- Food: Elote (Mexican Street Corn)
- Writer: Lizzie Green
- Content-Type: Food Blog
What exactly is elote? Mexican street corn is called elote (pronounced eh-loh-tay). If you’ve tried it, I’m sure you enjoyed it.
You’re in for a treat if you haven’t already! Elote is sweet, flavorful, tangy, and spicy all at the same time. For added smokiness, I like to prepare mine with grilled corn.
Corn on the cob is slathered in mayonnaise, seasoned with chili powder and fresh lime juice, and sprinkled with salty Cotija cheese and cilantro. It’s a little messy to eat, but it’s well worth it.
Elote is a refreshing summertime side dish that goes well with any Mexican-inspired dinner.
Elote is a Mexican word that refers to a corn ear, and this recipe is based on a popular street food serving method. Although I can’t claim that this elote dish is real, it reminds me of the elotes I had in Mexico City.
I fantasize about traveling across Mexico and sampling the cuisine in each region. Someday! For the time being, we’re making the most of our home-cooked meals.
How to make Elote?
Elote is a simple dish to prepare. Elotes are only five to ten minutes away once your corn is cooked! This is how you do it:
Start by grilling your corn.
You may also steam or boil your corn cobs, but as I previously stated, I like the flavor of grilled corn.
Make your sauce and garnishes.
While the corn is cooking, combine mayonnaise, lime juice, chili powder, optional cayenne (for added spice), and salt in a mixing bowl. Combine shredded Cotija cheese and cilantro in a separate bowl.
Toss the corn with the mayonnaise mixture.
This is where things start to get a little tangled. If you don’t have a pastry brush, a butter knife will usually be enough.
Evenly sprinkle the Cotija and cilantro mixture.
Underneath the corn, place a dish to catch any cheese that doesn’t stick. It is possible that you will require it.
Add a dash of chili powder to finish it off.
I adore this recipe exactly as given but feel free to tweak it to fit your pantry and preferences.
- The fresher the corn, the better. Elotes are made with a larger variety of corn in Mexico. I’ve been improvising with fresh sweet corn and am happy with the outcomes. If you can, grill the sweet corn since the charred kernels have a texture similar to the elotes I’ve bought in Mexico.
- Mayonnaise: Instead of mayonnaise, some elote recipes call for sour cream or a half-and-half blend of both. While I’m not a huge lover of mayonnaise, it came out on top in my taste tests. The other flavors seemed to be amplified by the mayonnaise, whereas the sour cream seemed to dull them. However, if you want to lighten up this side dish, you can substitute sour cream or even Greek yogurt.
- If you have a specific chili powder on hand (such as ancho, guajillo, or chipotle), elote is an excellent place to use it. You might also use Tajn (a Mexican spice blend of chili powder and lime) for a more tangy flavor.
- If you’re sensitive to heat, use a mild chili powder blend and leave out the cayenne.
- Cotija cheese can be found in well-stocked grocery stores (I get mine at Whole Foods, near the goat cheese) or Mexican markets. If you can’t get Cotija, feta or Parmesan are the next best alternatives.
- If you don’t like cilantro, leave it out.
How to Serve Elote?
Elote is traditionally served on a wooden skewer. I’ve also eaten it without the skewer, as you can see in this photo. In any case, it’ll be a little messy.
Slice the grilled corn cobs in half before making them into elotes for smaller serving sizes.
Alternatively, cut the corn kernels from the cob with a knife. Serve the corn in cups with the mayonnaise mixture and a sprinkle of Cotija on top. Esquites or elote en vaso (“corn cup”) is the name for this version.
Elote: What to Serve with it?
Eloteros are street sellers who sell elote in Mexico, and the snacks they sell are known as antojitos (“small cravings” in Spanish). These “little cravings” are served as appetizers or late-night nibbles in between meals.
