This sheet pan version features jalapeño and red bell pepper for extra flavor
Did someone say “fresh sweet corn”? It’s in season around here, so let’s enjoy it to the max!
No need to wrestle with a slippery cob, though. For this dish, we cut off the kernels and roast them, then add a lively mayo- and cheese-based dressing.
In Mexico, the dish is known as esquites, and it’s very popular. Once you taste it, you’ll know why.
Recipe: Mexican Street Corn (Esquites) Salad
It’s traditional to prepare Mexican street corn by grilling it. But we think it’s easier to roast the kernels in the oven. It makes for a simpler dish, and we think the flavor is actually better. Besides, when you roast the sweet corn, you can add other goodies along with it, which gives your salad more flavor and interest. For this recipe, we’ve added jalapeño and red bell peppers to the mix for extra goodness and color.
Prep time for this dish is about 20 minutes. Plus you’ll need another 20 minutes or so to roast the sweet corn mixture.
This dish yields about 4 servings when plated as a starter or side dish.
For the dressing:
- ½ cup mayonnaise
- ½ cup sour cream or Mexican crema
- ½ cup crumbled cotija cheese (can substitute feta or Parmesan)
- ~2 tablespoons fresh-squeezed lime juice (approximately the juice of 1 lime)
- ½ cup scallion greens, finely sliced (minced shallot is a good substitution)
- 1 garlic clove, minced very finely (or to taste)
- ½ teaspoon ancho chile powder (or more to taste; may substitute a spicier chile powder)
- ½ cup chopped cilantro
For the salad:
- ~4 cups sweet corn kernels (fresh or frozen; see Notes)
- 1 to 2 jalapeño peppers, stemmed, seeded, and minced finely (to taste)
- 1 red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and minced (¼-inch pieces are ideal)
- ~1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt (or to taste; see Notes)
- First make the dressing (you can make this hours ahead of time – even the night before – and store it in the refrigerator until ready to use): Whisk together the mayo, sour cream, and cheese crumbles. Then whisk in the lime juice, chopped scallion greens, garlic, and chile powder. Finally, whisk in the chopped cilantro (if you’re making the dressing ahead of time, add the cilantro right before serving).
- When ready to roast the sweet corn, preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.
- Toss the corn kernels, chopped jalapeño, and red bell pepper with olive oil to coat. Season with salt to taste. Spread the corn mixture out on a sheet pan (or other baking pan) in one layer. You may want to first cover the sheet pan with heavy aluminum foil to make cleanup easier.
- Place the sheet pan in the oven. After 8 minutes, remove the pan and stir the corn kernels (flip them over so their other side is exposed to heat). Continue roasting until the corn kernels are slightly crunchy and some of the pieces are beginning to blacken (15 to 20 minutes total).
- Add the roasted corn-kernel mixture to a large mixing bowl. Add as much of the dressing as you like (we use about ¾ of it, reserving the rest for another use). Stir to mix.
- Serve the salad. We often add jalapeño slices for garnish, sometimes with a sprinkling of cheese, or a dollop of sour cream or Mexican crema, on top.
- Quantities for this recipe are very flexible – you can easily add more or less to taste.
- We often add the zest of one lime to the dressing (Step 1) for extra flavor.
- This dressing is so good we think it can double as a dip. Or use it as a sandwich spread in place of mayo. Or as a dressing for lettuce salad.
- Fresh sweet corn is in season at the moment, so that’s what we recommend using for this recipe. Just cut the kernels from the cob before roasting.
- But this dish is just as good made with frozen sweet corn. No need to thaw the corn – just toss it with the olive oil and other ingredients (Step 3) and spread it out on the sheet pan. Cooking time might be a bit longer with frozen corn, but not by much.
- Speaking of cooking time, that’s flexible too. It mostly depends on how crispy/crunchy you want the sweet corn kernels to be. The longer they roast, the more charred they become. We like a mix of some crusty and softer corn kernels.
- The char you get from roasting the corn kernels mimics the flavor (and texture) of grilled corn on the cob (known in Mexico as elotes).
- Roasting enhances the flavor of sweet corn. It also heightens the flavor of the diced jalapeño and red bell pepper, making both a bit sweeter (and slightly taming the spiciness of the jalapeño).
- Mayonnaise is essential for the dressing. We consider crema (or sour cream) somewhat optional. It adds flavor, but you can skip it if you don’t have any on hand.
- Crumbled cotija cheese is traditional in the dressing, but we actually prefer feta. Any hard, salty cheese (such as Parmesan) would probably work.
- Ancho chile powder is on the mild side. So if you want a spicier dressing, add more than we specify – or substitute a spicier chile powder. Chipotle chile powder adds terrific flavor, plus it has a slightly smoky character that works well in this dish.
