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium high heat and add the oil. Add 3 cups of frozen corn, the jalapeno and green onions to the pan once the oil starts to shimmer, and let the mixture sit for 3-4 minutes, then toss. Continue that process until the corn is darkly charred in spots.
Remove the corn mixture from the pan and place in a medium bowl. Add the mayonnaise, cheese, lime juice, cilantro, and salt and pepper and toss to combine.
Eat on its own as a side or a dip with chips. Or you can use it to top tacos, quesadillas, chicken, steak, or my very favorite – pasta. (That recipe is coming soon)
Most recipes will tell you to add the jalapenos and green onions at the end and to not cook them. That is technically the more traditional way to make this dish, but I honestly just prefer this version with those ingredients cooked with the corn. If you’d like it to be a little bit spicier, definitely add the jalapenos at the end.
Esquites (Mexican Street Corn Salad)
- 2 tablespoons neutral oil (canola, grapeseed)
- 3 cups frozen yellow corn
- 1 jalapeno, diced and seeded
- 3 green onions, thinly sliced (separate white and light green parts from dark green parts)
- 2 tablespoons of mayonnaise
- ¼ cup crumbled cotija cheese (or Feta)
- ½ cup fresh cilantro, chopped fine
- 1-2 tablespoons of lime juice
- Salt and pepper
- Chili powder
- Heat oil over medium-high in a large non-stick skillet and add the corn, jalapeno, and white and light green parts of the green onions. Let cook without moving for 3-4 minutes, then toss, and let cook for anther 3-4 minutes without moving.
- Continue this process until the corn is deeply charred, about 12-15 minutes total. Remove from the heat and transfer to a medium bowl.
- Add the mayonnaise, cheese, lime juice, cilantro and salt and pepper and stir to combine.
- Garnish with dark green parts of scallions, and chili powder.
- Dish is good hot or cold.
Did you make this recipe?