As a result, elote can be served as a snack, an appetizer, or a side dish with any Mexican-inspired entrée. It’s also a wonderful alternative for grilling. Here are a couple of entrées that go well with elote, or go here to see all of my Mexican recipes.
- Fresh Black Bean Burrito Bowl or Kale, Black Bean, and Avocado Burrito Bowl Bowl of Burritos
- Chilaquiles: Red Chilaquiles or Green Chilaquiles
- Enchiladas: Beans, black Sweet Potato Enchiladas, Veggie Black Bean Enchiladas, or Roasted Veggie Enchilada Casserole
- Quesadillas: Crispy Mushroom, Spinach, and Avocado Quesadillas or 10-Minute Quesadillas
- Easy Black Bean Tacos or Epic Vegetarian Tacos are two options for tacos.
Elote (Mexican Street Corn)
|Time to Prepare: 10 minutes
Time to cook: 20 minutes
30 minutes in total
This simple recipe will teach you how to prepare elote. We’ll drizzle a zesty mixture of mayonnaise, lime, and chili powder over roasted corn on the cob, then finish with a thick sprinkle of Cotija cheese and cilantro. Elote is a Mexican snack or appetizer that can also be served as a side dish with any Mexican meal. 4 elotes per recipe; multiply as required.
- 4 ears of grilled corn on the cob
- ¼ cup mayonnaise
- 1 ½ teaspoon lime juice
- ½ teaspoon chili powder, plus more for sprinkling
- Pinch of cayenne pepper (optional, for extra heat)
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt or a pinch of fine salt
- 2 ounces (about ½ cup) finely grated Cotija cheese*
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro
- Prepare the chili-mayo sauce and Cotija-cilantro blend while the corn is grilling. Combine the mayonnaise, lime juice, chili powder, optional cayenne, and salt in a small bowl. Stir until everything is well blended. Combine the cheese and cilantro in a separate bowl. Set aside both dishes.
- Brush one ear of corn with the mayonnaise mixture when it’s ready to eat. Sprinkle the Cotjia mixture liberally over the corn on a dish, flipping it as needed (it’ll be a little messy, no way around it!). Place the finished cob on a separate platter for serving. Repeat with the remaining corn, using the cheese in the bowl as needed and the excess on the plate.
- Lightly dust the corn with a pinch or two of extra chili powder. Warm the dish before serving.
- TURN IT AROUND: Corn on the cob can be grilled for added flavor, but it can also be cooked or steamed. As an alternative to conventional chili powder, try adding a fun variety like chipotle, ancho, guajillo, or Tajn (a Mexican blend of chili powder and lime). Some recipes call for sour cream instead of mayonnaise (or a combination of the two), but I found the flavor to be more subdued. Still, it’s an option—for a lighter version, Greek yogurt might suffice. Simply leave out the cilantro if you don’t like it.
- ESQUITE VARIATION: Also known as “corn cup” elote or a less messy way to eat elote. After the corn has finished cooking, carefully chop off the kernels with a chef’s knife. Divide the kernels into four cups, then top with a quarter of the chili-mayo sauce and a quarter of the Cotija-cilantro blend in each. Serve with spoons and a small sprinkle of more chili powder on top. Alternatively, try my stovetop esquites recipe.
- ELIMINATE THE DAIRY: Instead of Cotija, try a sprinkling of vegan Parmesan (use less than called for in the recipe, since the Parm is saltier). Alternatively, simply leave out the Cotija.
- MAKE IT VEGAN: Swap the mayo for vegan sour cream, and a sprinkle of vegan Parmesan for the Cotija (use less than called for in the recipe, since the Parm is saltier). You may also eliminate the cheese and use decent vegan mayonnaise.
- WHERE TO FIND COTIJA CHEESE: Cotija cheese can be found at well-stocked grocery stores or Mexican specialty shops. It’s sold near the goat cheese at Whole Foods. If you can’t find it, finely crumbled feta or finely grated Parmesan cheese will suffice.