Mexican Street Corn Salad ♡ A festive, vibrant salad that blends all the flavors of Mexican street corn together in a creamy, flavorful dish!
If you love Mexican food, you’re going to adore this Mexican street corn salad (also known as Esquites). It captures the flavors and textures of elote—Mexican street corn—in a convenient, yummy salad.
🌽 What is elote? Traditional elote is grilled corn on the cob topped with a creamy mayo sauce, cilantro, and cotija cheese. Our salad version incorporates all these elements with some added veggies for extra color and flavor.
We love this Mexican street corn salad because it’s versatile enough to be a side dish or a light main meal, and it’s perfect for potlucks, barbecues, and picnics. It can easily be doubled or tripled and is endlessly customizable (plus, it’s nearly impossible to mess up!).
In our opinion, it’s the perfect summer side dish, though you can enjoy it year-round. We hope you like it as much as we do!
Why You’ll Love This Recipe
- Mexican street corn salad is easy to prepare with simple, fresh ingredients.
- This salad offers a delicious combination of sweet, tangy, spicy, and creamy flavors and you can easily adjust the spiciness and ingredients to suit your taste.
- It’s a great way to use up extra grilled corn on the cob but is just as good with frozen or canned corn.
- Ideal for gatherings or meal prepping, it can be made in advance and refrigerated.
- While it is amazing as a side dish on its own, it also can be used as a filling for tacos or burritos.
- The dressing on this salad is so delicious! Use it to top your favorite salad—it pairs well with a simple lettuce salad, taco salad, southwest salad, or even a Mexican-style Caesar salad.
Here’s What You’ll Need
Gather the following ingredients and supplies, and let’s get cooking!
There are two main parts to this dish, the corn salad and the dressing. Here is what you’ll need to make them both.
Corn: The star of the show! We recommend using fresh corn during the summer months when it’s in season for the sweetest, most flavorful salad. If fresh isn’t available, canned or frozen corn will do just fine—just drain or thaw before using.
Olive oil: This will add a little flavor to your corn during cooking. Brush it on the corn before grilling, or use it to pan-fry the frozen or canned corn.
Red onion: These add a lovely punch of flavor and a nice crunchy texture. If the flavor of raw onion is too strong for you, consider soaking them in cold water for a few minutes before adding them to the salad to take the edge off.
Green onion: These bring a milder, sweeter onion taste and add a pop of fresh green color.
Red bell pepper: These add a sweet crunch to the salad. As they’re mild in taste, they won’t alter the overall taste profile of the salad but will add freshness. Sub with green, yellow, or orange bell peppers if you’d like.
Jalapeño: Add as much or as little jalapeño as you like to adjust the heat to your liking. For less heat, remove the seeds before chopping.
Cilantro: A quintessential herb in Mexican cuisine, cilantro brings a bright, fresh flavor to this salad. If you’re one of those people who think fresh cilantro tastes like soap, feel free to omit it or use flat-leaf parsley.
Cherry tomatoes (optional): While not traditionally an ingredient in Mexican street corn, sweet, juicy cherry tomatoes add a burst of freshness and color to the salad.
Avocado (optional): Creamy, rich avocado contrasts beautifully with the crunchy veggies and adds a dose of healthy fats. We recommend adding them individually when serving (instead of mixing them in the salad) to avoid the avocados browning if there are leftovers.
Mayonnaise: This forms the creamy base of the dressing. You can use either regular or light mayo, or even a vegan version if you prefer.
Sour cream: Sour cream adds tanginess and extra creaminess to the dressing. Greek yogurt is a good substitute if you want to lighten things up.
Lime juice: Fresh lime juice adds a much-needed acid component to the dressing, balancing out the richness of the mayo and sour cream.
Cotija cheese: A dry, crumbly Mexican cheese, cotija adds a delicious salty element to the dressing. If you can’t find it, queso fresco, feta cheese, or parmesan are all good substitutes.
Smoked paprika: This spice adds a smoky, slightly sweet flavor to the dressing. Regular paprika can be substituted, but the flavor won’t be as pronounced (for a stronger taste, you can sub an equal ratio of regular paprika and chili powder).
Cumin: Earthy, warm cumin complements the other flavors and is a classic spice in Mexican cuisine.
Salt and pepper: These enhance all the other elements in the salad. Adjust to taste.
- Grill or stovetop pan
- Basting brush
- Chef’s knife
- Cutting board
- Large mixing bowl
- Medium mixing bowl
- Serving dish
How to Make Mexican Street Corn Salad: Step-by-Step Instructions
Let’s get into the step-by-step guide to make this delightful Mexican corn salad.
