Elote en Vaso (a.k.a. Esquites)
Do you love the flavor of Mexican street corn, but hate having to floss when you’re done eating? Boy, do I have a surprise for you! This easy recipe for Elote en Vaso (a.k.a. Esquites) is about to change your life for the better. This authentic Mexican recipe has all the flavor of the original but without the cob! Made with just 7 ingredients in less than 10 minutes.
What are Esquites?
Perhaps Mexico’s finest street dish, Esquites are steaming corn kernels drenched in melted butter and aromatic lime juice that have been topped with crumbly, salty cheese. Typically served in styrofoam cups (giving it the alternative name elote en vaso, or “corn in a cup”), this simple, comforting classic is sold all over Mexico and in border cities like my hometown El Paso. You can find it everywhere from street corners and bazaars to festivals and parades!
Why You’ll Love This Recipe
Made with just 7 ingredients in less than 10 minutes, this simple recipe for elote in a cup is quick and easy enough to whip up on a moment’s notice. Literally anytime I get a craving, I make a batch. (Except now, I like to make it fancy by serving it in a pretty glass or mason jar instead of the styrofoam cups I grew up with.)
While I find the proportions to be spot on, you can feel free to adjust the proportions of lime juice, crema, cheese, and spices to taste. No matter how you serve it, you’re sure to fall in love with the sweet, crunchy, fiery, and juicy flavor.
Similar to traditional elote, this Mexican street corn salad (as they call it on TikTok) is made with boiled corn kernels plus salty butter, creamy crema mexicana, crumbly, salty cotija, tart, fresh lime juice, warming chili powder, and a splash of vinegary hot sauce for an appetizer or side dish that is nothing short of addictive.
Ingredients & Substitutions
As promised, you don’t need much to make my elotes salad. Here’s what to gather:
- Corn – When summer is in full swing, take advantage of the amazingly cheap and ridiculously sweet ears of corn available at grocery stores and farmer’s markets. Otherwise, feel free to cut out a prep step by opting for frozen corn kernels and enjoy esquites all year long.
- Butter – I use salted butter here, but you can easily swap in unsalted. You can also feel free to use dairy-free butter if needed.
- Limes – Fresh is always best, especially as pertains to citrus. To get the most juice from your fruit, give it a firm roll on the countertop for 10-15 seconds before slicing open.
- Crema Mexicana – I love the tangy flavor of crema for my elotes. Feel free to swap in sour cream if needed, or opt for mayonnaise if you prefer.
- Crumbly, Salty White Cheese – Traditional esquites recipes call for Mexican cheeses like cotija, but feel free to swap in queso fresco, or parmesan.
- Chili Powder – I highly recommend Tajín Clásico Chile Lime Seasoning.
- Valentina Hot Sauce – Not only does a vinegary hot sauce like Valentina offer a gorgeous burst of color to these corn salad cups, but also adds a bit of heat and acidity. Feel free to swap in your own favorite brand like Cholula or Tapatio.
- Salt – Only use this as needed, and sparingly at that. The cotija is plenty salty!
How To Make Elote in a Cup
This simple recipe for esquites mexicanos comes together in a flash. Here’s how it’s done:
Step 1: Prep Corn. Husk the corn, remove the silks, and slice the kernels from the cobs with a sharp knife.
Step 2: Cook Corn. Place the corn in a saucepan with enough salted water to cover. Bring to a boil; let boil for two to three minutes, then drain. Turn off the heat, and return corn to saucepan.
Step 3: Assemble. Add 3/4 cup of cooked corn to a glass, add butter, and stir to melt the butter. Mix in lime juice and crema. Sprinkle with a good, heavy coating of chili powder and salt to taste, though you should taste first as the cheese adds plenty of salt. Mix well.
Step 4: Garnish & Serve. Top with crumbled cheese. If you like spicy food, then add a few drops of some hot sauce for that extra bit of oomph. Serve with a spoon and lime wedges.
Watch my video below to see how simple this recipe can be made at home.
Consider this esquites recipe a loose template for your cravings, adjusting the seasonings and ingredients as you see fit. Here are a few ideas on how to customize this corn salad to your liking:
- Add cilantro. Typical elote on the cob is served with a dusting of this fresh herb. Feel free to add some chopped cilantro to your corn cups, too!
- Swap in mayonnaise. I love the tangy flavor of crema mexicana for my elotes, but many people prefer making this corn in a cup with mayo. Feel free to use whatever you most crave!
- Serve as a salsa over fish or chicken. The best thing about elotes in a cup is that it’s ready to shovel into your mouth. Take advantage by using it as a sort of salsa for your favorite grilled meals!
These corn esquites are one of the easiest side dishes to pull off — after all, you only need 10 minutes! That said, I do have a few words of wisdom for you:
- Use a bundt or tube pan for fresh corn. It might sound strange to bust out your baking ware for corn, but it’s the absolute best way that I’ve found to remove kernels from the cob without them flying every which way! Place the cob on the center tube, then use a sharp knife to slice the kernels off; the recessed cake pan will help to catch all the goodness.
- Opt for frozen corn in the winter or to cut down on prep. If you’re not in the mood to prep corn from fresh, do yourself a favor and visit the frozen aisle. Frozen corn kernels are harvested at peak freshness, so they’ll be just as sweet and nutritious without needing to dirty a knife.
