by Olena

Mexican Street Corn Salad

Olena's image
Olena Osipov
5 from 11 votes

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Enjoy this healthy version of Mexican Street Corn Salad (aka Elote corn salad), where flavorful corn is tossed with a light yogurt-mayo lime and cilantro dressing and sprinkled with feta cheese. It is an easy summer salad and perfect for a potluck!

Love corn? Check out our corn tomato avocado salad, 20 minute low carb chicken and corn recipe and healthy taco salad.

elote corn salad with red onion, feta, lime and cilantro

This Mexican street corn salad is our favorite “byproduct” of Instant Pot corn on the cob recipe.

What Is Mexican Street Corn?

There are two main types of Mexican street corn dishes: Elote and Esquites.

Elote (meaning ‘tender cob’) is grilled corn on the cob slathered in a spicy combination of mayo and Mexican crema (between sour cream and crème Fraiche) with chile powder and rolled in plenty of Cotija cheese. It’s so popular that we saw elote sold on every major street corner while living in Cabo for a month.

In comparison, Esquites (also referred to as ‘elotes en vaso’ which means corn in a cup) is an off-the-cob version of corn – traditionally using mature corn that is boiled in salted water then sauteed with butter before served with various toppings that can include mayo, chile powder, lime juice, etc.

My Mexican street corn salad combines the two; a healthy version of elote served as an off-the-cob salad. I’ve swapped out the mayo and crema for a healthier combination of Greek yogurt with just a hint of mayo for a salad that is sweet and savory and spicy, which a creamy, cheesy finish.

Serve it as an appetizer or side to all your favorite Mexican and Tex-Mex dishes like chicken tacos, carne asada tacos, grilled fish tacos, or shrimp tacos or chicken (or veggie) quesadillas! Keeping reading for tons more serving suggestions. Best of all, while Mexican corn salad is often thought of as a summer dish, you can enjoy it year-round using frozen corn!

mexican street corn salad served on white plate with feta cheese

Ingredients and Substitutions

  • Corn: I recommend using fresh corn when it’s in season. But frozen corn works just as well.
  • Feta cheese: Feta cheese is an excellent substitute for traditional Mexican cheese cotija for those who can’t find it (I find feta saltier). It adds essential creaminess and saltiness to the salad.
  • Yogurt and mayo: Using a combination of Greek yogurt with just a little mayo creates a lighter (and higher in protein) sauce for the corn than the traditional creamy sauce. Don’t omit all the mayo though, it’s needed!
  • Cilantro: If you’re not a cilantro fan, then parsley or green onion could work.
  • Red onion: Not everyone loves raw onion in their salads, but if you do want that slightly sharp, zingy addition – ½ a small red onion, finely diced is a good amount, to begin with.
  • Spices: I used a combination of smoked paprika, cayenne pepper, lime, salt, and pepper. You can make the salad as spicy as you’d like by adjusting the amount of cayenne pepper used.
mexican street corn salad ingredients

Optional Add-ins

Sometimes I’ll enjoy it as-is, and other times I basically make a larger version of my black bean salsa, with an emphasis on the corn instead of the beans – there are tons of ways to adapt this Mexican street corn salad recipe!

  • Beans: I love to keep cooked black beans in my freezer, perfect to thaw out and add to this Mexican corn salad for extra protein. Red kidney beans or pinto beans would also work. I suggest adding between ¼- ½ cup. Alternatively, serve it alongside some refried beans as part of a larger meal.
  • Avocado: Finely diced avocado will add healthy fats and extra creaminess to the Mexican street corn salad. Add 1-2 medium avocados, or just serve it alongside this avocado salad.
  • Tomato: When tomatoes are in season, and my garden is overflowing with them, I always add them to this elote corn salad. Use just 1-2 larger tomatoes (de-seeded if necessary), finely diced, or a handful of cherry tomatoes, quartered.
  • Bell Pepper: Just one red bell pepper is more than enough when finely diced. It will add a fresh crunch to the salad.
  • Jalapeño: For extra spice, feel free to add in a little finely diced jalapeño. You can substitute it for a slightly milder/hotter chile based on personal taste.

