Healthy Mexican Street Corn Salad

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Healthy Mexican Street Corn Salad is made with sweet corn, mayonnaise, jalapenos, fresh cilantro, cotija cheese, and lime juice. Creamy, delicious, and perfect for cookouts, it tastes just like the classic street food dish.

174 CAL 21g CARBS 9g FAT 6g PROTEIN 3
1 Comment

When I first tried this healthy Mexican street corn salad, I just knew that it was going to become a new household favorite. It’s got all the incredible flavor of iconic Mexican street corn, but with a few fun twists to turn it into a refreshing and wholesome salad.

Elote and Esquites are popular Mexican street food options that feature corn. If you aren't familiar with the terms 'Elote' and 'Esquites', let’s go through a quick run-down.

Elote is essentially a boiled or roasted corn on the cob that is smothered in a cheesy, lime-scented, chili-flaked sauce. Esquites, as it’s colloquially known, is basically the salad version of Elote. The ingredients are the same, the only difference being that the corn has been cut off the cob.

This less messy, easier-to-eat variation of the Elote is the inspiration for our healthy Mexican street corn salad. It’s smoky, sweet, and spicy for a glorious combination of flavors that will leave your taste buds beyond satisfied.

The best part is that it's totally customizable! Like it cheesier? Add as much cheese as your heart desires. Want more spice? Kick up the heat with some cayenne pepper or extra chili powder. No matter what twist you take, this flavorful Mexican salad is guaranteed to blow your mind every time.

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Mexican corn salad with a creamy Cotija cheese and lime dressing with sliced jalapenos, cilantro, radish, and lime in a bowl.

Key Ingredients

To bring this delicious Mexican street corn salad to life, you’ll need the following key ingredients:

  • Corn: This recipe calls for corn, and plenty of it too! You can use fresh, frozen or even canned corn. While fresh tastes best during peak corn season, frozen tastes just as good any time of the year.
  • Cotija cheese: Using cotija cheese is the best way to keep things authentic. The slightly salty flavor and dry, crumbly texture of cotija is similar to feta cheese, so feel free to swap it out for feta if needed.
  • Mayonnaise and Greek yogurt: I’ve used a mix of mayo and Greek yogurt to create a lighter, protein-packed version of the more traditional mayo base. It helps the spices stick to the corn and gives the salad a deliciously creamy texture. To lighten it up even further, feel free to opt for a low-fat mayonnaise.
  • Lime juice: The acidity from the lime juice adds an irresistible brightness to the dish, while enhancing all of the amazing flavors at the same time.
  • Fresh cilantro: A staple ingredient in many Mexican dishes, fresh cilantro adds a ton of fresh flavor. If you aren’t a cilantro fan, feel free to leave this out.
  • Garlic: The pungent and sharp flavor of the garlic is a beautiful contrast to the natural sweetness of the corn.
  • Chili powder: You can’t have good elotes without some chili powder! Feel free to add or take away depending on your flavor preference.
  • Smoked paprika: This ingredient adds a delicious layer of smoky flavor to the dish.
  • Jalapeno: If you aren’t a fan of heat, remove the seeds before chopping the jalapeno peppers. If you like your food on the spicier side, feel free to leave them in.

Recipe Tips and Substitutions

Here are some of my favorite recipe tips and substitutions to help you make the best healthy Mexican street corn salad:

  • Char your corn. For an extra depth of flavor, I like grilling or sauteing my corn until it’s lightly charred. Doing this gives the corn a slightly smoky taste and helps to bring out the natural sweetness.
  • Fresh vs frozen. While there’s nothing that can beat the texture and sweetness of fresh corn during peak season, frozen sweet corn tastes delicious too. Just make sure to thaw and dry it first.
  • Play with textures. This healthy corn salad already has some amazing textures going on like the creamy texture of the dressing and the crunch of the corn. For even more of a crunch, feel free to add extra veggies like finely chopped bell peppers and onions.
  • Add some protein. Transform this delicious side dish into a well-rounded meal by adding grilled chicken breast or a lean cut of steak.

Street corn salad on a spoon with creamy corn, Cotija cheese, and a sliced fresh jaalpeno.

What to Serve with Healthy Mexican Street Corn Salad

You’ll usually find a variation of this street corn salad served on the streets of Mexico in small disposable cups. Taking a cue from them, you can eat this salad straight out of the bowl and it’ll taste just as wonderful.

