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This Mexican street corn salad (also known as elote salad) combines salty, melt in your mouth cotija cheese, fresh cilantro, tangy lime, garlic, and jalapeno with frozen corn. It’s an addicting salad that is perfect for summer barbecues or any time you want a light, yet flavorful dish. The best part about this recipe is that it is mayo-free!
Street corn, or Elote, is a popular Mexican street food. It is usually made with grilled corn served on a stick that is slathered in butter, mayo, chili powder, and lime juice. While Mexican street corn is delicious, it can be a bit heavy. In this recipe, we are going to make a Mexican Street Corn Salad without mayo. This salad is just as tasty as the original, and is sure to please a crowd.
why you’ll love this Mexican corn salad without mayo
- No-fuss. This elote salad comes together quickly and easily with just a few ingredients. Using frozen corn saves time and effort, and eliminates the need to fire up the grill.
- Light, yet flavorful. This salad is perfect for summertime, or any time you want a light, but satisfying dish. The fresh cilantro and lime juice give it a bright flavor, while the cotija cheese and jalapeno add just the right amount of spice.
- Make-ahead friendly. This salad can be made ahead of time and will keep in the fridge for up to a day. Simply add the jalapeno when you’re ready to serve.
- Flexible. Don’t like cilantro? Feel free to swap it out for another fresh herb, such as parsley. Don’t have cotija cheese on hand? Feta would be a delicious substitute.
Ingredients to make Mexican street corn salad
- Frozen corn: Using frozen corn is a time-saver, and by letting it thaw and drain before cooking, you’ll avoid waterlogged corn.
- Cotija cheese: Cotija is a Mexican cheese that is salty, crumbly, and melt-in-your-mouth delicious. Think of it like the feta of the Mexican cheese world.
- Cilantro: Cilantro is a fresh herb with a bright, slightly citrusy flavor. If you’re not a fan, feel free to swap it out for another fresh herb, such as parsley.
- Scallions: Scallions are also known as green onions. They have a milder flavor than regular onions, and add a nice touch of color to the salad.
- Jalapeno: The jalapeno gives the salad a little bit of heat. If you don’t like spice, you can leave it out or substitute it with a milder pepper, such as Anaheim or poblano.
- Lime: The lime juice adds a tart and tangy flavor to the salad. It’s a source of freshness that really makes the flavors pop.
- Garlic: Garlic is a key ingredient in many Mexican dishes. It gives the salad a subtle, yet flavorful kick.
- Avocado oil: Helps char the corn and helps the spices adhere to the kernels, and gives the salad a nice, light flavor.
- Spices: Chili powder is a key ingredient in Mexican street corn. It gives the salad a slightly smoky flavor and a beautiful color. Salt rounds out the spice blend by acting as a flavor enhancer.
How to make Mexican street corn salad
One of the things I love about this elote salad recipe is the ease of prep. You can have the entire salad ready to go in under 20 minutes.
To start, you will need to thaw your frozen corn. I like to do this by placing the corn in a colander and running cold water over it. Once the corn is thawed, drain it well, pat it dry and set it aside.
Pan Fry The Frozen Corn
- Heat the oil in a large cast iron skillet, add the corn, and cook.
- Toss often until the corn starts to char.
toss corn with Salad ingredients
- Add the charred corn, scallions, cilantro, cotija cheese, lime juice, jalapeno, garlic, salt, and chili powder to a large bowl.
- Toss thoroughly to mix everything together.
Tips for making Mexican street corn with frozen corn
- Dry the corn as thoroughly as possible before cooking. This is especially important if you are using corn thawed from frozen. If the corn is wet, you will need to cook it for a few extra minutes to dry it out before it will start to char—and the excess moisture will sizzle when it hits the pan.
- Don’t overcrowd the pan. You want to give the corn plenty of room to move around so that each kernel has a chance to char. If you crowd the pan, the kernels will steam instead of char.
