Mexican Street Corn Salad

4.95 from 67 votes
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This grilled Mexican street corn salad recipe is delicious! It’s a healthy side dish with freshly chopped vegetables and crumbly cheese tossed in a creamy chipotle dressing.

Mexican street corn salad in a white bowl.

One of my favorite ways to spruce up corn on the cob is Mexican-style elotes. They are roasted ears of corn topped with savory spices, creamy sauce, cheese, lime juice, and chopped cilantro. It’s traditionally enjoyed as a handheld snack. You can also slice off the cob and serve it in a cup or bowl to turn it into what’s known as esquites, a popular Mexican street food.

I transformed the critical elements of this famous street food into a vegetable-packed salad. Each serving has crisp, crunchy produce that complements the lightly charred sweet corn kernels. A creamy chipotle dressing ties all the components together.

Key Ingredients

Ingredients needed to make this Mexican street corn salad recipe.
  • Corn: The sweetest ears of fresh corn can be found in the United States during the summertime, between June and September. The best taste is right after harvesting, so buy locally, if possible, or use it right after purchasing it. The husk should be bright green, with a tight husk surrounding the ear, with a good amount of silk. Take a peek and look for firm, plump kernels near the tip.
  • Salad Mix-ins: To add a crunchy and creamy texture to the tender corn kernels. Use a mixture of diced red onion, bell pepper, cucumber, avocado, garlic, jalapeno, cilantro, and queso fresco cheese.
  • Dressing: For a citrusy creamy dressing with a hint of heat, combine Greek yogurt, lime juice, chipotle chili, cumin, salt, and pepper.

Grill the corn

Season the corn with olive oil, salt, and pepper before cooking. The fat helps to create a protective layer so the kernels don’t dry out too fast—the corn cooks on a hot grill between 400 to 450ºF ( 204 to 232ºC). The high heat will quickly turn the starchy kernels into tender pieces with a smoky char on the surface.

Keep a close eye on the barbecue, as you don’t want completely burnt ears of corn. I like to keep a thin layer of husk on as a bit of insurance to prevent burning. The process takes about 10 to 12 minutes. Slice the kernels off the cob when cooled down.

Add flavorful mix-ins

Colorful salad ingredients in a large mixing bowl.

For a balanced salad with contrasting textures, I add a blend of crisp and creamy ingredients. The produce that I selected to add to the base of the corn salad are cucumbers, bell peppers, red onions, avocado, garlic, chopped cilantro, and jalapeno for heat. For extra allium flavor, add sliced green onions.

Add some mild Queso Fresco cheese. If you like a more intense flavor, use crumbled Cotija cheese or tangy feta cheese. For extra protein, add black beans or pinto beans to the bowl.

Make the dressing

Mexican street corn, or elotes, is commonly topped with mayonnaise. For a lightened-up version, I use plain nonfat Greek yogurt instead. The yogurt adds creaminess, protein, and probiotics for a healthier alternative. Sour cream is a tangy alternative if you have that already in your refrigerator. 

I add ground cumin, smoky chipotle chili powder, fresh lime zest, and juice to enhance the dairy’s flavor. The combination is citrusy and spicy. Toss half of the dressing with the salad in a large bowl, then drizzle the rest on top or serve on the side.

Flavor variations

The are various ways to customize this delicious Mexican street corn salad recipe. Try these tasty suggestions:

  • Spicy: Make it spicy with fire-roasted chopped green chilies or add canned chipotle chiles to the sauce. Increase the chili powder or add in cayenne.
  • Avocado: Blend avocado into the dressing to make an extra creamy green sauce.
  • Sweet: Add some honey or maple syrup into the dressing for a sweet and tangy flavor. Add diced mango, pineapple, or strawberries to the salad mix in’s.
  • Protein: Add diced grilled chicken, steak, shrimp, and black or pinto beans for extra protein.
  • Creaminess: Use mayonnaise instead of Greek yogurt or sour cream in the dressing.
  • Corn: If fresh corn on the cobb is not in season, use canned or frozen corn instead. They can be sauteed in butter or olive oil to lightly brown the surface.

Serve this with

Frequently asked questions

What’s the difference between elotes and esquites?

They have similar flavor components; smoky grilled corn topped with a creamy sauce, lime, and spicy seasonings. Elotes are served on the cob, whereas an esquites recipe is sliced kernels in a cup.

Is Mexican street corn salad served hot or cold?

I prefer to serve it with freshly grilled corn that’s still hot for a warm salad. But the salad can be made ahead and served cold.

Can canned or frozen corn be used?

You can use pre-cooked canned or frozen corn. Drain the liquid from the can, then saute the corn in some olive oil over medium-high heat until lightly charred. Do the same cooking technique with defrosted frozen corn.

