Elote - Sweet Corn on the Cob

Summer is sweet corn season, and for a twist on your normal corn on the cob we have Elote. Corn is a native plant of Mexico, and there it’s a staple eaten in some form almost every day. There are many types of corn grown, and based upon the final corn they produce, it is assigned to different applications. Unlike in the United States, Mexico’s fresh corn (both on and off the cob) can be sweet or earthier in flavor depending upon the final dish it is used in. Elote by definition is a sweet corn on the cob, dressed out with various ingredients and often found as a street food purchased from a cart or stand. We have a few variations for you to try both on and off the cob to add some zest to your next backyard cook out.

Even though Elote uses sweet corn, if you purchase it in Mexico you will find the kernels on the corn are much larger and the sweetness is much lower than what we expect from sweet corn in the U.S. We are using U.S. sweet corn because that is our standard here. A key step to getting great corn off the grill is to soak it the night before so the corn will cook thoroughly on the grill, caramelize well and have plump, juicy kernels. Here is how to do this:

Corn Soaking                    Yield: 6 ears

Ingredients:                               Amount:

Water                                           3 gallons

Sugar (optional)                             1 ½ cups


Method of preparation:

  1. Wash out your kitchen sink thoroughly.
  2. Plug your sink and add water and sugar (optional: sugar will make corn a bit sweeter; this can help with early season corn).
  3. Peel all but the final couple of layers of corn husk off the corn (remove about six layers of husk). Do not break off any excess stem. This will be the handle for your Elote.
  4. Place the corn in the water, and weigh it down with a heavy plate or pan to be sure all cobs are evenly soaked. Allow to soak overnight.

Helpful Tips:

  • If time or space do not allow for soaking, you can remove fewer layers of husk (about the first two to four layers) and cook at a lower temperature (start high for the first 10 minutes turning often, then reduce to medium until done, about 25 - 30 minutes. Corn will be tender and juicy).
  • Typical Elote is brushed with mayonnaise as part of the preparation. We added a couple of optional twists to regular mayonnaise for you to consider.


Fajita Mayonnaise          Yield: enough for 6 ears of corn

Ingredients:                             Amount:

Mayonnaise                               ½ cup

Fajita Seasoning                         2 Tablespoons


Method of preparation:

  1. Combine ingredients and mix well.
  2. Store covered in refrigerator. This mixture will be good in the refrigerator for one week.


Chipotle Mayonnaise                Yield: enough for 6 ears of corn

Ingredients:                                   Amount:

Mayonnaise                                         ½ cup

Chipotle Chiles in Adobo                      2 each + ½ teaspoon of the adobo

Salt                                                     ¼ teaspoon


Method of preparation:

  1. Chop the chipotle chiles with the adobo until fine.
  2. Combine ingredients and mix well.
  3. Store covered in refrigerator. This mixture will be good in the refrigerator for one week.

Helpful Tips:

  • Remaining Chipotle Chiles in Adobo can be saved refrigerated for scrambling with eggs or substituting for the jalapeños in the Table Salsa recipe we gave you last week (start with a one-for-one trade and boost spice as more spice is needed).

Now, let’s make the Elote.


Elote                                                 Yield 6 ears

Ingredients:                                             Amount:

Soaked Corn on the Cob                            6 each

Mayonnaise – regular, Fajita or Chipotle     ½ cup or 1 recipe

Chili Powder                                             as needed

Cotija Cheese, crumbled fine                      ½ pound

Limes, cut into quarters                              2 each


Method of preparation:

  1. Preheat grill at highest setting (if working with charcoal, use a heavy layer of coals so corn can be spread across entire grill).
  2. Place soaked corn on the grill. Turn every 5 minutes. Cook until kernels are tender, juicy and start to caramelize (approximately 30 – 35 minutes, see pictures below).
  3. Remove corn from grill. Allow to cool 2 – 3 minutes to prevent burning yourself.
  4. Remove the husk.
  5. Liberally brush with mayonnaise of your choice.
  6. Sprinkle with chili powder (medium coating).
  7. Sprinkle 2 Tablespoons of Cotija Cheese on each cob.
  8. Squeeze lime over and serve immediately.

Sweet Corn Sweet Corn on Grill

Helpful Tips:

  • Cotija cheese can be crumbled by hand or grated. If Cotija cheese is not available, Feta Cheese can be used, but sprinkle on a little less since it is saltier.
  • For greater caramelization, either remove husks before grilling and turn more often, or pull back husks in the last 5 minutes of grilling and turn often to caramelize evenly.
  • If you’re cooking something else on the grill with the corn, move corn to the hottest part of the grill and cook remaining items next to it (if using charcoal, you can move the majority of your coals to the part of the grill cooking the corn).
  • Corn will hold very well in the husk after cooking. If more grilling is necessary, place the corn on the grill first. When fully cooked, remove from the grill (husks and all) and place in a warm oven. Complete other necessary cooking and finish the corn as described above just prior to serving.
  • If eating on the cob is too casual for your event, let the corn cool a bit then cut it off the cob and place in a serving dish. Toss with the mayonnaise, then top with the remaining ingredients. Serve the lime on the side for fresh squeezing just before eating.


Sweet Corn Elote Sweet Corn Elote