Esquites (Warm Mexican Corn Salad)

by Ala
1 large bowl
25 min

When it comes to comfort food, nothing is more a-peeling than this homemade street food known as Esquites, or Warm Mexican Corn Salad. With only a handful of fresh ingredients and requiring only ten minutes to whip together, OXO’s corn peeler makes this a new staple side dish in my weekly cooking rotation! (This post is sponsored by OXO. All opinions are, as always, 100% my own.)

This is my second time this week sitting down with a bowl of homemade Warm Mexican Corn Salad and typing away at my computer. maybe it’s because the first time around somebody (not me) decided that a hypothetical somebody (not me) should eat all of the corn salad before I had a chance to photograph it. And that somebody is most definitely not me.

I’ve always loved street food to the nth degree, where “n” = 10,000,000 and my appetite is absolutely asymptotic. My first encounter with it occurred years ago in Hong Kong, where I spent a summer studying abroad during college. Stepping into the HK dai pai dong scene (as it’s called there) was like being transported into a whole new world–one filled with bubbling deep fryers, dirt-cheap sticky rice rolls, desserts made from every sweetened bean imaginable, and enough dim sum a la carte to leave you full for days.

From then on, my eyes were opened to a whole new way of eating. Why have one giant boring entree when you could try five travel-sized, delicious, flavor-packed street food dishes crammed into a delightfully flimsy paper tray? Tapas became the guiding principle of my travels to Spain; $1 tacos became the way of Los Angeles food truck life. And that, my friends, is where I first discovered the joy of Esquites, otherwise known as Warm Mexican Corn Salad.

Esquites (Warm Mexican Corn Salad)
Recipe details
  • 1  large bowl
  • Prep time: 10 Minutes Cook time: 15 Minutes Total time: 25 min
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  • 4 ears corn, shucked
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil or butter
  • 1 lime
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • ¼ cup crumbled cotija cheese or queso fresco
  • ¼ cup cilantro leaves, chopped, plus a few leaves for topping
  • ¼ jalapeño pepper, finely minced about 1 teaspoon
  • 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon ground ancho pepper or red chili flakes
  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • Hot sauce, for serving

Shave the kernels off of the corn.
Preheat a large cast iron skillet over medium-high heat, add the oil or butter and corn kernels and cook, without stirring, until they smell toasty, and turn golden brown in spots, 3 to 4 minutes. Stir and toast some more, without stirring, another 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and stir in 1 or 2 tablespoons water to loosen.
Juice half of the lime over the corn. Cut the other lime-half into wedges and set aside. Stir the mayonnaise into the corn with half of the cotija, most of the cilantro, the minced jalapeño , and the chili. Season to taste with salt. Sprinkle with remaining cilantro, and cotija and serve warm in cups with lime wedges.
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