Mexican Sides Under 15 Minutes Vegetarian

Mexican Street Corn Salad (Esquites)

Mexican Street Corn Salad (or Esquites) is one of my absolute favorite side dishes when we have Mexican for dinner! You have the slightly sweet corn, the heat from chopped jalapeño, and salty cotija cheese – all wrapped up in a creamy spicy sauce?? You really can’t go wrong! I’m going to show y’all how to make this street food classic right on your stovetop.

two bowls of mexican corn salad (esquites) with tequila and a lime on the side

It’s no secret at this point; Mexican food is my favorite type of food. And one of the best (and in my opinion, underrated) side dishes is Mexican Street Corn Salad, also known as Esquites.

You may have eaten esquites, or maybe you’ve tried its cousin elotes. Both are corn dishes with a creamy and cheesy spread. Elotes are corn on the cob, while esquites use shucked corn. You can find both dishes in markets and street stalls around Mexico. Esquites, since it’s easier to eat for most people, is also a popular side in many Mexican restaurants.

The sauce, made with a combination of Mexican crema, cotija cheese, lime juice, and spices, is just so tasty. Grilling the sweet corn gives it that perfect char. Finally, the minced jalapeños offer a delicious pop of flavor.

Ingredients

  • Corn Kernels – You can either buy these already shucked into kernels (and defrosted/dried), or shuck them yourself. It’s super easy to do the latter! Just turn them vertically and then take a knife to the sides until your kernels are all off of the cob.
  • Jalapeño – A fresh jalapeño, finely minced, gives our corn salad a great kick of spice.
  • Mexican Crema – Mexican crema is like a smoother, thinner version of sour cream. You can normally find this in the refrigerated section of your grocery store near the cheese!
  • Cotija Cheese – This is authentic Mexican cheese made from milk and aged. It’s super tasty; don’t substitute this ingredient!
  • Seasonings – Fresh cilantro, a bit of salt, lime juice, and smoked paprika all come together to create a beautiful, smoky taste for our esquites. It also mimics the seasonings used on elotes.

Two bowls of mexican corn salad (esquites) with tequila and a lime on the side.

How to Make Esquites (or Elotes) on the Stove

You can grill the corn using a traditional grill, but for my recipe, we’re charring the corn on the stovetop. The trick to getting that beautiful sear is to cook for about 10 minutes without stirring the corn around. Use a cast-iron skillet (my favorite) to make sure the heat is evenly distributed. Fresh corn is always best, but canned corn will do in a pinch; just make sure it’s well-drained.

The best part about this recipe is how quickly everything comes together. You guys know I’m all about not spending all day in the kitchen. While your corn is cooking, simply mix the rest of the ingredients for the crema sauce in a large bowl. Dump in your grilled corn, and you’re done! I always serve with some extra cotija, a splash of lime, and a shot of tequila on the side (but that’s totally optional..)

Make this Mexican Street Corn Salad (Esquites) along with your favorite tacos, homemade guac, and homemade salsa for the next Taco Tuesday. And speaking of tacos… I have some crema left over. I think this will be perfect in a spicy avocado crema recipe! And why not drizzle that on some sort of taco? This will be the first taco recipe going on Coined Cuisine, so that’s a lot of pressure – I’ll make sure I come through with the heat for y’all!

What is your favorite type of taco? Grilled shrimp? Carne asada? A veggie/vegan option? Let me know in the comments!

FAQs

Can I make elotes or esquites on the stovetop?

Definitely! Although it’s typically made on a grill, my recipe below shows a shortcut way to get that caramelization using a cast-iron skillet and your stovetop. It’s so good!

Can I use another cheese in place of cotija?

I wouldn’t recommend it; you’re going to lose out on that salty, savory flavor that makes this recipe pop. Cotija cheese is pretty easy to find as well; take a look at your local grocery’s cheese sections.

What do you serve esquites with?

I can honestly eat this stuff by the spoonful; but serve esquites as a side dish alongside tacos, refried beans, or on a green leafy salad.

Other Mexican-Inspired Dishes!

Crispy Chipotle Chicken Tacos

Copycat Chipotle Cilantro-Lime Rice

5-Minute Chunky Homemade Salsa

Two bowls of mexican corn salad (esquites) with tequila and a lime on the side.

Mexican Street Corn Salad (Esquites)

Shani W.
I couldn't wait to make one of my favorite Mexican sides – Mexican Street Corn (Esquites)! You can eat this hot or cold, but don't forget the margarita on the side as well!
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 15 mins
Course Sides
Servings 2 servings

Ingredients
  

  • 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 cups corn kernels about 3 cobs of corn, shucked
  • 1 ct. jalapeño finely minced
  • 1 tbsp green onion finely minced
  • ¼ cup Mexican crema
  • 2 tbsp mayonnaise
  • ¼ cup cotija cheese crumbled
  • 2 tbsp fresh cilantro chopped
  • ½ ct. lime juiced
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp cumin
  • ¼ tsp smoked paprika

Instructions
 

  • Add the olive oil to a large cast-iron skillet or non-stick skillet. Heat to medium heat.
  • Pour in the corn kernels. Cook them for 10 minutes (keeping them still, so the bottoms develop a sear), then stir and sauté for another 5 minutes.
  • While the corn is searing, add the remaining ingredients to a large bowl. Mix well.
  • Add the cooked corn to the crema mixture. Toss thoroughly until the corn is covered well.
  • Serve hot or cold with extra cotija crumbles and chili powder or smoked paprika. Enjoy!
Keyword Esquites, Mexican, Mexican Corn Salad, Sides, Soups/Salads

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two bowls of mexican corn salad (esquites) with tequila and a lime on the side

The Coined Breakdown

  • Total Cost per serving: $1.57
  • Total Cost (3 servings): $4.70
  • Those Other Guys: $8.99 per serving

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