Smoky, sweet, salty, tangy, and slightly spicy flavors all meld together perfectly in this Mexican Street Corn Salad. It’s essentially elotes in a bowl that is smothered in a rich, creamy sauce. Ideal for sharing on Cinco De Mayo, at potlucks, or at summer barbecues.
After visiting Mexico and trying fresh elotes from street carts, I was hooked. I’m also hooked on Baja Fish Tacos, which was inspired by my visit. An easier way to prepare and serve elotes is in a giant corn salad that’s sure to impress. It includes corn kernels sauteed in butter until browned and smoky, then tossed with Mexican crema, cojita cheese, mayo, cilantro, red onion, lime juice, and spices.
Mexican Corn Salad is about as easy as it gets. Besides browning the corn kernels, you simply mix together all the ingredients in one bowl. It also stores and transports well, and can be prepped at least a day in advance. Let’s start with what you’ll need.
Ingredients You’ll Need for Mexican Street Corn Salad
- Corn kernels: I prefer fresh cut corn kernels, but you could also use frozen or canned
- Butter: For sauteeing the corn to add a smoky flavor
- Cotija cheese: A popular Mexican cheese that is dry, crumbly, and loaded with salty flavor
- Fresh cilantro: Adds loads of flavor and nice color
- Red onion: For a bit of spice
- Mexican crema: Similar to sour cream, but has a thinner consistency and a richer, saltier flavor
- Mayonnaise: Helps with flavor and consistency
- Lime juice: Adds quintessential elotes flavor
- Smoked paprika: Pairs well with the roasted flavors of the corn
- Cumin and chili powder: Also adds important flavor common in elotes and a bit of spice
It’s All About the Corn
It’s critical to sautee the corn to add a smoky flavor, as well as a signature look of roasted corn. It’s easiest to cook in a pan with a bit of butter. If you have a cast-iron pan, you can get a better sear.
Browning the corn is easy. Simply melt a bit of butter in a pan over medium-high heat. Add the corn, and sautee for 5-7 minutes, until tender and browned. You could also grill the corn for an extra smoky flavor.
Fresh or Frozen Corn
I prefer fresh corn for the best flavor. Depending on if it’s in season, it can also be cheaper than frozen or canned corn. It does require a bit more cooking to become tender, but that also means you can get more of a sear on it.
If you can’t find fresh corn cobs or want a quicker method, use frozen or canned corn. No need to defrost the corn, just cook and brown. If using canned corn, be sure to drain it well before adding it to the pan.
How to Remove Corn from the Cob
If using fresh corn, you’ll want to remove the corn kernels. This is simply done by slicing vertically with a knife to cut the kernels off the cob. Don’t cut too deep or you’ll get some of the tough, fibrous parts.
Dressing for Street Corn Salad
Another classic part of Mexican Corn Salad is the sauce it’s coated in. Typically it’s made from a mixture of Mexican crema (or sour cream), cojita cheese, mayo, and lime juice. Just a bit of crema and mayo is needed, as you don’t want the salad to be too liquidy.
How to Store and Serve It
- You can prepare the salad the day before if needed. In fact, this gives time for the flavors to meld together. Otherwise you can make the day off.
- Mexican Corn Salad can be served hot or cold. I serve mine cold, but experiment to see which you prefer.
- It also stores and transports well. Simply store in a sealed container in the fridge for up to 5 days, but it’s best served sooner.
What to Serve With Mexican Corn Salad
This salad goes with pretty much any grilled food, or other Mexican-themed dishes. Here are some of my favorites you could serve it with.
- Beer-Battered Fish Tacos
- White Sauce Crab Enchiladas
- Slow Cooker Carnitas Enchiladas
- Mexican Shrimp Cocktail
- Grilled London Broil
- Grilled Chicken Breast
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Mexican Street Corn Salad
- 4 cups corn kernels, fresh, frozen, or canned
- 2 tablespoons salted butter
- ½ cup cotija cheese, crumbled, plus extra for garnish
- ½ cup chopped fresh cilantro
- ¼ cup finely chopped red onion
- 3 tablespoons Mexican crema, or sour cream
- 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
- 2 limes, juiced
- ¼ teaspoon smoked paprika
- ¼ teaspoon ground cumin
- ¼ teaspoon chili powder
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ⅛ teaspoon black pepper
- If using fresh corn on the cob, use a knife to vertically slice the kernels from the cob. If using canned corn, drain and discard the liquid.
- Melt the butter in a cast-iron skillet or non-stick pan over medium-high heat. Add the corn kernels. Sautee for 5-7 minutes, until browned and tender. You may need to sear in separate batches depending on your pan size.
- Remove the pan from the heat and cool corn completely to room temperature.
- Transfer the corn to a large bowl and stir in remaining ingredients until well combined.
- Sprinkle with a bit of crumbled cojita cheese and garnish with chopped cilantro. Chill until ready to serve. The salad can be served warm or cold.