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Mexican Street Corn + Cotija Lime Aioli

Our Mexican street corn is roasted and slathered in citrusy lime aioli, salty Cotija cheese, spices, and fresh herbs. Perfect on or off the cob!

Five ears of Mexican street corn with their husks tied back lined up in a row. Garnished with cilantro and limes.

This Mexican street corn brings me right back to summers in Wisconsin. I swear, the Midwest is home of the besssst sweet corn. Who else agrees??

My family got ours from a local farmer named Bob (yes, really), who we’d catch periodically around town with his pickup truck piled way too high with fresh corn. Hello, Wisconsin! His corn went quick, too. When he sold out, you never knew when he’d be back, so everybody stocked up. We always made sure to grab some for my grandma, who lived up the street. She loved Bob’s corn.

So what is Mexican street corn?

Mexican street corn or elote, is cooked sweet corn—usually roasted or boiled—slathered in mayo and/or crema and coated with Cotija cheese and chili powder. It’s known as Mexican street corn because it’s popularly sold by street vendors and at festivals in Mexico. ¿Comprendes?

It seems like everyone makes elote a little bit differently. Some make it mayo heavy, some like a light smear of crema, some are all about the cheese, and some mix the spices into the mayo. My version incorporates some of the salty Cotija cheese into the mayo, as well as lime juice. I like the way the citrus cuts through the richness and thins out the aioli. I garnish with herbs for freshness and color and a pinch of cayenne, for a lil kick! It’s seriously addicting, guys.

A stack of Mexican street corn piled up and garnished with fresh cilantro.

Best methods for cooking Mexican street corn

Traditionally, Mexican street corn is roasted or boiled, but I’ve seen a lot of recipes that grill the corn. I think the smoky char would complement these flavors really well, but roasting and boiling is easier for indoor cooking. I’ve tested both methods and either works, beautifully!

If roasting, you can shuck the corn, keep it in the husk, or half shuck it and tie back the husks with string or twine, as I did below. Roast at 400 degrees F for 20 minutes, rotating every five. If you tie back the husks to use as a handle, make sure to keep an eye on it while it’s roasting in case it starts to burn. The outer layers will get pretty crispy (as pictured below), but if it seems like an issue, simply remove the husks and continue roasting.

Four raw ears of corn with their husks tied back with string.
Roasted corn with crispy, rustic husks on a pan with Cotija lime aioli and lime for assembling Mexican street corn.

If boiling, shuck corn and add to a pot with cold water an inch or two above the corn. bring to a boil and add a pinch of sugar. Shut off. Remove corn from water and dry completely.

How can I Ditch the Recipe?

Love that you asked. Mexican street corn is generally eaten directly off the cob, on a stick, with corn holders, or by using the husk as a handle. But, you can also cut the corn off the cob after assembling it, toss it to coat in all the goodies, and then serve it as a side dish or over greens as a salad.

Teighan Gerard of Half Baked Harvest has a delicious recipe for Grilled street corn salad with avocado “mayo” that’s another great alternative! Fun fact: This off-the-cob version is known as esquites, en Español.

You will notice in this recipe, some of my measurements are “to taste” for the aioli, in particular. That’s because I constantly taste as I go and adjust my seasonings, acidity levels (lime), and saltiness (cheese), as necessary. I have outlined how to do this in the instructions below. It’s a great thing to practice if you usually rely on the recipe measurements to season your dish. It flexes that kitchen intuition muscle and builds your confidence as a cook.

Five ears of Mexican street corn with their husks tied back lined up in a row. Garnished with cilantro and limes.

If you reeeeeallly want to DTR, you could go wild and switch up the flavors, entirely. I already know what I would do—I’d do a Greek situation and swap the mayo for Greek yogurt, and use feta instead of Cotija. OR I’d make an olive tapenade aioli for the spread. I would probably use lemon instead of lime and season with herbs like oregano, thyme, and rosemary rather than chili powder. And then finally, I would top with finely chopped roasted red peppers and artichokes (and/or olives if not using in aioli) and garnish with a blend of fresh mint, parsley, and a drizzle of olive oil.

See, there is so much to play around with here, you just need to get those creative juices flowing and ask yourself what YOU are craving.

Enjoy.

Check out some of my other summer inspired dishes:

Addicting Mexican Street Corn + Cotija Lime Aioli

Course: Appetizer, Side Dish
Cuisine: Mexican
Author: Lauren Regnier

Ingredients

  • 5 ears of corn
  • 3/4 cup mayo
  • 1-2 limes zested and juiced
  • garlic powder to taste
  • pinch of cayenne optional
  • Cotija cheese, crumbled to taste + extra to garnish
  • Tajin (or chili powder + lime zest) to tase
  • fresh cilantro to garnish
  • pinch of sugar if boiling corn

Instructions

For the corn

  • If roasting, preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Shuck corn (or leave in husk) and bake for 20 mins, rotating every 5 mins. I tied back the husks with kitchen string to use as a handle. If you use this method, make sure to keep an eye on it while it's roasting in case it starts to burn. The outer layers will get pretty crispy, but if it seems like an issue, remove the husks.
  • If boiling, shuck corn and add to a pot with cold water an inch or two above the corn. bring to a boil and add a pinch of sugar. Shut off. Remove corn from water and dry completely.

For the Cotija lime aioli

  • Combine mayo, lime juice, cotija cheese, and garlic powder, to taste. Follow the guidelines below:
  • If it needs more salt, add a little more cheese. If it needs more acid (too rich/mayo heavy), add more lime juice. If it needs more flavor, add more garlic powder. If you added too much of any of these, add a little more mayo.
    You'll know everything is balanced when no one ingredient overpowers another. Or when you like it best.

To assemble street corn

  • Brush aioli over cooked corn and garnish with more Cotija cheese, Tajin (or chili powder + lime zest), cayenne (optional) and fresh cilantro. I also like to add a squeeze of fresh lime juice when I serve it.
  • Eat right off the cob or—for a less messy option—cut corn off the cob and toss together to combine. The latter is great warm or cold as a side dish or over greens for a salad.

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