Esquites Mexican Corn Salad
Esquites is the salad version of Mexican Street Corn (Elote) so it’s easier to eat and even more delicious (just when you didn’t think that was possible!). Esquites is tangy, salty, sweet, spicy, smoky, fresh, juicy, crunchy, light and creamy all at the same time AKA it’s an addicting rainbow of bright flavors and textures in every fiesta bite! This Mexican street corn salad recipe is made with charred, caramelized sweet corn, sweet red bell peppers, crunchy cucumbers, zesty red onions, juicy tomatoes, spicy jalapenos and zippy cilantro all enveloped in a light, creamy lime dressing with plenty of cotija cheese. You can use fresh or frozen corn and you can char the corn on the grill or stovetop for a year-round favorite Mexican Street Corn Salad. Esquites can be served warm, chilled, or at room temperature so it’s perfect for a backyard barbecue or prep-ahead potluck side.
Servings 6 -8 servings
- 5 ears corn on the cob, shucked or 5 cups frozen sweet corn
- Vegetable oil
- 1 red bell pepper chopped
- 1/4 cup red onion finely chopped
- 1/2 English cucumber sliced and quartered
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes halved
- 1 jalapeno seeded, deveined, diced
- 1/2 cup packed cilantro chopped
- 1/3 cup Cotija cheese finely grated
- 1/4 cup Mexican crema or sour cream
- 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
- 3 tablespoons lime juice
- 1 clove garlic minced
- 1 tsp EACH chili powder, sea salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/4 tsp EACH smoked paprika, pepper
Lightly brush each ear of corn with oil. Grease and heat grill to high heat. Once hot, add corn and close the lid. Cook 2-3 minutes on each side, rotating the corn until all of the sides are lightly charred, about 10-12 minutes, closing the lid in between rotations. Set the corn aside and allow to cool enough to handle. Cut the kernels off of the cob and transfer to the dressing.
OR SKILLET CORN:
Cut the kernels off of the cob or if using frozen corn, DON'T thaw first. Heat 1 tablespoon vegetable oil in large cast iron skillet over high heat. Add the corn and cook, stirring occasionally, until corn starts to char, approximately 5 minutes for fresh and 7 minutes for frozen. Transfer kernels to the dressing.
Add all of the Salad Ingredients to the corn/dressing and stir until evenly coated.
Taste and season with additional salt, pepper and/or lime juice to taste.
Don't miss the "how to make" recipe video at the top of the post!
HOW TO SERVE, STORE AND ENJOY LEFTOVERS
- SERVE: Mexican corn salad is best served right away once dressed. The dressing is made with perishable sour cream and mayonnaise so it shouldn’t sit out any longer than two hours.
- STORE: Cover tightly with plastic wrap or store in an airtight container. Store in the refrigerator for 3-5 days.
- LEFTOVERS: Refrigerated esquites isn’t as cream so I recommend gently warming on the stove or in the microwave, just until warm but not hot. This will amp up the creaminess once more.
Esquites isn’t quite as creamy once refrigerated so you don’t want to just combine the salad ingredients, refrigerate and serve. Instead, you have three options:
- Let it sit at room temperature for 30 minutes before serving.
- Better yet, rewarm it lightly on the stove or in the microwave to help it become creamy again.
- If the latter isn’t an option (if you are taking to a potluck for example), then store the dressing and salad separately in airtight containers in the refrigerator and combine shortly before serving then let the Mexican corn salad rest at room temperature for 15-30 minutes before serving.
TIPS AND TRICKS
- Use fresh corn immediately. Fresh corn is the sweetest and juiciest used within the first 1-2 days. The sugars begin converting to starch soon after the corn is harvested. Make sure you store your corn in the refrigerator to stall this process.
- Shucking tip. You can microwave your corn for a minute or two before shucking which will make stubborn silk come off easier.
- Purchase shucked corn. If you want to save some time making Mexican corn salad, purchase already shucked corn – no dealing with all that pesky silk!
- Prep ingredients before cooking corn. Esquites is best served warm or at room temperatures, so have all of the salad ingredients chopped and ready to go before you char the corn. This way you an add the warm corn directly to the salad and dressing and combine immediately.
- Ingredient substitutions. If you don’t like cilantro, you can swap it for parsley; if you don’t like Cotija, you can swap it with feta; if you don’t like red onions, you can swap them for green onions.
- Salt to taste. Corn LOVES salt. I always add more salt to taste – so make sure you taste the salad first and if it tastes like it’s missing something, it’s probably salt!
- Leftovers. Esquites is fabulous added to so many dishes. See all my ideas how to use leftovers in the post.