Esquites: Mexican Corn Off the Cob

Esquites

The Spruce Eats / Kristina Vanni

Prep: 10 mins
Cook: 20 mins
Total: 30 mins
Servings: 6 servings

Mexican corn on the cob (elote) is becoming quite well-known outside of Mexico. Less well known—though equally delicious (plus easier to serve)—are esquites (pronounced es-KEE-tehs), or corn kernels off the cob. This fresh and flavorful corn side dish features salty queso, jalapeño, and crema, and is always a hit.

For the classic Mexican street food experience, serve your esquites in disposable cups and eat with a plastic spoon. Add some powdered chile pepper (such as chile piquin) to the mixture, or have it available for each person to add to taste to their individual portions.

For an herbaceous twist, try incorporating some aromatic Mexican herbs into the esquites. Simply add one teaspoon of dried oregano, one teaspoon dried epazote, and 1/2 teaspoon of ground cumin to the mixture before plating and serving.

Ingredients

  • 5 to 6 medium ears corn (peeled and cleaned)
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 jalapeño pepper (seeded and diced)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup queso fresco (crumbled)
  • 1/4 cup Mexican crema
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro (coarsely chopped)
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice (freshly squeezed)
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • Garnish: Fresh cilantro, queso fresco, lime wedges, cayenne pepper (optional)

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Esquites ingredients
     The Spruce Eats / Kristina Vanni
  2. Cut the kernels from each ear of corn until you have 4 cups of fresh kernels.

    Corn kernels being cut off a fresh ear
    The Spruce Eats / Kristina Vanni
  3. Heat the vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the jalapeño pepper and sauté for 2 minutes.

    Jalapeno and oil in a pan
     The Spruce Eats / Kristina Vanni
  4. Add the corn kernels and season with salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until toasted and golden brown, about 10 to 15 minutes.

    Corn kernels cooking in a pan
     The Spruce Eats / Kristina Vanni
  5. Remove from the heat and allow the corn to cool for about 5 minutes. Transfer to a large mixing bowl. Add the crumbled queso fresco, Mexican crema, chopped cilantro, lime juice, and chili powder. Stir to combine.

    Cooked corn in a bowl with toppings on the side
     The Spruce Eats / Kristina Vanni
  6. Transfer the esquites to your serving dish and garnish with additional fresh cilantro and queso fresco. Serve with lime wedges. Dust with cayenne pepper, if desired.

    Esquites with limes and cilantro on the side
     The Spruce Eats / Kristina Vanni
  7. Enjoy warm or at room temperature. The corn can be cooked up to a day in advance and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Bring to room temperature for about 15 minutes before assembling the salad. Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Tips

  • To keep the corn kernels from escaping your cutting board and falling all over your countertop, cut each ear of corn over a bundt pan. The tip of the ear of corn nestles perfectly into the round hole in the center of the pan and holds it in place. Then, as you cut down the sides of the ear of corn, the kernels fall neatly and easily into the pan.
  • If you have leftover esquites, they can be repurposed into a variety of dishes. (Of course, you could always just make an extra batch so you can enjoy them over and over again!) Add to rice or scrambled eggs, sprinkled over a salad, add to a soup or stew, or mix with rajas de poblano (poblano chile strips with cream).