Spicy Mexican Grilled Corn Salad (Easy Recipe!)

Spicy Mexican-style corn salad is a vibrant and flavorful dish that brings the essence of Mexican street food to your table. With charred corn, tangy cheese, and a kick of heat, this salad is a delightful combination of taste and texture.

What is Mexican corn salad?

Mexican corn salad, or street corn salad, is a delightful dish that captures the essence of elote, a popular Mexican street food.

Traditionally, elote consists of grilled corn slathered with mayonnaise and crumbled cotija cheese. However, this recipe offers a lighter and lower-fat alternative by omitting the mayonnaise while still delivering the mouthwatering flavors of charred corn and tangy cotija cheese. It’s a refreshing take on a classic favorite, perfect for those seeking a healthier option without sacrificing taste.

I’ll cut to the chase, but be sure to read on to learn perfect pairing and the most common modifications.

grilled corn salad

Spicy Mexican Grilled Corn Salad

This recipe features grilled street corn kernels tossed with crumbled cotija cheese, finely chopped serrano peppers, cilantro, and bright lime. It's a vibrant and delicious salad that can be enjoyed as a side dish or used as a topping for various Mexican-inspired dishes.
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes
Course Appetizer
Cuisine Mexican
Servings 6 people


  • 6 ears corn
  • 1 tbsp melted butter or olive oil
  • 1 tbsp minced garlic jarred is ok
  • 1-2 serrano peppers finely chopped
  • 3 tbsp lime juice
  • 1/4 c cotija cheese crumbled
  • 1/4 c red onion chopped
  • 1/4 c cilantro chopped
  • salt to taste
  • pepper to taste


  • Preheat your grill to medium-high heat
  • Husk the corn and remove the silk strands. Rinse the corn under cold water to clean off any remaining silk
  • In a small bowl, mix together the butter or olive oil, minced garlic, and a pinch of salt and pepper
  • Brush the corn with the butter or olive oil mixture, making sure to coat all sides
  • Place the corn on the preheated grill and cook for about 10-12 minutes, turning occasionally, until the corn kernels are lightly charred and tender. Remove from the grill and set aside to cool slightly
  • Once the corn has cooled down, cut the kernels off the cob. Hold the corn vertically on a cutting board and use a sharp knife to slice downward, separating the kernels from the cob. Transfer the kernels to a large bowl
  • Add the lime juice, crumbled cotija cheese, finely chopped serrano peppers, red onion, and chopped cilantro to the bowl with the corn
  • Toss all the ingredients together until well combined. Make sure the cheese, peppers, and cilantro are evenly distributed throughout the salad
  • Season with salt and pepper to taste. Start with a small amount and adjust according to your preference
  • Let the grilled street corn salad sit for about 10-15 minutes to allow the flavors to meld together
  • Serve the salad at room temperature or chilled

What to serve with spicy Mexican street corn salad

Spicy Mexican corn salad is a versatile dish that pairs well with various meals and can be enjoyed in different ways. It can be served alongside your favorite main courses as a side dish, providing a refreshing and flavorful complement.

For a Tex-Mex twist, this corn salad makes a fantastic topping for tacos or taco bowls. The combination of charred corn, tangy cheese, and spicy kick adds a burst of flavor to your favorite Mexican-inspired creations.

Since you’ll already have your grill running, this salad is an excellent accompaniment to grilled meats like steak and chicken. The smoky flavors of the grilled meat complement the charred corn, while the refreshing elements of the salad balance the meat’s richness.

Looking for a tasty dip? This spicy corn salad is a flavorful alternative to traditional pico de gallo. Simply grab some tortilla chips and dip away, savoring the zesty combination of corn, lime cheese, peppers, and cilantro.

No matter how you enjoy it, this spicy Mexican corn salad is a versatile and satisfying dish that adds a burst of flavor to your meals. So get creative and explore the many ways you can incorporate this delicious salad into your culinary adventures.

Ingredient swaps and modifications:

If you’re not a fan of cilantro, feel free to omit it from the recipe. Cilantro adds a fresh and herbaceous flavor, but the salad will still be delicious without it.

How to make this corn salad recipe spicier

You’re probably reading this blog because you love spicy food, so if you crave extra heat, you can replace the serrano peppers with habaneros. However, be aware that habaneros are significantly hotter than serranos, so start with just a little bit and add more to your preference. The habaneros add a pleasant fruity note to the salad, enhancing its flavor profile and playing well with the lime juice.

How to make it milder 

On the other hand, if you prefer a milder version of the salad, there are a few modifications you can make. For a slightly milder option, remove the membranes and seeds from the serrano peppers before chopping them. This will reduce the heat level while still retaining some spiciness. If you want a much milder version, swap the serrano peppers for jalapeƱos and remove the membranes and seeds. JalapeƱos have a milder heat profile, offering a gentle kick to the salad. 

Make this recipe vegan

To make this recipe vegan, simply make a couple of easy swaps. Omit the cotija cheese, or if desired, you can substitute it with a vegan alternative like vegan cheese or nutritional yeast for a cheesy flavor. Additionally, replace the butter with olive oil as a vegan-friendly option. The olive oil will still provide a touch of richness and help with the grilling process.

By incorporating these ingredient swaps and modifications, you can customize the corn salad to suit your taste preferences, whether adjusting the spice level, making it vegan-friendly, or tailoring it to your liking. So enjoy the flexibility of this recipe and make it your own.

Other modifications

Using a cast iron skillet: If grilling isn’t an option because it’s winter or you don’t have a grill, you can still achieve delicious results by using a cast iron skillet. Remove the corn kernels from the cob and heat a cast iron skillet over high heat. Next, add the corn kernels to the hot skillet and cook until they show signs of light charring. This method will help recreate the smoky flavor and charred texture, giving you a tasty alternative when grilling isn’t available.

Using frozen corn: If fresh corn is not in season or unavailable, frozen corn can be used as a substitute. I recommend using corn kernels that are already off the cob for easier cooking and better texture. Start by microwaving the frozen corn with a small amount of water until it’s defrosted. Then, drain and transfer the corn to a hot cast iron skillet and cook until it develops a light char, similar to the grilling method. This way, you can still enjoy the flavors and textures of the salad, even with frozen corn.

How to save leftovers

To save any leftover spicy Mexican corn salad, ensure it is properly stored to maintain its freshness and flavors. Transfer the salad to an airtight container, such as a food storage container or a resealable bag. Then, place it in the refrigerator, where it can be kept for 3-4 days.

Interestingly, this salad tends to develop even more depth of flavor as it marinates. After a few hours of refrigeration, the ingredients have a chance to meld together, intensifying the taste. So, if possible, allow the leftover salad to marinate in the refrigerator for a few hours before serving again. This will enhance the overall taste and make it even more enjoyable.

Spicy Mexican corn salad is a versatile and customizable recipe that allows you to enjoy the flavors of street corn in a lighter and healthier way. Whether you prefer milder or spicier versions, the ingredient swaps and modifications provide options to suit your taste buds. Whether served as a side dish, topping for tacos, or dip with tortilla chips, this salad is sure to elevate your meals with its vibrant colors and bold flavors.

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