Mexican Street Corn Salad

5 from 67 votes

Easy Mexican street corn salad with frozen corn, cotija cheese, lime, & cilantro. This elote salad is mayo-free, big on flavor and perfect for get-togethers!

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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!

Overhead shot of Mexican Street Corn Salad in large white bowl with lime wedges and side of cotija cheese crumbles.

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.
Ingredients for recipe before prepped: corn kernels, avocado oil, scallions, cilantro, cotija cheese, jalapeno, lime, and spices.

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

  1. Heat the oil in a large cast iron skillet, add the corn, and cook.
  2. Toss often until the corn starts to char.
2 image collage pan frying corn for recipe in cast iron.

toss corn with Salad ingredients

  1. Add the charred corn, scallions, cilantro, cotija cheese, lime juice, jalapeno, garlic, salt, and chili powder to a large bowl.
  2. Toss thoroughly to mix everything together.
2 image collage of ingredients in a large bowl before and after ingredients.

Tips for making Mexican street corn with frozen corn

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
Close up of spoon scooping some Mexican street corn salad from large serving dish.

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

Can I use canned corn instead of frozen to make this elote salad?

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.

What’s the difference between elotes and esquites?

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.

Can I add mayo to this recipe if I want?

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.

Angled shot of corn salad in large serving bowl with spoon.

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!

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Mexican Street Corn Salad

Easy Mexican street corn salad with frozen corn, cotija cheese, lime, & cilantro. This elote salad is mayo-free, big on flavor and perfect for get-togethers!
5 from 67 votes
Servings 6 servings
Course Side, Side Dish
Calories 129
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 5 mins
Total Time 15 mins

Ingredients
  

  • 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

Instructions

  • 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.

Notes

Storage: This street corn salad will last up to three days in the fridge. Keep in mind the longer it sits the more water will weep from the corn. 

Nutrition

Calories: 129kcal, Carbohydrates: 16g, Protein: 3g, Fat: 7g, Saturated Fat: 2g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g, Monounsaturated Fat: 4g, Cholesterol: 6mg, Sodium: 464mg, Potassium: 178mg, Fiber: 3g, Sugar: 5g, Vitamin A: 277IU, Vitamin C: 9mg, Calcium: 46mg, Iron: 1mg

Nutrition information provided is an estimate. It will vary based on cooking method and specific ingredients used.

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Overhead shot of Mexican Street Corn Salad in large white bowl with lime wedges and side of cotija cheese crumbles.

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Comments

  1. I really enjoyed this recipe. It was tasty even without the mayo and I felt good serving it to my family. LOVED the authors suggestion to use feta as a substitute, worked great. Also loved the suggestion to add in peppers for color and crunch, which I did. Also accurate that you need a large cast iron so the kernels can blacken, I had a smaller one and it didn’t work as well. I would suggest to double the seasoning, I found it a little bland with the measurements given here. Overall, fantastic and tasty recipe!

  2. I was looking for a quick and easy salad to make. I tried this the other day and I absolutely LOVE it!

  3. Made this tonight quickly and missed some ingredients, like the chili powder and left out the jalapeño cause hubby is ok without it and it was DELICIOUS! This will definitely be a Summer treat with fresh Jersey corn! Love your Instagram posts. Thank you!