- We use kosher salt in cooking. It’s less salty by volume than regular table salt (the crystals are larger and more irregular, so they pack a measure less tightly). If you’re using table salt, start with about half the amount we suggest. But always season to your taste, not ours.
- And speaking of seasoning: We add salt to the sweet corn kernels (Step 3) to help bring out their flavor, but don’t add any to the dressing – we think the cheese adds enough salt.
“Delicioso,” said Mrs. Kitchen Riffs. “And about as close to Mexico as we’re likely to get for a while.”
“Yeah, thought we escaped the pandemic after getting vaccinated,” I said. “But the delta variant circled back.”
“At least we can console ourselves with this dish,” said Mrs K R. “The dressing is so good I could eat it by the spoonful.”
“Indeed,” I said. “Stood guff.”
“Think you’re taking spoonerism too far,” said Mrs K R. “I assume you meant ‘good stuff’ there?”
Maybe. But after what we’ve been through in this pandemic, I’ll stand by my words.
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Grilled sweet corn is definitely something I need to do more as my husband does enjoy them. But since I don't have a grill, roasting in oven is even better for me. This looks so colourful and deliciously healthy. Thanks for sharing, John.
Hi Angie, roasting in the oven is SO easy! If you want your corn on the cob, we roast in the oven without shucking -- then shuck when cooked. Incredible flavor that way. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hey, that's a great idea to roast corn without first shucking (ah, shucks)! I never thought of that! I live 6 miles from the Mexican border so no problem getting the ingredients for this dish!
Hi Fran, you need to try that. :-) And I envy you your location -- you must get incredible ingredients! Thanks for the comment.
John, this sounds delicious and lively! And even though it's fresh corn season right now, it's good to know about using frozen corn kernels. That makes it an easy year-round dish. Thanks!
Hi Terry, we think frozen corn is just as good as fresh in this dish. But at this time of the year, it's fresh all the way! :-) Thanks for the comment.
Nothing better than fresh, summer corn. I'm waiting for our garden to grow then I'll be making this
Hi Pat and Dahn, corn season is wonderful, isn't it? :-) Thanks for the comment.
So fresh and summery!! I love the corn this time of year!
Hi Ashley, we love this dish -- SO good. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Yes, yes and yes!
Hi Anne, do I take it that's a yes? :-) Thanks for the comment.
Such a tasty flavorful EASY and QUICK dish! Like you, i prefer the taste of oven baked corn to grilled corn and I am so looking forward to making this!
Hi Shashi, we're all about quick and easy. And flavor, of course. :-) Thanks for the comment.
I love this. It's a perfect summer meal.
Hi Debra, such a nice dish, isn't it? :-) Thanks for the comment.
Ha ! Since I am at Mexican 101 and corn dishes 102 this recipe will be set aside for my next cookery lesson - interesting and promising heaps of taste ! love both the salad ingredients and the dressing tho' may use my imagination to get rid of the mayo I do not usually use . . . Ha ! In the Sydney Basin we shall be in hard lockdown for at least a couple of months but over 80$ of the population feel that is the way to go . . .
Hi Eha, the mayo is good in the dressing, but there's probably a workaround. You could probably use just crema or sour cream and a bit more lime juice. Different flavor, but a good one, I'd think. Thanks for the comment.
oh how summery and delicious does this look and sound. just found out we have to wear masks for another week! boo hoo ...
I love the combination of textures and flavours as well as the vibrant colours. And with this cheesy dressing? Yes please!
Hi Sherry, this really is delish. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Ben, the dressing is SO worth making -- even if you don't make the corn salad. :-) Thanks for the comment.
My husband would love this salad since it isn’t green. I love corn, especially fresh corn.
Hi Gerlinde, we love fresh corn, too! :-) Thanks for the comment.
Well don't you have great timing. I have two ears of grilled corn to cut off the cob and make a salad with tomorrow. Love this one and I have everything for it. It's going to go great with grilled chicken. Thanks John!
Hi MJ, bet you'll really like it. :-) Thanks for the comment.
How beautiful and its a brilliant idea to bake the kernels. Such a pretty and flavoursome dish, great for corn season and entertaining.
Hi Merryn, this definitely makes a nice entertaining dish. Or dinner on a weekend night. :-) Thanks for the comment.
This looks delicious especially right now when corn is so available. I definitely will give your recipe a try.
Love everything about this recipe. Thanks for sharing a great side dish idea.
Hi NCR, this is such a fun way to enjoy corn! Enjoy. And thanks for the comment.
Hi Lea Ann, you're welcome! :-) And thanks for the comment.
Could eat this every day! You know I love corn season!
