Easier Than It Looks

A Mexican-Style Corn Salad that Tastes Like Home

July 21, 2016

Esquites is a spicy, creamy corn salad that's a take on a traditional Mexican snack. Photos: Scott Hocker

Home is a funny thing.

It’s a physical place. It’s an abstract concept. It’s a feeling, a lodestar wedged in your bones.

Home now is New Orleans. It’s where I feel more at ease than I have in years. The lilt of the days here rolls at a rhythm that suits my own pulse. But home is no one fixed location.

I lived in San Francisco’s Mission District for six years. Home there was a compact studio. My steadiest food supply during that time was Mexican: in restaurants, it was tacos, enchiladas, warming caldos (simple soups). On the street, it was even more tacos, plus the occasional bacon-wrapped hot dog, spicy fresh fruit, and elotes—big corn cobs coated with salty cheese, chile, mayonnaise, and lime.

When summer roared into New Orleans about a month ago, fresh corn started appearing in the market. I grabbed for my friend Jessica’s cookbook on corn. A gentle shockwave of nostalgia rippled across my skin when I landed on page 33. There it was: a recipe for esquites, Jessica’s fresh, salad-like take on those Mission corn cobs I savored all those years ago. I missed San Francisco. I missed Jessica. I missed those flavors.

I have no interest in making San Francisco home again. Who we are and what we need is always morphing. I am not who I was. But those esquites made me recall a different me. An earlier variation of the same me. A me that, like the one now, knows that home means exactly what it always has and also something wholly different.

Get the Recipe: Esquites (Mexican-Style Corn Salad)


Serve 4 to 6 people

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes
Total time: 20 minutes

I used crème fraîche instead of sour cream because I didn’t have any sour cream around. It made the salad pretty darn tangy. But I like that kind of thing. You don’t have to.


5 ears corn, shucked
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1 cup loosely packed cilantro leaves, chopped
¾ cup crumbled cotija cheese
2 scallions, thinly sliced
¼ cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons sour cream or crème fraîche
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 teaspoons Mexican or Tabasco hot sauce
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper


1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add the corn, and cook for 5 minutes. Drain and cool, then cut the kernels from the cobs. In a large bowl, combine the kernels, tomatoes, cilantro, cheese, and scallions.

2. In a small bowl, combine the mayonnaise, sour cream, lime juice, hot sauce, ¾ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Pour this mixture over the corn mixture and combine well. Season with more salt, pepper, and hot sauce, if you think it needs it. Serve.

As a member of the Food Network blogger network, this post is part of the Let’s Pull Up a Chair series. Discover more great dishes using the hashtag #SummerSoiree, on Pinterest, and from our blogger friends here:
The Lemon Bowl: Pesto Pasta Salad with Green Beans and Corn
Devour: Fire Up the Grill for a Mexican Grilled Corn Fiesta
Feed Me Phoebe: Sweet and Spicy Gluten-Free Corn Pasta with Ricotta and Chives
Creative Culinary: Grilled Corn Salsa with Poblano Chiles, Cilantro and Honey
TasteBook: Esquites (Mexican-Style Corn Salad)
Elephants and the Coconut Trees: Corn, Pluot and Grape Salad
Napa Farmhouse 1885: A Cornucopia of Corn Recipes For Summer
Healthy Eats: 7 Summer Salads That Put a New Spin on Corn
In Jennie’s Kitchen: Easy Homemade Creamed Corn
FN Dish: If You Cook Any Corn This Summer, Make It One of These 5-Star Recipes

Scott Hocker is a writer, editor, recipe developer, cookbook author, and content and editorial consultant. He is currently the editor-in-chief of Liquor.com, and was previously the editor-in-chief of TastingTable.com. Still curious? Visit ScottHocker.com.

ColumnCornEasier Than It LooksMexican CookingRecipesSaladSummerVegetablesVegetarian
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