Elote (Mexican Street Corn)
Elote is the famous corn on the cob served on the streets of Mexico! In this recipe, the corn is grilled until beautifully charred and then dressed with a creamy mayo mixture flavored with lime, chili powder and garlic. A great side dish for your summer cookout or BBQ!
I’ve been wanting to post this recipe for a few years now! But every time I made elotes, they vanished within seconds without time to snap photos.
I had my first elote in NYC, shortly after moving there, when I went out drinking with some friends. After that, we stopped at what I quickly learned was a mandatory post-outing place – Café Habana – for some elotes! The juicy, sweet corn smothered with the creamy/tangy/salty dressing conquered my heart in one bite. ♥️
I have yet to visit Mexico, but – once I do – I know my first order of business will be to find an elotero so I can savor an elote standing on the street, just how it is supposed to be!
In the meantime, I am glad these are easy to make a home so I can keep making them as long as I find fresh corn at the store.
What is Elote?
Elotes are the corns on the cob served by eloteros (corn on the cob vendors) in the streets of Mexico! They are usually grilled until charred and then slathered in a creamy mixture consisting of mayo, chili, garlic and Cotija cheese.
The word elote means “corn” in Spanish. It comes from the Nahuatl term “elotitutl,” which means “tender cob.”
They date back to the Aztec civilization, when – to celebrate a bountiful harvest – the tribes would sell corn on the cob with a squeeze of fresh lime juice right outside of the cornfields.
But it was in the streets of Mexico City that they became what they are today, with all the creamy and delicious toppings! Nowadays, you simply can’t walk a mile there without spotting an elostero or food truck selling elotes.
Elote VS Esquite
Elotes and esquites are quite similar. While elotes are supposed to be eaten on the cob, in esquites they are stripped off the cob, boiled or sautéed, and served in a cup, topped with a mixture similar to the elote dressing.
To make this elote recipe, you will need:
- Corn – You will need fresh corn to make elote! Unfortunately, there is no way of making elote with frozen or canned corn. You can make esquite with those, but for elote you need the freshest corn available! 🌽
- Mayo – For the dressing. Even if you’re not a mayo fan, give it a try! It really makes the dressing extra creamy and delicious!
- Mexican Crema – Mexican Crema is a slightly sour, thickened cream. If you can’t find it, you can use sour cream instead!
- Cheese – Elote is traditionally made with Cotija, which is a Mexican cow’s milk cheese. It is salty and crumbly with a distinct funk that can’t be replicated! That being said, if you can’t find it, you can use feta cheese instead, which has a similar texture.
- Cilantro – Not a fan of cilantro? You can omit it or use parsley instead.
- Chili Powder – I like using chipotle powder for my elote, but you can use any kind you have on hand. If you like spicy, you can mix with some cayenne pepper for an extra kick! Not a fan of chili powder? You can use smoked paprika or Tajín instead.
- Oil – For brushing the corn cobs so they char nicely on the grill!
- Limes – We’ll use a lime for the dressing and more lime wedges for serving.
- Garlic – For an extra flavorful dressing!
How to Make Elote Corn
Making elotes couldn’t be easier! Grill the corn, mix all the dressing ingredients together, brush the dressing on the hot corn. Easy peasy!
If you don’t have a grill, don’t worry. Keep reading cause I will provide instructions on how to cook the corn indoors.
Here’s how I make this elote recipe. As always, you will find the printable (and more complete) version of the recipe at the end of this post!
Step 1: Shuck the Corn.
- Strip away the green husk and silk and discard it. Alternatively, you can leave some of the husk on and tie it to make a handle!
- If you choose to husk the corn entirely (or if you buy already husked corn from the store), you can insert a wooden skewer through the corn so it acts as a handle, making it easier to eat.
Step 2: Make the dressing.
- While your grill is preheating, mix all the dressing ingredients in a bowl. I like to leave some Cotija cheese, chili powder and cilantro aside to sprinkle on top of the dressed elotes, for a nicer presentation.
Step 3: Grill the corn.
- Brush the corn with oil.
- Grill the corn over medium-high heat, rotating occasionally, until cooked through and charred in spots on all sides, about 2-3 minutes per side.
Step 4: Assemble the Elotes!
- Brush the hot grilled corn with the creamy mayo dressing. You can go as heavy or as light as you want with the dressing!
