Mexican Street Corn Pasta Salad

This quick and easy Mexican street corn pasta salad is loaded with savory charred corn, salty cotija cheese, and a tangy chipotle lime dressing. Not only is this pasta salad a snap to throw together, but the flavors will keep you coming back for more. Enjoy on its own as an easy lunch or serve as a side dish for you next taco night!

Mexican Street Corn Pasta Salad in serving bowl

Oh Hey, Elotes!

Mexican street corn, or elotes (ee-low-tays) as they are traditionally called, is a street food staple in Mexico. Elotes are corn on the cob either boiled or chargrilled and served on a stick with a mountain of toppings. The sweet corn gets slathered in a mixture of mayonnaise, crema (Mexican sour cream), fresh lime juice, and topped with cotija cheese. Optional additions like chili powder, Tajín seasoning, cilantro, or even crunchy Cheetos up the anti on this flavorful classic. Add some pasta and a little creativity and this classic street food becomes the most addictive Mexican street corn pasta salad!

close up shot of Mexican Street Corn Pasta Salad

Mexican Street Corn Pasta Salad: Ingredients & Substitutions

When making a Mexican street corn pasta salad you’ll need a few simple ingredients. Some of the items are pantry/ fridge staples and a few are more specialty. Easily make swaps to use what you have at home (or what you like best!) but try not to stray too far from the original inspiration for the tastiest results.

  • Mayo: The tried and true glue to bind together any pasta salad. Use a good quality, full-fat mayonnaise for the best flavor and texture. If you’re not a huge mayo fan, don’t worry– the sour cream and lime are the flavors that really shine through here. If you are seriously mayo averse, you can skip it and use double the amount of sour cream.
  • Sour Cream: Traditional Mexican street corn uses Mexican crema, which is like a thinner, more pourable version of sour cream. Whichever you use, just make sure it’s full fat for the best flavor and texture.
  • Corn: This recipe uses fresh corn kernels cut right off the cob. Remove the husk and silk from the cob, then cut the kernels off with the corn laying flat on the cutting board. If you try to cut the corn vertically, the kernels will fly everywhere and you risk cutting yourself. Substitute frozen corn kernels for fresh if you are making this dish out of season or if you don’t have access to fresh corn. Add the frozen kernels right to your skillet–no need to pre-thaw! Just allow for a few extra minutes of cooking time to ensure you get a nice char on your frozen corn. Avoid canned corn as it is too wet to achieve good caramelization.
  • Chipotle peppers: While chipotle peppers are very much a traditional Mexican ingredient, they are not traditionally enjoyed with street corn. The deep smokey flavor of the chipotles cuts the richness of this pasta salad and adds a welcome hit of heat. If you don’t have chipotle peppers on hand, try a few dashes of your favorite hot sauce or cayenne pepper to taste.
  • Lime Juice and Zest: This is no place for lime juice in a bottle. Use the real stuff for the best flavor and thank us later.
  • Cotija cheese: Cotija is a firm, crumbly, salty cow’s milk cheese that is commonly used in Mexican cuisine. You can substitute queso fresco which is softer and has a more mild flavor, or even some crumbled feta in a pinch.

Mexican Street Corn Pasta Salad with serving spoons in serving bowl

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Mexican Street Corn Pasta Salad

4.93 from 28 votesTyler Anastasio PrintServings: 6servingsPrep Time: 10minsCook Time: 15minsDifficulty: EasyThis quick and easy Mexican street corn pasta salad is loaded with savory charred corn, salty cotija cheese and a tangy chipotle lime dressing. Enjoy on its own as an easy lunch or serve as a side dish for your next taco night.

Ingredients

Mexican Street Corn Pasta Salad

  • 2cupsditalini pasta (uncooked), or any small pasta shape**
  • Diamond Crystal kosher salt
  • 2-3tablespoonsextra virgin olive oil, enough to coat the skillet
  • 3cupsfresh corn kernels*, about 4-6 ears total
  • fresh cracked black pepper, to taste
  • 2clovesgarlic, minced or grated
  • 1/2 of afresh jalapeño ***, minced, seeds and ribs removed
  • 1bunchcilantro, finely chopped, reserve some for garnish
  • 1bunchscallions, sliced, reserve some for garnish
  • 1/4cupcotija cheese, crumbled, reserve some for garnish

Chipotle Lime Dressing

  • 1/2cupsour cream
  • 1/2cupmayo
  • 2wholechipotle peppers***, packed in adobo
  • 1/3cupfresh lime juice, plus the zest of 1 of the limes
  • Diamond Crystal kosher salt
  • fresh cracked black pepper

Instructions

Mexican Street Corn Pasta Salad

  • Bring a large pasta pot of water to a boil over high heat, then salt the water liberally. Add ditalini pasta, stir, and cook according to package instructions. When the pasta is cooked, drain and rinse with cold water until pasta cools.
  • Heat a large skillet with a tight-fitting lid over high heat. Once skillet is heated, drizzle in a few tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil to coat. Add the corn kernels to the pan in one even layer. Salt and pepper to taste then immediately cover the skillet with a lid (when the kernels start to char and caramelize, they will begin to pop and splatter).
  • Cook on high heat undisturbed for 5 minutes, or until corn is nicely charred on the bottom and fully cooked through. Remove lid, reduce the heat to medium, and add in the 2 cloves of minced garlic. Stir to combine and cook for an additional minute or two. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.
  • Gather the minced and seeded jalapeño, finely chopped cilantro, thinly sliced scallions, and crumbled cotija cheese, reserving some of the cilantro, scallions, and cheese for garnish.

Chipotle Lime Dressing

  • Place the sour cream, mayo, chipotle peppers, fresh lime juice, and lime zest in a blender and blend to combine. Add kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste, and set aside until ready for assembly.

Assemble

  • In a large bowl (or the cooled pasta pot) mix the cooked and cooled pasta with the cooled charred corn, jalapeño, cilantro, scallion ,and crumbledcotija cheese. Pour over the chipotle lime dressing, (you may not need all of it****) and toss to combine. Taste and add additional kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper if needed.
  • Transfer to a serving platter and garnish with the reserved cilantro, scallion, and cotija cheese. Serve immediately or store in refrigerator until ready to serve, reserving garnish in a separate container if making ahead.

Equipment

  • 1 Large pasta pot
  • 1 Large skillet with lid
  • 1 immersion or standard blender

Notes

*You can easily sub frozen corn kernels for fresh if you are making this dish out of season or if you don’t have access to fresh corn. Add the frozen kernels right to your skillet– no need to pre thaw! Just allow for a few extra minutes of cooking time to ensure you get a nice char on your frozen corn. Avoid canned corn as it is too wet to achieve good caramelization. **If you can’t find ditalini, use any small pasta shape. Mini shells and mini farfalle (bowties) work great here. Just look for pasta that is roughly the same size as the kernels of corn. ***Using half of a seeded jalapeño and 2 chipotle peppers gives this Mexican street corn pasta salad just a bit of a kick. If you love spicy food, start there and add more to taste as you go. ****You may not need all of the dressing, especially if you are serving the pasta salad immediately. Start with 3/4th of the dressing and if making ahead reserve 1/4th of the dressing to add to the pasta salad just before serving, as the pasta will absorb a lot of it while it sits.

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