Mexican Street Corn Salad
Best summer side dish ever! This creamy Mexican street corn salad (aka esquites) is incredibly easy and packed with the most amazing smoky, fresh flavors.
Consider this Mexican street corn salad the only summer side dish you even need to think about for the next couple of months.
You guys, it’s so good. Like, whoa-good. I made it on a whim a few weeks ago for a quick BBQ we were hosting last minute, and I’ve made it half a dozen times since. I can’t stop.
It’s one of those dishes that makes you squint with delicious concern and puzzlement as you work out what on earth could be in there to make you act like a complete crazy person as you elbow your way back in for seconds before you’ve even had time to finish your firsts.
It’s equal parts creamy and fresh (that lime!), and the smoky flavors + the toasted corn are insanely good.
Fresh corn vs frozen corn
If you’ve avoided corn salads in the past because of the whole dealing with fresh corn thing, you are in luck. This salad is fantastic using frozen corn kernels (I don’t thaw first) and toasting them in a skillet. The frozen corn from Trader Joe’s is life changingly delicious (but Costco frozen corn also has a solid place in my heart).
I will say, though, that in the peak of sweet corn season, I’m going to fight to get my hands on some fresh ears for this salad alone.
The beauty is that it’s not that difficult dealing with fresh corn for this salad. Brush the husked corn with oil or butter, throw it on a grill and turn it a couple of times while it cooks (it’ll start to char which is a good thing, just watch it closely). When it’s cool enough to handle, cut the kernels off and toss them in the creamy, zesty dressing.
I like to toss the corn and dressing together while the corn is still slightly warm. The salad is delicious served warm, room temp or even chilled. If it’s been refrigerated, it isn’t quite as creamy – still delicious, though. If chilled, you can rewarm just lightly on the stove or in the microwave to amp up the creaminess…or make more dressing and stir it in.
Between this Mexican street corn salad and this wildly delicious confetti corn side dish, my potluck popularity is looking very bright.
If you are already a fan of Elote (Mexican street corn), or even if you have no idea what that is, I think you’re going to fall head over heels for this easy street corn salad. Serve it up with some grilled chicken and fresh fruit and invite me over. That is my kind of summer meal, and I could shamelessly eat it over and over and over.
One Year Ago: Instant Pot Spaghetti
Two Years Ago: The Best Chicken, Pork, or Steak Marinade
Three Years Ago: Peanut Butter Chocolate Mousse Brownie Cake
Four Years Ago: Ginger Ale Mint Limeade
Five Years Ago: Brown Sugar Rhubarb Muffins with A Little Bit of Streusel On Top
Six Years Ago: Maple Pecan Crusted Salmon
Seven Years Ago: Black Bottom Pudding Pie
Eight Years Ago: Key Lime Bars
Mexican Street Corn Salad
- 3 to 4 cups frozen or fresh corn kernels, OR 6 to 7 ears fresh corn on the cob
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 tablespoon oil
- ¼ cup mayonnaise, light or regular
- ¼ cup sour cream, light or regular
- ¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro, plus more for topping
- 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 1 teaspoon salt, I use coarse, kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground cumin
- ⅛ to ¼ teaspoon smoked paprika, can sub regular paprika
- Pinch black pepper, I use coarsely ground
- ¼ to ½ cup crumbled cheese, like queso fresco, cotija, or feta
- Lime wedges or slices, for garnish
- For the corn: for corn kernels, heat the butter and oil in a skillet until sizzling. Add the corn in an even layer and let cook for 1-2 minutes without stirring. Continue to cook, tossing, until sizzling and golden, another 2-3 minutes. For corn on the cob, brush the corn with oil or melted butter and grill over medium heat until golden and starting to char, 3-4 minutes. When cool enough to handle, cut the kernels off the cob.
- For the dressing: in a medium bowl, whisk together the mayo, sour cream, cilantro, lime juice, chili powder, salt, cumin, paprika and pepper.
- Add the corn kernels and stir to combine well (I like to add the corn when it is still slightly warm). Add additional salt and pepper to taste, if needed.