- Sprinkle the reserved Cotija cheese, chili powder and cilantro.
Can I make Elote in the Oven/Stove?
If you don’t have a grill, you can still make elote!
Option 1: Roast the corn in the oven, at 400ºF, for about 30 – 40 minutes. Turn every 10 minutes or so, until slightly charred.
Option 2: Cook the corn on a hot cast iron skillet, over medium-high heat on the stove, until charred on all sides. If you choose this method, I recommend fully husking the corn, as the husk can catch fire on the stove.
Option 3: Boil the corn. This is not my favorite option, as you won’t have the beautiful and delicious charred bits.
- Buy the freshest corn you can find! Farmers markets usually have corn that have been picked within the last 2 days (and sometimes within the past 4-6 hours), so that’s usually where I go when I’m looking for super fresh corn. Choose bright green ears that are tightly wrapped against the cob, without any brown holes. You can also gently squeeze them to make sure that they are plump.
- If you want to save time (and the trouble of husking all the corn), you can buy the packaged corn that has already been husked.
- I like using a brush to spread the dressing on the corn cobs instead of rolling them in the mixture. That way it is easier to control how much you are using, as some people might not want their elote completely smothered! (That’s not me, though. I want it smothered all the way! 😋)
- When preparing the dressing, save some of the cheese, chili powder and cilantro to sprinkle over the dressed corn later. It makes a prettier presentation!
How Do You Serve Elote?
Elote is a street food, so it’s supposed to be eaten by itself, as a snack or standing-up meal, served with lime wedges for squeezing.
Mexican street corn is meant to be eaten hot, right off the grill, but you can also eat it at room temperature. Just make sure the mayo-based dressing hasn’t been sitting out at room temperature for longer than 2 hours.
Finally, you can also serve your elotes stripped off the cobs, in cups, but then they are called esquites! 😊
If you’re lucky enough to have leftovers, you can strip the kernels off the cobs and use them in salads, burritos, quesadillas, corn fritters, salsa, soups or dips!
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes, but it’s not the same! To make it without mayo, just substitute the mayo for greek yogurt or more sour cream.
Elote is best fresh off of the grill! That being said, you can prepare the dressing a day ahead and also pre-shuck your corn ears. That way everything is ready to go!
Leftovers will keep in the fridge for up to 3 days. I personally prefer using leftovers to create other recipes (see suggestions above), as – if the elotes are already dressed – they won’t reheat well. If the elotes are not yet dressed, you can reheat the grilled corn in the oven (350ºF for 15 minutes) and then brush with the dressing.
Dressed elote doesn’t freeze well. However, you can freeze the grilled corn (for several months) if it hasn’t been dressed yet!
More Mexican Recipes
- One Pan Mexican Beef and Rice Casserole
- Mexican Queso Fundido with Chorizo
- Creamy Chicken Taquitos with Salsa Roja
- Chicken and Chorizo Enchiladas with Chipotle Crema Sauce
- 8 ears fresh sweet corn
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- ½ cup mayonnaise
- ½ cup Mexican crema (or sour cream)
- 1 clove garlic, finely minced
- ⅓ cup chopped cilantro, divided
- ¾ teaspoon chili powder, divided
- Juice of 1 lime
- ½ cup crumbled Cotija cheese, divided
- Lime wedges, for serving
- Gas or Charcoal Grill
- Silicone Pastry Brush
- Start by shucking the corn. Remove the husks and silk, or – if desired – leave some of the husks on to form a handle. You can do that by pulling them back to the bottom of the corn ear, then gathering them together and tying with a piece of husk or string. If you choose to completely husk the corn, I recommend inserting a wooden skewer on each corn, so it's easier to hold and eat!
- Preheat your gas or charcoal grill to medium high for at least 10 minutes.
- While the grill is preheating, mix the mayo, Mexican crema (or sour cream), garlic, ¼ cup chopped cilantro, ½ teaspoon chili powder, lime juice and ¼ cup Cotija cheese in a bowl. Taste and season with salt if you think it's necessary. Reserve.
- Brush the corn ears with vegetable oil. Place the corn on the grill and cover, cooking for 2-3 minutes per side, until charred all around.
- Brush the corn with the dressing, then sprinkle the extra Cotija cheese, cilantro and chili powder.
- Serve immediately, with lime wedges!