Have you heard people talk about elotes, making you curious about what the heck an elote is? Are you familiar with the deliciousness of elotes but want to learn how to make your own?
In this article, I’ll let you know all about this popular Mexican corn recipe. I’ll tell you what it is, how to make it, and I’ll even fill you in on a neighborhood gem, the elote man. As a warning, I included pictures, so you’ll probably be hungry by the time you’re done reading.
What Are Elotes?
Elotes are a Mexican corn on the cob dish. If you’ve only had corn with butter and salt, elotes take your classic corn on the cob and elevate it to a scrumptious, delectable combination of flavors that will permanently change the way you look at basic corn.
Elotes are a very popular street food in Mexico and Mexican-American neighborhoods, but they’re also eaten at home. They’re often referred to as Mexican street corn or Mexican corn. If you enjoy rich food and bold flavors, I guarantee you’ll embrace the elote.
Elotes are prepared by grilling or boiling corn on the cob and then topping it with condiments like lime juice, cheeses, mayonnaise, sour cream, butter, and chili powder. Elotes are eaten by placing the cob through a stick to hold or by directly holding the corn cob.
The 6 Classic Elotes Toppings
There are a number of different condiment options with elotes. Each condiment combination will give your elote a different flavor. I’ll go through the different elote condiments so you can get an idea of the multiple ways you can make your elote. You can use some or all of these toppings on your Mexican corn.
Most elotes will have lime juice on top of the corn. The lime juice adds a nice acidity and juiciness to the elote. If you like lime juice on your tacos, put it on your elotes. Lime juice is an integral part of Mexican food, and my elote feels naked without it.
There are a few different types of cheese options for elotes. I’ve seen elotes with parmesan, feta, and cotija. Each cheese has a different taste, but all work well with Mexican corn on the cob. If you’re not familiar with cotija, it’s a Mexican cheese that tastes similar to feta.
I know that mayonnaise is a very divisive condiment. Some people love it. Some people hate it. If you hate mayonnaise, you probably don’t want to put it on your elote.
However, I’m pro-mayonnaise, and I think mayonnaise truly enhances the elote experience. It adds a creaminess that works in harmony with the other elote toppings.
Sometimes, mayonnaise will be slathered directly onto the corn. In other elote preparations, mayonnaise will be mixed with spices like chili powder, cayenne, and paprika to make a spicy mayonnaise sauce, and then the mayonnaise sauce will be rubbed on the corn.
Butter is another common elote topping. You can use butter in conjunction with mayonnaise or in place of it. Also, if you’re trying to be a little healthy, you can use a low-fat butter or margarine. However, generally, elotes are for those who are trying to indulge in a decadent treat.
Some people will top their elotes with sour cream in place of mayonnaise to add a creamy, rich dimension to their elote. Additionally, you can use Mexican crema (thinner than sour cream) or creme fraiche if you have access to those ingredients.
Using both sour cream and mayonnaise to top your elotes may be a bit much, but feel free to try it if you’re a daring eater.
Personally, I like my elotes with a little spice. You can add your chili powder to a mayonnaise base or put your chili powder directly onto your elote as a final picante touch.
If you don’t like chili powder, but you want a little kick, you can also use paprika, cayenne, or hot sauce.
If you’re using spices (chili powder, paprika, or cayenne), try to make sure you’ve recently purchased them. Newer spices pack more flavor than the super old spices you’ve been keeping in your cupboard since the last decade.
I’ve also seen people use garlic and cilantro on their elotes, but they’re not regularly used as elote toppings.
2 Exciting Elotes Variations
In addition to the different toppings, you can choose how your corn is prepared and served.
Grilled or Boiled?
On top of the different condiment options, elotes can be grilled or boiled. Personally, I think the grilled corn tastes better because you can get a nice char on the corn that enhances the flavor.
Generally, boiled and grilled corn tastes very similar, but boiled corn can be sweeter and grilled corn can be a bit more nutty.
If you’re grilling something else, it’s pretty easy to throw the corn on, too, but if you’re not grilling any other foods, you may want to boil your corn so you don’t have to mess with the grill.
In my experience in Los Angeles, it’s more common to find boiled elotes from street vendors and grilled elotes in restaurants.
Elotes or Esquites?
If you don’t like your corn on the cob, you can put your corn and condiments in a bowl and make a Mexican corn salad known as esquites.
Elotes Recipes: How Can You Make Delicious Mexican Corn?
One of the most wonderful things about elotes is they’re so easy to make. All you have to do is cook the corn and then put your condiments on top. Instead of using somebody else’s elote recipe, you can customize your own to satisfy you and your guests. Here are some specific tips to use:
Grilling Your Corn?
If you’re grilling your corn, you want to try to get an equal char on all sides. You can grill your corn in their husks, in aluminum foil, or place the corn directly on the grill. Placing the corn directly on the grill requires the most skill and attention.
If you’re grilling in the husks:
- Pull the husks down (but leave them on) and remove the silk.
- Then cover the corn with the husks.
- Cook the corn on medium heat for about 15 minutes or until tender. Turn the corn every few minutes.
If you’re grilling in foil:
- Remove the husks and silk.
- Cover the corn in aluminum foil.
- Cook the corn on medium heat for about 15-20 minutes or until the corn is tender. You can turn the corn every few minutes.
If you’re cooking the corn directly on the grill:
- Remove the husks and silk
- You can apply butter before cooking or after. Traditionally, it’s applied after.
- Cook for 8-9 minutes on medium heat. Turn the corn periodically.
Boiling Your Corn?
If you don’t have access to a grill or you prefer boiled corn, here’s a brief, corny video of how to boil corn on the cob.
Every chef and home cook seems to have a slightly different approach to cooking corn. Traditionally, elotes are boiled with the husks on, but most people find it easier to cook corn with the husks off.
How Do You Decide Which Condiments to Use? How Much of Each?
Really, the type of condiments and ratios are up to you depending on your taste preferences. If you’re unfamiliar with a certain condiment, try it separately before putting it on your elote.
If you’re serving elotes to multiple people who have different elote topping preferences, you can put each condiment in its own bowl, and allow people to make their elotes however they choose.
While you can decide how much of each condiment to put on your Mexican corn on the cob, here are some general guidelines, so you have an idea of how much of each ingredient you would need.
Elotes Ingredients (per Ear of Corn)
- 1/16 cup of melted butter
- 1/16 cup of mayonnaise
- 1/16 cup of sour cream
- 1/8 cup of cheese
- 1/4 lime
- 1/2 teaspoon of chili powder
In terms of the order of ingredients, normally the creamy topping is applied first (mayonnaise, butter, or sour cream). Then, add the cheese and chili powder which will stick to the mayo, butter, or sour cream. Finally, top off your elote with the lime juice.
Who Is the Elote Man?
As mentioned previously, elotes are commonly sold by street vendors from carts or booths. In many neighborhoods, the guy who sells elotes is affectionately referred to as “the elote man.” The elote man is like the savory ice cream man.
If there’s an elote man near you or you’re visiting an area and come across an elote man, do yourself a favor and buy an elote from him. Typically, the elote man will customize your order, and you can get an idea of how elotes taste when they’re made by the experts. In Los Angeles, you can get an elote from the elote man for around $2.
Elotes are easy to make, cheap, and delicious. They’re just corn on the cob with a variety of condiment options. You can grill or boil your elotes.
There are a ton of ways to top elotes, and you can choose your toppings based on your taste preferences.
Finally, if you don’t want to take the time and effort to make your own Mexican corn, just buy some from the elote man.