Elotes (Grilled Mexican Street Corn)

4.84 from 43 votes
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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 (Grilled Mexican Street Corn)

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!

brushing olive oil over corn on the cob

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.

ingredients for elote spread in a bowl

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.

brushing elotes with mayo spread

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.

mexican grilled street corn

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.

Elotes (Grilled Mexican Street Corn)

Elotes are Mexican street food. Sweet ears of corn are grilled until lightly charred then slathered with a creamy lime topping and cotija cheese.
4.84 from 43 votes
Prep Time20 minutes
Cook Time12 minutes
Total Time32 minutes
Servings 4 servings
Course Snack
Cuisine Mexican

Ingredients 
 

  • 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

Instructions 

  • 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.

Nutrition Facts

Serves: 4 servings
Calories 318kcal (16%)Carbohydrates 26g (9%)Protein 6g (12%)Fat 23g (35%)Saturated Fat 5g (25%)Cholesterol 19mg (6%)Sodium 239mg (10%)Potassium 395mg (11%)Fiber 2g (8%)Sugar 9g (10%)Vitamin A 690IU (14%)Vitamin C 11.4mg (14%)Calcium 66mg (7%)Iron 0.8mg (4%)

Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000-calorie diet. All nutritional information is based on estimated third-party calculations. Each recipe and nutritional value will vary depending on the brands you use, measuring methods, and portion sizes per household.

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Jessica Gavin

I'm a culinary school graduate, cookbook author, and a mom who loves croissants! My passion is creating recipes and sharing the science behind cooking to help you gain confidence in the kitchen.

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11 Comments Leave a comment or review

  1. Matthew says

    Authentic elote is not made with sweet corn. They use regular Mexican corn which is not sweet. Also, the brushes in your photos do not appear to be food grade.

  2. Linda says

    I made the mistake of cooking the corn ahead of time and the kernels were a bit “shriveled” when it was time to serve. Looks like I have to cook them just before it’s time to serve?

    • Jessica Gavin says

      I think it’s normal for the corn to shrink a little once cooked. However, they do taste the best when freshly cooked.

  3. Linda says

    Hi Jessica! I’m from Mexico and I loved this recipe!!! I did do the layering separate since I grew up doing it that way. I wanted to eat more that one!

  4. Laura S Sanborn says

    We’re having a BBQ with about 10 people but our grill is not big enough for the corn and the meats. Can this be grilled ahead of time and kept warm in the oven? We’ll be having chicken and tri-tip. Thanks! It’s been so long since we’ve been able to have company that I’m really looking forward to this!

  5. Bill says

    For your Chile powder, use pure NM red Chile that doesn’t have any shishi spices like typical grocery store “chili” powder has.

  6. Nicole says

    SO easy and absolutely delicious!!!! One of my family’s new favorites! Made it with some baby back ribs, threw the corn on at the end of cooking and it was great! On and off the cob!