Esquites (Mexican Corn Salad)

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Over the winter, Alan and I spent a couple weeks in Chile (which you can read about here and here), and I spent most of the plane ride over trying to memorize Spanish irregular verbs and my key phrases. I knew that we were going to have a couple hours of layover time between our arrival in Santiago and our flight down to Patagonia, and I wanted us to be able to go into town for lunch. Despite my efforts to force my new linguistic knowledge onto Alan (“Did you know the Spanish word for ‘delicious’ is rico?” I asked emphatically — and more than once), he remained far more interested in the sights we were going to see.


It wasn’t long before we settled into a nice little lunch joint, and before Alan could open his mouth to say anything to the server, I hissed: “I’ve GOT this” and ordered us two waters sin gas, a starter, and a couple huge salads. The food was tasty, sure, but what could be more satisfying than my new-found bilingualism?

But then the server returned and said something so quickly I couldn’t make head or tails of it. It seemed like the right time for him to ask us how our meal had been, so with a huge grin, I belted out “Rico!” There was a very long pause. Very, very long. And then the server gave an awkward nod, collected our plates, and hustled off to grab the bill — at which point, we realized that he’d actually asked something along the lines of “May I get you anything else?”

Alan had a very good laugh, indeed.


All this to say, though this salad is insanely rico, I have absolutely no claim to it’s authenticity/accuracy. Esquites is a Mexican corn salad of sorts, where the corn’s been charred and is slathered in mayonnaise, cotija cheese, and chili pepper. Couldn’t find cotija anywhere, so I used sheep feta instead, and I threw in some fresh-grated garlic, some chives from the garden, and a mess of cilantro.

It’s not an exaggeration to say that this instantly became my favourite summer dish. The corn is sweet and slightly caramelized from the charred edges, salty from the feta, loaded with garlic mayo and lime juice, and cooled down from the fresh herbs. It’s hyperbolically good. I was alone in the kitchen when I snacked on the first bite, and actually said out loud to myself: “Holy shit, this is amazing!”

Which is idiotic — but at least there were no Chilean waiters to bear witness.


Esquites (Mexican Corn Salad)

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 10 minutes

Total Time: 15 minutes

Serving Size: Serves 4 as a side.

A quick and easy summer side dish that tastes ridiculously good. Recipe mished and mashed from Serious Eats & Two Red Bowls.


  • 2 Tbs canola oil
  • 6 ears of corn
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 Tbs mayonnaise
  • 75g (~1/3 cup) feta, crumbled
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced chives or green onions
  • 1 large handful cilantro leaves, chopped
  • 1 pickled or fresh jalapeño pepper, seeded and stemmed, minced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh juice from 1 lime
  • 1 large clove of garlic
  • Chili powder or hot chili flakes, to taste


  1. Set your oven to broil, line a sheet pan with foil, and shuck your corn. Cut the kernels onto your baking sheet, and toss with the oil. Broil the corn until there is visible charring in spots (roughly 6-8 minutes for me, but can take as little as 3-5 minutes depending on the oven. If you see or hear a few kernels jump around in the pan, the corn is done.) Remove from oven, sprinkle with the pinch of salt, and transfer to a large bowl.
  2. In the same bowl, add the mayonnaise, roughly half the feta (reserving the rest for garnish), the chives, the cilantro, the jalapeño, and the tablespoon of fresh lime juice. Use a garlic press or microplane grater to mince the garlic straight in. Toss everything gently to combine. Taste, and add salt/pepper/lime juice accordingly.
  3. Serve immediately, topping with the remaining crumbled feta and a sprinkling of chili powder.



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17 Responses to “Esquites (Mexican Corn Salad)”

  1. Maureen November 29, 2015 at 6:06 PM #

    How do you think this would pair with pulled pork?

  2. Maddy W September 22, 2015 at 6:53 PM #

    Made this tonight – absolutely delicious and very easy! My significant other, who usually does the cooking, said it was the “best corn salad” they’ve ever had.

    • toughcookie September 23, 2015 at 1:36 PM #

      That’s AWESOME, Maddy! I’m so happy that this recipe made its way to your table, and thank you for sharing! 🙂

  3. Evi September 8, 2015 at 3:52 PM #

    I LOVE Elote and this corn salad reminds me of that a little. Definitely putting this on my list of recipes to try!

    • toughcookie September 13, 2015 at 9:45 PM #

      Thanks, Evi! Hope you love it as much as I do!

  4. Fabiola September 7, 2015 at 5:12 PM #

    I love esquites! Here in Mexico, we have them all the time. Usually, during late afternoon or evening, there’s a nice man that comes around the neighborhood pushing a little cart from which he sells esquites or corn on the cob. Esquites are delicious, and so is the corn, which is slathered with mayo, crumbled cheese, lemon juice, and chili powder. There is nothing better than that!

  5. Marsha @ Marsha's Baking Addiction September 7, 2015 at 11:32 AM #

    What a delicious looking meal! Yum!

  6. Adriana August 1, 2015 at 2:05 AM #

    This looks insanely good. I am keeping this recipe for when our corn finishes this year! Thanks for the recipe.

  7. Jennifer Andrews July 31, 2015 at 6:31 PM #

    Gorgeous salad! I might even be tempted to throw some cherry tomatoes in there for fun. Love the rico story too, haha.

  8. Bernice July 31, 2015 at 2:36 PM #

    Super! I was looking for a recipe to recreate this great corn side dish that I had at a local restaurant…pinned!

  9. Sarah | (Cooking for) Kiwi & Bean July 31, 2015 at 1:22 PM #

    This looks fantastic, authentic or not :-). I love that mex corn thing, but eating off the cob is just so uncivilized! I’m going to try this over the weekend.

    • Alanna July 31, 2015 at 1:38 PM #

      Sarah, I too suffer from strings-permanently-embedded-in-teeth syndrome — one of the reasons I love this salad!

  10. Julia (@Imagelicious) July 31, 2015 at 1:22 PM #

    What a lovely and fresh salad. I love the photos too! Such a beautiful combination of blue background and bright yellow corn!

    • Alanna July 31, 2015 at 1:39 PM #

      Thanks, Julia! In the olden days (i.e. pre-SLR, amongst other things) of this blog, I used to shoot on these two teeny wood blocks painted turquoise. Using this background for the first time was a bit of a throwback for me!

  11. Jason Sandeman July 31, 2015 at 1:10 PM #

    I love the idea of this salad. Me, I think I’d like to grill the corn first before cutting g it off the cob. The flavours are a nice balance here, and I can see this being a great salad even on its own. Great job!

    • Alanna July 31, 2015 at 1:40 PM #

      Jason, you can definitely grill the corn instead (and spare your house from getting even hotter). I suggested broiling because I myself am sadly without a grill. Let me know how it turns out!

  12. Uncle Andy July 30, 2015 at 3:55 PM #

    “Reminds me of our expedition into the wilds of Afghanistan. We lost our corkscrew and were compelled to live on food and water for several days.”
    — W.C. Fields.

    Probably because he hadn’t studied enough Afghani to successfully purchase a new corkscrew.