Esquites (Mexican Corn Salad)

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Esquites (Mexican Corn Salad) is perfect when you need a refreshing side for your next BBQ. It’s light, spicy, and it’s ready in just minutes with a handful of simple ingredients.

Equites in wine glass on black surface. Text reads "Esquites (Mexican Street Corn)".
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Esquites: Mexican Corn Salad

If you’re ready to discover your new favorite BBQ side, then you’ve got to try my Grilled Esquites. This off-the-cob version of my Elotes takes everything great about the original, and transforms it into a game-changing salad that’s even easier to devour. This Mexican corn salad is bursting with smoky, charred flavor from the grill, creamy tanginess from the dressing, and a kick of spice from my Fiesta Rub that’ll have you coming back for more. It’s the perfect blend of simple ingredients and bold taste that’ll make your backyard BBQ feel like a fiesta.

What Are Esquites?

Esquites is a popular Mexican street food that’s basically elotes (Mexican corn on the cob), but taken off the cob. To make it, you start with grilled corn kernels, then mix them with a creamy, tangy dressing. After that, you top it with cotija cheese, chili powder, and fresh cilantro. I love Esquites because it’s already off the cob. This means you don’t have to deal with husks or floss as much (although, let’s face it, corn is corn, and you might still have to floss a little). Overall, it’s an easier way to enjoy all the tasty flavors of Mexican street corn. As a result, it’s perfect for serving at gatherings as a yummy side dish.

Collage of pictures showing the steps for grilling and shelling corn for salad.

The Best Corn for Grilling

When it comes to making the most flavorful esquites, starting with great corn is key. Look for ears with husks that appear fresh and green. Gently peel back the top inch or so to check for well-developed kernels and any unwanted guests (like worms). The silk should be pale and silky, not brown and brittle.

If you’re short on time, pre-shucked corn is a convenient option. While frozen or canned corn can work in a pinch, I highly recommend using fresh corn for grilling. The char and smoky flavor you get from grilling fresh corn give this Mexican corn salad a depth of flavor you can’t get any other way.

How Long to Grill Corn

Grilling corn for esquites takes about 8-10 minutes on the grill at around 350 degrees F. As the corn cooks, you’ll start to smell that irresistible aroma of sweet corn in the air coming from the grill. Keep an eye on those kernels. You’re looking for a nice char on the outside while maintaining that perfect juicy pop when you bite into them. Turn the ears every couple minutes to ensure even cooking and to achieve some beautiful charring that adds both flavor and visual appeal to your Mexican street corn salad.

Glass bowl with mayo, surrounded by lime wedges and other ingredients for dressing.

Dressing and Toppings for Esquites

While your sweet and smoky corn is popping with flavor, the secret weapon for this dish is the dressing. It’s a creamy, tangy mixture that coats every kernel with bright and spicy notes. Here’s what you’ll need to make it:

For the toppings that take this Mexican corn salad over the top, here’s what I recommend using:

  • 1 cup cotija cheese (crumbled)
  • 2 limes (from the dressing, cut into wedges)
  • fresh cilantro (chopped)

How to Make Esquites

Now that you’re good and hungry for this indulgent Mexican corn salad, let’s go over the simple steps to make it:

  1. Preheat grill. Fire up your grill to medium-high heat, aiming for that sweet spot around 350 degrees F. I’m doing this recipe on my Weber 22” Original Kettle Charcoal Grill, but you can also do it on your gas grill. This temperature will give you perfectly charred corn without burning it.
  2. Prep corn. Shuck your ears of corn and add your melted butter with a basting brush. A generous coating of butter and a sprinkle of salt will help give your corn kernels explosive flavor. Place your ears of corn directly on the grates and let grill do its thing.
  3. Make topping. While the corn is grilling up beautifully, whip up that creamy, zesty dressing by mixing with a rubber spatula. The mayo base gets a flavor boost from my Fiesta Rub, and bright lime zest. It’s a perfect balance of richness and spice. You can make your own rub at home following the recipe here, or use your favorite spice mix.
  4. Shell grilled corn. Once your corn is nice and charred, it’s time to make eating it as easy as possible. Carefully remove the hot cobs and use a sharp knife to shell those smoky kernels from the cob.
  5. Layer, serve, and enjoy. Now for the fun part. Layer your grilled corn kernels, your luscious dressing, and some crumbled cotija cheese in glasses or a dish. Each spoonful will be a perfect mix of smoky, creamy, tangy, and totally satisfying.
Corn Salad in glass bowl with lime wedge garnish.

