You’ll love this easy and delicious 20-minute Mexican Street Corn Salad! It’s refreshing and packed with so much great flavor.
I love that it’s creamy and refreshing at the same time. The corn is perfectly charred to bring out that fresh amazing sweetness and flavor.
Make this amazing Mexican street corn salad for your next gathering or potluck. It’s make ahead friendly! I promise everyone will love it.
We love this Mexican Street Corn Salad! It’s also called “esquites” in Spanish, and it’s a very popular Mexican street food served in food carts usually. Traditionally, it’s served in individual cups with a spoon and a slice of lime.
What I really like about this corn salad is that it’s both creamy and refreshing at the same time. It’s seriously the perfect side dish or even appetizer, and it takes 20 minutes or less to make. I love serving it with tacos – try Slow Cooker Barbacoa Beef Tacos, Carne Asada Tacos, or Tacos al Pastor!
Why I love this Mexican street corn salad so much:
- Great texture and flavor profile: Creamy, fresh, bright, savory with a touch of sweetness, smoky, and a bit spicy (if using jalapeños). Some serious flavors going on here!
- Super easy to make: Takes just 20 minutes to make!
- Prep-ahead friendly: Chop and prep all the ingredients 1-2 days in advance, and combine everything when ready to serve. Great for parties and gatherings!
Feel free to serve it along other Mexican-inspired side dishes, such as this Mexican Coleslaw or Restaurant-Style Mexican Rice. Cinco de Mayo celebrations are coming up, so be sure save this recipe. So good!
What is Mexican Street Corn?
Also known as “esquites,” Mexican street corn salad is a beloved Mexican street food. It’s made of corn off the cob tossed with a creamy dressing made of mayonnaise and seasoning, often served in a cup with a spoon.
Another variation is called “elotes,” which is grilled corn on the cob with a creamy sauce, chili powder, lime, cilantro, and cotija cheese.
Fresh, Frozen, or Canned Corn
I find that fresh or frozen corn works best to make this Mexican street corn salad recipe, which calls for charring the corn over a skillet. If using fresh corn, it’s best to cut the corn off the cob. If using frozen corn, get frozen corn kernels (not on the cob) for ease and convenience.
Alternatively, you could grill the fresh corn on the cob first and then cut the corn off, but I find that a bit hard to do since the kernels are a bit softened by then.
Canned corn works fine too, but it will likely have a sweeter taste to it and not be as crisp as fresh or frozen. Plus, nothing compares to fresh corn!
Serve It Warm or Cold
You can serve Mexican street corn salad warm or cold, it’s up to you. I like it somewhere in between, so I let the charred corn cool for a few minutes before mixing with the dressing.
But it’s also wonderful served cold! It really depends on your preference.
- Corn: I’d recommend using fresh or frozen corn kernels. Canned corn is fine too, but not preferred.
- Mayonnaise: Adds creaminess and flavor.
- Fresh lime: For brightness and freshness.
- Smoked paprika, chili powder, garlic powder: For flavor.
- Fresh cilantro, red onions, cherry tomatoes, avocado: I love the freshness, texture, and flavor these add.
- Cotija or queso fresco: It’s got a mild savory flavor.
- Salt and pepper to taste
Step 1 | Char the corn
In a large skillet over high heat, char the corn kernels on a single layer for a few minutes. No need to add oil or butter. Let it char undisturbed for a few minutes, then give it a stir to char the other side. Let cool.
Tip: To avoid overcrowding the skillet, do it in batches. Overcrowding leads to steaming.
Step 2 | Make the dressing
In a large bowl, combine mayonnaise, lime juice, paprika, chili powder, and garlic powder.
Step 3 | Combine ingredients
Add the charred corn, tomatoes, cilantro, onions, and jalapeños (if using) to the prepared dressing and mix to combine.
Step 4 | Add avocado and crumbled cheese
Fold in the diced avocado and crumbled cotija cheese or queso fresco. Serve with more cheese on top for garnish.
Substitutions and Variations
You can substitute the ingredients below if needed:
- Corn: Use fresh or frozen corn kernels for best results. Canned corn may be too wet and sweet, but it will work too.
- Mayonnaise: Sour cream or Greek yogurt.
- Cherry tomatoes: Diced roma or large tomatoes.
