Mexican Street Corn (Elote)

Mexican street corn with cheese, cilantro, and lime

 Leah Maroney / The Spruce

  • Total: 28 mins
  • Prep: 10 mins
  • Cook: 18 mins
  • Servings: 8 servings

Mexican street corn—or elote (eh-LO-tay) as it's called in Spanish—is salty, sweet, crunchy, and creamy in every bite. It hits all the right flavor notes, especially hot off the grill in the summer months when fresh corn is at its peak and abundantly available at every market.

For a snack with so many layers of flavor, the recipe is quite simple. Roast corn still in its husks (it keeps them moist). Then, roll the ears of corn in a garlicky lime crema and crumbly queso fresco, a Mexican cow's milk cheese that's incredibly addictive. (Pro tip: Try it mixed into scrambled eggs, sprinkled atop avocado toast, or to jazz up a plain romaine salad—and thank us later).

Queso fresco and cotija cheese are fresh Mexican cheeses that are both super crumbly and tangy. You can substitute with another similarly textured cheese such as feta if you can't find either of these two options at the local supermarket. Feta, however, is a little saltier so you may want to use less of it. (Looking for a weekend cooking project? Making queso fresco from scratch is easier than you think.)

Elotes often include a pre-made spice mix called Tajín seasoning, which includes common ingredients used in Mexican cooking: ground red chiles, sea salt, and dehydrated lime juice. This recipe calls for chili powder but by all means if you have Tajín, use it. Just cut back on the salt, as it's already in the blend.

Ingredients

  • 8 ears sweet corn
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 lime (juiced)
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese (finely grated)
  • 3/4 cup of queso fresco or cotija cheese (crumbled)
  • 1/3 cup cilantro (chopped)
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients and preheat a grill to medium heat.

  2. Roast the corn on medium heat until sweet and tender, about 15 minutes.

  3. Husk the corn toward the end of cooking and char corn directly on the hot grill for extra flavor and color, about 3 minutes.

  4. In a medium bowl, bring together the sour cream, mayonnaise, and lime juice.

  5. Using a microplane or a garlic press, grate the garlic into the mixture. Add the salt and whisk to combine.

  6. Spread the mayo mixture onto a flat plate. Combine the Parmesan cheese and queso fresco on a separate flat plate.

  7. Roll the corn in the mayo mixture to completely coat each ear. You can use corn on the cob holders to help you roll them; tongs will also work. Do the same in the cheese mixture and set the corn aside on a platter.

  8. Top the corn with chopped cilantro and a sprinkle of chili powder. Serve immediately.

What's the Difference Between Elote and Esquites?

Esquites is the same thing as elote, it's just completely off the cob instead of on it, which turns it into something resembling a salad or straight-up side dish—and a great make-ahead item for a party or picnic. They're both highly addictive snacky street food in Mexico; esquites is often served in a cup and eaten with a fork or a spoon. This preparation is best warm, but it's also delicious served cold.

Recipe Variation

If you do not want to roast the corn on a grill, or don't have grill access, the corn can be roasted in the oven.

  • Trim the top silk/tassels off the corn, but leave the husks on.
  • Place corn cobs directly on the oven rack in a 350 F oven, and allow to roast until husks are dried out and golden brown, about 30 minutes.
  • Remove from oven, cool for a few minutes until you're able to husk, then proceed with the recipe as above.

How to Store Elote

This is one of those dishes that's really best eaten warm right on the cob. However, if you have leftovers, you can keep them wrapped in foil or in a covered container for up to 3 days, and then reheat in the oven, wrapped, at 350 F for about 10 to 15 minutes. It won't be like new, but it will still taste good. Otherwise, scrape those kernels, crema, and seasoning on them, and store in a covered container for 2 to 3 days. Serve the leftovers as esquites.