Elote Corn Salad (Mexican Roasted Corn)
Inspired by Mexican roasted corn, this elote corn salad has a bright and creamy flavor that is always a crowd pleaser. Can be served chilled or at room temperature.
If it’s summer, then it’s just about time for me to publish some sort of Mexican corn recipe!
Here in the Midwest, corn is so plentiful that sometimes it feels like the farmers are almost paying you to take it off of their hands.
Once you get it home, there’s all kinds of things to do with it, particularly if you’re a fan of the Mexican street food snack called elote.
I’ve even published a guide on how to make an elote bar (where everyone can DIY their own elote in a cup for a party).
This elote corn salad has all the classic flavors of Mexican roasted corn, but served in an easy-to-eat off-the-cob format.
What is elote corn?:
Traditional elote (Mexican roasted corn) is fresh corn on the cob, generally grilled or boiled, that is coated with mayonnaise and toppings like chili powder, cheese, lime juice and hot sauce.
A version of elote corn where the roasted street corn kernels are cut from the cob and mixed with the toppings is called esquites. This version is eaten with a spoon.
So, the elote salad recipe below is actually most similar to esquites, although elote seems to be the term that Americans recognize more often.
What are the ingredients in roasted street corn?
- corn – you can use fresh or frozen corn for this recipe, and I talk about that in more detail later in this post. Any extra corn can be used to make mushroom tacos.
- diced green chiles – buy a small can of these and drain the excess liquid out before using them.
- garlic – two small garlic cloves, minced, add a lot of flavor to this salad.
- red onion – I like the color and flavor of red onion in elote salad, but white onion or even some green onions would work as well.
- cheese – cotija is my cheese of choice, but I discuss other options below.
- cilantro – this brings some green freshness to the salad. Buy extra cilantro so you can make Sonoran hot dogs, too!
- lime juice – adds a tangy brightness to elote corn salad, as well as strawberry Moscow mules!
- mayonnaise – I love the creaminess that mayo provides, but I discuss other options below.
- sour cream – adds more creamininess and tanginess, too.
- chili powder – this adds a little bit of smoky heat.
- cayenne pepper – this adds even more heat to the roasted corn. You can use more or less cayenne depending on your taste.
- salt – crucial for seasoning the salad to perfection!
How to make elote salad:
Roasting makes almost any vegetable more delicious, including roasted radicchio and this Mexican roasted corn, so we’ll start by roasting the corn for this Mexican corn recipe.
After cutting kernels off of fresh ears of corn (I also love fresh corn in my acini de pepe pasta salad!), roast the kernels for 30 to 40 minutes to bring out their sweetness.
While the kernels are roasting, make the elote salad sauce by combining minced garlic, finely diced red onion, crumbled cotija cheese, chopped cilantro, fresh lime juice, diced green chiles (also a key ingredient for my taco mac and cheese), mayonnaise, sour cream, chili powder, cayenne and salt.
When the corn finishes roasting, let it cool just slightly, and then toss the corn with the sauce. Sprinkle the salad with a bit more cheese.
Then, serve the roasted street corn salad warm right away, or cover and refrigerate it up to 2 days before serving.
What kind of cheese is best for elote corn salad?
I generally like to use either cotija or feta cheese in this roasted street corn salad. Cotija cheese is a dry, firm Mexican cheese that is quite salty.
Bon Appetit calls cotija “the salty, crumbly, addictive cheese that we’d find any excuse to eat,” and I have to agree!
While it’s not something I would eat on it’s own, it’s saltiness makes it perfect to balance the sweetness of the corn in this elote corn salad.
But if I’m shopping at a store where cotija is not available, I won’t go out of my way and make another stop to find it just for this Mexican corn salad. I’ll just grab a tub or a chunk of feta cheese to use in this Mexican roasted corn instead.
While not exactly the same, feta has a similar salty flavor profile and crumbly texture as cotija, and works just fine for this elote salad.
For a unique twist, you could even crumble some goat cheese into this salad, especially if you have extra after making my fried goat cheese salad!
Do I have to use fresh corn for Mexican roasted corn? Can I use frozen corn?
Yes, just like with my cheesy corn casserole, you can definitely use frozen corn for roasted street corn!
In fact, I’ve made this elote corn salad using frozen corn myself several times when fresh corn wasn’t quite in season in my area.
If using frozen corn, try to thaw and pat the kernels dry before making Mexican roasted corn.
Also, be aware that they may take a little bit longer to roast than fresh corn kernels, because even after you dry them, they’ll still likely be a little more “wet” than fresh kernels.
Keep an eye on them while they’re roasting, and just cook as long as it takes until they become golden brown.
I have not tried making this elote salad with canned corn, as I prefer frozen to canned when fresh is not available, but I think as long as you pat it dry before roasting, it would work!
I don’t like mayonnaise. What can I substitute for it in this elote corn salad?
Hey, if you’re a mayonnaise hater, you can still enjoy this elote corn salad. Just use extra sour cream, or Greek yogurt (you can also use these substitutes in my coleslaw with celery seed and seafood pasta salad).
So, you would need 1/4 cup sour cream or 1/4 cup Greek yogurt if you’re leaving out the mayonnaise in this elote salad.
I’ve tried this roasted street corn salad all three ways, and it’s delicious every time.
If you have extra Greek yogurt after making this Mexican corn recipe, try my frozen yogurt pie!
- 6 ears of sweet corn, silks and husks removed
- Nonstick cooking spray
- 2 small garlic cloves, minced
- 1/2 small red onion, finely chopped (about 1/2 cup)
- 3/4 cup crumbled cotija or feta cheese, divided
- 1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
- 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
- 2 tablespoons canned diced green chiles
- 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
- 2 tablespoons sour cream
- 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
- 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper (or 1/4 teaspoon if you’d like it more spicy)
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Cut corn kernels from cobs. Spray rimmed baking pan with nonstick spray. Spread corn in single layer on prepared pan. Roast 30 to 40 minutes or until golden brown, stirring twice.
- Meanwhile, in large bowl, stir together garlic, onion, 1/2 cup cheese, cilantro, lime juice, green chiles, mayonnaise, sour cream, chili powder, cayenne and salt.
- Let corn cool slightly, then toss with mayonnaise mixture until well combined. Serve sprinkled with remaining 1/4 cup cheese. Serve immediately, or cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days. Can be served cold or at room temperature.
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Nutrition Information:Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 304Total Fat: 16gSaturated Fat: 6gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 8gCholesterol: 29mgSodium: 842mgCarbohydrates: 37gFiber: 4gSugar: 8gProtein: 10g
This website provides estimated nutrition information as a courtesy only. You should calculate the nutritional information with the actual ingredients used in your recipe using your preferred nutrition calculator.