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Elote in a Cup Recipe (Esquites)

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Welcome to the delicious flavors of elote in a cup (aka esquites). This Mexican street corn salad is loaded with toasted corn, a creamy drizzle, salty crumble of cotija, and plenty of fresh cilantro and lime juice along with a sprinkle of tajin to bring it all together. It’s an easy recipe and truly my favorite way to eat corn!

Elote in a cup is a beloved Mexican street food classic that is widely loved by just about anyone who has tried it from street vendors. This popular Mexican snack takes the essence of traditional elote en vaso, or Mexican street corn, and serves it up in convenient and portable plastic cups. This fun recipe is an easy way to enjoy this delicious combination and the perfect side dish to your Mexican meals.

Elote in a cup with cilantro and lime.

Estimated reading time: 9 minutes

What Is Esquites?

Wondering what is elote in a cup called? It goes by a few names, but esquites is a different version of elotes. Instead of the corn toppings being served directly on the cob, the corn and toppings are served in a cup or as a salad.

The two dishes are essentially the same, just served in a different way.

Esquites GIF

What You’ll Love About Esquites

  • Bright and fresh flavors
  • Delicious and satisfying dish
  • Made with simple ingredients
  • Perfect side for Mexican dishes


  • Mayonnaise – Use your favorite high-quality mayonnaise for best results.
  • Crema Mexicana – Is a Mexican condiment that is similar to sour cream, but is richer in flavor and thinner in texture. You can typically find it in the Mexican section in your local grocery store. You could also use sour cream if you can’t find it, I like to thin it out with a bit of milk or even lime juice so it’s a closer replication.
  • Oil – Use your favorite vegetable oil for sauteeing the corn, avocado oil or another neutral oil works well.
  • Corn – You have a few options for corn. Fresh sweet corn obviously works well, but requires it to be in season and takes a bit more effort. Frozen corn kernels are a great option that is incredibly convenient and a great option anytime of year and even canned corn will work, simply drain and rinse before using.
  • Cotija – Cotija cheese is a crumbly and salty cheese, similar to feta, and what you’ll often see sprinkled over Mexican dishes. You can also use feta cheese if you can’t find it.
  • Cilantro – Use fresh cilantro that is a deep green and doesn’t have any yellowing or browning on the leaves.
  • Lime – This helps add major zip and tang to the esquites recipe, don’t skip it, I serve the dish with lime wedges so everyone can add their own.
  • Tajin – The tajin is the final sprinkle and adds a mild heat, red color, and salty flavor to the dish, it truly brings everything together. You could also use chili powder, but I prefer tajin. You could also use a splash of hot sauce.
Ingredients to make Mexican street corn salad.

How to Make Elote in a Cup

This is an overview on how to make homemade elote in a cup, the detailed instructions can be found below in the recipe card.

Mix crema mixture. In a small bowl, stir mayonnaise and crema until smooth.
Mexican crema and mayonnaise mixture in a small bowl.
Cook corn. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat and saute corn until cooked through and slightly charred.
Corn in skillet for esquites recipe.
Assemble elote in cup. Divide corn mixture into cups or transfer to a serving bowl and drizzle with mayo crema mixture. Top with cotija, cilantro, a squeeze of lime, and tajin to taste.
Esquites GIF


Is esquite the same as elote en vaso?

Esquites is also known as elote en vaso or just elote.

What is the difference between elote and Mexican street corn?

Elote means “corn cob” in Spanish, and it’s sometimes referred to as Mexican street corn. They both consist of fresh corn cobs topped with a Mexican cream mixture, cotija cheese, lime juice, cilantro, and chili powder.

How should I serve the Mexican street corn cups?

You have options on how to serve up this popular street food! If serving as a traditional esquites recipe, serve in disposable cups. You can also serve in a pretty glass or even a salad bowl if serving a crowd.

Elote en vaso with cilantro and lime.

Storage Instructions

Store esquites ingredients in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 2-3 days.

How to reheat

Reheat corn in a hot skillet or in the microwave until heated through.

Can you freeze elotes?

You can definitely freeze the cooked corn, but don’t freeze the other components.

Esquites with cilantro and lime garnish.

What to Serve with Mexican Street Corn Salad

All this Mexican street corn salad recipe needs is a main dish! Here are a few to try:

How to Feed Mexican Corn to the Whole Family

I get it, feeding kids can be tough! But following the Division of Responsibility and knowing your job and your child’s job makes it SO much more enjoyable. You’ll be able to feed your kids any meal, which will help ensure that they are eating a variety of nutritious foods – with plenty of play food sprinkled in.

I would recommend serving the Mexican street corn salad
in a pinch bowl (taster bowl) if it’s fully composed or serving the cooked corn with the variety of toppings to let everyone add their own, according to their personal taste buds which is how I serve it if it’s not for a party or gathering.

Overhead shot of elote in a cup with gold spoon.

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Close up of Mexican street corn salad.

More Mexican-ish Recipes

If you like this elote in a cup recipe, you might also like some of these other Mexican-ish recipes:

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Elote in a cup with cilantro and lime.

Elote in a Cup Recipe (Esquites)

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Experience the mouthwatering explosion of flavors with this elote in a cup (esquites), a delectable Mexican street corn classic served in an easy way.


Units Scale
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup crema Mexicana
  • 1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 20 oz. frozen corn or about 3 cups corn kernels
  • 1/2 cup Cotija cheese crumbles
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
  • lime wedges
  • tajin


  1. Mix together mayonnaise and crema until smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  2. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet. Saute corn in large skillet for 6-8 minutes, until cooked through and slightly charred.
  3. Put corn into cups or a serving bowl and drizzle with mayo mixture. Top with cotija cheese and cilantro.
  4. Squeeze lime juice and finish with tajin to taste.

Keywords: elote in a cup, elote en vaso, esquites recipe, Mexican street corn salad

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