Traditional elotes, grilled Mexican street corn, is coated with a thin layer of garlic mayonnaise and rolled in a salty, dry Mexican cheese. There are many versions of this sweet and salty classic. Some add a few tablespoons of Mexican crema to the mayonnaise mixture, while others add chopped cilantro or scallions as a finishing touch.
Cotija cheese tastes like a cross between feta and Parmesan cheese that complements the sweet corn kernels. So, what’s not to love about this flavor combination bonanza? For me, I need more napkins than a meal for 12 when I am savoring this Mexican classic corn on the cob.
That’s when I wondered how this dish would be taken off the cob and served as a summer side dish or salad. It turned out this was a major hit! No more napkins to wipe my face and clothes with while savoring all the same flavors.
Sweet, slightly smoky and salty flavors all come together in this Mexican favorite found on street corners throughout Mexico. I’ve enjoyed it both warm and at room temp. It’s also good as a side to any simple grilled dish.
Selection and storage tips
- Look for fresh green husks and tender milky kernels that are plump and leave no space between the rows.
- Don’t buy ears with gigantic kernels.
- You can use chipotle or ancho chili powder instead of hot sauce.
- Crumble the cheese with your fingers to make sure it is finely crumbled.
- You can substitute feta for cotija if you need to.
- If at all possible, eat corn the same day it is picked.
- Store corn very cold and for only a short time, since it’s delicious sugar will quickly turn to starch (an ice chest filled with ice will keep the corn at its best for a few hours).
Elotes Salad or Side Dish
Serves 6 to 8
- 6 large ears corn, husked and silk removed (about 4 cups after shucking)
- 1/4 cup mayonnaise
- 1/4 cup sour cream
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
- 1 tablespoon chipotle hot sauce, or to taste
- Pinch salt and pepper
- 3/4 cup finely crumbled cotija cheese
- Microgreens or cilantro sprigs, for garnish
1. Prepare the barbecue for medium-high-heat grilling.
2. Grill the ears until evenly charred, turning occasionally to cook evenly, about 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer to a large platter. Cool for a few minutes if serving warm; otherwise, cool completely.
3. While corn is grilling combine the mayonnaise, sour cream, garlic, cumin, lime juice, chipotle hot sauce and salt and pepper in a large serving bowl. Taste for seasoning. Add more hot sauce if you prefer spicier.
4. Remove corn kernels into a large serving bowl, using a very sharp knife or a corn stripper. Add dressing and cotija cheese to the corn and mix well, until all is blended. Taste for seasoning. Garnish with greens and serve at room temperature or warm.
(Diane Rossen Worthington is an authority on new American cooking. She is the author of 18 cookbooks, including “Seriously Simple Parties,” and a James Beard Award-winning radio show host. You can contact her at www.seriouslysimple.com.)
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