Esquites – Mexican Corn Salad

I’m kind of agnostic on fresh corn. It’s good and I’ll eat and like it if someone serves it to me, but I’m rarely moved to do anything with it myself. Plus, I get sick of flossing after a cob. So when I found this recipe on the food blog Serious Eats, I wasn’t hugely hopeful. I just thought it might make a good side with grilled meats. Then I made a test batch and we murdered the bowl.

When you make this, you might be tempted to up the spicy elements. Try to resist the first time – you don’t want the spiciness to overshadow the fresh and sweet flavors at play. And be very sparing with the salt – you get a nice punch from the cheese.

2 T vegetable oil
4 ears fresh corn, shucked, kernels removed (about 3 cups fresh corn kernels)
pinch salt
2 T mayonnaise
2 oz (50 g) feta or cotija cheese, crumbled
1/2 c finely sliced green onions
1/2 c fresh cilantro leaves, finely chopped
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and stemmed, finely chopped
1 medium clove garlic, pressed
juice of 1 fresh lime
pinch chili powder

In a non-stick skillet, heat oil over high heat until shimmering. Add corn kernels (careful – they’ll probably pop and splatter) and stir until well distributed, then allow to cook undisturbed for a couple of minutes. When you stir, the bottoms of the kernels should appear browned and caramelized. Add salt and cook another 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally and browning corn on all sides without burning. Remove corn from heat and allow to cool completely.

After cooling, add remaining ingredients, stir well and enjoy!

5 thoughts on “Esquites – Mexican Corn Salad”

  1. Mom

    It’s pouring rain and cool and windy enough to be October, but I will have to get some fresh corn to make this! It sounds delicious. My neighbor has jalapenos in his garden (which I am tending for him this weekend) and I have the other ingredients.


  2. Mom

    It is very tasty. Carolyn made it and forgot to seed the pepper so it was a little too hot for me, but we (Dad and I) really liked it. Caramelizing the corn adds a dimension of flavor that is unexpected.

    1. Sarah

      It does taste like more than the sum of its parts. We only have the canned jalapeños, so we get less intense spiciness anyway, but heat isn’t really the goal here. Having made it three times in as many days now, I think it’s best when there’s a good balance between sweet, salty, spicy and herby.

      I don’t want to wear it out, but we’ll make it at least one more time before corn season ends here (any minute now).

  3. CN Heidelberg

    I want this. Have you found cotija somewhere? I’m not a huge feta fan but can do it if necessary. I think we used the generic-sounding “Balkankaese” when we made chiles rellenos a few weeks ago.

    1. Sarah

      No way have I found cotija, but feta does quite well and you don’t need too much of it. It’s just the salty hit that balances everything out – just make sure that you get the 100% sheep’s milk kind. Feta made with cow’s milk is unpleasantly squeaky.

      Let me know if you like it!

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