Step 1 | GRILL CORN
If you’re using fresh sweet corn, we suggest grilling it to get those beautiful charred bits. Heat your grill to medium-high. Cook the corn, turning occasionally, until done and lightly charred. This should take about 10-15 minutes. You can also use an air fryer or boil on the stovetop.
If you don’t have fresh corn, feel free to sub with canned or frozen corn. Make sure to drain or thaw. Add a bit of olive oil (no more than 1 tbsp) to a pan and cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally until lightly charred. Remove from the stove.
Step 2 | PREPARE OTHER INGREDIENTS
While the corn is cooling, chop the cilantro, red pepper, red onion, green onions, cherry tomatoes, and jalapeño. (Note: in the photo below, we’ve separated them into individual bowls to show what each final chopped veggie should look like, but you can add them to a large mixing bowl as you go.)
Chop the avocados if you are serving the salad immediately after assembling, or if you will be making it ahead, wait to chop the avocados until shortly before serving.
Step 3 | CUT CORN
Once the corn has cooled, cut the corn kernels off the cob using a chef’s knife and add to the large mixing bowl.
Step 4 | MAKE DRESSING
In a medium mixing bowl, combine the mayonnaise, sour cream, lime juice, smoked paprika, cumin, minced garlic, salt, pepper, and 1/2 cup of the crumbled cotija cheese (reserve the remainder for sprinkling on the completed salad).
Step 5 | COMBINE SALAD
Mix the corn kernels and chopped veggies, then add the dressing (save the avocado for topping later). Toss everything together until it’s well-coated.
Step 6 | ADD TOPPINGS
Top with remaining 1/4 cup cotija cheese and cilantro leaves. Add fresh lime slices as a garnish if you’d like.
Step 7 | SERVE & ENJOY!
Now it’s time to serve your salad! It can be served immediately, but for the best results, let it chill in the fridge for at least an hour before serving. This allows the flavors to meld together.
Serve with a bowl of chopped avocado to add individually to each serving.
Making this salad is pretty fool-proof but here are some of our top tips to make the best Mexican street corn salad:
- Use fresh corn if you can—it will have the most flavor.
- If you don’t like cilantro, you can substitute it with fresh flat-leaf parsley.
- Feel free to adjust the level of spiciness by adding more or less jalapeño.
- Add chicken, steak, or shrimp for a complete meal.
- Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days (though it tastes the best within 1 or 2 days). This salad is excellent for meal prep!
- This salad goes together pretty quickly, but you can grab pre-cut veggies for an even quicker prep.
- If you’ve opted to include avocado, we suggest adding it just before serving as it can brown over time. We also suggest waiting to sprinkle the reserved cotija cheese until just before serving as well.
- You can mix the dressing and salad separately and then combine just before serving (you may want to add a bit of milk to thin the dressing before mixing, as it will likely thicken up a bit in the fridge).
What to Serve with Mexican Street Corn Salad
This salad pairs beautifully with a variety of Mexican dishes like enchiladas or burritos.
Try it with some chicken, steak, grilled salmon, or even alongside some shrimp skewers for a summer cookout.
It can also be a delicious topping for burrito bowls, sweet potatoes, or a filling for stuffed bell peppers.
For a light lunch, serve it with some crusty bread and fresh fruit.
If you’re looking for a vegetarian option, serve this Mexican street corn salad alongside a spicy black bean burger.
Try it as a filling for tacos or even use it to top nachos!
One of the best things about this Mexican street corn salad recipe is how easily it can be customized to your taste. Here are a few variations that you might like to try:
With protein: Looking to make your salad more substantial? Try adding grilled chicken, shrimp, or even black beans for a vegetarian protein boost. Just cook your chosen protein, chop it up, and stir it into the salad.
Cheese varieties: Traditional Mexican street corn is made with cotija cheese, but if you can’t find it, feel free to substitute with queso fresco, crumbled feta cheese, or parmesan. Each will give a slightly different flavor, but all are delicious.
Spice it up or down: The jalapeño adds a nice kick to this salad, but you can easily adjust the spice level. For less heat, remove the seeds from the jalapeño before chopping, or skip it altogether. If you want more spice, leave the seeds in or add a hotter pepper like a serrano or habanero.
Add other veggies: Feel free to toss in other veggies you have on hand. Diced cucumbers, cabbage, green or yellow bell peppers, carrots, zucchini, or even some black olives could all be delicious additions.
Dress it up: To make this salad a bit more crunchy, try adding some crumbled tortilla chips, toasted pumpkin seeds, or even crispy bacon.
Vegan version: You can easily make this recipe vegan by substituting the mayonnaise with vegan mayo and omitting the cheese or using a vegan cheese alternative.
