Sweet, spicy, tangy, and creamy, esquites corn salad will be a hit at any summer fiesta! Delicious sweet corn fresh from the cob combined with lime, funky Cotija cheese, spicy jalapeno and chili powder, and creamy dressing hits all the right flavor notes!
Esquites is Mexican-style street corn salad, a snack popular in Mexico that is often served in cups and easy to eat on the go. The flavors are similar to elote, grilled corn on the cob smothered with mayo, lime, and cheese, but even easier to make and eat. It is often called "elote en vaso" or "corn in a cup."
Esquites comes together super quickly with sweet corn fresh off the cob sauteed in butter with garlic and jalapeno, mayonnaise, sour cream, Cotija or feta cheese, lime juice, cilantro, chili powder, and salt to taste.
- fresh corn kernels - I love to make this in the summer when sweet corn is plentiful and at peak flavor.
- butter - Butter adds even more zing to the sauteed corn kernels.
- mayonnaise - Adds creaminess.
- sour cream - More creaminess plus a little tang!
- lime juice - I juice one lime straight into the dressing. Yum!
- chili powder - Adds smoky and earthy notes.
- cilantro - I love the taste of cilantro, but if you're not a fan feel free to leave it out.
- Cotija cheese - This adds an authentic and funky taste to the dish, but feta or queso fresco also work well!
- garlic - I prefer my garlic cooked for a few minutes to take away the raw garlic bite, but if you like it uncooked just add it straight to the dressing.
- jalapeno - I like to get rid of the seeds and ribs before dicing, but if you want more spice leave them in!
See recipe card for quantities.
Browning the corn for esquites on the stove is convenient and easy. While the corn is cooking, whisk together the ingredients for the dressing.
Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a skillet over medium heat.
Add the corn kernels to the hot skillet and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring every minute or so. For the last 3 minutes add in the minced garlic and chopped jalapeno.
Combine the dressing ingredients (mayonnaise, sour cream, lime juice, chili powder, cilantro, and cheese) in a bowl.
Thoroughly combine the cooked corn and dressing mixture. Serve hot or at room temperature.
Hint: Esquites can be made ahead of time and stored in the fridge. Heat it up in the microwave or allow to come to room temperature before serving.
This recipe tastes amazing as is, but feel free to sub ingredients as desired and make it your own!
- fresh corn kernels - If fresh corn is out of season or not available, frozen corn makes a great substitute. You can add it to the pan still frozen; it will take a few more minutes to achieve browning.
- butter - I love the extra flavor butter adds, but you can substitute any neutral oil.
- sour cream - Mexican crema is a great sub if you have it and even more authentic!
- cilantro - if you don't love the taste, feel free to leave it out.
- Cotija cheese - Feta cheese or queso fresco makes a good sub for the salty, milky, and funky flavor of Cotija.
- jalapeno - I have used whatever peppers I have on hand in place of jalapeno (serrano, Fresno, even Thai chili) and it still tastes amazing! Remove the ribs and seeds if you want less heat.
- salt - Cotija is a salty cheese, so only add salt after you sample the finished dressing if you think it still needs some.
How to cut corn off the cob
The best way I have found to cut corn off the cob quickly and with little mess is to use a bundt pan.
After cleaning the corn, stand it on end in the center hole of the bundt pan. If you still have a nub of stem, stick that in the hole.
Use one hand to hold the corn cob in place and the other to slice downward close to the cob, cutting off a row of kernels at a time.
The kernels will (mostly) fall into the bundt pan instead of shooting across the counter. Easy peasy lemon squeezy!
What should I serve with esquites (Mexican corn salad)?
We eat Mexican-inspired food at our house often, and any Latin-flavored meal would taste great with esquites! My family loves to eat this Mexican corn salad with fajitas, in a taco or tostada, on top of enchiladas, or with tortilla chips as a dip.
Esquites (Mexican Street Corn Salad)
- 1 medium skillet
- 4 cups fresh corn kernels (about 5 medium ears of corn)
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 1 jalapeno stemmed, seeded, and chopped
- 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
- 2 tablespoons sour cream
- 1 lime juiced (about 2 tablespoons)
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- ¼ cup cilantro chopped
- ⅓ cup Cotija cheese grated
- ¼ teaspoon salt (to taste)
- Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the corn in an even layer and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 7 minutes. Add in the minced garlic and chopped jalapeno and cook for another 3 minutes, until the corn is evenly lightly browned.
- In a large bowl combine the mayonnaise, sour cream, lime juice, chili powder, cilantro, and cheese.
- Thoroughly combine the cooked corn mixture with the mayonnaise mixture. Taste and adjust seasonings if needed, adding ¼ teaspoon salt if desired. Serve warm or at room temperature.