Elote, also known as Mexican street corn, is a popular street food that originated in Mexico. It consists of grilled or boiled corn on the cob that is then coated in a creamy slather of mayonnaise, cotija cheese, lime juice, and chili powder. The combination of creamy, salty, spicy, and tangy flavors is simply irresistible. But while elote is delicious on its own, it also pairs well with a variety of other foods and makes a fantastic side dish. So what are some delicious things to serve alongside elote?
Elote makes a tasty pairing with all kinds of protein. The creaminess of the elote perfectly complements the heartiness of meat, fish, beans, and more. Here are some protein-packed dishes that go great with elote:
- Grilled chicken or steak
- Barbacoa or carnitas
- Chorizo or hot dogs
- Fish tacos or ceviche
- Shrimp skewers or fajitas
- Black or pinto beans
The smoky char and spice of grilled meats like chicken or steak make them a classic. Slow-cooked shredded beef like barbacoa is another excellent match, as the tender meat soaks up all the elote flavors. Spicy sausages add even more heat. Seafood like shrimp and white fish provide a lighter complement. And beans offer protein as well as fiber.
In addition to protein, elote also pairs deliciously with fresh, colorful vegetables. The vegetables provide crunch and brightness to balance out the rich, decadent flavors of the elote. Some vegetable sides to consider include:
- Tomato salad
- Avocado slices
- Shaved cabbage slaw
- Roasted zucchini or squash
- Grilled vegetables like eggplant, peppers, and onions
- Corn on the cob
A fresh tomato salad or sliced avocados add juiciness. Tangy slaws with citrus vinaigrettes cut through the creaminess. Roasted veggies like zucchini and squash complement the sweetness of the corn. Grilled veggies like peppers and onions add char. And more corn on the cob means more elote for you!
Starchy Side Dishes
In addition to vegetables, some classic starchy side dishes also pair deliciously with elote. Options like rice, beans, and potatoes will help to soak up all of the wonderful flavors and juices. Try serving elote alongside:
- Spanish rice
- Cilantro lime rice
- Refried or black beans
- Potato wedges
- Sweet potato fries
- Corn tortillas
Spanish rice or cilantro lime rice offer a burst of flavor. Refried beans are a tasty traditional pairing. Crispy, salty potato wedges or sweet potato fries complement the corn. And you can’t forget warm corn tortillas to scoop up all the elote goodness.
Warm, crusty bread can round out an elote meal for soaking up savory juices or creamy sauces. Some breads that make sense with elote include:
- Corn tortillas
- Rolls or biscuits
- Garlic bread
Buttery cornbread is an obvious choice with its sweet corn flavor. You really can’t go wrong with a basket of warm corn tortillas either. Simple rolls or biscuits work well too. Or amp up the flavor with cheesy garlic bread.
Dips and Sauces
Don’t forget condiments like creamy dips and sauces to serve on the side. These will allow you to customize each bite of elote with even more flavor. Options like guacamole, salsa, crema, and more all pair fantastically. Try serving:
- Queso dip
- Sour cream
Creamy, green guacamole adds more richness. Salsas bring fresh, vinegary heat. Warm queso cheese dip can’t be beat. Sour cream or Mexican crema deliver tang. And chimichurri’s herbaceous zip cuts through the mayo and cheese.
For extra crunch and texture, consider crunchy toppers. Sprinkle these on for a burst of flavor in every bite. Possibilities include:
- Chopped onion
- Crumbled bacon
- Crumbled cotija cheese
- Toasted pumpkin seeds
- Crushed tortilla chips
Onions bring a sharp bite. Crispy bacon offers a smoky contrast. Dry cotija cheese provides a salty finish. Toasted pepitas give earthiness. And tortilla chips lend corn flavor and crunch.
The creaminess and heat of elote also benefits from something cooling and fresh on the side. Balance out the rich flavors with:
- Green salad
- Fresh fruit salad
- Watermelon slices
- Pineapple chunks
A crisp green salad or crunchy slaw help cleanse the palate. Juicy fruit salads with watermelon, pineapple, or mango provide sweet relief. Don’t be afraid to get creative with additional fresh toppings too!
Lastly, elote makes a fun pairing for dessert too. The sweet corn, creaminess, and spice complement many dessert flavors and textures. Consider serving:
- Tres leches cake
- Fried ice cream
Crispy, cinnamon-sugar churros are a classic dessert option. Sopapillas with honey are perfect for soaking up elote juices. Fluffy, rich flan provides the ideal texture contrast. Tres leches cake is even creamier. And who can resist fried ice cream?!
