The Food and Wine Hedonist

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Sometimes the Simplest Food is the Best Food – Elotes Recipe

One of my favorites restaurants anywhere – and definitely the best in Ann Arbor – is Isalita.  I’ve been there at least half a dozen times in the past few months and everything we’ve ever ordered has been absolutely golden.  Their cuisine is Mexican street food-inspired and they really do stretch the definition on items like truffled guacamole and hamachi ceviche with lime granita.  The elotes, however, are indeed straight off the street and as simple as can be.

I first had elotes in Puerto Vallarta a few years ago.  We were on vacation with my mom and brothers’ families, staying at one of those all-inclusive resorts.  The food was decent, but was still a little Americanized – aka “dumbed down”  – slightly-bland, mass-produced, nothing adventurous, and a lot that wasn’t even Mexican.

One night we ventured into the downtown area for Christmas mass.

PV church

The old church in downtown Puerto Vallarta

Christmas vacation

Afterwards, we were walking along the beach and had the best food on the trip.  Isn’t it interesting how this happens?  The hotels have a lot more resources, professionally-trained chefs, and new equipment.  Yet, they can’t come close to the quality of food served on street carts by people whose lives depend on it.  I’m sure that the cooks in the hotels secretly agree and would prefer to eat at these carts themselves.

Sorry, I wasn’t a blogger back then so I didn’t think to take pictures of the food.  If I did, you’d be treated to pictures of vibrantly colored ceviches of all kinds – octopus, shrimp, fish.  You’d also see pictures of all kinds of fruits, churros, and other snacks.  But I wasn’t a blogger so you’ll have to settle for a picture of a seahorse sculpture.

OK, I took ONE decent picture that trip.

OK, I took ONE decent picture that trip.

 Mexican food

Anyway, that was also the first time I had elotes.  I totally forgot about them until Isalita’s version brought me back to that street corner.  Elotes are simply roasted corn dipped in mayonnaise and sprinkled with grated cheese and some spices.  I’m not a huge mayo fan, but it works really well here to complement the spice from the cayenne pepper and acidity from the lime juice.  This is so simple to make. I’ve already warned the family that almost all the corn we’re going to have for the rest of the summer is going to be prepared this way.  I heard no complaints.

I came up with this recipe myself and was very happy with the way it turned out.  The only thing that I would change is the kind of cheese I used.  I didn’t really set out to make elotes and only thought of it when I came across queso blanco at Costco.

elotes queso


Elotes are usually made with grated cotija cheese, which is a dry and firm cheese similar to parmesan. The queso blanco was softer and, when grated finely, it stuck together a bit more than I wanted.  It still tasted fantastic.


Elotes Recipe

– ½ cup mayonnaise

– 2 Tablespoons lime juice

– 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

– 8 ears of corn, shucked

– ¼ cup melted butter or olive oil

– Salt and pepper

– 4 ounces cotija, grated finely.  (I used 8 ounces and it was wayyyy too much)

– Lime wedges


1. Prepare a grill

2. Stir together the mayo, lime juice, and cayenne in a small bowl

elotes mayo

food recipe

3. Brush the corn with the butter or oil and season with salt and pepper.  Grill the corn for a few minutes, rotating often to evenly cook.  I like a little bit of a char on it, so I left it on longer.  But you can cook for less time.

Ok, so some these had a little more of a char than "a little."

Ok, so some these had a little more than “a little bit of a char”


4. Remove corn from grill.

5. While still hot, spread the mayo mixture on the corn and then either dip the corn in the cheese or sprinkle it on.

6. Serve with a wedge of lime to squeeze on, if desired.

elotes final


Since the mayo was chilled it took enough of the heat off the corn so that we were able to eat it right away.  Obviously, if it’s still too hot you may want to wait a bit.  But definitely get the mayo and cheese on right away – don’t put it on after the corn cooled.  You want it all melty and delicious.




About thefoodandwinehedonist

I don't know everything about the world of food and wine, but I'm not going to let a small detail like that stop me from blogging about it.

23 comments on “Sometimes the Simplest Food is the Best Food – Elotes Recipe

  1. the drunken cyclist
    July 16, 2013

    Is “melty” a word?

  2. savorencyclopedia
    July 16, 2013

    This sounds delicious!! I will be trying it soon!

  3. PinotNinja
    July 16, 2013

    Elotas are some of my favorite street food — when I lived in NYC I would make a pilgrimage every weekend to the Red Hook ball fields to have a delicious ear of cheesy corn from a guy who was making them using a grill in the back of his pick-up truck.

    The simple things really are the best!

    • thefoodandwinehedonist
      July 16, 2013

      Nice! You’re in Miami, right? I imagine there’s some good street food there?

      • PinotNinja
        July 18, 2013

        Yes, sir. Arepas and Emapandas for days and a really vibrant food truck culture. Year-round nice weather makes for a great place for street vendors.

  4. talkavino
    July 16, 2013

    I’m totally making it this weekend. Thanks for the recipe!

  5. London Caller
    July 16, 2013

    You’re making me so hungry now.

  6. Kayla Hoffman
    July 16, 2013

    Duuuuuudeee… really?! This looks so effing good!

  7. rachelocal
    July 16, 2013

    I am not a fan of mayo either. It grosses me out – I can barely even open a jar. I’ve heard that if I made my own I’d feel differently. Or if I made this corn I might feel differently – looks so, so good.

    (Did you buy the corn at Costco too????)

    • thefoodandwinehedonist
      July 16, 2013

      You should try it! Can go thinner on the mayo and you won’t lose too much. And yeah, Costco corn. But soon enough I’ll get it at the Farmers Market…

  8. Go Jules Go
    July 17, 2013

    truffled guacamole?? YES. I’ve heard of this recipe, but never tried it. I actually LOVE mayo. And corn. And cheese. And spice. Sooo… I’m thinking I should make this.

    That seahorse picture IS fantastic.

  9. Max D.
    July 21, 2013

    Maybe I’m a food infidel, but isn’t it easier to mix all the ingredients (except the cheese, maybe) and then smear the mixture over the corn? I’m just too damn lazy. While waiting at the kids’ dentist office I found a simplified recipe for elotes. It’s probably not authentic, but it saves me roughly two minutes, enough time to step from the grill to open a second bottle of wine: smear the corn in olive oil and grill. Mix mayo, olive oil, something spicy and red (cayenne, chili powder or flakes, whatever), lime juice and zest (I can skip the zesting if I feel really, extra lazy). Remove corn. Apply mixture. And I didn’t even have to go to the Latin grocery store to get the cheese. It’s not superior, or like I said, authentic, but not bad for a man who is supposed to prep and cook dinner after taking the kids on not one but two bike rides.

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This entry was posted on July 16, 2013 by in Cooking, Travel and tagged , , , , , , .
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