This grilled Mexican street corn salad recipe is delicious! It’s a healthy side dish packed with freshly chopped vegetables and crumbly cheese tossed in a creamy chipotle dressing.
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. Traditionally enjoyed as a handheld snack, you can also slice off the cob and serve it in a cup or bowl known as esquites.
I transformed the critical elements of this popular 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.
You can find the sweetest ears of fresh corn during the summertime, between June and September in the United States. The best taste is right after harvesting, so buy local 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.
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
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 jalapeño for heat.
Add some crumbled, mild Queso Fresco or tangy Cotija cheese if you like a more intense flavor. For extra protein, add black beans or pinto beans to the bowl.
Make the dressing
Mexican street corn (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, then drizzle the rest on top or serve on the side.
Serving the salad
The grilled corn salad can be served fresh off the grill with warm kernels or chilled. The salad ingredients are very hearty, and the components can be made ahead. Although, I would wait to add the diced avocados until right before serving.
If making the salad the same day but not serving right away, I like to soak the avocados in 1 cup of water and 1 tablespoon of lime or lemon juice for 5 minutes, drain, and add to the salad, then cover and chill. This technique slows down the oxidative browning process.
Serve this with
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 esquites are 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.
- 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
- 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
- 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 – 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 Yield: 5 cups
- Serving Size: About ⅔ 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 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.