- Cotija cheese: Queso fresco. Don’t use feta cheese (not the same flavor profile).
- Red onions: shallots, green onions.
As for add-ons, try adding black beans (canned, drained) or diced radishes. For extra heat, add diced jalapeños.
Make Ahead Instructions
You can prep this Mexican street salad up to 1-2 days in advance. Here are a few tips:
- Don’t add the dressing until ready to serve. The dressing can be prepared ahead of time and refrigerated separately.
- The crumbled cotija or queso fresco should be added when ready to serve for maximum freshness.
- The avocado should be diced and added at the end. It will turn brown if opened too soon.
Pairing and Serving Ideas
Mexican street corn salad goes really well with anything! Rice, tacos, burritos, quesadillas…you name it! My favorite dishes to pair with this salad are Slow Cooker Barbacoa Beef Tacos, Skirt Steak Tacos, and Chicken Quesadillas.
You can serve this corn salad in a large bowl with a side of chips, or in individual cups with a spoon, which is the authentic way to do it.
If you’re looking for additional Mexican-inspired side dishes, check these out:
I’d recommend using either fresh or frozen corn kernels. Canned corn may be too wet and sweet, but it will work if needed.
Yes, you can. However, I find it a bit difficult to cut the corn off the cob once it’s been grilled, as it softens. The easiest thing to do is char corn kernels over a hot skillet.
Either way works!
Yes, use sour cream or Greek yogurt, although you may need to add extra seasoning.
This recipe was published in 2019 and updated in April 2022 to include new photos and information, plus a few recipe modifications.
Tips for Success
- Use fresh or frozen corn kernels for best results.
- After charring the corn, let it cool for a bit before mixing it in with the rest of the ingredients. I like to let the charred corn kernels cool on a sheet pan, in one single layer, to expedite things.
- If making this Mexican street corn salad ahead of time, mix in the dressing, avocado and crumbled cheese when ready to serve in order to prevent sogginess.
Mexican Street Corn Salad (Esquites)
- 4 cups frozen or fresh corn kernels
- ¾ cup mayonnaise - plus more to taste
- ¼ teaspoon smoked paprika
- ¼ teaspoon chili powder
- ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
- Juice of 1 lime, or to taste
- ¼ cup finely chopped cilantro
- ¼ cup small diced red onions
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes, quartered
- Diced jalapeños (optional)
- 1 medium avocado, diced
- ½ cup crumbled cotija cheese or queso fresco - plus more for garnish
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Char corn: Heat a large skillet over high heat, no need to add oil (I’d recommend cast iron). In batches, char the corn kernels over the hot skillet. Let it char undisturbed for a few minutes, then give it a stir to char the other side. Let cool. Tip: The fastest way to let the corn cool down is by spreading it over a sheet pan.
- Make the dressing: In a large bowl, mix mayonnaise, paprika, chili powder, garlic powder, and fresh lime juice.
- Combine ingredients: Add corn, onions, cilantro, tomatoes, and diced jalapeños (if using) to the prepared dressing. Stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Then, carefully stir in avocado and cotija cheese.
- Top with more crumbled cheese for garnish. Enjoy warm or cold.
- Use fresh or frozen corn kernels for best results. Canned corn may be too wet and sweet, but it will work too if needed.
- It’s easiest to char corn kernels on a skillet, rather than grilled corn on the cob and then cutting it.
- Char the corn kernels in batches on a large skillet over high heat, on a single layer. For best results, let the corn char undisturbed for a few minutes, then give it a stir to char the other side.
- The fastest way to let the charred corn cool down is spreading into a single layer on a sheet pan.
- Serve it warm or cold. It’s great either way!
- Make ahead: The ingredients can be prepared in advance and refrigerated, including charring the corn. However, wait until ready to serve to toss with the dressing and crumbled cheese so that it doesn’t get soggy. The avocado should always be added at the very end, or it will turn brown if stored.
- Corn: Use fresh or frozen corn kernels for best results. Canned corn may be too wet and sweet.
- Mayonnaise: Sour cream or Greek yogurt (add extra seasoning)
- Cherry tomatoes: Diced roma or large tomatoes.
- Cotija cheese: Queso fresco. Try not to use feta cheese (not the same flavor profile).
Red onions: shallots, green onions (the white part).