Elote is a tasty handheld appetizer also called Mexican street corn. Sweet ears of corn are grilled until the kernels are lightly charred and tender. It’s traditionally slathered with a creamy lime topping and cotija cheese.
Elotes are popular Mexican street food sold by cart vendors who roast fresh corn on the cob. Each piece receives a generous coating of creamy topping, sprinkled with cotija cheese and spices. It’s an addicting treat that can easily be made at home!
When fresh corn is in season, it’s time to fire up the grill. Cooking on the hot grates provides a nice flavorful smokey char on the surface. But what makes this dish so amazing is the luscious spread added on top. It’s a combination of sour cream, mayonnaise, lime juice, garlic, chili powder, pepper, and cilantro. Sprinkle with some tajin, tangy chile seasoning for an extra boost of flavor!
How to make Mexican street corn (Elote)
- Preheat grill over high heat.
- Remove the husk and silk from the corn.
- Brush corn with olive oil and season with salt.
- Grill corn until lightly charred and tender, flipping every few minutes.
- Combine cotija cheese, sour cream, mayonnaise, lime juice, garlic, cilantro, chili powder, and black pepper.
- Spread cheese mixture on grilled corn.
- Sprinkle corn with more cheese and Tajin or chili powder.
What is Elote and how is it served?
Elote is grilled Mexican street corn that is roasted on a grill then generously seasoned with butter, salt, mayonnaise, crema fresca or sour cream, lime juice, cotija cheese, and chili powder.
The husks can be pulled back and used as a handle to grab the corn, or removed completely and served on a stick. If making this recipe for a large crowd the toppings can be served separately for each person to customize their corn.
How do you prepare and cook the corn?
To achieve a smokey flavor and gorgeous char on the corn, shuck and cook directly on the grill grates. You can leave the husk intact and tied back for a handle, but sometimes they blacken quickly if it’s too dry or the grill is sizzling hot.
Brush the corn with olive oil or melted butter, and sprinkle with salt before roasting. This helps crisp up the surface of the corn more quickly to add layers or flavor. If you don’t have a grill available, it’s easy to roast the corn in the oven instead.
How do you make the topping for elote?
It’s simple! Mix together the cotija cheese, sour cream (or crema), mayonnaise, lime juice, garlic, chili powder, and black pepper. Traditionally these ingredients are added on separately. However, to make it easier to prepare and eat for a crowd, I combine the topping ingredients together beforehand to ensure each bite has maximum flavor experience.
I recommend serving extra cheese, parsley, lime wedges on the side and then sprinkle with chili powder or Tajin. If you haven’t tried Taijin before, it’s a store-bought seasoning powder of chile pepper, salt, and dehydrated lime juice. It gives each bite a delightfully tangy and spicy taste!
What’s the difference between Elotes and Esquites?
Elotes and Esquites are both Mexican grilled corn. However, elotes are served still on the cob, while Esquites are the kernels cut off and served in a cup. They both can be served with desired toppings.
More Mexican recipes
Use oil to keep the corn from drying out on the grill
Brushing the corn with olive oil or some melted butter before grilling adds a protective fat layer on the surface. The kernels stay plump and juicy, instead of dried out. This is especially important if the husk is removed.
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Elotes (Grilled Mexican Street Corn)
- 6 ears of corn
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- kosher salt, as needed for seasoning
- 1 cup cilantro leaves, chopped
- 3 ounces cotija cheese, crumbled, divided
- ¼ cup sour cream, or crema
- ¼ cup mayonnaise
- 1 tablespoon lime juice
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- ½ teaspoon chili powder
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- Tajin seasoning, optional
- Preheat grill over high heat about 400 to 450ºF (204 to 232ºC).
- Carefully grease the cooking grates with the oil, paper towel, and tongs.
- Pull back the husk and remove the silk then tie the husk back or remove completely.
- Brush olive oil over each piece of corn and sprinkle with salt.
- Add the corn to the grill and cover, cook for 8 to 12 minutes, flipping every 2 to 3 minutes to char each side. Transfer grilled corn to a plate.
- In a medium sized bowl combine chopped cilantro, ½ cup cotija cheese, sour cream, mayonnaise, lime juice, garlic, chili powder, and black pepper.
- Brush the cheese mixture on each side of the corn.
- Sprinkle with the remaining cotija cheese and Tajin seasoning or more chili powder if desired.
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