In fact, most add-ins are also potential ingredients within salsa recipes. And, if you know me at all, you’ll know I love salsa – like this Pico de Gallo, pineapple salsa, peach salsa, or even mango salsa!

How to Pick Fresh Corn?

I’ll always turn to juicy, sweet, plump ripe corn for Mexican street corn salad when it’s in season. With that said, here are a few tips on how to choose the best fresh corn. You can check the corn quality right at the store/market – shucking a bit at the top or completely. Many stores provide garbage bins solely for this purpose.

  • Look for corn that is wrapped tightly in its green husks.
  • Corn silk should be soft, perky, and moist.
  • Pick only good-looking ears with white or yellow kernels in tight rows that are plump.

How to Make Mexican Street Corn Salad

Since Mexican corn salad can be enjoyed using corn that’s grilled, charred, roasted, or boiled, let’s first begin with how to cook the corn – then assemble the corn salad.

To cook corn:

  • On the stove: Add corn to a large enough pot, so it is fully submerged in water. Salt the water generously to help bring out corn’s flavor—Cook the corn by boiling it for 10 minutes. To ‘char’ it, you can then lightly sauté the corn in a skillet until it begins to brown.
  • In Instant Pot: This is by far my favorite method to cook corn. Just add corn and 1 cup water to an electric pressure cooker and cook on High Pressure for 2 minutes with Quick Release. This is my favorite method when cooking indoors in summer, too, to keep it cool – if that sounds like you too, check out 12 other summer recipes for Instant Pot.
  • On the grill: Grill the husked corn over medium heat for 20 minutes, turning every 5 minutes or so.
  • Using frozen corn: There’s no need to thaw the corn. Simply add it to a large skillet and sauté with a little oil or butter until the corn is just starting to brown. This will take around 10 minutes.

Note: You can also use frozen ‘fire-roasted corn,’ which doesn’t require a pre-sauté. Simply allow it to thaw and use as wanted or gently heat in a skillet just until warm.

To make elote corn salad:

  • Shuck the corn kernels: If you used fresh corn, then after cooking it, you’ll need to shuck it. Let the ears of corn cool down enough to handle. Then, using a sharp knife, stand the corn upright and cut off kernels as close to the core as possible.
  • Assemble the salad: Like corn, mayo, yogurt, feta, cilantro, lime juice, cayenne pepper, salt, and pepper in a large bowl. No need to make dressing separately and just gently toss to coat.

How to Serve?

You can enjoy this salad warm or cold, and I love it either way. Though, I’ll admit, warm probably has a slight edge. The way the corn melts the feta and combined all the sauce ingredients is just – yum!

In terms of how to serve it (and what with), there are tons of options. Here are just a few suggestions:

Mexican corn salad served with turkey meatballs and spaghetti

How to Make Ahead and Store

Make ahead: There are a couple of ways you can prep this Mexican corn salad in advance. If you prefer it warm, combine all the ingredients except the corn in a bowl, covered in the refrigerator for up to 48 hours. When you’re ready to serve, cook the corn and toss it in with the salad. For cold corn salad, assemble the salad in a large bowl, without stirring, for up to 48 hours. Stir everything in just before serving.

Store: Leftovers will keep well for up to 48 hours in the fridge – possibly even 3-4 days if stored well. There are no ‘soggy’ veggies or anything to impact the shelf life for the very base salad, so it’s very forgiving!

FAQs

Is Mexican street corn salad meant to be hot or cold?


You can enjoy the Mexican corn salad recipe both ways. I love to enjoy it warm when the corn is freshly cooked and everything melts together. However, if you prepare it in advance for a gathering, BBQ, or potluck, then you’ll find it just as delicious when served chilled!

Can I make this recipe dairy-free?


These days it seems to be getting easier and easier to veganize any dish. For this elote corn salad simply substitute the dairy for vegan substitutes, so vegan yogurt, feta, and mayo. You may want to increase the amount of mayo to yogurt, though, since many vegan yogurts have an ‘aftertaste’ or whatever they’re made from (coconut, almond, etc.)

