Mexican Street Corn Salad (Esquites)

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes
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This Mexican Street Corn Salad (Esquites) recipe is made with crisp sweet corn in a creamy sauce. It’s topped with tangy queso fresco, fresh cilantro, and crushed hot Cheetos, for a fun and addictive side dish!

Your New Favorite Side Dish? Mexican Street Corn in a Cup!

There’s nothing like biting into a juicy ear of corn on the cob, loaded down with bold and zesty Mexican toppings. This easy recipe for Mexican corn salad (aka esquites) takes the corn off the cob, but keeps all the toppings, which makes for a family-friendly, easy side dish that everyone is guaranteed to love. I can promise you that if you make this once, you’ll get pestered to serve it again, week after week!

What’s the secret? A killer combination of mayonnaise, Mexican crema (sort of like sour cream), mild cheese crumbles, and seasonings. Altogether, these make the iconic dressing that you know and love from Mexican street corn. Add some toppings (and yes, that includes hot Cheetos!) and you have a true crowd-pleaser.

Side view of Mexican corn salad in a cup, showing the layers of corn, crushed hot Cheetos, and other toppings.

What’s the Difference Between Elotes and Esquites?

Elote and esquites are basically identical – Mexican street corn served with a creamy-spicy sauce and then spiked with fun toppings. But while elote is served on the cob, esquites is served in little cups, with the corn kernels cut off of the cob and mixed with the sauce. This makes it a little less messy to eat, but still just as crave-able.

From top left: Cotija crumbles, crema, lime juice, fresh corn on the cob, tajin seasoning, melted butter, queso fresco, cilantro, mayonnaise, and hot Cheetos.

The Ingredients You’ll Need

Warning: These items are extremely delicious and may result in a sudden feeling of hunger, or even hanger. Still with me? Okay, let’s take a look:

  • Corn on the Cob: Shuck the ears of corn, removing the outer leaves and any strands of cornsilk. 
  • Butter: Melt the butter before using it in this recipe. 
  • Mayonnaise: Mayonesa, which is Mexican mayonnaise made with lime juice, is great in this recipe. But regular mayonnaise works fine, too.
  • Crema: Mexican crema is thicker and richer than American sour cream, but not as thick and rich as French crème fraîche. If you don’t have crema, I recommend using sour cream thinned slightly with a little milk, to make it pourable. 
  • Tajin: This is a Mexican seasoning used on many foods. It is made with salt, chili and lime, and it’s really amazing with Mexican street corn. If you don’t have Tajin, chili powder is decent substitute.
  • Cotija Cheese: Or crumbled queso fresco.
  • Fresh Cilantro: Finely minced. If you’re part of the group who thinks cilantro tastes like soap, you could always use some chopped fresh parsley in its place!
  • Lime Juice: Fresh is best, but bottled is totally fine, too.
  • Queso Fresco: Crumbled, for garnish.
  • Hot Cheetos: Crushed, for garnish.
A colorful, creamy corn sala in a bowl, garnished with lime slices.

Let’s Get Cookin’!

When you’ve got a quick and easy recipe that also makes everyone in your household rejoice… what do you call that? Oh yes, a win! Let’s get into the cooking method for this family-friendly favorite.

  • Broil the Corn. To begin with, heat your broiler to high. Place the corn on a baking sheet, and brush each piece with melted butter. Slide the baking sheet under the broiler, turning the ears of corn as they brown (about every 3 – 4 minutes). 
  • Cut the Corn Kernels off the Cob. Once the ears of corn have broiled, it’s time to cut off the corn kernels. Stand the corn on its end, and cut the kernels off with a sharp knife. If the corn is too hot to handle, use a heatproof glove, or a small fork poked into the end of the cob. Transfer the corn kernels to a big bowl.
  • Add the Creamy Sauce Ingredients. Next, add the mayo, crema, Tajin, cotija crumbles, cilantro, and lime right into the bowl with the corn. Mix it all together well. 
  • Serve with Toppings. Fill your serving cups or a large serving bowl half full with corn mixture, and top with crushed hot Cheetos, extra corn kernels, queso fresco, and a lime wedge.

Cook’s Notes

As you start making this recipe, check out these helpful tips! They will help make sure your Mexican corn salad turns out just right. Enjoy!

