Mexican Grilled Corn, Lightened Up

Gluten-Free, Latin, Meatless, Mexican, Sides / Thursday, May 28th, 2009


Cookout sides are always a challenge, especially at our house. Jeff hates potato salad, slaw and guacamole. Really anything cold. And I’m not a fan of using the oven while he’s grilling. I don’t want to be cooped up in the house baking anything – potatoes, beans, fries, whatever – when I could be outside, sipping something cold. So, this summer I’m on a mission to find sides that will make us both happy.

Here’s the first winner: a light version of Mexican Grilled Corn or elote.

Traditionally, elote is a Mexican street food, but you’ll find vendor carts in major U.S. cities and across the South, especially in Texas. Vendors serve the roasted corn-on-the-cob either on a stick or with the husk pulled down (to use as a handle) and offer different condiments for your cornsicle – choices like crema Mexicana (a Hispanic creme fraiche), mayo, sour cream, butter, chili powder, lime juice, cheese, hot sauce and lemon pepper. A typical vendor might dip the corn in crema, dust it with chili powder and sprinkle on a little lime juice. Others slather the corn in a mixture of mayo, sour cream, chili powder and lime juice and roll it in crumbled cotija cheese (a Mexican cheese similar to Parmesan or Pecorino Romano).

For this lightened-up version, we grilled the husked corn, drizzled it with a little crema (you also could use low-fat sour cream), and added a sprinkle of chili powder and a squeeze of lime. The whole process took about 15 minutes, and the corn was definitely cheaper than a bag of chips and dip. Which Jeff won’t eat. Because it’s cold.

Anyway, the combination of spicy, smoky and bright flavors made this corn a perfect accompaniment for our grilled flank steak, but I can see pairing it with almost any Mexican-inspired meal, as well as grilled shrimp or fish.

What about you? Do you stick with traditional cookout sides (i.e. chips, potato salad, baked beans, slaw) or do a little something different? Please, give me ideas. Jeff’s a grilling machine, and I don’t want us to get scurvy.

Mexican Grilled Corn with Crema

Adapted from “Cooking Light”(August 2003)

Yield: 6 ears

  • 6 ears corn, husked
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8  teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Cooking spray
  • 1/4 cup crema Mexicana (can be replaced with low-fat or regular sour cream)
  • 6  lime wedges
  1. Preheat grill to medium-high.
  2. In a small bowl, combine chili powder, salt and pepper.
  3. Place corn on a grill rack coated with cooking spray; cook 12 minutes or until corn is lightly browned, turning frequently. Place corn on a platter; drizzle with crema. Sprinkle with chili powder mixture. Spritz with lime juice.

Oven Directions: If you need to roast the corn in the oven, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F, and place the corn (in its husks) on the middle rack for about 30 minutes.

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55 thoughts on “Mexican Grilled Corn, Lightened Up

  1. I do scalloped potatoes on the BBQ. Thinly sliced potatoes and onions, milk, a bit of butter, and whatever seasoning you want. Put them inside either one of those tinfoil grill bag things, or make a pouch (2 layers) of tinfoil. Put on the grill and cook until potatoes are soft! YUM! OR you can do carrots or other veggies the same way. OR what about doing just some grilled veggies?

    1. I love grilled veggies, but Jeff's a little hesitant. BUT, I did get him to try roasted veggies, so there's hope! And we'd both love the potatoes. How long do they usually take you?

  2. Gorgeous idea for this weekend and great recipes! I've always wanted to taste an ear of corn tasting different from the one stuffed with garlic I ate some time ago.
    It should fit with the "orata al cartoccio" I'm going to grill on sunday :)

  3. I've been meaning to put this recipe on paper myself. I had this kind of corn in Mexico a couple of years ago and haven't forgotten it since. Thanks! Now I can just print your recipe and make it.

  4. I love grilled corn, and this looks amazing! For Mem. Day grilling, I went with a spicy slaw for a side. But, for this weekend, I'm already thinking it's going to be corn.