- Sprinkle top of salad with cheese, additional cilantro, and serve with fresh lime wedges or slices. Salad is delicious warm, room temp, or chilled.
Recipe Source: inspired by many, many versions of this recipe online (just google, you’ll find tons)
82 Comments on “Mexican Street Corn Salad”
Have eliminated the salt all together because we love lots of cojita. Sometimes it’s still a lil too salty. Outside of reducing cojita, any tips to reduce or mask the salt flavor? More spice?
Despite the salt hit, this is still a favorite “meal” with some taco meat for the wife and I to sit at the table around the bowl and break tortillas together.
Different brands of mayo can have varying levels of salt, so you could look for a low-salt mayo and see if that helps.
This is the BOMB. It’s starts out tangy and citrusy and ends on a sweet creamy note. I loved it. And not super spicy which I love. My local taco truck makes it and it will light you on fire. This tastes exactly the same but won’t burn your mouth.
Delicious and simple! Perfect side dish for any taco Tuesday! Or add shredded chicken for a perfect summer lunch! YUM
This was a last minute addition to our Cinco de Mayo dinner and it was a huge hit! No leftovers for tomorrow…
This corn salad is so delicious! I don’t think anyone I’ve made it for has said they didn’t like it.
This is my favourite thing of all time. Just like a lot of things. But. This is so so so so so so good.
Loved this! What a great way to use frozen corn and make it special. I thought it looked like a lot of sauce, so I only used about half for 3c corn and it was perfect for me. Also good news, I now have sauce for tomorrow’s batch. 🙂 Great recipe Mel!!
I had a bunch of frozen corn that needed to get used up, so I gave this a try and it is now our family’s favorite side dish. This was awesome!
Made this with the tail end of our local corn for some friends who came for lunch. I watched each reach for second or third helpings. Delicious salad — and I happened to have smoked paprika on hand, which may be due to another of your recipes calling for it? 🙂
I only used 1/2 tsp salt.
I’ve made this a dozen times, at least, and it’s become THE favorite side dish for our meals. I serve it warm and chilled, and even the kids (who ‘hate’ dairy, cheese, mayonnaise, etc) have finished off every last kernel. I leave out the cilantro, increased the amount of corn by 2 cups, increased the lime juice, cumin and the smoked paprika, and have added diced pimento to the cold dish, and it’s perfect. It really is a matter of tasting as you go along, to get it just right for you. It’s even been stolen out of my lunch bag at work, lol.
Straight up addictive. My husband doesn’t like anything with sauce on it so I wasn’t planning on him eating it but he loved it more than me! I have started adding quite a bit more corn than the recipe calls for and it just makes it a little less saucy which I really like. Crazy crazy good!
I really want to fall in love with this recipe…but I just haven’t had a magical experience yet. I followed the recipe but used queso fresco instead of cotija, so I’m not sure if that’s part of my issue, or if I should be trying something else like using more than 1/8 t smoked paprika or upping the other seasonings or lime juice. Any suggestions welcome; I want this to knock my socks off!
What about amping up the lime juice and the salt and pepper? Simple, but will probably make a big impact.
I will try this today; thanks!
I feel a little silly to comment and rate this because I changed it so drastically. I intended to follow the recipe but realized at the last minute that I was almost out of corn! I ended up throwing in a couple cans of chickpeas. It was a winner! My husband ate the leftovers on tortilla chips.
I will try it your way next time.
I had no idea what Elote is but your Mexican street corn salad recipe sounds so good! Thankfully, it can be made with frozen corn so we can enjoy it every season.
I’ll just have to skip on the cilantro, I’m one of those people for whom it tastes like soap.
Thanks for the recipe, Mel!
Not only is this absolutely delicious, if you are using frozen corn, this is on the like level 2 easy scale! I have made this a half dozen times since your posting. Tonight, I was nearly out of frozen corn but still wanted the flavor, so I made it an actual “salad” with chopped romaine, some red cabbage, green onion, and what I had left of my bag of frozen corn. It was scrumptious! And so pretty with the colors of green and purple and yellow!
What a great idea, Theresa! Thanks for sharing!