How to Store Leftovers
Storing and reheating your Mexican street corn salad is easy, and it’s perfect for meal prep or making ahead for a party.
After you’ve assembled the salad, place it in an airtight container and refrigerate it. It will keep for up to 4 days (but keep in mind it will taste the freshest within the first day or 2).
Add avocados individually to each serving to avoid browning.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I use canned or frozen corn instead of fresh?
Absolutely! While fresh corn gives you a delightful crunch and char when grilled, canned corn or frozen corn can be a great time-saving substitute. If using canned corn, make sure to drain and rinse it before use. If you’re using frozen corn, be sure to let it thaw first. We suggest pan-frying canned or frozen corn in 1 tbsp olive oil to get some delicious charring before assembling the salad (be sure to let it cool first!).
What if I can’t find cotija cheese?
If you can’t find cotija cheese, feel free to substitute it with queso fresco, feta, or Parmesan cheese. All have a similar salty and tangy flavor profile that works well in this recipe.
Is Mexican Street Corn Salad spicy?
The spiciness of the salad largely depends on how much jalapeño you add. If you’re not a fan of spicy food, you can reduce the amount of jalapeño or leave it out altogether (although we recommend at least a little for the best flavor). You can also reduce the spiciness by removing the seeds from the jalapeño before chopping.
How long will Mexican Street Corn Salad keep in the fridge?
The salad can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days (though it’s best within 1-2 days). It’s a great make-ahead option for meal prep or for a gathering.
Can I make this salad dairy-free or vegan?
Yes, you can make it dairy-free by using a dairy-free mayonnaise and skipping the cheese, or using a dairy-free cheese alternative. To make it vegan, follow the same steps for dairy-free and also ensure the mayonnaise is egg-free.
How can I add protein to this salad?
To make this salad a more complete meal, you can add protein like grilled chicken, shrimp, or even black beans.
Can I make this recipe in advance?
Yes, this salad is perfect for making in advance. In fact, the flavors meld together and improve after a few hours in the fridge. Just be sure to wait to add avocados and top with cotija cheese until right before serving.
Mexican street corn salad (known as esquites in Mexico) is a fun, flavorful salad that makes the perfect side dish for any summer meal. It’s sweet, tangy, slightly spicy, and simply delicious. Enjoy it at your next barbecue, potluck, or picnic, and watch it disappear!
More Delicious RecipesPrint
- 4 large ears of corn, grilled (about 4 cups)
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1/4 cup red onion, chopped
- 1/2 cup red bell pepper, chopped
- 1/3 cup green onions, diced
- 1/2 jalapeño pepper, diced (add more if you’d like)
- 2/3 cup fresh cilantro, chopped + 1 tbsp for topping the salad
- 3/4 cup cherry tomatoes, halved (optional)
- 1 avocado (optional)
- 4 tablespoons lime juice (about 2 limes)
- 1/4 cup sour cream
- 1/4 cup mayo
- 1/2 tsp cumin
- 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/4 tsp black pepper
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 3/4 cup crumbled cotija cheese, divided
- Heat your grill to medium-high heat. Brush the corn with olive oil, then add to the grill. Cook the corn, turning occasionally, until done and lightly charred. This should take about 10-15 minutes.
- While the corn is cooling, chop the cilantro, red pepper, red onion, green onions, cherry tomatoes, and jalapeño and add them all to a large mixing bowl.
- Cut the corn off the cob and add it to the bowl with the other veggies.
- In a medium mixing bowl, combine the mayonnaise, sour cream, lime juice, smoked paprika, cumin, garlic, 1/2 cup cotija cheese, salt, and pepper.
- Spoon the dressing onto the corn mixture and toss everything together until it’s well coated.
- Transfer to a serving bowl. It can be served immediately, but for the best flavor, let it chill in the fridge for at least an hour before serving. This allows the flavors to meld together.
- Before serving, top with the remaining cotija cheese and cilantro. Serve with chopped avocado to add individually to each serving.
- If you are using canned corn, you’ll need 2+ 15-ounce cans. If using frozen corn, you’ll need 30+ ounces.
- Adjust the spiciness to your liking by increasing or decreasing the amount of jalapeño you include.
- Prep Time: 20 minutes
- Cook Time: 10 minutes
- Category: Side Dish
- Cuisine: Mexican
- Serving Size:
- Calories: 194
- Sugar: 2.8 g
- Sodium: 287 mg
- Fat: 16.1 g
- Saturated Fat: 4.3 g
- Carbohydrates: 10.1 g
- Protein: 4.5 g
- Cholesterol: 16.7 mg
Keywords: salad, picnic side dish, summer side dish, barbecue side
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