Mexican street corn (aka elotes) features grilled corn covered in Mexican crema, cotija cheese, and chile-lime seasoning. Nothing hits the spot quite like the sweet, salty, tangy, and spicy flavors of this vegan version!
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🌽 What is Mexican street corn?
In Spanish, elote (pronounced eh-loh-tay) describes both an ear of corn and a popular Mexican style of preparing it. Once grilled, the corn is slathered with toppings like butter, mayonnaise, Mexican crema, cotija cheese, lime, and chile seasoning.
Elotes are a type of antojito (little craving) commonly sold by street vendors (eloteros). This is why some people also refer to them as "Mexican street corn," eluding to where they're served and consumed.
Eloteros usually serve the loaded corn with a thick wooden skewer pierced through the bottom. This way, the toppings stay on the cob and not on your hands!
If you've ever had the chance to try elotes, you'll hopefully agree that this is one of the best ways to serve corn on the cob.
The term elote comes from the Nahuatl word "elotitutl," which loosely translates to "tender cob." This crop has been a staple in the Mesoamerican diet since pre-Hispanic times.
Present-day elotes are a relatively new preparation, especially since mayonnaise wasn't invented until 1756. The resulting popularity stemmed from Mexico City where eloteros are seemingly everywhere.
Of course, you can now find elotes in virtually every Mexican state and even up into larger American cities.
💛 What is the best corn to use?
In Mexico, the most traditional variety of corn for elotes is white corn. Since it is not overly sweet, it pairs well with a plethora of toppings. However, it may be easier to find sweet corn if you live outside of Mexico.
Our mindset is to use whatever type is easily available and cost-effective near you! Any version, whether white, yellow, blue, or red, is mouthwateringly good in its own way.
🌱 Are elotes vegan?
While extremely delicious, typical elote recipes are not vegan-friendly. But, all of the toppings are quite easy to veganize! Try these substitutions out:
- Cheese: Swap dairy-based queso cotija for nut-based cotija.
- Crema: Use cashew crema instead of crema fresca made from cow's milk.
Although not traditional, we assure you the flavors and textures are just as tasty. You won't miss the dairy one bit!
🛒 Ingredients & substitutions
Corn — We opted to use a sweet corn variety for our elotes because that's what we had on hand. You can use whichever variety you prefer.
Crema — Use vegan mayo, cashew crema, or a mix of both in your elote recipe. You can also use vegan sour cream for a close match in flavor and consistency.
Cheese — We use cotija cheese, which is the most common. But, other varieties like queso fresco, parmesan, or even will feta work. To learn more about these Mexican cheeses and how to veganize them, check out our detailed guides on queso fresco and queso cotija.
Chile-lime seasoning — Tajin is a common elote seasoning, lending a spicy and extremely tangy flavor. If you don't have access, use ancho chile powder or cayenne and extra lime juice.
For a complete ingredient list and step-by-step guide, scroll down to our recipe card.
Step 1 — Preheat a cast-iron griddle to medium-high or a grill to 400 degrees F. Then, remove the husks from your corn cobs and clean them as best you can.
Step 2 — When your griddle or grill is hot, roast the corn for about 10-12 minutes, making sure to rotate each cob throughout until all sides are charred to your liking.
Step 3 — Mix about half the lime juice with the vegan mayo, crema, or both. Cut the other half of the lime into wedges for serving. Crumble or grate the cotija cheese and chop the cilantro if you're using any.
Step 4 — Once the corn is cooked, dip or brush each cob with the lime, mayo, and crema mixture. Add a sprinkle of cotija, Tajin, or other chile powder, and a squeeze of extra lime.
Step 5 — While totally optional, we enjoy our elotes served with chopped cilantro and Valentina hot sauce. Try different combinations to see what you prefer. Happy eating!
If you have questions about making Mexican street corn, check out our FAQs or leave a comment down below.
🌮 What to serve with Mexican street corn
Once your elotes are prepared, you may want to serve them as a side with main dishes like these:
- Jackfruit carnitas: Crispy pull-apart jackfruit marinated in citrus juice and savory spices.
- Vegan Baja fish tacos: Beer-battered tofu served in warm corn tortillas and topped with creamy chipotle sauce.
- Tortilla soup: Tortilla strips covered in a spicy tomato and chile-based broth and topped with fresh garnishes.
- Pambazos: Chile-dipped pambazo bread stuffed with potatoes and vegan chorizo.
- Mexican potato salad: A spicy Mexican twist on this classic dish (made completely plant-based).
😋 How to eat elotes
In Mexico, elotes are generally served on a wooden skewer. But, you can leave the shank (bottom piece) on to double as a holding stick.
If you don't have wooden skewers and the shank breaks off, just hold both ends with your hands and dig in! Sometimes, the tastiest foods are the messiest foods!
If you don't like the feeling of corn being stuck in your teeth, you can always cut the kernels away from the cob and eat them with a spoon.