  • Hot Cheetos: To crush them, just throw them in the blender and pulse to make very small pieces. For a more hands-on approach, stick them in a zip-top bag and smash them with a rolling pin or a can! You can also substitute regular Cheetos if you don’t want a spicy kick.
  • Serving Dishes: This dish is often served in individual cups, which is great for parties or appetizers. You can serve it in a large serving bowl for a family-style setting.
  • Cooking the Corn: You can also use Air Fryer Corn on the Cob or Grilled Corn in this recipe.
A spoon holding a large scoop of esquites salad toward the camera. The serving bowl is in the background.

What Goes with Esquites?

Beef up your meal by adding, well, beef! Or chicken, or a vegetarian entree, of course. Here are some easy recipes that would work perfectly with this flavorful Mexican street corn salad:

  • Black Bean Soup: This Spicy Black Bean Soup is a wonderful meal for a chilly evening, and with savory-tangy-sweet esquites, it’ll be a huge hit with the family. You can also add a cup of hot, cooked rice to each serving, or a simple dish of roasted squash. Yum.
  • Chorizo and Eggs: Chorizo and Eggs is a quick breakfast-for-dinner idea that everyone will love. Add some Mexican corn salad, and watch the whole meal disappear!
  • Any Easy Chicken Dish: Throw together some chicken with fajita spices, or make Pico de Gallo Chicken, for a flavorful protein that you can serve with esquites, tortillas, and maybe some sour cream. 
  • Empanadas: Of course you need some empanadas to go along with your street corn salad! Cheesy Beef Empanadas, or Chicken Empanadas, would both go great.
Overhead shot of Mexican corn salad, garnished with a half slice of lime.

How to Store and Reheat Leftovers

You can store the corn mixture in your fridge for 3 – 5 days, tightly covered. Reheat in a skillet on the stove, or even in the microwave, stirring occasionally. Top as desired, and enjoy!

Can I Freeze Esquites?

The whole dish doesn’t freeze well once mixed, but you can freeze the corn mixture without the mayonnaise, crema, and other ingredients. Just cool it down a bit, pack it into freezer containers or freezer bags, and store in your freezer for up to 6 months.

When you’re ready to serve, just thaw in your fridge before reheating and adding the rest of the ingredients.

A large bowl of elote corn salad.
5 from 3 votes
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Yield: 6 Servings

Mexican Street Corn Salad (Esquites)

Mexican Corn Salad (Esquites) is made with crisp sweet corn in a creamy sauce. It’s topped with tangy queso fresco, fresh cilantro and crushed hot Cheetos, for a fun and addictive side dish!
Prep Time10 minutes
Cook Time10 minutes
Total Time20 minutes


  • 6 ears of corn on the cob, shucked
  • ¼ cup melted butter
  • cup mayonnaise, or Mayonesa
  • ¼ cup Mexican crema, or sour cream
  • 2 teaspoons Tajin, or chili powder
  • ½ cup Cotija cheese
  • 1 tablespoon cilantro, minced
  • 3 tablespoons lime juice, freshly squeezed
  • ¼ cup queso fresco, crumbled
  • 1 cup crushed hot Cheetos

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  • Heat your broiler to high. Place corn on a baking sheet and brush with the melted butter. Place corn under the broiler, turning when browned every 3 to 4 minutes. 
  • Stand the corn on its end and cut the kernels off and transfer corn to a large bowl, reserving a small amount for garnish.
  • Place the mayonnaise, crema, Tajin, cotija cheese, cilantro and lime juice in the bowl with the corn and mix well.
  • Fill cups (or a large serving bowl) half full with corn mixture, add a spoon or two of crushed hot Cheetos, and add some more corn on top. Then sprinkle the tops with queso fresco and a lime wedge.


Fridge: You can store the corn mixture in your fridge for 3 – 5 days, tightly covered.
Reheat: Reheat in a skillet on the stove, or even in the microwave, stirring occasionally. Top as desired, and enjoy!


Serving: 1, Calories: 521kcal, Carbohydrates: 39g, Protein: 8g, Fat: 39g, Saturated Fat: 13g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 23g, Trans Fat: 1g, Cholesterol: 50mg, Sodium: 1185mg, Fiber: 3g, Sugar: 6g


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Delicious. We did stove top roasting with frozen corn kernels. Did not use hot Cheetos. Served as a side with Mexican tacos, nachos and burritos and rice.

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