Serving and Storage Tips

  • Serving. I love serving esquites in stemless wine glasses. The presentation of this corn salad layered in the glass takes it from simple side dish to showstopper. The layers of golden corn, creamy dressing, and crumbled cotija cheese create a visual feast sure to impress your guests. But hey, a regular bowl or baking dish works great too if that’s more your style.
  • Storage and reheating. If you’ve got leftovers (which is unlikely), then store your esquites in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days. To reheat, give it a little time in the microwave, or let it come to room temperature. A fresh squeeze of lime juice and a sprinkle of cotija can revive the flavors beautifully.

More Delicious Corn Recipes

If you still can’t get enough corn, then you’re in luck. Check out the Hey Grill Hey app to browse through my collection of recipes featuring corn. In the meantime, here are a few of my favorite ways to enjoy this summer BBQ staple:

Stemless wine glass filled with esquites, garnished with seasoned rim and lime wedge.

Easy Grilled Esquites Recipe

Get that corn off the cob and into your mouth with this simple recipe for Esquites on your grill. Give it a try, and remember to give the recipe a 5-star rating if you had a good time making it. Don’t forget to share your corn creations with me on Instagram and Facebook by tagging @heygrillhey. For even more grilling tips, tricks, and how-to videos for my most mouthwatering recipes, head over to my YouTube channel.

Esquites (Mexican Corn Salad)

By: Susie Bulloch (heygrillhey.com)
0 from 0 votes
Esquites (Mexican Corn Salad) is perfect when you need a refreshing side for your next BBQ. It's light, spicy, and it's ready in just minutes.
Prep Time15 minutes
Cook Time10 minutes
Total Time25 minutes
Servings6 people

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Ingredients
 

  • 6 ears sweet corn
  • ¼ cup butter melted
  • 1 Tablespoon Kosher salt

Dressing

Toppings

  • 1 cup Cotija cheese crumbled
  • 2 limes zested and then cut into wedges
  • cilantro as garnish

Instructions
 

  • Preheat grill. Set your grill for even heat with a temperature of around 350 degrees F.
  • Prep corn. Shuck ears of corn and remove silks if needed, then place on a metal sheet pan. Coat heavily in melted butter with a basting brush, then sprinkle evenly with Kosher salt. Next, place your corn directly onto the grill grates with a pair of tongs, and allow to cook for 8-10 minutes. Turn every 2 minutes, or as needed for browning and charring.
    6 ears sweet corn, ¼ cup butter, 1 Tablespoon Kosher salt
  • Make topping. While your corn is grilling, grab a small mixing bowl to prepare your topping. Combine your mayonnaise and Fiesta Rub, and lime zest in your bowl using a spatula.
    ¾ cup mayonnaise, 2 Tablespoons Hey Grill Hey Fiesta Rub, 2 limes
  • Shell grilled corn. Remove your corn cobs from the grill with a pair of tongs, and transfer to a cutting board. Using a sharp knife, shell the grilled kernels off the cob and into piles.
  • Layer, serve, and enjoy. In 4 stemless wine glasses, or a 9×12 baking dish, add a layer of your freshly grilled corn. Next, add a layer of your sauce, and then top it with a layer of Cotija cheese. If you’re using a baking sheet, then you’re done. If you’re using wine glasses, continue layering until your glasses are full. Then, as an optional touch, you can line the rims with some more of your sauce and then sprinkle it with some seasoning.
    1 cup Cotija cheese, cilantro, 2 limes

Nutrition

Calories: 267kcal | Carbohydrates: 4g | Protein: 4g | Fat: 26g | Saturated Fat: 7g | Cholesterol: 34mg | Sodium: 468mg | Potassium: 59mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 530IU | Vitamin C: 6.5mg | Calcium: 135mg | Iron: 0.5mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

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