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How to Master Mexican Street Corn on the Stovetop

By George Steckel
Sep 1, 2020
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Ever wonder how this food truck favorite got its start? Here’s the full rundown on where to find and how to make Mexican corn on the cob at home on your stovetop.

It may be known as corn-on-the-cob here in the States, but just south of the border, Mexicans are having just as passionate a love affair with their own sweet roasted creation called ‘elote.’ Popularly referred to as Mexican street corn, this summertime staple has an entire history to unpack—right alongside its many marvelous flavors!

Today, let’s take a trip across the Americas. We’ll figure out how this craveworthy cob came to be before mastering the art of cooking it at home. Grab your usual Made in toolkit, and let’s get to work!

What is Mexican street corn?

While us Americans may throw some butter on our corn and call it a day, Mexican nationals are totally ‘extra’ when it comes to their beloved elote.

In a nutshell, Mexican street corn is an ear of corn left on the husk, grilled or roasted to blistery perfection, then served on a skewer for easy enjoyment. After cooking, kernels are slathered in a mixture of mayonnaise, crema, lime juice, chili powder, cilantro, salt and other staple Mexican ingredients. Once this glorious mixture is in place, the cob is rolled in crumbled cojita cheese, resulting in a perfectly textured exterior.

Sometimes kernels are taken off the cob, at which point the dish is called ‘esquites.’ Same bold flavors—just a different way of devouring.

While ingredients may slightly differ among street vendors, Mexican street corn always captures the same idea: quick, delicious snacking on a stick.

Why is Mexican street corn so popular?

Throughout the centuries, corn—or maize—has played a pivotal role in cuisine throughout the Americas. In fact, it’s one of the only crops to have originated in the ‘New World,’ and was domesticated centuries ago in the country of Honduras.

Easy to grow and versatile to cook, corn quickly became the cornerstone ingredient of early South, Central and North American fare. People used it to make bread, pudding, tortillas, stews—pretty much anything they could dream up in order to use these multipurpose kernels. Thanks to its sweet, mild flavor, corn also makes the perfect base ingredient.

Modern-day chefs learned they could ‘dress up’ these scrumptious ears of corn with all kinds of spices and herbs, bringing new flavor profiles to an otherwise standard vegetable. Today, elote reigns supreme thanks to Mexico’s passion for all things portable.

Known mostly as a late-night snack or street food, the ‘mobile’ nature of Mexican street corn lends itself to the bustling, fast-paced environment of Mexico’s highly populated cities (like Mexico City). It’s easy to make on the roadside—and even easier to gobble down, no utensils required!

Where can I find Mexican street corn?

Short of taking a plane to Mexico City, Americans can enjoy the wonders of elote right here at home. You just have to know where to look.

First, start at your local Mexican restaurants, and work your way out. You’re likely to find elote as a menu dish right alongside tacos, burritos, enchiladas and other Tex-Mex essentials. If you strike out, there’s another place you can score good corn on the cob.

Research local food truck festivals coming to your area, or venture into a section of your town or city where street vendors typically set up shop. Traveling chefs tend to be the best purveyors of elote, so keep your eyes peeled.

How to Make Mexican Street Corn at Home

Tired of searching for the holy grail of gourmet goodness? At Made In, we’re all about self-sufficiency. You can satisfy your Mexican street corn craving by following these simple tips for making elote on the stovetop.

  • Remove the husk and clean your cobs of corn, removing as much silk as possible
  • Place a pan on the stovetop and melt some butter over medium-high heat (for that beautiful black char, a high quality carbon steel or other kitchen frying pan will work beautifully)
  • Place the ears of corn in the pan, turning ears every 3 minutes until sides are evenly charred and tender; the process should take about 15 minutes
  • While the corn is cooking, mix up your mayonnaise, sour cream of Mexican crema, chili powder, cilantro, salt and other desired ingredients
  • Remove ears from the skillet and completely coat with your mixture
  • Sprinkle with cojita cheese and spritz with a squeeze of lime before serving

5 Fabulous Mexican Street Corn Recipes

Easy Mexican Street Corn from Food With Feeling

Following a fairly standard recipe, this blogger makes Mexican street corn seem like an easy side dish on the weeknight menu! If you don’t have access to a grill, follow our previous tips for cooking corn on the stovetop.

Mexican Copycat Street Corn from Let’s Dish

In this recipe, the chef swaps out some hard-to-find ingredients with ones you’d find in the fridge (for instance, sour cream for crema; you can also use feta cheese if cojita is too hard to find). She also removes the kernels from the cob—slightly controversial, but still delicious!

Mexican Street Corn from Rachael Ray

Using frozen corn (believe it or not), the daytime diva makes esquites surprisingly simple to prepare. Served off the cob, this version is cooked over a skillet using extra virgin olive oil to achieve that signature char.

Roasted Mexican Street Corn from Damn Delicious

For those cooler summer nights, you can skip the stovetop and fire up the oven. This recipe has you roasting the corn cobs then slathering them in the same delightful coating associated with traditional elote.

Jalapeno Popper Mexican Street Corn from Taste of Home

Using cream cheese and freshly chopped jalapenos, Mexican street corn gains some serious heat in this reimagined recipe. Sounds like the perfect Made In marriage!

Enjoy your five-star fabulosity on a stick!