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Mexican Corn Salad (Esquites)

This Mexican Corn Salad is an off-the-cob version of elote, which is grilled Mexican street corn slathered in tangy sauce and garnished with crumbly Cotija cheese. Also known as esquites, this easy side dish has the same BIG flavor!

Mexican corn salad in a dark blue pottery bowl

Fresh Mexican Street Corn Salad

I love to fill my big blue Mexican pottery bowl with fun food!

This cobalt blue bowl was painted by hand, a keepsake I brought back with me from a family vacation to Mexico a number of years ago. Whenever we travel, I look for useful, locally made items that will remind me of those special places whenever I use them.

I’ve been making this Mexican Corn Salad recipe for a number of summers already, and our family only seems to grow more and more fond of it.

a pan of husked sweet corn plus an ear of corn that is halfway husked

What is Esquites?

Known as esquites in Mexico, this salad is an off-the-cob version of elote – where grilled Mexican street corn is slathered in a creamy, tangy sauce and garnished with crumbly Cotija cheese. I remember first hearing about this dish from Rick Bayless many years ago, and just had to try it!

ingredients to make Mexican corn salad, all in separate containers

What You’ll Need

This easy-to-make salad is super fresh, comprised mostly of sweet corn kernels. A creamy, tangy dressing that’s flavored with spices common to Mexican cooking brings it all together. And salty, crumbly Cotija cheese gives the salad an extra nod to Mexico.

Here’s what you’ll need to make this salad:

  • sweet corn – use fresh corn for this recipe
  • red bell pepper
  • red onion
  • jalapeno – you can remove the seeds if you want to cut the heat.
  • cilantro
  • Cotija cheese
  • sour cream
  • mayonnaise
  • lime juice
  • spices: cumin, smoked paprika & chili powder
  • salt & pepper
sweet corn for sale in a large wood red wagon

Why Use Fresh Corn?

Esquites is all about the fresh corn flavor mixed with creamy dressing and bold spices. You really can’t get that with canned corn! The texture is also slightly different with fresh vs. canned corn.

If you have a local farm stand, I recommend getting corn from there. Every summer, I seek out the little farm stands selling their homegrown sweet corn. This one is located just a few miles from us.

The well-kept old farmhouse is nestled under a canopy of big ol’ shade trees. It’s a sweet, welcoming kind of place with dogs and chickens – and I even saw a peacock this week!

What is Cotija Cheese?

Cotija is a cheese made from cow’s milk, from the town of Cotija in Mexico. It has a salty flavor and crumbly texture, and comes in two different varieties – fresh and aged. The fresh version is soft. And the aged version is much harder, almost like Parmesan.

Aged Cotija is often used crumbled or grated, as a topping for many Mexican dishes. Think enchiladas, burritos, soups, salads, beans, and tacos. And you’ll ALWAYS find it with traditional Mexican elote (corn on the cob).

I can always find Cotija at our local grocery stores, but if you’re not able to locate it, feta cheese would be a great substitute.

ears of sweet corn on the grill

How to Make Esquites

I like to grill half the corn and leave half the corn uncooked for this recipe. Grilling gives an added smokiness to the salad, plus gives beautiful color. And the uncooked kernels offer super fresh pops of the purest sweet corn flavor and texture. It’s a wonderful mix!

Here’s how to make this salad:

  1. Grill 4 ears of corn over high heat, until charred.
  2. Remove corn from grill and let cool.
  3. Cut kernels from grilled corn and 4 uncooked ears of corn.
  4. Fold together corn kernels, red pepper, onion, jalapeno, cilantro, and Cotija cheese in a large bowl.
  5. In a small bowl, stir together sour cream, mayonnaise, lime juice, cumin, smoked paprika, chili powder, black pepper, and salt.
  6. Pour creamy sauce over corn mixture and fold to incorporate.

How Do You Get Corn Off the Cob?

I’ve tried some different gadgets, but keep coming back to a very simple method when it comes to removing corn kernels from the cob. Here’s what I do:

Place a cob of corn, small end facing up, in the center of a 9″ x 13″ cake pan. Then use a sharp serrated tomato knife to cut down the cob, from top of ear to bottom. When cutting, saw back and forth very slightly with the knife as you go down the cob. Rotate the cob until all the kernels are in the bottom of the pan.

