Esquites (Mexican corn salad)

Have you ever had esquites before? Esquites have all the creamy, cheesy goodness of Mexican street corn – only in a bowl! That means that they are easier to eat and you can pack even more tasty toppings onto them. This recipe for esquites is highly customizable, packed with flavor, and easy to make. In addition to all of that, it is also gluten free, nut free, and vegetarian friendly!

Esquites: Mexican corn salad

Differences between esquites and elotes

What is the difference between esquites and elotes? Esquites and elotes are both corn based Mexican dishes that are flavored with mayo, lime juice, and cotija cheese. The main difference between esquites and elotes is the way they are served. Elotes are made with corn that is still on the cob, whereas esquites are made with corn kernels that have been chopped off the cob. 

What is in esquites

What is in esquites? Here are the ingredients that are used to make esquites. 

  • Corn. Corn is the main ingredient that makes up the base of esquites. When you make esquites, the corn kernels are chopped off of the cob rather than being served on the cob. You should use fresh corn if possible, but you can always use frozen corn if corn is out of season.
  • Red onion. Red onion is chopped into small pieces and added to this dish alongside the corn. If you cannot find red onion then you can use white onion, but red onion is preferable due to the brighter color and milder flavor. 
  • Jalapeño. Jalapeño is chopped into small pieces and cooked alongside the corn. The jalapeño adds a nice touch of spice to the dish.
  • Garlic. Some garlic is added to the corn salad to give it a little bit of an extra bite. The garlic is added just as the other vegetables are being taken off the heat so that it does not cook long enough to lose its flavor. 
  • Green onion. The fresh, zesty flavor of the green onions brings a nice contrast to the smooth, creamy flavor of the mayo and sour cream that is added to the esquites. 
  • Mayo & sour cream. Mayo and sour cream are added to the vegetables after they are cooked to add a bit of creaminess to the dish. The smoothness of the mayo and sour cream helps to bring all of the flavors together in harmony. 
  • Lime juice. Some lime juice is added to this dish to add a bit of acidity. The acidity of the lime juice balances out the creaminess of the mayo and sour cream. 
  • Smoked paprika. We use smoked paprika to add a little bit of smokiness to these esquites. You can also use regular paprika or chili powder if you do not have smoked paprika. 
  • Cotija cheese. Cotija cheese is the perfect ingredient to finish off this recipe for esquites. The cotija cheese adds even more creaminess, as well as a much needed hint of saltiness to enhance all of the flavors in this dish. 

Esquites: Mexican corn salad

How to make esquites

How do you make esquites? Here is how to make esquites.

  • Cook the corn (optional). This step is only required if you are using fresh corn that has not been pre-cooked. You should shuck the corn and remove all of the fibrous encasing from the corn then boil the corn in a pot of salty water for 5 – 7 minutes.
  • Chop the veggies. The next step for making esquites is chopping the red onion, green onion, garlic, and jalapeños into fine pieces. We recommend using a high quality chef’s knife (this is the one we use) so that you are able to chop your veggies in very fine pieces without grinding them into mush. It is especially important to use a sharp, precise knife if you are using fresh corn and you need to cut the corn kernels off of the cob.
  • Roast the veggies. Next you need to roast your veggies. You should cook the red onion and jalapeños a little first before adding the corn and turning up the heat. We recommend using a cast iron skillet that maintains heat well so that you can get a nice char on the veggies. Add the garlic to the pan at the end when you remove the pan from the heat so that it does not cook very much.
  • Combine all the ingredients. It’s as simple as that – the only step left after you cook your veggies is to mix all of the ingredients together.

How do you eat esquites

How do you eat esquites? You can eat esquites on their own or on top of your favorite Mexican dish!

  • As a standalone dish. This is the most popular way to eat Mexican esquites! Just fill a bowl up with some creamy, citrusy corn salad and eat your heart out.   
  • Burrito bowls. Esquites also make a great addition to any Mexican-inspired burrito bowl or grain bowl. Try replacing the corn with esquites next time you cook up a burrito bowl recipe that calls for corn. 
  • Nachos. Esquites are also an amazing topping for nachos. The saltiness and crunchiness of nacho chips provides a perfect contrast to the tender, creamy texture of esquites. 
  • Tacos. Tacos are another great option when it comes to serving esquites. Esquites are best served on fairly minimal tacos without many other toppings on them. My favorite combination is refried black beans, esquites, and mashed avocado!

Esquites (Mexican corn salad)

This delicious recipe for esquites is vegetarian friendly and nut free!
Prep Time15 minutes
Cook Time15 minutes
Total Time30 minutes
Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: Mexican
Diet: Diabetic, Vegetarian
Keyword: gluten free, nut free, vegetarian
Servings: 4 people


  • 2 cups corn kernels
  • 1/2 red onion
  • 1 jalapeño
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 stalks green onion
  • 2 tbsp mayo
  • 2 tbsp sour cream
  • 2 tbsp cotija cheese
  • 2 tsp lime juice
  • 1/4 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 tsp vegetable oil


  • Chop the jalapeños, red onion, and garlic into fine pieces. Slice the green onions.
  • Heat a large pan over medium heat and add the vegetable oil. Cook the onion and jalapeño over medium heat for 5 minutes.
  • Increase the heat to medium high then add the corn to the pan. Cook the red onion, jalapeños, and corn until they start to char. This should only take 5 - 10 minutes.
  • Take the pan off the heat and add the garlic. The garlic will lightly cook while the pan cools.
  • Add all of the other ingredients to the pan and combine.

Substitutions for esquites

  • Smoked paprika. We use smoked paprika in this recipe for esquites because it adds a little extra smokiness to the dish. If you do not have smoked paprika, you can also use chili powder or regular paprika. 
  • Sour cream. If you do not have sour cream you can omit the sour cream and add a little extra mayo. We recommend adding an extra 1 tbsp of mayo to replace 2 tbsp of sour cream.
  • Red onion. If you do not have red onion then you can also use white onion. Red onion is preferable because it has a milder taste than white onion. 

Other recipes you will love

Mexican street corn bowls with esquites, quinoa, beans, tomatoes, and guacamole.

These Mexican street corn bowls are another great option for anyone who is looking for a vegetarian-inspired grain bowl. These bowls are topped with creamy esquites, kidney beans, tomatoes, homemade guacamole, and quinoa. 

Three gluten free bean and cheese gorditas laid out on a gray plate. There is a bowl of lime sour cream and a bowl of guacamole next to the bean and cheese gorditas.

Are you looking for a fun new way to eat esquites? Try cooking up some gorditas then stuffing them with esquites. Gorditas de esquites are absolutely delicious! 

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating