This Healthy Mexican Street Corn is no mayo, no butter and all the flavor. Charred corn on the cob, freshly squeezed lime juice, topped with chili lime salt, cilantro and a sprinkle of cotija cheese. It’s the lighter, healthier version of the traditional Mexican Elotes recipe.
If there’s one thing I love, it’s a healthy, vegetable packed side dish. One that of course has chili lime and the best Mexican cotija cheese (optional). This healthier version of the traditional Mexican corn recipe is brushed with lime juice instead of butter or mayo. It is then sprinkled with tajín, cilantro and cotija cheese.
Eating clean for the past five years, my favorite recipes were those that use simple, fresh ingredients. I’m a huge proponent of making easy side dishes that don’t skimp out on taste. For side dish recipes like this one, I prefer only a few ingredients that pack a huge flavor. For other simple, delicious side dishes try Fresh Mexican Avocado Salad, Easy Asian Cucumber Salad or Israeli Couscous Salad with Spinach & Fennel.
Highlights of this Recipe
This recipe is:
- Easy and Flexible
- 5 Ingredients
- Under 15-Minutes
What are Elotes?
Elote [pronounced eh-low-tay] is the spanish word for “corn on the cob.” Mexican elote or Mexican street corn, is a grilled corn on the cob side dish. It is commonly sold at street carts in Mexico.
What is Mexican Street Corn Made of?
Traditionally, Mexican elotes are slathered in a mayo, butter or cream mixture and topped with chili powder, Mexican cotija cheese and lime juice.
What Makes This Healthy?
This Mexican corn dish is healthier as we eliminate the mayo and the butter. Instead we swap for lime juice and sprinkle the cotija cheese lightly.
Ingredients & Substitutions
- Corn on the Cob. Substitute for frozen corn on the cob or corn off the cob.
- Tajín or Chili Powder. The Mexican corn and tajín makes the perfect combination. If you can't find tajín use chili powder.
- Fresh Lime Juice. Substitute for melted butter (higher calories and fat) or lemon juice.
- Mexican Cotija Cheese. (Optional) Substitute for feta cheese, queso fresco, vegan cheese, or omit.
- Fresh Cilantro.
Vegan. Omit the cotija cheese or top with shredded vegan cheese (vegan feta would be great!) instead.
Gluten Free. This recipe naturally is!
Dairy-Free. Omit the cotija cheese or top with shredded vegan cheese (vegan feta would be great!) instead.
STEP ONE: Char the corn in a cast iron pan.
STEP TWO: Using a brush, spread the lime juice all over the corn.
STEP THREE: Sprinkle the corn with tajín and cilantro.
STEP FOUR: Top with cotija cheese (optional).
How to Cook the Corn (4 Ways!)
ONE: Cast Iron
This is my favorite way to prepare corn because it’s year-round and more accessible! Heat up your cast iron pan with some neutral oil and sear until all sides are charred (about 5-8 minutes).
Trim the tassels of the stalk and peel back a few layers of the husk. You will want to keep a thin layer to prevent the corn from burning and drying out. You’ll remove the corn from the grill once it’s charred, about 10-15 minutes, and let cool. Then pull back the remaining husks and any silks. Remove, place in a serving dish and continue with the recipe.
Trim the tassels of the stalk and remove all layers of the husk. Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil. Add the cleaned, husked corn and cover. Cook for 5 minutes in the boiling water. Remove, place in a serving dish and continue with the recipe.
FOUR: Cooking Corn from Frozen
If purchasing frozen corn, you can get frozen corn on the cob or off the cob.
On the Cob: dethaw corn on the cob in the fridge overnight. Dry thoroughly before following steps for the grill or cast iron; no need to dry if boiling. Place in a serving dish and continue with the recipe.
Off of the Cob: heat corn in a sauté pan until all water is absorbed. Place in a serving dish and continue with the recipe.
Tips, Tricks & Frequently Asked Questions
Keep leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge (place in refrigerator immediately if using cheese). When ready to eat, preheat the oven to 425ºF. Place leftover corn on an aluminum-lined baking tray. Warm in the oven for 10-15 minutes until warm. Top with extra lime juice, cilantro or cotija cheese.
Corn will turn a brighter yellow and will become more opaque in color.
Elotes are served with the entire cob. Esquites is essentially the same thing, but with the corn removed from the cob and served in a cup.
Absolutely! You can use frozen corn on the cob or even frozen corn off the cob (esquites version). Simply dethaw the frozen corn, dry completely and continue with the recipe.
Cotija cheese is a Mexican cow’s milk cheese that is salty and crumbly.
The main thing is the saltiness from the cheese. If you can’t find cotija, you can use feta.
Healthy Mexican Side Dishes You May Also Like
- Fresh Mexican Avocado Salad
- Vegan Mexican Rice
- Tomato and Tomatillo Salad with Cilantro-Lime Dressing
- Palmito Ceviche
- Arroz Verde
- Cactus Salad / Ensalada de Nopales
Healthy Mexican Street Corn (Elotes)
- Basting Brush
- Cast Iron
- 4-6 Sweet Corn on the Cob
- ¼ Cup Chopped Cilantro
- 2 TSP Tajín (more if preferred)
- 0.5 OZ Cotija Cheese
- 2 TBSP Neutral Oil
- If in the husk, trim the tassels of the husk and peel back all layers of the husk.
- Chop the cilantro roughly into small pieces. Crumble the cotija in your hands straight into a small bowl. Juice the limes.
- Heat a cast iron on the stove at medium-high heat. Add 2 TBSP neutral oil. Allow to heat for 2-3 minutes. (If grilling, pre-oil the grates and heat the grill to medium-high heat. If boiling, read instructions above in post).
Char the Corn (additional cooking options in post)
- Add the corn on the cob into the heated cast iron. (Or onto grill if grilling)
- Char each side for 2-3 minutes, until the corn begins to brown/char.
- Char for about 10-minutes, until all sides are charred and slightly browned.
- Remove from the cast iron (or grill) and place onto the serving plate/platter. Turn off the stove.
Garnish the Corn
- Using a basting brush, dip the brush into the bowl of lime juice and spread all over the corn. I add lime only on the top of the corn as it will soak towards the bottom, but you can rotate the corn to reach all sides.
- Using a spoon or your fingers, next sprinkle the corn generously with tajín (or chili powder). I sprinkle only on the top of the corn, but you can rotate the corn to reach all sides.
- Sprinkle the corn generously with the chopped cilantro.
- Top with crumbled cotija cheese (optional).