How to make traditional Mexican esquites (Mexican street corn)

July 15, 2021

Next up, a recipe for those that don’t have the fortune of having a corn on a cup stand on their street 

To survive in the 21st century, you need to have certain go-to people: 

  • A trusted doctor you go to when you’re feeling under the weather. This person will have your health on their hands so you must trust them completely. 
  • A car-guy. This is the person who you know can help you with any issues that might come up with your car, so you can keep rolling without ignoring the little lights on the dashboard. 
  • A hairdresser or barber you can trust with your precious hair when you’re feeling like it’s time to try something new or just go with the same old look.  

Depending on your likes and lifestyle you’ll probably have a couple more go-to’s on your list. However, these could be agreed as the most basic people you need to know… Unless you live in Mexico.  

In that case, there’s one more guy to be added to this list. Maybe even sharing the first place in relevance alongside your doctor: 

  • A trusted corn-stand man. The one who’s been on your street’s corner for as long as you can remember. The one that knows what kind of chili to add to your corn and how much of it you need. The one who has seen all the guys or girls you’ve taken for corn on a date (you can do better, come on) but will never judge you. The person you trust with your Friday night munchies. With the secrets, you won’t tell your gym coach. The best fifteen pesos you’ve spent this week. That’s what we work for, right? “Make that a large esquite, please… life’s too short for small servings”.  
Mexican street corn vendor

Your favorite taco, tamales and, if you live on the South, marquesita stands also deserve an honorable mention in this list.  

However, the corn guy is the corn guy. 

No one else will add precisely the amount of lemon juice you like on your esquite, or add an extra spoonful of chili just because he saw you a bit down. 

That’s why, if you’re far from your home corn guy and nostalgia is hitting you where it hurts (on your appetite), here I hand you the traditional recipe. 

Traditional esquite (Mexican street corn)

Again: TRADITIONAL recipe for esquites. 

It’s safe to emphasize this point because I know many of my friends in Yucatán will jump up to say that I should’ve said cream instead of mayonnaise. Or my cousins up North will complain that it shouldn’t be called an esquite, it’s supposed to be called “elote en vaso” (literally: corn on a cup).  

To these sinners I say two things. 

One: you’re wrong. 

Two: write your own blog and ruin esquites with whatever ingredients or names you wish to add. 

In the meantime, we’ll be calling them esquites and we’ll be adding mayonnaise.  


Now back to what we’re here for. 

The traditional recipe for Mexican esquites 

Let’s start with the ingredients.  

As for quantity, we’re considering enough to serve four people.  

If you eat the equivalent of two people, then multiply the ingredients by two, or just invite half your friends. If you’re a regular eater, then this should be enough for you and three friends with similar stomachs. 

We’ll need:  

  • 5 fresh white grain corns. By no means should you try this recipe with yellow corn. Won’t work. Believe me, I’ve tried. 
  • 150 g of finely chopped white onion. To give you an idea, this should be about ¼ of an onion.  
  • 1 epazote root. So you can tell your trainer that you sure are eating your greens.  
Mexican white corn for esquites
  • About 20 g of butter. This we won’t be reporting to your trainer.  
  • 1 finely chopped garlic clove. 
  • 2 serrano chilis. Chop them too. 
  • 100 g (or however much your body needs) of fresh cheese, soup cheese, the one that smells a lot and breaks apart easily.  
  • Mayonnaise. Please do not switch this for cream, and if you do, don’t let me know because I’ll be hurt.  
  • Chili powder. It’s up to you how spicy you want it to be but look for a powder that does not contain sugar or other ingredients that most commercial powders have. Just straight chili powder.  
  • Lemon juice and salt. Fire at will. 

Now, for cooking:  

The first thing we’ll have to do is remove the leaves from our white grain corn. If they’re fresh, they’ll probably have some strands or “hairs” natural to the corn. Remove them. We’ll need our corn as clean and bald as we possibly can for the next step. 

Once clean, remove the grains from the cob with a knife. Let them rest on a deep enough container and have them ready, as we’ll be needing them further along the way. It shouldn’t be necessary to store them in the fridge as this could take away their freshness. 

Now, take the epazote root, garlic, onion and chilis and chop them neatly one by one. If you had already done this step, good, you’re one step closer to your meal. If you haven’t, this would be a nice time to do so. 

Next, we’ll take a cooking pot that’s big enough. Add the butter and get it on the stove with the fire set to the lowest. In this pot, you’ll deposit first the onion, epazote, and chilis (all well chopped). Once the onion has acquired a brownish color, we’ll add the garlic. Remember, all with low fire burning. 

Now, mix these elements and give them a moment so that the garlic and onion acquire a similar color. Once this happens, add the grains of corn.  

Mix the ingredients again and let it cook for two or three minutes. Then, add two portions of water (twice as many cups of water for each cup of corn grain), add salt willingly and cover the pot.  

Wait for the water to boil until the corn grains get that “al dente” consistency… Not too soft, yet not too hard.  

And that’s it for the first part. Now, to the good stuff. 

Once our corn is ready and tasty, we’ll proceed to serve them in cups or mugs (they should be hot so consider this for your container of choice). If you have traditional clay mugs, those should look amazing for your guests.  

Here’s where personal taste plays an important part. If you ask me, here’s what you should add: 

  • A couple of spoonfuls of mayonnaise on top.  
  • The juice of an entire lemon.  
  • Enough cheese (as much as you need). 
  • Chili powder. If you have a spicy and non-spicy choice, add both… or just the spicy… or the non-spicy… this part is every man for himself mostly.  
  • Pro-tip: fill only half of the mug with corn, add half the ingredients in the middle and then add the other half of the corn to top it all off with the rest of the ingredients. This will make it easier to mix once you’re ready to eat.  
Mexican street corn - Traditional Esquites

We’ve finished your first lesson into becoming a corn man. The next step is to share them with your friend or get a cart and start your corner stand but to do this, you’ll need to learn many other arts such as confidentiality and sidewalk therapy. True skills that only a master corn man can teach you.   

Now it’s your turn to confess. What odd thing do you like to add to your esquites? Let me know in the comments! 

Por suerte nacido en México. Descubriendo el mundo a través del deporte y el arte. Encuentro refugio en la naturaleza


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