Grilled Mexican street corn, or elote, has been elevated to an art form that is widely celebrated in the city of Los Angeles (and certainly many other cities with large Mexican populations). On weekends, in nearly every public park near Downtown L.A. there will be a food cart offering grilled corn on the cob, served on a stick and slathered in a thick layer of mayonnaise, lots of crumbled Mexican cheese, chili powder, and freshly squeezed lime. And it is muy delicioso.
In fact, if you’re driving through the neighborhood of Lincoln Park, a few blocks east of Dodgers Stadium, between 10:00pm and 2:00am, you’d see a long line of people winding down the street, all waiting to try the city’s most highly-touted corn. It is prepared by the “Corn Man” who has been serving up spicy, cheesy, lime-infused corn for over 27 years.
Inspired by the delicious grilled corn we’ve enjoyed all over our city, we created this healthier version to spice up your next barbecue. We skipped the mayonnaise, opting instead for a light coating of olive oil and just the right amount of fresh Mexican cheese. A sprinkling of cayenne pepper (or chili powder) and a squeeze of fresh lime are the finishing touches that give our corn that authentic flavor.
When making elote, start with the freshest ears of sweet corn you can find, still wrapped in their husks if possible. Freshly-picked corn is sweet and juicy. As soon as it’s picked, that natural sugar starts to turn to starch, changing the flavor and making it tougher. To help them retain moisture, store ears of corn in their husks in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator until you’re ready to put them on the grill.
When that time comes, fire up your grill and strip the husks and silk from each ear of corn. When the water is boiling (depending on the type of pot you have, you can bring it to a boil right on the grill), add the corn and cover with a lid. As soon as the water returns to a boil, remove the corn and drain it well. Dry it with a clean kitchen towel, then brush with olive oil.
Then, when your barbecue is hot, place the corn on the grill, turning it frequently with grilling tongs to get an even, golden-brown color on all sides. Remove it from the grill to a serving platter and sprinkle with queso fresco, feta, or slightly drier cotija cheese. To help the cheese stick to the corn, it helps to grate it on a cheese grater to get a finer crumble. Sprinkle with cayenne and lime juice and serve.
Dreaming of tasting this delicious corn recipe, but don’t have a grill? You can make it indoors by lightly coating the boiled ears of corn with olive oil and placing them under the broiler, turning frequently until the kernels turn golden brown.
Prefer your corn off the cob? You can also make this dish in a cast-iron skillet. Allow the boiled corn to cool enough so it’s easy to handle, then use a large chef’s knife to slice the kernels off the cob over a large bowl. Add corn kernels to a heated skillet coated with nonstick cooking spray, and cook, stirring frequently until the corn starts to brown. Stir in cheese, chili powder, and squeeze fresh lime juice into the skillet and serve.
Grilled Corn with Chili, Cheese, and Lime
Spice up your next barbecue with this healthier version of elote, the delicious Mexican grilled corn that's coated in cheese, chili powder, and lime juice.
- Hot water
- 4 ears corn husks removed
- 2 tsp. olive oil
- Sea salt or Himalayan salt (to taste; optional)
- ¼ cup crumbled queso fresco (or feta cheese)
- ¼ tsp. ground cayenne pepper
- 1 medium lime cut into 4 wedges
Preheat grill to medium.
Bring large pot of water to boil; add corn. When water returns to a boil, remove corn. Drain well.
Brush corn with oil. Season with salt if desired.
Place corn on grill, turning frequently, for about 4 minutes, or until corn kernels are browned. Remove from grill.
Sprinkle corn with cheese and cayenne pepper. Serve immediately with lime wedges.
The Nutrition Facts box below provides estimated nutritional information for this recipe.