This vegan elote (Mexican street corn) is going to be your new favorite way to eat corn! Slathered with vegan crema, feta, and tajin, it's packed with flavor and is the perfect combination of salty & sweet. It's easy to make and ready in less than 30 minutes, meaning it's the perfect side dish to serve up throughout the summer months!
If you're not familiar with this way of preparing and devouring corn, let me break it down for you. In Spanish, elote (pronounced eh-loh-tay) describes corn on the cob paired with a popular Mexican method of preparing it. Once grilled, the corn is covered in delicious toppings like butter, mayo, Mexican crema, cotija cheese, lime, and a spice (it could be tajin or a chile powder). Elotes are antojitos (meaning little cravings/street food) that are commonly sold by street vendors (eloteros), which is why it's also referred to as 'Mexican street corn.'
While incredibly delicious, typical elote is not vegan-friendly BUT it's super easy to veganize with a few simple swaps. Honestly, we're lucky the vegan food industry has come so far otherwise this would've been seriously difficult to replicate.
This Mexican-inspired vegan version is perfect dish to make during grilling season, a potluck, Cinco de Mayo, taco Tuesdays or just as a side dish! It's dairy-free, gluten free, and ready to devour in under 30 minutes.
Why you'll love this recipe
- Elote can be made outdoors on the grill or inside, a variety of different ways
- Dairy free, gluten free, and totally vegan while still being extremely flavorful
- Comes together in under 30 minutes and pairs perfectly with so many dishes
Fresh Corn on the Cob: It's a necessity for elote! I recommend getting fresh corn while it's season either from your local farmers market or grocery store. You can buy the cobs that have already been husked and cut to save time but I prefer to get corn with the husk because it gives you the option to grill it with the husk on (and have a little handle for when you're ready to eat)!
Vegan Feta Cheese: Feta is crumbly, salty and slightly tangy, making it the perfect cotija replacement! The vegan version of cotija isn't made commercially/something you can buy, so if you'd like to make nut-based cotija at home, check out this recipe.
Vegan Sour Cream: This recipe is traditionally made with Mexican crema, so we'll be replacing that with a mixture of vegan sour cream and mayo. You can use whatever your favorite vegan sour cream is - I really love the taste and texture of Follow Your Heart's.
Vegan Mayonnaise: Vegan mayo is paired with the sour cream to complete the base of the 'crema.' This combo gives the most realistic taste and consistency while remaining eggless. Again, feel free to use your favorite vegan mayo, I always go for the Follow Your Heart Vegenaise.
Garlic: Obviously. It adds just a touch of flavor to the Mexican crema.
Lime Juice: Freshly squeezed only! We'll put a little bit in the mayo mixture as well as save some wedges for serving.
Spice: You can either use tajin, chili powder, or ancho chili powder, it's totally up to you! I'm not confident in saying which spice is traditionally use, but any of these will do. I use tajin because I have it on hand. It's a delicious spice made up of chile peppers, lime, and salt. It's not a one trick pony either so it won't be wasted if you purchase it. Tajin is great on tacos, margaritas, fresh fruit and more.
Cilantro: For flavor, freshness, and color! Plus, it's a very common herb used throughout Mexican cuisine.
Start by greasing your grill grates and preheating your grill to 400 degrees F. While the grill is preheating, shuck the corn by removing the husks and corn silk (the shiny hair strands covering the corn) as best as possible.
Whisk together the vegan mayo, vegan sour cream, minced garlic and lime juice. Place in the fridge until you're ready to brush onto the cooked corn.
Place the corn directly to the greased grill grates. Grill the corn for 2-3 minutes per side (a total of 12 minutes), turning a ¼ of a rotation once the kernels are golden brown and start to char. Repeat with all of the corn cobs, removing from the grill and placing onto a platter once cooked.
Using a basting brush or spoon to spread the mayo mixture all over the roasted corn. Sprinkle with vegan feta cheese, tajin and chopped cilantro. Serve immediately with some extra lime wedges and enjoy!