Sample Elote Meal Menus
Here are some sample elote meal menus that bring together some of these fantastic food pairing ideas:
- Grilled chicken breast
- Spanish rice
- Refried beans
- Tortilla chips
- Frijoles charros
- Esquites (corn salad)
- Pico de gallo
- Fish tacos
- Cilantro lime rice
- Roasted squash
- Tomato salad
As you can see, the possibilities for what to serve with elote are nearly endless! All kinds of delicious, complementary dishes pair well with this popular Mexican street corn. Just go with your favorites or whatever you have on hand. Any combination is sure to be a hit.
How to Make Classic Elote
Now that you know what to serve with elote, let’s discuss how to actually make it! While elote is available ready-made from many street vendors and restaurants, it’s also easy to prepare at home. Here is a simple recipe:
- 4-6 ears of corn, husked
- 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
- 1/4 cup Mexican crema or sour cream
- 1/4 cup crumbled cotija or feta cheese
- 2 tablespoons lime juice
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
- Lime wedges, for serving
- Cook the corn either by grilling for 10 minutes, boiling for 5 minutes, or roasting at 400°F for 15 minutes. The kernels should be lightly charred and tender.
- In a small bowl, stir together the mayonnaise, crema or sour cream, cheese, lime juice, and chili powder until combined.
- Evenly brush or spread the mayonnaise mixture onto each ear of hot, cooked corn. Top with cilantro.
- Serve the elote immediately with lime wedges for squeezing over the top.
It’s that easy! The corn can be cooked in whichever method you prefer. Grilling gives the most char and smoky flavor while boiling and roasting are quicker. The rich, creamy sauce comes together in minutes. Adjust the chili powder to your desired spice level. Then dig in and enjoy!
Of course, you can always purchase ready-made elote too. It’s frequently sold at:
- Street food carts and food trucks in Mexico and the American Southwest
- Taquerias and Mexican restaurants
- Farmers’ markets during corn season
- Some supermarkets, especially those with a good Mexican/Latin section
Look for vendors selling whole charred corn on the cob that has been slathered in sauce and toppings. The corn should be aromatic, juicy and tender. The sauce will be white and creamy. Toppings like cotija cheese, chili powder, cilantro, and lime are typical. For the most authentic elote, seek it out from Mexican street vendors.
Elote Topping Ideas
One of the great things about elote is how customizable it is with fun additions. While the classic toppings are mayonnaise, cotija cheese, lime, and chili powder, the possibilities don’t stop there. Consider trying these creative topping ideas:
- Hot sauce – Things like Cholula, Tapatio, or Valentina add extra heat and flavor.
- Crumbled bacon – Smoky, salty bacon bits complement the corn.
- Cajun seasoning – The likes of cayenne, paprika, garlic and onion powders bring heat and depth.
- Pepitas – Toasted pumpkin seeds give delicious crunch.
- Pickled jalapeños – Tangy spice and crunch from pickled peppers.
- Cilantro – Fresh, bright herb flavor.
- Queso fresco – Salty, mild cheese similar to cotija.
- Avocado – Creamy richness.
Start with the classic base of mayo, lime, and chili powder. Then pick a few fun add-ins from this list or get creative with your own! The options for customizing elote are endless.
Tips for Making Perfect Elote
Follow these helpful tips for creating the best homemade elote possible:
- Choose corn at peak ripeness for optimal sweetness. Look for plump, brightly-colored, tight kernels.
- Cook the corn thoroughly so the kernels become lightly charred and tender. Undercooked kernels won’t absorb flavors well.
- Brush on the sauce ingredients while the corn is hot for maximum absorption.
- Don’t go light on seasoning – elote should taste highly seasoned.
- Add fresh herbs like cilantro just before serving to preserve color and flavor.
- Serve immediately for the best texture. The corn kernels can become tough once cooled.
- Refrigerate leftovers in sauce to keep moist, but serve at room temperature.
With sweet corn, bold seasonings, and rich sauces, it’s easy to see why elote has become such a popular street food. The blend of flavors and textures is simply irresistible. And as you now know, it can be paired with everything from meats to veggies to desserts for a complete meal. So get creative with your own elote recipes. ¡Buen provecho!