This method isn’t entirely perfect, as there are always a few kernels that stray – but it’s the best way I’ve found so far. If you have a method that you especially like, I’d love to hear from you – please leave a message in the comments section!

creamy dressing in a small clear bowl, plus a small whisk

The creamy sauce for this salad is pretty darn awesome, an incredibly tasty dressing that is accomplished with very little effort. Feel free to add more heat by increasing the chili powder and smoked paprika!

salad made with fresh sweet corn, in a blue pottery bowl

Serving Suggestions

This fresh corn salad is a super yummy (and easy!) way to indulge in all that beautiful, fresh local sweet corn of summer – and it makes a great potluck dish. Pair it with tender, flavorful Beer Can Chicken, beautifully charred Margarita Grilled Shrimp, or my Easy Grilled Pork Chops!

This grilled Mexican corn salad is so many wonderful things, all packed into one bowl. It’s fresh, smoky, sweet, spicy, and tangy – the perfect side dish for all these fabulous summer meals in the back yard!

How to Store Extras

This salad is best eaten the day it is made, but you can store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 days.

Like this tasty salad recipe? Save it to Pinterest!

Pinterest image of Mexican corn salad
Mexican corn salad in a blue painted pottery bowl

Mexican Corn Salad

Yield: 10 servings
prep time: 25 minutes
cook time: 5 minutes
total time: 30 minutes
This tasty salad is an off-the-cob version of elote – where grilled Mexican street corn is slathered in a creamy, tangy sauce and garnished with crumbly Cotija cheese. It's a fun fresh corn salad with BIG flavor! 
4.7 Stars (7 Reviews)


  • 8 large ears sweet corn husked
  • 1 medium red bell pepper diced
  • ½ small red onion diced
  • 2 tablespoons minced jalapeno
  • ½ cup chopped cilantro
  • ¾ cup crumbled cotija cheese
  • ¼ cup sour cream
  • ¼ cup mayonnaise
  • ¼ cup fresh squeezed lime juice
  • 1.5 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1.25 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • ¾ teaspoon medium chili powder
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt


  • Heat grill to high heat. Add 4 ears of corn, turning occasionally, until charred. Remove corn from heat and allow to cool for 5 to 10 minutes.
  • Cut kernels from all 8 ears of corn and add kernels to a large bowl.
  • Fold red pepper, onion, jalapeno, cilantro, and cheese into corn.
  • In a small bowl, stir together the remaining ingredients. Pour over corn mixture and fold to incorporate.
  • Serve at room temperature or chilled.


from a farmgirl’s dabbles

Nutrition Information:

Serving: 1 Calories: 180kcal Carbohydrates: 23g Protein: 6g Fat: 9g Saturated Fat: 3g Polyunsaturated Fat: 6g Cholesterol: 14mg Sodium: 287mg Fiber: 3g Sugar: 5g
Nutrition information is automatically calculated by Spoonacular. I am not a nutritionist and cannot guarantee accuracy. If your health depends on nutrition information, please calculate again with your own favorite calculator.
Did you make this recipe?Please leave a comment below. And share a photo on Instagram with the hashtag #afarmgirlsdabbles or tag @farmgirlsdabble!

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8 comments on “Mexican Corn Salad (Esquites)”

  1. 5 stars
    Cutting off the corn–the bundt pan idea above is clever too. But i like to put a single layer kitchen towel under the corn (maybe inside the casserole dish?). It helps catch the strays, but also protects your knife blade from hitting the glass.

  2. Kathy Bennett

    Instead of a 9 x 13 pan try putting the small end of the corn cob in the center of a bundt pan then cut and rotate.

  3. Waleska L Mendoza

    5 stars
    Made this for Thanksgiving and it tastes amazing. I would make the dressing for any salad honestly, it was that good. Forgot to toast the corn but next time!

  4. This looks like another keeper! When I try to save to Pinterest, I can’t get the beautiful photo to show up on my pin. Any suggestions?