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Mexican Street Corn Salad (Esquites)

Whether you call it esquites, Mexican street corn salad, or street corn off the cob, this side dish is always a crowd pleaser. Today I’ll show you how to make it on a Traeger grill or indoors using a skillet on the stovetop. My esquites recipe also cranks up the heat a little with the addition of grilled jalapeño peppers and a couple secret ingredients in the crema. Let’s get after it!

scooping esquites with a tortilla chip

Mexican Street Corn Salad Ingredients

Esquites or “toasted corn” is a Mexican street food that closely resembles elotes or classic Mexican street corn (on the cob). It’s typically made with a creamy sauce of mayo and lime juice, chile powder, cilantro, crumbly cotija cheese, and obviously toasted corn.

But depending on where you get your Mexican street corn salad, the ingredients can vary. We recently fell in love with a street corn dish at chef Roy Choi’s Las Vegas restaurant, Best Friend, which had some of his famous Korean-Mexican flare. Their kalbi dish also inspired our Traeger grilled flanken short ribs.

My Secret Weapons

So, my take on esquites includes Japanese Kewpie mayo and chili garlic sauce. If you’re unfamiliar with Kewpie mayo, it’s a smoother, more umami mayo thanks to using only egg yolks and the addition of MSG. The chili garlic sauce adds a little kick of heat but mainly big garlic flavor.

kewpie mayo and chili garlic sauce in a mixing bowl

These two additions make a really unique, tasty take on Mexican street corn, but you can definitely make this recipe with regular mayo and chile powder or other sauces. I’ve included a few ideas in the recipe card’s notes section below.

Traeger Grilled Corn vs Pan Roasted Corn

It’s hard to beat grilled corn on the cob, especially when it picks up some smoke on the Traeger. That said, the pan roasted corn isn’t as far off as you’d expect.

flipping grilled corn on the cob and roasting corn and jalapeño peppers in a pan

If you have a high-heat cook going on your Traeger like our Mexican grilled chicken breast, this corn would be great to throw on alongside your main dish.

But if you’re debating firing up the grill just for Mexican street corn salad, you can make a close second indoors. Especially with the addition of something like salsa macha or a chipotle chile powder to add some smokiness.

How to Make Both Versions (Recipe Video)

What to Serve with Esquites

With its antojitos or street food roots, it’s great on its own or served with tortilla chips. We like to serve it as a side dish with Mexican and Tex-Mex main dishes. Here are some ideas:

Let me know how you like to serve your Mexican street corn salad in the comments below!

grilled Mexican street corn salad in a brown bowl

You’ll find the printable recipe card below. If you have a question I forgot to cover, you can leave it in the comments below as well. I hope you enjoy your pan roasted or Traeger esquites!

scooping esquites with a tortilla chip

Mexican Street Corn Salad (Esquites)

Yield: 5 Servings
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 35 minutes

Inspired by chef Roy Choi's street corn from his Las Vegas restaurant, Best Friend, my spin on classic Mexican esquites combines grilled or pan roasted fresh corn and jalapeño peppers with Japanese Kewpie mayo and chili garlic sauce to make a tangy, spicy, and umami street corn salad.

Ingredients

  • 4 ears Fresh Corn, shucked
  • 2 Jalapeño Peppers (optional)
  • Avocado Oil Spray or 1-2 Tablespoons of Oil

For the Crema and Garnish

  • 3 Tablespoons (45g) Kewpie Mayo (or your choice of mayo)
  • 2 Tablespoons (30g) Lime Juice
  • 1 Tablespoon Chili Garlic Sauce*
  • 2 Scallions, finely sliced
  • 2 handfuls (10g) Chopped Cilantro
  • 2 oz Cotija Cheese**

Instructions

For Grilled Corn

  1. Preheat your Traeger grill to 450ºF with the lid closed for 15 minutes. Coat the corn and jalapeño peppers with avocado oil spray or brush with oil.
  2. Add the corn to the grill grates, ideally around the front or back edges near the hot spots. Place the peppers near the center of the grill.
  3. Grill for 20-25 minutes, turning occasionally, until evenly roasted. Transfer to a sheet pan to cool briefly before removing the kernels from the cobs and peeling the skin away from the peppers, removing most of the seeds, and dicing.

For Pan Roasted Corn

  1. Use a knife to remove the corn kernels and dice the jalapeño peppers (remove the seeds and membranes as well).
  2. Heat a large skillet over high heat before adding about 2 tablespoons of oil. Once hot, add the corn and peppers. Stir to coat and season with a pinch of salt and pepper. Leave the corn untouched until the bottom begins to char, about 2 minutes, before stirring to evenly char all sides, about 4-5 minutes total.

Final Assembly

  1. Whisk together the mayo, lime juice, and chili garlic sauce. Add the veggies and stir everything together before adding the cilantro, scallions, and cotija cheese. Salt or season to taste with Tajín or chili powder.

Notes

*You can use sriracha, gochujang, salsa macha, or any chili paste/oil/sauce as a substitute. Salsa macha is a great addition for the pan roasted version since it adds some smokiness via chipotle chiles.

**You can use feta cheese if you can't find cotija cheese.

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 5 Serving Size: 1/2 cup (about 3.5 oz)
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 285Total Fat: 17gCarbohydrates: 25gProtein: 6g

Fernando López

Monday 1st of August 2022

Hello! Well, as a Mexican I'll tell you Esquite is not a Salad, but simply street food, a snack in fact. Also, this is not a true Esquite recipe, or something even near: cilantro and Jalapeño are never part of the Esquite-verse (wink). Nice effort though.

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