Elote -- plural elotes -- is a common Mexican street food snack of consisting of a cooked ear of corn slathered with mayonnaise and dusted with cheese and chili pepper. The Daily Meal provides a good example. The corn is either held by the husks or mounted on a stick and eaten without utensils. The word elote is actually of Nahuatl origin and simply means "corn on the cob." Elotes are easy to prepare at home.
Use whole ears of corn to make elotes. The ears can be either grilled or boiled, as you prefer. If you're grilling, you can also choose whether or not to leave the husks on.
To grill: Place the corn, husked or unhusked, over direct heat. Cook, turning occasionally with tongs, until the corn is cooked through. If the corn is husked, it's ready when it's beginning to char; if it's unhusked, wait until the leaves are well blackened. This will take about 8 to 10 minutes.
To boil: Husk the corn. Drop the ears into boiling water and cook for 5 minutes. Drain but do not let cool.
Add fresh sprigs of the Mexican herb epazote to the boiling water, if you like, or try boiling the corn in a mixture of half milk, half water. Each method will subtly affect the flavor of the corn.
Add a pinch of sugar to the boiling water to ensure sweetness.
The most familiar form of elotes utilizes three simple condiments:
- Mayonnaise. Commercial mayonnaise is fine.
- Cheese. Usually grated cotija cheese is used for elotes. Cotija is a dry and firm Mexican cheese with a mild salty taste. You can also use grated or shredded Parmesan.
- Chili powder. Powdered ancho chilies are the standard here, but you can also use powdered guajillo, chipotle or a chili powder blend.
Putting It All Together
While your cooked corn is still hot, slather the shucked ear with mayonnaise and roll it in the grated cheese. Sprinkle it with chili powder, and eat it out of hand.
Although the classic trio of mayonnaise, chili powder and grated cheese is hard to beat, many variations on the theme do exist. Use Mexican crema instead of mayonnaise, or try creme fraiche or regular sour cream. Squeeze a wedge of lemon over the cob before you eat. Add cumin to your spicy sprinkle.
Moving further afield, try sprinkling lemon pepper seasoning in place of or in addition to the chili powder. Use your favorite hot sauce in place of the chili powder. Use a compound butter flavored with chili and lime in place of the mayonnaise. Add a sprinkle of fresh chopped herbs such as chives or cilantro.
The corn can also be cut off the cob, mixed with its toppings, and eaten with a fork. In some parts of Mexico this dish is also called elote or elote en vaso, while in other areas of Mexico and the American Southwest, it is known as esquites.