Colorful and delicious corn salad side dish perfect for a summertime barbecue.

Recipe Science

Wait to shuck the corn

Purchase corn with the husk and silk still attached for the sweetest kernels. As it’s exposed to air and loses water, the natural sugars convert to starch. They won’t be as juicy and sweet. If that’s only available, pre-shucked and packaged corn at the store should be your backup option.

Mexican Street Corn Salad with Chipotle Dressing

Here is a deliciously easy way to switch up your summer or BBQ side dish game. This Mexican street corn salad is the perfect choice!
4.95 from 67 votes
Prep Time20 minutes
Cook Time20 minutes
Total Time40 minutes
Servings 8 servings
Course Salad
Cuisine Mexican

Ingredients 
 

Salad

  • 4 ears of corn, about 3 cups of kernels
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • kosher salt, for seasoning
  • black pepper, for seasoning
  • ½ cup red onion, ¼” dice
  • ½ cup red bell pepper, ¼” dice
  • ½ cup cucumber, ¼” dice
  • 1 avocado, ¼” dice
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon minced jalapeño
  • 1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
  • ½ cup queso fresco, or cotija cheese

Dressing

  • ¼ cup plain greek yogurt, or sour cream
  • ½ teaspoon lime zest
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • ¼ teaspoon chipotle chili powder
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper

Instructions 

  • Prepare the Corn – Remove the husk and the silk. Lightly brush each corn cob with olive oil—lightly season salt and pepper.
  • Grill the Corn – Preheat the grill over high heat, about 400 to 450ºF (204 to 232ºC). Add a small amount of vegetable oil to a folded piece of paper towel, and carefully grease the grill grates.
    Once ready, add the corn. Close the lid and cook for about 2 to 3 minutes on each side, flipping and covering, about 12 minutes total. There should be some char marks on each side. Transfer to a plate and cool
  • Cut the Kernels – Stand the ear of corn upright on a cutting board. Holding the stem, use a chef's knife to carefully cut the kernels off the cob.
  • Mix the Salad Ingredients – In a large bowl, combine corn, onion, bell pepper, cucumber, avocado, garlic, jalapeno, cilantro, and ¼ cup of queso fresco cheese. Set aside, or cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
  • Make the Dressing – In a medium bowl, whisk together yogurt, lime zest, lime juice, chipotle chili powder, cumin, salt, and pepper. Slowly drizzle in olive oil, continuously whisking until dressing is smooth—season with salt and pepper to taste.
  • To Serve – Before serving, combine the salad with half the dressing. Drizzle the remaining dressing on top. Crumble ½ cup of queso fresco on top and garnish with cilantro.

Recipe Video

YouTube video

Notes

  • Recipe Yield: 5 cups
  • Serving Size: About cup
  • Using Canned Corn or Frozen: You will need 3 cups of kernels. Make sure to defrost the corn. You can add them directly to the salad or saute them in olive oil over medium-high heat until the surface is lightly charred.
  • Storing: Store in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
  • If Not Serving Immediately: Wait to cut the avocado. Alternatively, add diced avocado to 1 cup of water plus 1 tablespoon of lime or lemon juice and allow to soak for 5 minutes before draining and adding to the salad. Cover and eat within 2 hours. This helps slow down the browning.

Nutrition Facts

Serves: 8 servings
Calories 177kcal (9%)Carbohydrates 17g (6%)Protein 7g (14%)Fat 9g (14%)Saturated Fat 2g (10%)Polyunsaturated Fat 1gMonounsaturated Fat 5gCholesterol 6mg (2%)Sodium 157mg (7%)Potassium 266mg (8%)Fiber 5g (20%)Sugar 7g (8%)Vitamin A 1950IU (39%)Vitamin C 77.6mg (94%)Calcium 90mg (9%)Iron 0.7mg (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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33 Comments Leave a comment or review

  1. Pamela Harriman says

    Jessica: I’d make this right now but I don’t have a BBQ grill. Is there a way to work around this problem?

    Thanks,

    Pamela

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Yes, you can cut the kernels off the cobb and saute the corn in a little butter or oil until lightly charred and cooked through.

  2. Jose says

    I make a similar dish. I peel some of the husk off but leave some on so the kernels don’t get too burned or dried out. Also, I soak the corn ears in milk or a milk and water solution for a couple of hours before grilling them. Trader Joe’s sells roasted corn kernels in the frozen food section. Not as good as my grilled corn, but much easier, faster and less messy!

  3. Debbie says

    This salad is delicious, so fresh and perfect with corn in season. I had to keep reminding myself that the decadent dressing is actually healthy with yogurt as the base. Got a late start on dinner, but my husband said it was worth the wait….he loved the salad that much! Thank you for this fabulous recipe!!

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