Made with a locals-only flavor combo, this elote recipe is the real deal for Mexican street corn. It’s creamy, tangy, acidic, and spicy— just like they’re served in the streets of Mexico.
Authentic Mexican Street Corn Recipe
Once you’ve seen little corn kernels and crumbled cotija fly off with every bite, you’re never having Mexican street corn any other way. Surprisingly simple, this recipe is the real deal when it comes to elotes. Whether you like them grilled or just boiled, they’re easy to make but still super flavorful.
Sprinkled with tangy cotija cheese and different kinds of chili powder, they’re an exciting and tender treat. Plus, lots of mayo and crema keep things nice and creamy to balance out the heat. Between that and the acidity from the lime juice, you might just develop a healthy addiction to Mexican street corn.
Served warm or cold, don’t forget to experiment with the toppings. You can add Flaming Hot Cheetos or Japanese mayo for an unexpected twist on the recipe’s traditional components. Don’t forget a bit of cilantro! As long as you keep in mind that elotes need to be creamy, acidic, tangy, and spicy, you’ll be serving the coolest, most authentic ones on the block.
What is Elote?
Elote is Mexico’s topping-packed take on corn-on-the-cob. Depending on the region, it can be grilled or charred, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be. In fact, most vendors outside of Mexico City, Oaxaca, and Chiapas skip the grilling altogether and just boil the corn.
The toppings also vary by region but there is a nationwide consensus on the fact that they should include lime juice, some sort of cheese, something creamy (mayo, butter, or crema), and a bit of heat. Anything else that’s added to them is optional but highly welcome.
Elotes vs Esquites
While both are a form of street food, elotes are considered the corn-on-the-cob version of esquites (corn kernels). They can be prepared with the same toppings and taste exactly the same, so the only difference is how people prefer to eat them.
Elotes are usually prepared and served on a wooden stick or on a styrofoam plate to catch all the toppings. Esquites, on the other hand, always come in styrofoam cups and are even served with a little bit of the cooking liquid to make them extra warm and comforting.
Mexican street corn is all about the toppings. Check the recipe card at the bottom of the post for full ingredient amounts.
- White corn ears: For it to be authentic, don’t use sweet yellow corn. However, if you aren’t worried about authenticity, yellow corn is delicious too.
- Mexican crema: Try not to substitute it for sour cream for authentic elotes, but you can if you can’t find Mexican crema.
- Full-fat mayonnaise: Low-fat mayo is okay too. If you can find it, Mayonesa (Mexican mayonnaise with lime juice) is really delicious!
- Lime juice: Lemon juice works just as well.
- Cotija cheese: Shredded queso fresco works too but your elotes won’t have a tangy kick.
- Tajín: Tajin adds that hit of acid that makes this corn irresistible!
- Chili powder: Chile piquín works great if you like it spicy. You can also use cayenne pepper.
- Salsa Huichol: Salsa Guacamaya and Valentina are good substitutes. Please stay away from Tabasco sauce.
Tips & Variations
With these tips, you’ll take your Mexican street corn to the next level. They’ll be so good you might as well open a business.
- Add Cheetos. Crush some Flaming Hot Cheetos and sprinkle them on top to taste. They’ll add a fiery kick. This take on elotes isn’t very traditional, but it’s recently become very popular in Mexican street food.
- Cool them quickly. If you can’t wait for them to cool down on their own, place them in a bowl of cold water while you prepare the toppings. They’ll cool much quicker.
- Make them snack-size. Elotes are extremely filling, so it’s never a good idea to have them right before a meal. Turn them into appetizers or snacks by cutting every corn in half before boiling them.
- Use the cooking liquid. Don’t discard the cooking liquid; use it as a base for veggie broth or soups!
- Use Japanse mayo. It’s not a Mexican ingredient but it’ll give the corn loads more richness.
- Try it cold. It sounds strange but cold elotes are amazing!
How to Make Homemade Elote
Getting your corn tender is the “hardest” part about making Mexican street corn.
- Boil the corn. Fill a large pot with water and add the white corn. Let them boil for 15-20 minutes or until tender. Remove them from the pot and set them aside to cool.
- Mix the mayo. In a small bowl, mix the crema and mayo until well combined. Coat each piece of corn with the mixture to taste. The more you add, the easier the toppings will stick to your elotes without falling off.
- Add the cotija. Drizzle the corn with lime juice on all sides. Top with cotija to taste. Use your fingers to gently press down on the cheese so that it sticks to the mayo mixture.
- Add the chili. Finally, add Tajín, chili powder, and salsa Huichol to taste. Any other toppings should also go on now. Serve hot or at room temperature.
Can I Grill The Corn Instead?
Yes! You can definitely use grilled corn or even air fryer corn. It’s uncommon for corn to be grilled in households but it’s a typical preparation in street-food stalls. Boil them, rub some butter on them (about 1/2-1 tablespoon each), and then grill them until lightly charred. Add toppings as usual.
How to Serve Mexican Elote
Mexican street corn is usually served in small quantities as an appetizer or in larger ones as an afternoon snack. I don’t recommend it right before big meals, though, because it’s very filling and won’t leave much room for other dishes. As long as you halve or quarter them, you should be okay, though.
Use your hands to dig right in! Street corn isn’t fancy. In fact, it’s quite fun to eat. However, you might want to keep a napkin on hand because, the more toppings you add, the messier things get.
If you’re looking for more dishes to go alongside your Elote, here are a few of my favorites:
- Appetizers: How about some Authentic Guacamole? This cheesy Frijoles Puercos (Mexican Bean Dip) is also one of the first to disappear.
- Mains: Everything from Chile Rellenos to Carne Asada would be great with this Elote! Or maybe you are feeling enchiladas, like these Adobo Enchiladas or Sour Cream Chicken Enchiladas!
- Sides: Mexican Rice and Charro Beans are always a must! Refried Beans are delicious too! Or if you are looking for another vegetable, try my Calabacitas!
Refrigerate any cooled leftovers in an airtight container for up to 5 days. If you like them cold, you can go ahead and store them with all the toppings. However, if you prefer them warm, I recommend storing the corn ears and toppings separately.
The mayo mixture will melt in the microwave and all your toppings will begin to slide right off. To avoid this, sprinkle the corn with 1-2 teaspoons of water and then microwave them for 1 minute or until warm. Spread them with room-temperature mayo mixture and add the toppings as usual.
More Authentic Mexican Recipes
- Mexican Chicken Adobo
- Colorado Green Chili (Chili Verde)
- Avocado Salsa
- Chili Colorado
- Pollo Asado
- Carne Asada Tacos
- Chicken Tinga
- In a small bowl, mix the crema and mayo until well combined. Coat each piece of corn with the mixture to taste.
- Drizzle the corn with lime juice on all sides. Top with cotija to taste.
- Finally, add Tajín, chili powder, and salsa Huichol to taste. Serve hot or at room temperature. Enjoy!
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