Do you have to char/brown the corn?


Not at all – though it definitely adds an extra dimension of flavor and authenticity to the Mexican street corn salad recipe. I suggest trying it with and without – that way you can decide which you prefer!

More Tips

  • Easier shucking of the corn: Cutting the kernels off corn can lead to kernels bouncing away from you and across the kitchen. One way to avoid this is to do the shucking process within a large. Rest a ramekin or similar small dish in the bowl that you can lean your corn against (which will be easier than trying to hold it against the bowl’s base).
  • Allow the corn salad to marinate: This is one of those salad recipes that tastes even better when it’s given time to sit and marinate and let all the flavors blend. I suggest making it at least a couple of hours in advance, if possible.
  • You can enjoy this corn salad year-round: By swapping in-season fresh corn for frozen corn during the off season!

More Mexican Side Dishes

You might also enjoy browsing through all my Mexican-Inspired recipes!

Mexican Street Corn Salad

Mexican Street Corn Salad {Easy Summer Recipe}

Enjoy this healthy version of Mexican Street Corn Salad (aka Elote corn salad), where flavorful corn is tossed with a light yogurt-mayo lime and cilantro dressing and sprinkled with feta cheese. It is an easy summer salad and perfect for a potluck!
5 from 11 votes
Print Save Rate
Course: Salad
Cuisine: Mexican
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes
Servings: 6 servings
Calories: 165kcal
Author: Olena Osipov

Ingredients

  • 6 large ears of corn shucked
  • 1/2 cup red onion finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup cilantro finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup feta cheese crumbled
  • 1/2 large lemon or 1 lime juice of
  • 2 small garlic cloves grated
  • 1/4 cup plain yogurt 2+% fat
  • 3 tbsp mayo I used avocado oil mayo
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • Ground black pepper to taste

Instructions

  • Cook corn by boiling it for 15 minutes or by grilling on medium heat for 20 minutes, turning every 5 minutes. Or even better – make Instant Pot corn in 2 minutes! Let cool until safe to handle.
    Mexican Street Corn Salad
  • Using sharp chef's knife remove corn kernels off the cob by cutting lengthwise.
    Mexican Street Corn Salad
  • In a large salad bowl, add corn, red onion, cilantro, feta cheese, lemon or lime juice, garlic, yogurt, mayo, smoked paprika, salt, cayenne and black pepper to taste.
    Mexican Street Corn Salad
  • Stir gently and serve warm or cold. Welcome to the streets of Mexico!
    Mexican Street Corn Salad

Store: Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 48 hours.

    Make Ahead: If you like salad warm, refrigerate all ingredients in a bowl covered for up to 48 hours. Add warm cooked corn right before serving and toss. If you don’t mind cold Mexican corn salad, you can refrigerate salad assembled but not stirred for up to 48 hours.

      Notes

      • Corn: I recommend using fresh corn when it’s in season. But frozen corn works just as well.
      • Feta cheese: Feta cheese is an excellent substitute for traditional Mexican cheese cotija for those who can’t find it (I find feta saltier). It adds essential creaminess and saltiness to the salad.
      • Yogurt and mayo: Using a combination of Greek yogurt with just a little mayo creates a lighter (and higher in protein) sauce for the corn than the traditional creamy sauce. Don’t omit all the mayo though, it’s needed!
      • Cilantro: If you’re not a cilantro fan, then parsley or green onion could work.
      • Spices: You can make the salad as spicy as you’d like by adjusting the amount of cayenne pepper used.
      See Recipe Post for more Variations and FAQs. Recipe updated April 2021.

      Nutrition

      Calories: 165kcal | Carbohydrates: 18g | Protein: 5g | Fat: 9g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Cholesterol: 15mg | Sodium: 396mg | Potassium: 274mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 7g | Vitamin A: 352IU | Vitamin C: 7mg | Calcium: 76mg | Iron: 1mg
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