🌡️ Storage & reheating
If possible, it's best to store the toppings separately from the corn cobs. Keep the following tips in mind for any leftovers:
Fridge — Corn will last 3-4 days once cooked. If the corn is already garnished, eat it within 1-2 days.
Freezer — Corn on the cob is freezer-safe and will keep for up to 6 months. Blanch the cobs first, allow them to cool, then transfer them to an airtight container or freezer bag for storage.
Reheat — Bake the corn cobs on a parchment-lined pan at 350 degrees F until warm. You can also cut the corn and toppings away from the cob, then heat them in a baking dish or skillet to make esquites.
Prep ahead — Cook the corn and prepare the toppings. Allow the corn to cool, then store everything covered in your fridge. When you are ready to serve, lightly brush the cobs with vegan butter or oil and quickly char them over medium-high heat.
Steam, boil, or griddle — If you don't have access to a grill, steaming, boiling, or griddling your corn will all work (the flavors will vary with each method).
Serve it in a cup — For a similar recipe, cut the corn off of the cob and serve it in a cup to make "elote en vaso" or "esquites."
Make them loco — Roll your elotes in crushed spicy chips or other sauces to make elotes locos.
Different corn — Try making elotes with different heirloom or sweet corn varieties like Blue Hopi, Rubi Queen, or Stowells Evergreen.
🧑🍳 Top tips
Use a grill — To impart complex, smoky flavors and char marks, a grill is the best way to cook your elotes.
Mix the toppings together — Instead of brushing them on one at a time, mix the sauces, cheese, and seasonings in a bowl.
Use a skewer — If you can find skewers to pierce through the bottom, it makes eating much easier. If not, leave the shank on the cob.
Keep corn fresh — After purchasing, store your corn on the cob in a sealable bag in the fridge and use it within 1-3 days.
Purchase shucked corn — To save time dealing with all the silk, go for pre-shucked corn (it just won't taste as fresh).
If you have fresh corn on the cob available, that's the ideal choice. But, frozen corn works in this recipe as well.
You can definitely fry the cobs in a pan. It's best to use a grill, but don't let that deter you! A griddle or pan both work.
Yes, elotes are gluten-free.
The two are very similar, but an elote is eaten off the cob while esquites are served in a cup and eaten with a spoon.
🍴 Similar recipes
If you enjoyed this elotes recipe, try some more popular Mexican antojitos made plant-based:
- Tlacoyos: Mashed beans stuffed into blue corn bases with fresh garnishes like cactus salad, queso fresco, and salsa.
- Tostaguac: Bean and guacamole topped tostadas served with extra vegetables.
- Huaraches: A sandal-shaped antojito inspired by the oiginal tlacoyos.
- Picaditas: Simple and delicious corn bases topped with salsa roja or verde, vegan queso, and fresh onions.
- Tostilocos: Totopos topped with all kinds of garnishes like fruits, vegetables, tamarind candies, and chamoy.
Best Mexican Street Corn (Elotes)
- Cast-iron griddle
- Basting brush
- 4 ears of corn ($3.39)
- 1 lime, juiced ($0.06)
- ⅓ cup vegan mayo ($0.64)
- ⅓ cup vegan cotija cheese ($0.42)
- 2-3 teaspoons Tajin seasoning or ancho chile powder ($0.05)
- Chopped cilantro optional
- Valentina hot sauce optional
- Preheat a cast-iron griddle to medium-high or a grill to 400°F and remove the husks from your corn cob.
- In the meantime, prepare the toppings. Mix ½ of the lime juice with vegan mayo, Mexican crema, or both. Cut the other half of the lime into wedges for serving. Crumble or grate the cotija cheese and chop the cilantro.
- When the griddle or grill is hot, cook the corn directly on it for about 10-12 minutes, making sure to rotate each cob throughout to char all sides.
- Once the corn is cooked, brush with vegan mayo or crema, a sprinkle of cotija, Tajin or ancho chile powder, and a lime wedge. You may also enjoy these served with chopped cilantro and Valentina hot sauce. Happy eating!
- Use a grill — To impart complex, smoky flavors and char marks, a grill is the best way to cook your elotes.
- Mix the toppings together — Instead of brushing them on one at a time, mix the sauces, cheese, and seasonings in a bowl.
- Use a skewer — If you can find skewers to pierce through the bottom, it makes eating much easier. If not, leave the shank on the cob.
- Keep corn fresh — After purchasing, store your corn on the cob in a sealable bag in the fridge and use it within 1-3 days.
- Purchase shucked corn — To save time dealing with all the silk, go for pre-shucked corn (it just won't taste as fresh).
- If you don’t have access to vegan cotija cheese, try queso fresco, parmesan, or feta.
- Optional ingredients are not reflected in the price or calories of our recipes.
- We calculate nutritional information for our recipes with Cronometer.
- Recipe cost calculations are based on ingredients local to us and may vary from recipe to recipe. All prices are in USD.
Note: We've updated this post to include new information and helpful tips about the recipe.