One my favorite things about Mexican street corn is that it pairs well with so.many.things. Here's some options that I love to serve this alongside:
- BBQ food like veggie burgers and vegan potato salad
- Portobello or cauliflower steaks
- Jackfruit tacos
- Mushroom & potato tacos
Variations & Substitutions
This recipe is perfect as is but here's a few ways you could switch it up if desired:
No grill? No problem! You do not need a grill to make this delicious side dish. Instead you can use a grill pan, the gas range on your stove (carefully), a counter griller, your oven, or you can boil it! To roast the corn, just place them directly on the rack (with husks still attached) at 400F for 30 minutes. Either way you cook it, just slather on the crema and toppings as you would if you grilled it.
Take it off the cob! You can still grill the corn on the cob, but feel free to cut the corn off it that makes it easier for you to eat! To do so, place the flat bottom down on a flat surface then slice downward, from the top to the bottom, as close to the base of the kernels as possible. Rotate the ear of corn and repeat until all the kernels have been cut off.
Fun fact: When Mexican street vendors serve corn off the cob like this, it's called esquites.
Leave off the cilantro! I know cilantro can be 'soapy' to some, or you just don't like it. Either way, feel free to leave it off - this recipe is just as good without it.
Instead of vegan feta cheese, you can use vegan parmesan cheese, homemade vegan cotija, or homemade vegan queso fresca.
Want to use canned corn? Go for it! I would recommend pan frying the kernels a bit until slightly golden and then drizzle over all of the toppings. It'll be like a Mexican street corn salad!
- If you're leaving the husks on, soak the corn (with the husks on) in water for least 30 minutes before grilling. This keeps the husks from burning and also adds moisture so the corn inside steams as it grills. Side note, you won't get those nice char marks on your corn if you keep the husks on!
- Only brush on the crema mixture if you're ready to eat the corn! This will just make it so the elote has a longer shelf life if there's any leftovers (unlikely).
- Buy shucked corn! Shucking corn can seriously be time consuming, especially if you're cooking a lot of cobs. Buying corn that's already had the husks and corn silk removed is going to save a bunch of time and allows you to get straight to cooking.
Prep Ahead of Time: You can easily cook the corn and prepare the toppings ahead of time. Mix together the vegan mayo, vegan sour cream, vegan feta, lime juice, garlic, tajin, and cilantro and store it in an airtight container. Allow the corn to cool, then wrap in tin foil and store in your fridge. When you are ready to serve, brush the cobs with vegan butter or oil and quickly char them over medium-high heat and then slather with the prepared topping mixture.
Refrigerator: Store any leftover corn or crema separately in the fridge for up to 3-4 days. If you've already put the toppings on the corn, try to eat it within 1-2 days.
Freezer: It's not my favorite method, but it can totally be done. Blanch the cobs first, allow them to cool completely, then put them in a freezer friendly bag and store for up to 6 months. I would not recommend freezing the mayo/sour cream mixture, as it will separate and really be unusable. All of the toppings are super quick to prepare, so I'd only freeze the corn.
Reheat: Reheat the corn in the oven by placing the cobs on a parchment-lined pan and roasting at 350 degrees F until warmed through. Once hot, garnish with all of the toppings.
The most traditional corn for elotes is white corn because it's not too sweet and pairs well with a variety of toppings. However, I always use the regular sweet corn that you can easily find at the grocery store - it's affordable and accessible!
Sometimes the messiest foods are the most delicious! Luckily, there's so many different ways you can easily enjoy this corn. You can either use your hands, leave the bottom piece of the corn stalk on and use it as handle, use corn handles/forks, or put a wooden skewer through the center of the corn. If you don't like the feeling of corn stuck in your teeth, you can always cut the kernels off the cob and eat it with a fork or spoon.
Fresh corn on the cob is the ideal choice but you can use frozen corn (or even canned corn)! I recommend pan frying it so it totally defrosts and gets a bit golden/charred, then tossing it in the toppings.