This easy recipe for esquites, a Mexican corn salad, is basically a salad version of elote grilled Mexican corn on the cob. (Jump directly to the recipe.)
“What? How do you make this?” asked my French friend Sandrine. She took another healthy helping of the Mexican corn salad and was peppering me with questions about the recipe. Apparently she and her wife had become utterly obsessed with elote, Mexican style grilled corn on the cob while vacationing Mexico a few years ago. They would visit this one restaurant (really a shack), with a line down the sidewalk, each day just to get a taste of the grilled corn slathered with lime and Mexican cheese. Esquites, or Mexican corn salad is basically the same thing, just in salad form, as opposed to on the cob.
I had brought the corn salad up to a weekend picnic in Napa with Sandrine and friends. Being a Midwestern boy, corn was de rigueur when lunching al fresco. Though originally I had thought we could eat corn on the cob grilled at the picnic, I decided that it should be a salad instead to keep us all from gnawing at the cob in mixed company. Not that I am against that sort of thing, but it just seemed easier all the way around. Plus I’ve been wanting to make Esquites ever since I had it in Texas at my friend Kelly’s home last summer.
Sandrine was thrilled when I told her the recipe was dead easy, just some grilled corn (I used my broiler because our grill is dead and we haven’t bought a new one) and mix in a few ingredients like lime, Cotija (Mexican cheese), a spoonful of mayo and some spices. She exclaimed that the corn salad was pretty much exactly how she remembered it to be like in Mexico…but without needing to wait in line or, you know, the passport (French OR American). That has, to be one of my favorite compliments when it comes to food…I just love being able to transport people to far away places with a simple forkful.
Esquites, otherwise known as Mexican Corn Salad
By Irvin Lin
This easy and tasty corn salad is basically Mexican grilled corn (elote) turned into a side dish. It relies on only a few ingredients but it’s packed full of flavor. I like to grill the corn, to give the dish a tinge of smoke but if you don’t have a grill, just use the broiler instead, placing the corn under the broiler for 5 minutes initially, or until it starts to char and then rotating the corn 90˚ and letting the other sides of the corn char in 2-3 minutes. Cotija, by the way, is a hard cow milk Mexican cheese that can be found in most grocery stores, but if you can’t find it, feta will work in it’s place.
Adapted from a recipe by The Kitchn
3 tablespoons olive oil
6 ears corn, husked
1 garlic clove
1-3 Serrano pepper (depending on your heat preference)
2 oz (1/4 cup) crumbled Cotija cheese (see note above)
2 tablespoon mayonnaise
3 tablespoon chopped cilantro
2 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
juice from 1 lime
zest from 1 lime
plus additional salt and pepper to taste
1. Turn your grill on high heat. While it heats up, husk the ears of corn and brush the oil onto them. Place the corn on the hot grill and let sit on the grill until the bottom side starts to char and then rotate the corn 90˚. Repeat until the entire ear of corn is charred, about 10 minutes on the grill. Remove and let cool. If you don’t have a grill, see the headnote above about using the broiler.
2. While the corn is cooling, finely mince the garlic (or force the garlic through a garlic press) and place in a large bowl. Finely dice the Serrano pepper, leaving in the inside members and seeds if you like your food spicy hot and place in the bowl with the garlic. Add the cilantro to the bowl. Crumble the Cotjia cheese and add the mayonnaise, chili powder, paprika, oregano, cumin, salt and pepper in the bowl. Add the juice and zest of the lime to the bowl.
3. Once the corn has cooled enough to handle, cut the corn off the cob and add it to the bowl. Mix until all the ingredients are evenly distributed then taste and adjust seasoning with more salt and pepper if necessary.
Makes enough for 4 to 6 people as a side dish.
If you like this esquites (Mexican Corn Salad) recipe, check out my Spicy Guacamole with grilled avocados and grilled corn. And try these other Mexican recipes from around the web featuring corn:
Muy Bueno Cookbook’s Zucchini and Corn Tamales
Verses from my Kitchen’s Winter Mexican Corn Soup
Our Best Bites’ Mexican Sweet Corn Cakes
Skinnytaste’s Mexican Shrimp Cobb Salad
Recipe Girl’s Creamy Mexican Turkey Soup
Jenn L @ Peas and Crayons says
I cannot wait to try this! I adore that you’ve turned street corn into an easier to eat side dish that won’t have me plowing through a pack of toothpicks while I eat it!
Yes, please! This salad sounds so good–I bet it would be perfect with a slab of spicy grilled fish with a whack of lime juice. Now I REALLY can’t wait for the summer corn to hit the farmer’s market. 🙂
Christine from Cook the Story says
I’m making up a new word for this dish… fabudelicious! This looks SO good!
Shikha @ Shikha la mode says
This looks amazing – definitely looks like it has some inspiration from Texas. I feel that in SF we don’t use corn that much- I wonder why.
Pamela @ Brooklyn Farm Girl says
I need this for dinner sometime soon! Looks great!
I just want to slather a steak in it!
Suné Moolman says
I love that you used smoked paprika with this, it looks gorgeous!
Toni | Boulder Locavore says
This is my type of dish! Love the textures and the flavors sound to be perfection. A visual feast as well!
This looks amazing!! Definitely something I plan to add to my list of summer culinary endeavors…. Just to clarify, though, the cotija you referenced is the Mexican cheese, not Mexican corn (as listed above), correct? I just wanted to be sure this wasn’t a different, less familiar, variety of corn or something. LOL, which, I suppose speaks to my ignorance when it comes to Latin ingredients. Gguh! I guess it’s one thing to love the cuisine, and another thing to know it, right? Anyway, thanks for the recipe. Can’t wait to try.
Sorry, I just noticed the recipe DOES confirm the cotija is the CHEESE, not corn (as stated earlier in the blog). To be honest, your photography was captivating enough I didn’t even read past the blogging portion. Was already salivating over the photos. Oops! Now that I’ve made myself look completely incompetent and ignorant, I’ll bid you good-day. LOL Thanks again 😛
Whoops! Sorry about that typo in the blog post. Glad you caught it and saw it (correctly) in the recipe. And you’re definitely not incompetent and ignorant! That would clearly be me, who typed the wrong word in the post! Let me know if you make the recipe and how it turns out for you. 🙂
Upholstery Cleaning Clapham says
Amazing salad! I want to try it right now! Looking soo tasty!
Miss Kim @ behgopa says
Omg this looks unbelievably good! I love love corn….and love cheese just as much! It would so hit the spot right now. It looks like an amazing dish to eat by itself or be an accompaniment to whatever!
I’m making this right now to go with some garlic mojo pork tomorrow and wanted to share my tip for crumbling the Cotija: Pastry Cutter. Super quick, efficient, and clean.
That’s brilliant! I love the idea of using a pastry cutter for crumbling the Cotija. Thanks for sharing!
Kevin | keviniscooking says
Definitely making this one, looks incredible. Have been plotting new, healthy meals for after this Cleanse. It’s tortuous but I can’t help myself!
Made this – it was AMAZING. Going onto our 4th of July menu!
this looks yummy and easy. i love corn i just never eat it.
I don’t know how they got this recipe but when I was growing up in Mexico City they never made them like that
hotstar app for windows says
using a sharp knife, carefully cut corn kernels off cob. Add about 1/2″ water to a medium saucepan and salt ..
moto x3m says
I think it is a good idea, I have thought of it but not as detailed as you