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All Photos: Ryan Hughley

Roasted esquites corn salad


This roasty, cheesy corn salad is the perfect Cinco de Mayo treat

Growing up in Southern California, one of my favorite things to do as a child was to go to baseball games. While technically my family is full of Dodger fans, I really couldn't have cared less about the actual game — I wanted elotes. After the game was I would convince my mom to take me over to the food carts that lined the parking lot. They were full of goodies like bacon wrapped hot dogs, fresh cut fruit and those elotes — summer corn served just the way I liked it

Also known as Mexican street corn, elotes are a flavorful (and portable) treat that the whole family can get excited about. It's a fairly simple dish — just sweet summer corn smothered in mayonnaise, crema, cojita cheese, chili powder, salt and pepper. You can also add lime and paprika but I always preferred to keep it simple.

Traditionally when making elotes, ears of corn are roasted over the heat of a roaring fire to give them that perfect smoke-kissed flavor that makes them so delicious. But for this recipe we're more interested in the kernels than the cob, and we'll transform the dish into its cob-less cousin, esquites. 

The best thing about this version of the dish is that it is both affordable and requires minimal work. Instead of spending a considerable amount of time cutting corn off the kob, this recipe simply requires a bag of frozen corn kernels. I promise, the flavor is the same, and eliminating the arduous task of separating corn from cob means that you spent your time way more wisely.

You can use your free time drinking a margarita.
Roasted Esquites Salad
Serves: 3 to 4
Hands-on time: 30
Total time: 30

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups diced red onion
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 (1-pound) bag Trader Joe's frozen roasted corn
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoons smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Juice of 1 lime
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup crumbled Cotija cheese
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Heat the vegetable oil in a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Once the oil is hot, add the red onion and garlic and cook, stirring, until softened and beginning to brown, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the frozen corn and continue to cook, stirring, until heated through, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in the salt, chili powder, paprika, cumin and black pepper. Remove from the heat and let cool until only slightly warm, 10 to 15 minutes.  

Stir in the mayonnaise and lime juice until well incorporated. Stir in the cheese and cilantro. Serve immediately or let cool to room temperature.

Author image

Ryan Shepard is the editor-in-chief at Southern Kitchen. Though originally from Los Angeles, she has lived in Atlanta since early 2017 and cannot imagine calling any other city home (except maybe New Orleans). Before joining Southern Kitchen's staff, Ryan worked on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. on public policy issues. When she's not at work, she enjoys hunting down the best Mexican food in the city and drinking whiskey, obviously.