Hi Abbe, I DO know that! :-) Thanks for the comment.
There is a taco restaurant that opened not too far from me that everyone has been clamoring to go to...so I waited and finally tried it with a girlfriend last week. They do have fantastic tacos to be sure, but we ordered a side of street corn and honestly John, I could have made it lunch, nothing else. Something about that combination of sweet corn with a bit of heat and Mexican spice...SO GOOD!
I can't wait to try this!
Hi Barb, love street corn. And yeah, it could be a whole meal. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Yummy in my tummy.
We loved it! This is a keeper and one that I'm sure we'll make many more times in the future. Thanks!
Hi Olguis, really yummy. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi MJ, glad you liked it! :-) And thanks for letting us know.
I love the combination of flavors and textures in this Mexican street Corn recipe. Already made a couple of times this summer after learning from Abbe last year and posted with purple corn.
I love every single ingredient! This is my kind of salad.
Hi Balvinder, Mexican street corn is such a classic dish, isn't it? Love it! Thanks for the comment.
Hi Pam, we love it too! :-) Thanks for the comment.
This time of the year, sweet corn is sublime. However, the on the cob version is a wholly mess. Love your idea to cut it off the cob with all the delicious flavors of Mexican street corn. Stay well and take care
Hi Bobbi, sometimes we're up for messy eats, but most of the time we want something we can plate and eat with a fork. Hence, this dish. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Corn is a big favorite in my home! this looks so colourful and summery
Love love love this. I’ve made a version, and what I like about this kind of recipe is how many versions are possible. Endless, really. I like that you included jalapenos!
Hi Nammi, it's a favorite with us, too! :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Mimi, you're right that there are endless versions of this. Which we like, a lot, too. :-) Thanks for the comment.
It really doesn't get much better than sweet, crisp summertime corn. This recipe is brilliant -- I want a bowl (or 12!) of it right now. :-) ~Valentina
Hi Valentina, brilliant works for us. :-) Thanks for the comment.
I have to admit that while I love the visceral pleasure of gnawing on corn on the cob, I love it even more with the kernels removed and tossed with vibrant ingredients like these. That way, you're assured to get a little bit of everything in each bite. ;)
Hi Carolyn, it's having all the flavors in each forkful that we really like about this dish. :-) Thanks for the comment.
This sounds so tasty - such a flavorful and light dish that gets my mind off the delta variant for sure!
Hi Shashi, this is really, really good. Really good. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Sweet corn salad is all time favorite but I never tried adding cheese in it. This sounds so delicious....
Hi Priya, the cheese adds a nice pop of flavor -- worth a try sometime. :-) Thanks for the comment.
It’s extremely disappointing to see the low vaccination rates in the US, it will keep the pandemic going for sure. The variant is in Ontario too (not sure how as our boarders are still closed🤬) but because our vaccination rates are high, it’s not taking as many people out. I’ll be so happy when this is over.
The dish looks absolutely delicious, I really must try it, particularly the dressing. A little shredded chicken in a wrap would make the perfect picnic food!
Hi Eva, like the idea of adding some shredded chicken, and serving this as a wrap. MUST try that. :-) Thanks for the comment.
That's a beautiful salad with lots of contrasting colors. Perfect for summer here.
Hi Holly, we love color in food! Flavor, too. :-) Thanks for the comment.
This dish would definitely cheer me up despite the pandemic news. Fresh corn is the best! Love these flavors.
Hi Lisa, fresh corn is great! And so good in this dish. :-) Thanks for the comment.
I always love paring this this grilled steaks
Hi Raymund, this is wonderful with grilled meat! :-) Thanks for the comment.
John, I'm making this sometime this week!! And I seriously can't wait to take a bite of this Mexican street corn salad!! 😍 Wonderful recipe!!
Hi Marcelle, isn't this a neat dish? SO good! :-) Thanks for the comment.
John - I don’t know how I got so far behind on my reading…. I guess my really job took over! I am so happy to find t his recipe today - I literally just bought almost all the ingredients at the farmers market, I just need to get some cotija! Thanks — gorgeous and flavorful!
Hi David, tough when real life gets in the way of pleasure, isn't it? :-) Thanks for the comment.
Love Mexican Sweet Corn--why have I never made it! And I am totally with you on the idea that a recipe needs to be practical.
Hi Inger, this is such a nice dish. And it's corn season! :-) Thanks for the comment.
Corn season is so welcomed in my family. Being from Iowa originally, we can never get enough sweet corn, on or off the cob. I am anxious to try your recipe John and totally agree with roasting and increased flavor! Thanks for sharing!
Hi Roz, corn season is terrific, isn't it? And we LOVE roast corn. :-) Thanks for the comment.
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