Mexican-Inspired Warm Garlic Butter Corn Salad with Cotija combines sweet local buttered corn with salty Cotija cheese, fresh cilantro and lime, with a touch of heat from jalapeno and garlic.
I wait all year long for summer foods. Corn on the cob, tomatoes, and peaches, to name a few. Some things just taste 100 times better when they’re local and in-season. My favorite way to eat corn will always be the way I grew up with: steamed with butter and salt. But I love playing with new flavors and Mexican flavors in particular always catch my eye.
During the past couple years there’s been a lot of hype about Mexican corn, and for good reason – it’s delicious! Mexican corn served as the inspiration for this recipe, but instead of using a thicker mayo and sour cream-based sauce, I took inspo from what I grew up with and used butter, kicked up a notch with a touch of fresh lime juice.
What is Mexican Corn?
Elotes is a Mexican street food dish. Grilled sweet ears of corn are slathered in a mixture of crumbled Cotija, Mexican sour cream, mayo, garlic, and chili power. Sprinkle more Cotija on top, squeeze on a bit of fresh lime juice, and sprinkle with cilantro. It’s bliss. Elotes is similar to Esquites, which is corn that’s cut off the cob before being mixed with these ingredients. Mexican corn served as the inspiration for this dish.
Difference Between Queso Fresco and Cotija Cheese
Both Queso Fresco and Cotija are white Mexican cheeses that crumble easily. Neither will really melt when heated. However, Cotija is aged and a bit more flavorful (in terms of saltiness and pungency) than Queso Fresco, which is a fresh cheese.
How to Cook Corn in the Microwave
This is such an easy process that yields good results every time! When I’m cooking for just me or me and one other person, this is my go-to method. To cook corn in the microwave:
- Leave the corn in its husk. Place 1 to 4 ears of corn in the microwave.
- Microwave on HIGH (1 to 2 ears = 3 to 4 minutes; 3 to 4 ears = 4 to 5 minutes).
- Cool until you can safely handle it, and then husk the ears of corn.
How Much Corn is On One Ear
One medium-large ear of corn yields about 3/4 cup of corn kernels when it’s cut off the cob.
Substituting Frozen or Canned Corn for Fresh Corn
When corn is in season locally, fresh corn is the way to go for the best flavor! Its natural sweetness is intense. Outside of summertime, frozen corn or even canned corn can make a decent substitute in this recipe.
If given the choice between frozen or canned corn (when fresh isn’t available), I’d go with frozen. Let it thaw and then drain well before using. If canned corn is your only option, choose a name brand, preferably something organic for best flavor (I’ve noticed there’s a surprisingly big variation in quality between name brands of canned corn vs. generic). Rise the canned corn under running water and then drain well before using.
Other Corn Salad Ideas:
- Black Bean and Corn Salad with Chipotle-Honey Vinaigrette from Once Upon a Chef
- Avocado Bacon Tomato Spinach Corn Salad from She Wears Many Hats
- Grilled Corn and Zucchini Salad with Sun-Dried Tomato Vinaigrette from Minimalist Baker
- Layered Corn, Avocado, and Tomato Salad with Herbed Sour Cream from An Edible Mosaic
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- ½ to 1 jalapeno, minced (more or less depending how spicy you like it)
- 2 cloves garlic, minced or crushed
- 4 medium-large ears of corn, cooked (steamed, grilled, microwaved, etc.)
- 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
- Salt and black pepper, to taste
- ½ cup fresh chopped cilantro
- ¼ cup crumbled Cotija cheese
- 1 scallion, green and white parts, thinly sliced
- Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the jalapeno and garlic, and cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Turn off the heat and stir in the corn.
- Transfer the corn to a bowl and stir in the lime juice, salt and black pepper to taste, and cilantro.
- Top with the Cotija and scallion.
- Serve warm.