Mexican Roasted Corn (Elote Salad)

Inspired by Mexican roasted corn, this elote salad has a bright and creamy flavor that is always a crowd pleaser. Can be served chilled or at room temperature. 

Mexican roasted corn salad in a black bowl, garnished with lime wedges.

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 love this type of corn so much that I’ll put it on top of Mexican bratwurst. I’ll serve it in little tortilla cups as mini elote. I’ve even published a guide on how to make elote in a cup (a DIY-style “bar” for a party).

This elote salad has all the classic flavors of Mexican roasted corn, but served in an easy-to-eat off-the-cob format. Make a round of tequila mojitos or agave lemonade, grill some burgers, and let’s make roasted street corn salad!

Mexican roasted corn salad in a black bowl, garnished with lime wedges.

What is elote?:

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 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.

Ingredients for elote salad on a wooden surface, including corn kernels, creamy sauce, feta cheese, chopped red onion and garlic.

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.

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 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 it warm right away, or cover and refrigerate it up to 2 days before serving. Serve this elote corn salad next to a slab of root beer ribs or crock pot ribs and enjoy!

Elote salad in black bowl on wooden surface with blue napkin.

What are the ingredients in roasted street corn?

  • sweet corn
  • diced green chiles
  • garlic
  • red onion
  • cotija or feta cheese
  • cilantro
  • lime juice
  • mayonnaise
  • sour cream
  • chili powder
  • cayenne pepper
  • salt

What kind of cheese is in 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. 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.

Closeup on corn and feta cheese salad dish.

Do I have to use fresh corn for Mexican roasted corn? Can I use frozen corn?

Yes, just like with my corn casserole with cheese, 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!

Corn dish with cheese and red onions in a black bowl, garnished with lime wedges.

I don’t like mayonnaise. What can I substitute for it in this elote 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.

More great summer salad recipes:

All of these salads are great to prep in advance and take to the beach, or on a picnic!

Yield: 4 servings

Mexican Roasted Corn (Elote Salad)

Mexican roasted corn salad in a black bowl, garnished with lime wedges.

Inspired by Mexican roasted corn, this elote salad has a bright and creamy flavor that is always a crowd pleaser. Can be served chilled or at room temperature. 

Prep Time 25 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 55 minutes

Ingredients

  • 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

Instructions

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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: 313Total Fat: 18gSaturated Fat: 7gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 8gCholesterol: 36mgSodium: 547mgCarbohydrates: 31gFiber: 4gSugar: 8gProtein: 12g

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Collage of images of ingredients and finished dish with overlay Mexican Roasted Corn ELOTE SALAD.