Delicious with our tacos tonight. I crushed up flaming hot cheetos to serve on top and it was amazing.
OMG! This is sooooo good! I just made it to take to a gathering tomorrow afternoon and it took a great deal of restraint to stop ‘tasting’ it! This will definitely be made over and over again. I did add some chopped onion and poblano to the mix because, why not! Thanks for an awesome recipe!
Thanks for letting me know!
This is the best use of corn on the planet! Thank you for the great recipe, Mel!!
Made this for a cookout and it was great! Subbed flat leaf parsley for cilantro (husband thinks he hates cilantro) and added 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper. Thanks for another great recipe Mel!
This salad might be the best thing I have tasted this summer. I made a double batch yesterday for my daughter’s family birthday party (as a side dish to grilled steak and chicken tacos). I cried just a little when the bowl was empty at cleanup time. No need to despair for long. I will make it again this afternoon to accompany our leftovers. It is insanely delicious. Thanks again Mel for another slam dunk dish.
I made this 3 times over the holiday weekend because I had everything for it and 3 different events to go to. Needless to say, we like it a whole lot! I did go easy on the sauce the first time but after it’s refrigerated it doesn’t really matter if it was too saucy to begin with. It just makes it better! I added a bit more lime each time. Very delicious recipe. Thanks for a keeper!
This is delicious! So easy to put together. And I love what the cotija cheese adds to this dish. Will definitely make again and will be recommending frequently.
Not too saucy for me Mel, we love it exactly as written! I’ve made it twice now in the last three weeks!
I’m making this for the 4th…because I’ve made it so many times and can’t wait for my friends to taste it for our BBQ.
Having read some of the comments about it being too saucy, I added until the salad was just covered with dressing. It ended up leaving about a 1/4 of the dressing leftover. Ive made it multiple times within the past few weeks because it is so yummy and fresh. When I took it to a salad bar, it was the one that was raved about and had people asking for the recipe. When I said its from Mel at Mels Kitchen Cafe, someone responded, “Oh of course! I love everything she makes.”
Well you are awesome! Thanks for sharing that! And thanks for taking the time to comment and detail your review!
I made this recipe last night, actually was making it for a crowd so I did 4 portions of the corn and 3 of the dressing.. turned out great, didn’t have the suggested cheese so I used fresh grated Parmesan.. received quite a lot compliments on it…I will definitely make it again. Always love the recipes you post Mel.
Thanks for letting me know what you thought, Connie! Glad it was a hit with your crowd!
This is yummy, though I would reduce or eliminate salt altogether next time. I used the higher amounts of both the corn and cheese (used cotija, which is salty). Thanks for a great, easy recipe! I’ll be using it again and again.
I’m making this again for the second time this week cause I love it so much!! I used frozen corn and it was fantastic! And I might have liked the leftovers even more. Thanks Mel!
Thank YOU, Meg!
If I make this a day or two in advance will it still be good the next day? Or will the kernels get all wrinkled?
The leftovers we’ve had the next day are still tasty!
Made this tonight and it was a hit! I doubled the corn since it was a little saucy for my taste and used plain Greek yogurt in place of the sour cream. Also the smoked paprika really added a nice subtle smokey flavor. Paired this with some pulled pork sandwiches and we all finished dinner fat and happy lol!
Thanks for your review, Tasha – glad you enjoyed this one!
Yep, there’s a bit too much dressing for my taste. Now, I used 3 cups frozen, organic white sweet corn from Costco. Sauteed it in skillet on high to get the brown/black goodness of roasted corn. I even added some onion and green pepper I already had on hand and some grape tomatoes. Yummy! I might reduce dressing next time and add in a jalapeno for some kick. Love this!
That’s the great thing about recipes – you can totally change things up and make them your own! 🙂
I liked the flavors of this a lot, but it was way too much dressing for us for the amount of corn. I’ll probably try halving the dressing next time.
Sounds like a good plan! Thanks for the comment.
Loved loved loved this! So easy and so yummy! I ate way too much of it!
