Elote (Mexican Grilled Corn on the Cob)

Dress up your regular corn on the cob Mexican-style for this lovely summer of grilling!  I first discovered this zesty dish at Nolita’s famed Café Habana, which is renowned for its bold tasting, Mexican style corn.  La Esquina is another elote outpost and one of my favorite local Latin American restaurants.  I think it’s blasphemy to dine at either location without ordering their grilled Mexican-style corn.  After enjoying this dish many times at both restaurants, I decided it was time to try making the delicious grilled corn treat at home.  I have already made elote several times this summer and certainly plan to include it in every BBQ menu from here on out!

Elote is the Mexican name for “corn on the cob” and is a very popular street food in Mexico.  Freshly grilled ears of corn are slathered with a variety of condiments such as chili powder, butter and/or mayonnaise, lime juice and then rolled in crumbly, salty cotija cheese and topped off with a sprinkle of lime juice and cayenne pepper.  The result are extraordinary and must be tried.

Cotija, often referred to as “Mexican Parmesan,” is a firm and crumbly cow’s milk cheese named for a Michoacan town.  It has a tangy and salty flavor that is similar to Italian Parmigiano-Reggiano and Greek feta.  Cotija can be found in Mexican markets or in the refrigerator section of most major supermarkets (usually near the processed cheese).  However, if you have trouble location cotija like I have on a few occasions, there are several suitable substitutes.  I have found either grated Parmesan or grated queso fresco (another mild Mexican cheese) are the best alternatives.  You can also use Greek feta but I find it too clumpy when you try to roll the corn and thus it makes the flavor uneven.

Note: If you don’t have a grill, this recipe is easily adapted for the oven roasting.  Preheat the oven to 350°F and place the corn in husks (no need to soak first) directly on the middle rack of the oven for 30 minutes.  Let cool slightly, then remove husks and silks, and finally proceed with toppings.

Elote (Mexican Grilled Corn on the Cob)
adapted from the recipe by foodblogga

Yields: 4 servings


  • 4 ears corn
  • 1/4 C mayonnaise (you can also try using melted butter instead of mayo)
  • 1/2 tsp lime juice
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper or chile powder
  • salt, to taste
  • 2/3 C finely grated cotija cheese
  • lime wedges
  • extra cayenne pepper or chile powder, for sprinkling
  • Optional garnish: fresh finely chopped cilantro


Soak corn in husks in cold water for 25-30 minutes.

Prepare a medium-hot grill.  Peel back the corn husks leaving them attached at the end.  Remove the silk and then pull the husks back up.  Place the ears on the grill and cook 20-25 minutes, turning several times to ensure even roasting.  The kernels should be soft when fully cooked.

If you’d like the kernels more charred, cook the corn in husks for 15 minutes only and then pull the husks back into a “handle” and place the ears directly on the grill for 5-7 minutes, or until they reach desired level of charring.

Place crumbled cheese on a plate large enough to fit an ear of corn.  In a small bowl mix the mayonnaise, lime juice, cayenne pepper or chile powder, and salt.  When the corn is cooked, brush each ear with some mayo sauce then roll in the cheese.

I’ve also tried making this with melted butter which works just as well as a “flavor adhesive.”  In the mayo vs butter debate, I think the calories are about the same but perhaps saturated fat content different between the two… at the end of the day, it depends how much you care.  Personally, I prefer the mayo coating!

Serve with lime wedges, additional cayenne pepper or chile powder, and optionally, fresh finely chopped cilantro.

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