- Cook over high heat. This is key for getting a nice char on the corn without overcooking it. You want to make sure your pan is nice and hot before adding the corn.
- Don’t forget to season! The key to any good Mexican corn salad recipe is proper seasoning. Be sure to taste your salad and adjust the seasoning as necessary.
popular substitutions & additions
- Customize your spice. Despite the jalapeno and the chili powder, this salad isn’t that spicy. If you want to up the heat, consider leaving the seeds in the jalapeno or swapping it out for a serrano pepper. You can also increase the chili powder to ¾ teaspoon, if you like.
- Mix it up by adding veggies. This is a straightforward recipe with a lot of opportunity for you to vary it according to the produce you have and your personal preferences. Try finely chopped red onion instead of the scallions. Also, try throwing in some chopped bell peppers—red would be especially pretty.
- Switch out the cheese. If you don’t like cotija cheese or can’t find it, I find that feta cheese makes an excellent substitute here because it looks like cotija and also has that salty taste that’s perfect in this Mexican street corn salad.
- Try it with grilled corn. This salad is delicious with fresh or frozen corn, but if you happen to have some grilled corn on hand, by all means, use it! The smoky flavor of the grilled corn will take this salad to the next level.
what to serve with mexican corn salad
how to store Mexican corn salad without mayo
This salad is best enjoyed fresh, but will keep in the fridge in an airtight container. If you are making it ahead of time, I recommend storing the corn salad and the cheese separately and tossing them together just before serving. This will help to prevent the cotija from getting soggy.
How long will elote salad last in the fridge?
Typically, this salad will last for about three days in the fridge. The longer it’s stored, the more water the corn will release, so keep that in mind when you’re planning ahead.
Frequently asked questions
Yes, you can use canned corn, but I don’t recommend it. The flavor and texture is always off to me, and it’s hard to get the moisture out. I find that frozen corn has a better texture and flavor. If you are using canned corn, make sure to drain it well before adding it to the pan.
Elotes are ears of corn that are grilled or roasted and then topped with a variety of toppings like mayonnaise, sour cream, cheese, chili powder, and lime juice. Esquites is the same thing, but it’s served in a cup, and the corn is cut off the cob first. This recipe is essentially esquites, but since most people are more familiar with calling it Mexican street corn, I went with that.
Sure! If you want to add mayo, simply add it in with the rest of the dressing ingredients. I would start with ¼ cup and then add more to taste. Remember that the cotija cheese is already pretty salty, so you may not need to add as much salt if you’re using mayo.
If you’re looking for a delicious and simple Mexican street corn salad recipe, look no further! This elote salad without mayo is easy to make with just a few simple ingredients. Be sure to try it out at your next cookout or potluck!
What’s your favorite way to enjoy Mexican street corn? Let me know in the comments below!
More salad recipes:
- Southwest Quinoa Salad
- Avocado Mango Salad
- Mexican Style Chopped Salad
- Avocado Shrimp Salad
- Ground Beef Taco Salad
- Corn Tomato Avocado Salad
- Chickpea Couscous Salad
- Shirazi Salad
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Mexican Street Corn Salad
- 20 ounces frozen corn thawed and patted dry
- 2 tablespoons avocado oil
- ½ cup thinly sliced scallions both white and green parts
- ¼ cup cilantro roughly chopped, plus additional for topping
- ¼ cup cotija cheese crumbled
- 1 lime juiced
- 1 jalapeno seeded and finely chopped
- 1 garlic clove minced
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon chili powder
- Heat the oil in a large cast iron skillet or heavy pan over medium-high heat. When the oil is shimmering, add the corn and cook, tossing often, until charred and starting to pop, 5-6 minutes.
- Pour the charred corn into a large bowl and add the scallions, cilantro, cotija cheese, lime juice, jalapeno, garlic, salt, and chili powder. Toss thoroughly to mix.
- Serve topped with additional cilantro and cotija cheese.
Nutrition information provided is an estimate. It will vary based on cooking method and specific ingredients used.