Frequently Asked Questions
Elotes, which translates to “corn,” is the name of a traditional Mexican street food where corn on the cob is cooked, slathered in a creamy sauce, then coated with cheese, fresh lime juice, and chili powder.
Esquites comes from the Nahuatl word for “toasted corn,” ízquitl. Esquites is nearly the same dish as elote, except the corn kernels are removed from the cob for more of a salad that can be eaten with a spoon or fork.
Either! I love it both ways.
Absolutely! Simply swap in your favorite plant-based butter and vegan crumbly white “cheese” like Forager brand queso fresco or Follow Your Heart brand feta.
Heck yeah! In fact, unless you’re in prime corn-growing season, I suggest that you use frozen corn to eliminate a prep step.
More Recipes for Corn Lovers
- Salad with Grilled Corn, Avocado, and Stone Fruit
- Cheesy Cornbread In A Skillet
- Creamy Zucchini, Corn, and Poblano Rajas
- Chorizo and Black Bean Empanadas with Grilled Corn Salsa
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Elote en Vaso (a.k.a. Esquites)
- 10 ears of corn, shucked and cut from the cob
- 2 tablespoons butter, per serving
- 1/4 cup lime juice, per serving
- 1/4 cup crema mexicana, per serving
- 2 tablespoons crumbly salty white cheese
- chili powder
- Valentina hot sauce
- lime wedges for garnish
- salt to taste
- Husk the corn, remove the silks, and slice the kernels from the cobs with a sharp knife.
- Place the corn in a saucepan with enough salted water to cover. Bring to a boil; let boil for two to three minutes, then drain. Turn off the heat, and return corn to saucepan.
- Add 3/4 cup of corn in a glass, add butter, and stir to melt the butter. Mix in lime juice and crema.
- Sprinkle with a good heavy coating of chili powder and salt if desired, though the cheese adds plenty of salt. Mix well.
- Top with crumbled cheese.
- If you like spicy then add a few drops of some hot sauce for that extra kick of heat.
- Serve with a spoon and lime wedges.
- Cotija cheese is ideal, but parmesan is acceptable as a substitution.
- This is a very loose recipe. Feel free to adjust the proportions of lime juice, crema, cheese, and spices to taste!
Photography by Jenna Sparks
Originally published: September 2010.
25 Comments on “Elote en Vaso (a.k.a. Esquites)”
As a college student, I’m always craving this but not many places in Austin have bomb ones. So glad I found this recipe; tastes just like the ones in Houston! Now I can satisfy my cravings more often!
Maybe a dumb question, but is this served hot or cold?
Serve warm so the butter melts in the steaming kernals of corn. My mouth is watering just thinking about it 🙂
Family loved the recipe! Thank you for sharing. By the way where did you buy your apron it’s so cute! Just bought your cookbook and will receive it on Wednesday. 🙂
Thank you for buying our cookbook Claudia. We truly appreciate it 😉
Glad to hear you liked our corn in a cup recipe. As far as the apron I think it was from TJ Max.
When you have a chance we’d love to have you write a customer review on amazon.
Oh WOW this sounds amazing! After eating a creamed corn-type dish at a wonderful Mexican restaurant, I have been looking for a recipe like this for a long time – thank you for sharing!
I’m glad you found our recipe and hope you’ll stay a while. Thanks for commenting and we look forward to hearing from you soon. Please keep us posted on the recipe! We all LOVE it and I know you will too!
This are not the classical ones you get in Mexico, which are called esquites and are cooked pretty different from this.
yeah my dad will like this
Fantastic blog! I actually love how it is easy on my eyes as well as the information are well written. I am wondering how I can be notified whenever a new post has been made. I have subscribed to your rss feed which should do the trick! Have a nice day!
Thank you sooo much! Be sure to sign up for our email list! Thanks for finding Muy Bueno!
Hi, we tried this recipe today. Jackie LOVED!!!!! it. She loved it so much she asked if we could have it for dinner every night. I had bought three ears of sweet corn for me and her, but it was not enough.She wanted more. We had a couple of cans of corn and she asked me to make it for her again with the canned corn. It was still good, but not as good as with the fresh sweet corn. Thanks for the recipe. It was super easy and tasted DELCIOSO!!!!
Oh very cool! Sooooo glad you ALL loved it! It is super easy and so yummy!
This is a very attractive presentation of a common street food seen year ’round in Mexico. My only complaint is that it is so hard to find corn tender enough to chew, corn that is not so tough. The corn I encounter on the streets here I categorize as “feed” corn, which is the same strain grown for masa. I love sweet corn, and it is one of the food favorites that I miss most, living in Mexico. Regretfully, true sweet corn is not grown here.
That reminds me of a funny story…My German uncle (Wolfgang) did not use to eat corn because he said it was for the pigs. I’m guessing “sweet corn” is an American/Mexican border treat? Now my uncle has grown to LOVE corn, but who wouldn’t when cooked Mexican-style by his beautiful Mexican wife 😉
I always have crema mexicana at home, but I have substituted by mixing sour cream with some heavy cream – tastes almost the same as crema!
Great idea Jeanine! I NEVER thought about that. Crema Mexican is readily available at the grocery store, so I usually go that route or use sour cream. Either way its soooo yummy!
Jeanine: Just read that is the PERFECT substitute! 1 cup sour cream and 1 cup heavy cream with some salt 😉
You can substitute with Sour Cream 🙂 ENJOY!
What is crema mexicana? Is this the same as Nestle’s Cream?