Yup, absolutely delicious. Heating the corn in the butter and oil is genius. We had this with chicken tacos for and several family members couldn’t resist putting it on their tacos.
That sounds incredible! I could totally get behind using this for tacos!
Made this this weekend (with Trader Joe’s roasted corn which I cooked in just a little bit of ghee). It was delicious- although my whole family decided it was a dip – so it ended up with corn chips next to it as people ate it as an appetizer . I’d consider adding black beans and maybe even bell peppers next time I make it – as either a salad or “dip.” (This tends to happen whenever I make corn or bean salads – I see people looking around for chips!)
Yum! I bet this was fantastic as a dip! Great idea!
I made this for book club to accompany turkey burgers and it was a HUGE hit!
What a fabulous combo!
This salad is SO good! It has everything! It’s creamy, salty, tangy, just a kick of heat and a little sweetness and crunch from the corn! We will be eating this all summer!!
Hello Mel..this is perfect salad for hot summer, it looks an amazing & sound so delicious…i will trying to making it..and it was amazing recipe till now..Thanks for sharing…!
This is so good! My husbands first bite he stopped and and said “wow! I did not expect that much flavor!” Really it looks unsuspecting and pow it’s a blast of deliciousness! Thanks Mel!
Best kind of recipe, huh? Surprises you when you least expect it. Glad you guys liked it. thanks, Misty!
I do not have any lime juice or cilantro on hand and want to make this for dinner. I live in the country so going to the store is out of the question at this point. Do you have any suggestions for substitutions?
You could try parsley and lemon juice – any substitution will change the flavor but you could experiment.
I made this tonight with your “The Best Ground Beef Tacos Made from Scratch,” Mel, which is my go to taco recipe (we love it). The corn was excellent. I used Trader Joe’s Roasted Corn, but still thawed and cooked it in the skillet. So flavorful! Next time I think I’ll modify the corn to sauce ratio a bit. We found it a little rich for a 16 oz bag of corn. And I’ll probably cut down the butter/oil amount too. That said, excellent dish!! Thank you!
Thanks for the feedback, Sarah!
I was super excited to try this…I have corn in my freezer that I have to use before our garden grows..it is shockingly delicious and so easy to make! This will be on the table for father’s day ! I added a jalapeno…just because I had one and we like a little heat! Again Mel…a home run! Thanks!
Love the addition of the jalapeno, Jill! Glad you liked this!
so if I use the Trader Joe’s roasted frozen corn, I can skip the skillet step?
Great question – curious as well.
Yes, you could (but giving it an extra toast in a little butter + oil would be fine, too).
This was easy and delicious!! We had it for a quick meal tonight by mixing 2 pouches of Costco’s quinoa and brown rice and some blanched asparagus (with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar) and adding a big dollop of corn on top. So yummy! My kids loved it too!
Oh yum!! That sounds like my kind of dinner, Becky!
(Don’t) Stop it right now! I just made basically the same salad this week! So so yummy! The recipe I made called for it to be baked, which was delish but my favorite was cold leftovers the next day as a dip. Love when we’re on the same flavor wavelength 🙂
Haha. I love it, too. 🙂
love your recipes !
If you want to take this up a notch, or at least the way we like to eat it around here, add some crushed up Fritos! So good!!!
Thanks for your yummy variation, Mel! I’m excited to alter the one I have 🙂
Oooh! I’m excited I try this. I learned a tip that has helped to make preparing fresh corn more exciting to me: simply place the ear in the hole of a bundt cake pan. You don’t have to place it in very far, but the hole helps to hold the corn steady. Use your knife to carefully slice off the corn and it will fall into the sides of the pan. Toss the empty ear and dump the corn where you need to be! Hopefully this tip is useful! Happy Summer!
I tried this tip and it was AWESOME! THANK YOU!
Wahoo! I’m glad it was helpful!
I love your other street corn recipe – but I’ll have to try this one soon! It sounds so good! The dressing sounds similar to what my mom puts in the sour cream layer of 7 layer dip. I do love grilling corn in the summer. I have a grilled corn/jicama salad I like to make for bbqs.
This sounds AMAZING! Can’t wait to try this!