An easy lightened-up Mexican street corn salad that can be made with fresh or frozen corn. This salad is creamy, delicious and perfect for summer cookouts.
Have you ever had Mexican street corn (elote) before? I had it for the first time at Rancho La Puerta and honestly it’s hard to go back to regular ol’ corn on the cob after trying it. It’s SO flavorful and delicious! I can’t get enough… especially when sweet corn is in season during the summer months.
What is Mexican Street Corn Salad?
Mexican street corn salad (also called esquites) is basically an off-the-cob version of elote. And if you’re unfamiliar, elote is simply grilled sweet corn on the cob that is topped with a mixture of mayo, chili powder and cotija cheese.
Esquites follows the same basic recipe but after grilling the corn, you cut the kernels off the cob and toss them with the typical toppings to create a salad/side dish that’s perfect for serving a crowd.
Lightened Up Mexican Street Corn Salad
To create a lighter version of traditional Mexican street corn salad I replaced some of the mayo with high-protein Greek yogurt. The flavor is still spot on and I personally like the tiny bit of tang that the yogurt adds. Here are the ingredients you need for this epic salad:
corn – you can use fresh, sweet corn on the cob or a bag of frozen fire-roasted corn. If you can’t find fire roasted you can buy regular frozen sweet corn and sauté in a pan until it’s slightly browned.
jalapeño – feel free to adjust the amount of jalapeño pepper you use based on your spice preference. I used 1 seeded pepper.
plain Greek yogurt and mayonnaise – I used a combination of Greek yogurt and mayo to create a lighter, high protein version of the traditional salad that uses mayo and crema (or sour cream).
fresh lime juice
seasonings and spices – chili powder, paprika, salt and pepper
What Kind of Corn to Use?
As I mentioned above, there are a few different types of corn you can use for this recipe. Of course the salad is amazing with fresh, sweet corn grilled and cut from the cob, but when I’m in a rush I make it with frozen, fire-roasted corn. It’s still good and comes together so fast. Let’s break down each option and chat through how to prepare each!
Fresh corn on the cob – Preheat grill to medium-high heat and husk the ears of corn while it preheats. Brush the corn ears with olive oil and grill for about 2 minutes per side. Remove from the grill and let cool before using a knife to cut the kernels off the cob and into a bowl.
Frozen fire roasted corn – If you can’t find fresh, sweet corn, the next best option is frozen fire-roasted corn. To prep, simply put the corn in a colander and run water over the corn until it’s thawed. Drain well before using. If you want to serve the salad warm, you can skip the thawing process and add the corn to a skillet over medium heat and cook until corn is warm.
Regular frozen sweet corn – If you can’t find fire-roasted frozen corn, regular frozen corn works too! You don’t need to thaw it, just sauté in a pan with 1 tablespoon of olive oil for about 10-12 minutes or until the corn starts to brown.
What is Cotija Cheese?
Most of the ingredients in this salad are familiar and easy to find besides the cotija cheese.
If you’re unfamiliar, cotija is cheese made from cow’s milk that originated in Mexico. It’s white, firm, dry and slightly salty. When it’s aged longer it becomes sharper and firmer (more similar to parmesan) and when it’s younger it’s moist and crumbly (more similar to feta). You can find it at most speciality grocery stores and at Latino markets.
If for some reason you’re unable to get your hands on cotija cheese, you can use either feta or parmesan in this recipe! Either will work just fine.
Ways to Serve Mexican Street Corn Salad
This salad is awesome on it’s own as a side salad, but there are a few different ways you can use serve it up!
Make a meal sized salad: Use this salad as a topping for a meal sized salad. I love it with kale, grilled chicken and avocado. Recipe for this is coming soon!
Tacos or Tostadas: Use as a topping for tacos or tostadas.
Serve as a dip: We love eating this salad with tortilla chips!
4ears of fresh, sweet corn or 16 oz bag frozen fire-roasted corn*
1/2cupdiced red onion
1jalapeño, seeded and diced (about 1 Tablespoon)
1/4cupcotija cheese, plus more for topping (feta or parmesan also work)
2Tablespoonsplain Greek yogurt
juice of 1 lime, about 2 Tablespoons
1/3cupchopped fresh cilantro, plus more for topping
For grilled corn: Husk ears of corn and preheat grill to medium-high heat. Brush corn ears with olive oil and grill for about 2 minutes per side. Remove from grill and let cool before using a knife to cut the corn kernels off the cob into a bowl.
For frozen corn: Put frozen corn in a colander. Run water over the corn until it’s thawed. Drain well. Or place in a skillet over medium heat and cook until warm.
Add corn kernels, onion, garlic, jalapeño, and cotija cheese to a large bowl. Toss to combine.
In a small bowl whisk together the yogurt, mayo, lime juice, chili powder, paprika, sea salt, pepper and cilantro until combined.
Drizzle dressing over the salad ingredients and toss to combine. Top with additional cilantro and cheese. Serve right away or chill in the fridge until ready to serve. This salad can be served warm or cold. Leftovers will keep in the fridge for 3-4 days.
Frozen corn: If you can’t find frozen fire-roasted corn, you can buy frozen sweet corn and sauté it in a pan with 1 Tablespoon of olive oil for about 10-12 minutes or until corn starts to brown. No need to thaw.
To make this dairy-free: use vegan mayo, plain coconut yogurt and a dairy-free cheese of your choice. I haven’t tried it yet, but this hemp parmesan would likely work well!