If you want to switch things up, here are some of my favorite ways to serve this dish:

  • Tacos. Try stuffing this street corn salad into a tortilla with your favorite toppings for some delicious tacos. Some of my favorite pairings include these Black Bean Tacos or my Grilled Chicken Tacos.
  • Grains. As a general rule, you can’t go wrong by serving this with a bowl of grains like this Cilantro Lime Cauliflower Rice or this flavorful Mexican Cauliflower Rice. It’s a delicious pairing that’ll be a surefire hit at potlucks and parties.
  • Pasta salad. Esquites meets pasta to create an out-of-this-world pasta salad. Simply toss some pasta with the corn salad and serve cold.
  • Lettuce wraps: Grab some butter lettuce and use this Mexican corn as a filling. I like to create some extra condiments for the lettuce wraps including black beans, cooked protein, or chopped carrots.
  • Quesadillas: Adding this to a quesadilla with some melted cheese creates something magical. It becomes like a hot corn dip combined with melted cheese. It's delicious. Trust me.
  • Make it an entree salad: Grab a big bowl of greens, slice some tomatoes, add a big serving of this corn salad, and top with chicken, shrimp, tofu, or black beans.

How to Store Corn Salad

Whether you’re left with some leftovers or simply planning to prepare this salad ahead of time, you’re in luck. This corn salad is a breeze to store. You’ll just need to prepare the corn and dressing in advance, then store them separately in airtight containers.

You can store this dish in the fridge for up to 3-5 days. Because this recipe uses a dairy-based dressing, I don’t recommend storing it in the freezer. However, the corn can be stored in the freezer for up to 6 months.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about this healthy Mexican street corn salad recipe:

I like to store this salad in the fridge until chilled to give all the flavors time to come together. However, you can easily serve this salad right away if you’re looking for a warm side dish.

Yes! During corn season, I highly recommend opting for fresh corn whenever possible. However, frozen corn is a great option during any time of year. If using frozen corn, make sure to let it thaw in the fridge overnight and then pat it dry with paper towels before using it.

Queso Fresco is a milder cheese that works great in a variety of dishes. It’s similar to mozzarella, but a little on the saltier side. On the other hand, cotija has a more crumbly texture and a distinct tangy flavor that's more like feta cheese. To keep the same flavor profile, I would recommend swapping cotija for feta if needed.

The Recipe

Healthy Mexican Street Corn Salad

174 CAL 21g CARBS 9g FAT 6g PROTEIN 3
1 Comment
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  • 4 cups corn (fresh, frozen, or canned)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 tbsp reduced fat mayonnaise
  • 3 tbsp nonfat Greek yogurt (or more mayo)
  • 1 lime (juice only)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1/4 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/2 cup Cotija cheese
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded and diced
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste

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Heat the olive oil in a skillet over high heat. Add the corn and cook for about 3-5 minutes, stirring occasionally until it becomes lightly charred and browned on the edges. Remove from heat and set aside. This may take a bit longer for canned or frozen corn.

Corn being charred in a hot skillet.

In a large bowl, whisk together the mayo, Greek yogurt, lime juice, garlic, chili powder, smoked paprika, salt, and pepper. Stir in corn, Cotija cheese, and cilantro. Gently mix until evenly incorporated. Taste and adjust if needed.

Mexican corn salad being stirred in a large white bowl.

Cover and refrigerate until chilled. Just before serving, garnish with a sprinkle of smoked paprika.

Mexican street corn salad being served in a bowl with lime and radish.
Nutritional Facts
Serving Size: 1/2 cup
Amount Per Serving
Calories 174
Calories from Fat 81
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 9g
Saturated Fat 3g
Monounsaturated Fat 1g
Polyunsaturated Fat 0g
Cholesterol 10mg
Sodium 214mg
Total Carbohydrate 21g
Dietary Fiber 2g
Sugars 7g
Protein 6g

* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

The Nutritional Values provided are estimates only and may vary based on the preparation method.

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About the author Meet Kristen McCaffrey
Hi, I’m the cookbook author, recipe developer, and food enthusiast behind Slender Kitchen. I am obsessed with making healthy food that is easy to prepare and absolutely delicious. Meal planning is my secret weapon and I hope I can make meal time easier for you with our tried and tested recipes and foolproof meal plans. Learn More
1 Comment
On Healthy Mexican Street Corn Salad
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July 30, 2019 - 16:52
Add a Rating:
Loved this. Halved the recipe, except I used a whole jalapeño and a whole garlic clove (and actually think I may add a touch of cayenne next time!). Also used feta, because I’m in Canada and cotija cheese is tragically not carried at my local grocery store. Can’t wait to make it again!
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