    1. I'm going to have to make some spicy slaw soon. I keep thinking that what Jeff hates is slaw made with mayonnaise. Surely I can sneak some hot slaw by him.

  5. Wrap some asparagus spears in a slice of bacon, drizzle with olive oil, and throw on the gril the last 10 or so minutes, sprinkle with kosher salt when you take them off. Make as many of these as you have people eating. I am sure there is a more precise recipe somewhere but I just wing it. :)

  6. Grilled veggies have been the biggest hit at some of our bbqs. People passing up chips for vegetables sort of blew my mind- but in the best way. Peppers, eggplant and zucchini are super easy and any sort of doctored up vinaigrette poured over post grill just soaks right in!

  7. This looks incredible. Our grill is terrible (meat half raw, half burned) and I think I might get David a new grill for Father's Day (shhhhhhh!!!!) Once we have a reliable grill, this corn will be at the top of my list. As for sides, I guess we do a mainly traditional fare, but we'll try different things that I see on blogs and in magazines/cookbooks too. Love grilled vegetables of any kind, love mexican-themed sides (bean salsas, etc.)

    1. A new grill? Now, that's setting the bar a little high for the rest of us, Cathy, but I'm sure David will be all about it.

      I'm a freak for Mexican-inspired sides, too. It's actually kind of a good thing that Jeff hates guacamole, because I can't get enough of it.

  8. What a great photo! I've been wanting to try this from one of the many stands on/around Nolensville Rd, but I always chicken out. I get nervous about ordering.

  9. That sounds and looks good. I've never seen one of those carts in NYC, guess I missed little mexico. :)

  10. Sounds like the perfect cookoout side to me. Man oh man, corn with crema. Sign me up! I'm going to have to plan a grilling party soon just so I can have this corn. Talk about a delicious sounding dish!

  11. "Jeff hates potato salad, slaw and guacamole." – That could be me talking. My boyfriend's name is Jeff, and he hates all of those things too! This weekend we grilled and had baked macaroni and cheese. I know it requires turning on the oven, but it's pretty hands-off once you get it in there… and you basically just need the oven to crisp up the top!

    A favorite of mine is grilled veggies… toss whatever chopped veggies you want with some stir-fry sauce, olive oil, and seasonings, and then throw them on the grill in a grill basket or wrapped in foil.

    1. I seriously hope my Jeff hasn't seen your comment, because we'll totally be having mac and cheese at every cookout. Megan!

      I've never tried cooking veggies in a grill basket, but I've always wanted to. And you use stir-fry sauce with them? I gotta try that.

  12. We still have to make it to a cart and try this. There are a few carts near us that have the real deal thing, and until recently, we had no idea what it was. Love that you used crema mexicana though. Much better than mayo.

  13. […] Mexican Grilled Corn at Ezra Pound […]

  14. I know someone up there mentioned the grilled asparagus, too and I do something very similar. When entertaining, I'll put 1-2 bunches of asparagus in a large ziploc or reusable containter, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle generously salt and pepper it. Mix it up and put directly on the grill for 5-10 minutes and it is wonderful and hands off!

  15. That looks so good! I'm in a side-dish slump too. Memorial Day weekend put me over the top in terms of grub foods. One thing I truly love is to cut up a bunch of veggies: bell peppers, red onion, zucchini, squash, broccoli (OMG!) a la stir fry style and throw them in a grill basket and turn them every 10 minutes or so on a low flame. They get that char taste that is out of this world and they still have a ton of crunch.

  16. Wow! This looks amazing!!! It reminds me of the best corn on the cob I have ever eaten when I was visiting NYC. I will definitely be trying this recipe for summer!

  17. I love Mexican corn, but I've never tried to make it. You've inspired me. As for grilling ideas, NYC apartments aren't exactly the best environment for grills, so I can't help you too much.


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