May 10, 2024

Mexican Street Corn Pasta Salad

THE pasta salad of summer.

It’s official: we’re entering pasta salad season! This Mexican street corn pasta salad is a MUST-make. With charred corn, spicy jalapeños, vibrant cilantro, and cotija cheese, this tangy and slightly acidic pasta salad will make you feel like you’re eating the real thing. It’s the perfect dish for summer gatherings, barbecues, or simply enjoying as a refreshing side.

up close finished Mexican street corn pasta salad

WHAT IS MEXICAN STREET CORN

So, you thought the pasta salad looked good, but you have no idea what Mexican street corn is (if you do, you can move on to the recipe). Also referred to as “Elote,” this corn is a popular Mexican street food consisting of a whole corn on the cob cooked, then slathered in crema, and topped with cotija cheese, spices, and finally, a squeeze of lime juice. Served whole, Mexican street corn is sweet, tangy, cheesy, and slightly acidic.

Over the last decade, this truly delicious corn has become increasingly popular in the United States and elsewhere in the world. It can now be found in street food fairs, food trucks, and both traditional and modern Mexican restaurants. Obviously, if you don’t have access to any of these, there’s a good chance it’s difficult for you to get this iconic dish. If that’s the case, I encourage you to make this Mexican street corn-inspired pasta AND to hunt down the original classic because it is worth it.

a bowl of Mexican street corn pasta salad next to the ingredients that go into it.

WHAT YOU’LL NEED FOR MEXICAN STREET CORN PASTA SALAD

  • Pasta – Player’s choice here, but pick something that makes sense. Farfalle or fusilli are both excellent options.
  • Corn – Whole, fresh sweet summer corn on the cob. We’re going to grill the corn to give it a smoky flavor, so it needs to be on the cob (sorry, no canned or frozen here). For this recipe in particular, I like to remove the corn from the husks and grill it directly on the grates to char the corn.
  • Crema Mexicana – Also referred to as “crema,” this creamy and tangy condiment closely resembles sour cream but has a slightly milder flavor. It’s a staple ingredient in many Mexican dishes, from tacos to enchiladas to soups. Crema can be found in some mainstream supermarkets, particularly those catering to the Hispanic community. Look for it in the same area as sour cream, cream cheese, and cheese, in the refrigerator section.
    • Substitute: If you can’t find crema, you have other options. While crème fraîche is a great substitute, it can also be hard to find and somewhat expensive. Instead, try a 50/50 mixture of sour cream and mayonnaise. The mayo will help balance out the ultra-tanginess of the sour cream, giving it a milder flavor.
  • Jalapeño – This pasta salad needs a kick of heat. If you’re sensitive to spice, look for a jalapeño with no lines; this is often an indicator that it’s a younger pepper and thus less spicy. Conversely, more lines indicate a hotter pepper.
  • Cilantro
  • Lime – Fresh only!
  • Cotija Cheese – Like Mexican crema, this ingredient can be found in most major supermarkets. However, due to recent recalls, it might be harder to find. Good substitutes are queso fresco or even feta cheese
  • Cayenne Pepper

TOOLS NEEDED

  • Grill – I always say, fire is an ingredient, and it is so true for this recipe. The char and smokey flavor you get from grilling corn truly adds something special to this dish.
un-tossed Mexican street corn pasta salad

HOW TO MAKE MEXICAN STREET CORN PASTA SALAD

Grill the Corn – Preheat the grill between 450°F and 500°F. Once hot, place the dehusked corn directly on the grates. Close the lid and allow the trapped heat of the grill to cook the corn. It is important to rotate the corn every few minutes to ensure even cooking.

The corn should take around 10-15 minutes. You’ll know it is done when the kernels are tender (you can poke them if you need to), but not shriveled. Shriveled kernels tend to be a bit dry, so we want to avoid pushing it past this point.

Once cooked, remove the corn from the grill and allow it to cool for 5-10 minutes before removing the kernels. To remove the kernels, you can either:

  • Stand the corn up on the base of the cob, and carefully use a knife to cut downwards along the length of the cob. You want to cut deep enough to get the full kernel but not so deep that you start to cut off the tough cob.
  • Funny enough, there’s actually a tool that can easily remove the kernels. I use the OXO Corn Prep Peeler. It’s as easy as using a peeler, just be careful… it’s sharp.

Cook the Pasta – Cook the pasta in salted water according to the packaging instructions, ensuring you pull it off the heat when the pasta is al dente. No mushy pasta here! Once the pasta is cooked, drain it and rinse it under cold water.

RINSE THE PASTA? Yes, you read that right. While it’s sacrilegious to rinse pasta that you’re throwing into a hot sauce and eating right away, pasta salad pasta needs to be rinsed. For starters, it brings the pasta down in temperature fast. But more importantly, you need to rinse the starch away. Starchy pasta in pasta salad creates a sticky mess and will ultimately just stick together in the fridge.

un-tossed Mexican street corn pasta salad

Make the Base + Assemble – In a large bowl, combine the crema Mexicana, lime juice, and cayenne pepper. Add the cooled, rinsed pasta, corn, chopped jalapeños, cilantro, and cheese. Give the bowl a thorough toss to coat all the pasta and evenly distribute the other ingredients. If you prefer your pasta to have a bit more coverage, feel free to add more crema.

STORING/REHEATING

Enjoy Mexican street corn pasta salad the same day for the best flavor. You can store leftovers in an airtight container for 2-3 days.

Looking for more summertime sides? Check out the below recipes.

Dill Pickle Dip
Red Cabbage Salad

May 10, 2024

Mexican Street Corn Pasta Salad

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This tangy and delicious Mexican street corn pasta salad is a MUST-make, with charred corn, jalapeños, cilantro, and cotija cheese.
Course Side Dish
Cuisine American, Mexican
Keyword Pasta Salad
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes
Servings 4 people

Ingredients

  • 3 corn on the cob approx. 2 cups of kernels
  • 1/2 lb pasta
  • 1 cup crema Mexicana
  • 1 1/2 limes juiced
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 bunch cilantro 1 whole bunch if it is small
  • 2 jalapeños pith and seeds removed
  • 5 oz cojita cheese

Instructions

  • Preheat the grill between 450°F and 500°F.
  • Once hot, place the dehusked corn directly on the grates. Cook with the lid closed rotating the corn every few minutes to ensure even cooking. Cook for 10-15 minutes, until the corn is tender.
  • Once cooked, remove the corn from the grill and allow it to cool for 5-10 minutes. Once cooled remove the kernels (see post for options).
  • While the corn is cooking, cook the pasta in salted water according to the packaging instructions. Drain and rinse under cold water.
  • In a large bowl, combine the crema Mexicana, lime juice, and cayenne pepper. Add the cooled, rinsed pasta, corn, chopped jalapeños, cilantro, and cheese. Give the bowl a thorough toss. Add more crema if you want more coverage. Salt to taste if needed.

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