Learn how to make authentic, delicious Esquites (or Mexican street corn cups) right at home with sweet, smoky corn, a creamy tangy sauce, cotija cheese, and chili seasoning. An inexpensive Mexican street food that's just as good homemade!
Esquites - Mexican Street Corn Salad
Esquites are a traditional Mexican street food, typically served in a cup. Corn is removed from the cob and toasted, then tossed with mayonnaise and/or crema and lime juice for a creamy, tangy dressing. It is then topped with cotija cheese and chili seasoning for a final flavor punch.
This esquites recipe, aka Mexican street corn salad, features sweet and smoky, lightly charred corn with butter and sauteed onions tossed in a dressing made from mayonesa, crema, and lime juice for sweet, creamy, and tangy in every bite. I
It's made with only a handful of inexpensive ingredients. It's easy to eat as a salad, snack, or side dish at home, and each spoonful is loaded with creamy, salty, sweet, tangy, and just a little spicy kick.
What Does Esquites Mean?
Esquites means "cooked maize" or "toasted corn," and that is how you cook esquites, giving it a little bit of a char.
What is the Difference Between Elotes and Esquites?
Elotes is the name for Mexican street corn on the cob, and esquites is the name used for the same corn served in a bowl, off the cob. Both are lightly grilled and served with mayo or crema, lime juice, cotija cheese, and chile lime seasoning.
Because it's served in a cup, esquites are easier (and a lot less messy) to eat.
Is Esquites Served Hot or Cold?
Esquites is traditionally served warm in a cup or small bowl with a spoon.
Should I Use Fresh or Frozen Corn?
Either! If it's summer and it's corn season, you just can't beat that fresh-off-the-cob sweet corn!
If it's not summer, corn on the cob can be both expensive and bland. Frozen corn can do the trick here, as it's harvested and frozen at the peak of freshness for that fresh corn taste all year long.
Use about 4 cups of frozen corn, and be sure it's thawed before adding to the skillet.
Can I Grill the Corn?
Yes, you can grill the corn on the cob. Then cut off the cob, and add to the sauteed onions. Since the corn is already toasted from the grill, you can reduce the cook time in the skillet, and add in the dressing and toppings once it's heated through.
- Jalapeno or Serrano - Saute some fresh diced jalapenos or serranos with the onions to add some extra heat to the dish.
- Chili seasoning: The chili seasoning is really to taste. So you can add what's called for in the recipe, and then add as much more as you want to taste.
- Hot Sauce: Add a few dashes of your favorite hot sauce to the skillet or in individual serving cups for a little extra heat.
- Cilantro: If you don't like cilantro, it can easily be admitted and the recipe will still be delicious.
- Crushed Cheetos: A fun and modern variation, some food trucks will now serve esquites with finely crushed flaming hot Cheetos instead of chili seasoning. Worth a try!
More Mexican-Inspired Recipes You'll Love
- Refried Black Beans - creamy, rich and homemade. These refried beans are so much better than anything you can find in a can.
- Restaurant Style Salsa - a quick and easy blender salsa recipe that's just as good as your favorite restaurant.
- Authentic Guacamole - creamy, rich, and packed with flavor, just like guacamole should be!
- Chipotle Barbacoa - beef is slow cooked in a spicy, earthy sauce then served on tortillas as tacos!
- Black Bean Enchiladas - a vegetarian enchilada recipe that's still packed with protein. The filling is so good, I could eat it by itself.
Esquites (Mexican Street Corn Cups)
- 2 tablespoons butter (or light olive oil)
- 1 medium onion chopped
- 6 medium ears of corn cut off the cob (about 4 cups kernels)
- 1 tablespoon mayonnaise
- 2 tablespoons Mexican crema (or sour cream)
- 2 tablespoons lime juice
- 1½ teaspoons tajin seasoning (chile lime seasoning) plus more for topping
- ½ teaspoon chili powder
- ½ teaspoon salt or more to taste
- ¼ cup chopped cilantro plus more for topping
- ½ cup crumbled cotija cheese (or queso fresco)
- Heat the butter in a large skillet over medium heat.
- Add the onion and cook until tender.
- Add the corn, stir, and then spread into an even layer. Cook for 10-15 minutes with a lid on, stirring very occasionally, until corn is mostly toasted.
- Transfer to a large bowl and let cool for a few minutes.
- In a separate medium mixing bowl, add mayonnaise, crema or sour cream, lime juice, Tajin, chili powder, and salt, and whisk together.
- Add the dressing, half the cilantro, and half the cheese to the corn, and stir to incorporate. Taste and add salt as needed.
- Serve in cups topped with more cilantro, cheese, and tajin.
- Enjoy warm or at room temperature.
- Add jalapenos or serranos while sauteeing onions for an extra spicy kick.
- Corn: You can also use thawed frozen corn, about 4 cups
- Storage: Store leftovers covered in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Reheat in individual servings in the microwave or in a large skillet. Top with more cotija and chili seasoning before serving.
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