Mexican street corn is one of the foods I look forward to eating every summer when the corn is fresh and local. For the past few of years, I’ve been making Esquites, or Mexican Street Corn Salad, but last year, I turned it into a pasta salad. And it’s so good, I’ve been making it almost weekly this summer!
What is Mexican Street Corn Salad (Esquites)?
Street corn salad is a deconstructed version of Mexican street corn, which is grilled corn that you slather with chile-lime mayo and sprinkle with queso fresco or cotija cheese and chopped cilantro.
To make street corn salad, you’ll cut the corn from the grilled corn and mix it with a Chile-lime dressing, cherry tomatoes, queso fresco or cotija cheese, and fresh cilantro. It’s a lot like street corn but it’s way less messy to eat!
Why Make it a Pasta Salad?
Look, there’s nothing at all wrong with my street corn salad recipe. It’s pretty darn fantastic, in fact!
But when I came up with the recipe for this street corn pasta salad last year, I was planning to serve it to company as a main course salad and I realized it was a little…well…skimpy on its own.
So I mixed some bow tie pasta into the street corn salad and grilled some chicken to toss in, too.
And the result was one of the BEST pasta salads I’ve ever made!
What Kind of Chicken? And Do You NEED Chicken?
For this salad, I typically grill chicken and then chop it up to mix into the salad. And sometimes, I just leave it in whole pieces to serve on the side.
As far as flavors for the chicken go, I like to keep it simple with just some Kosher salt, pepper, and garlic pepper sprinkled over the chicken before I grill it.
But if you want to go a little bolder, Trader Joe’s Everything But the Elote Seasoning would be a fantastic choice to season some grilled chicken.
The Trader Joe’s Chile Lime Seasoning would work too though! The flavors from both of those seasonings are in this salad so both of them are perfect for chicken.
And truthfully, you can skip the chicken altogether if you don’t have it or if you’re a vegetarian. The pasta salad can hold its own even without chicken!
Fresh or Frozen Corn?
I’m going to let you in on a little secret: Sometimes I use frozen corn for this salad. Gasp!
I know, I know.
But let’s be real, really good summer corn is only available for a couple months out of the year. Frozen corn is corn that has been flash-frozen at the peak of its ripeness to lock in the fresh flavor.
There’s no shame in using frozen corn for a pasta salad like this one. And in fact, it’s a great shortcut if you’re low on time and/or energy for making dinner. Just thaw the corn and mix up the rest of the ingredients.
However, if you want to grill corn for this salad and cut it off the cob, I highly recommend you go this route. I have a great way to grill corn over on my other blog, Smells Like Home. Go check it out!
Here’s the basic shopping list of ingredients for Mexican street corn pasta salad. Be sure to keep scrolling on down to the recipe card at the bottom of the page for the full list!
- Bow tie pasta (also called farfalle)
- Veggies: corn, cherry tomatoes and red bell pepper
- Canned black beans
- Trader Joe’s Chile Lime Mayo (see the Note in the recipe card below if you can’t find or don’t have this)
- Sour cream
- Ground cumin
- Fresh lime juice
- Fresh cilantro
- Queso fresco or cotija cheese (optional)
Perfect Summer Pasta Salad
Even if you make your own dressing for this salad, it’s still relatively fast to make in under 30 minutes. So it’s a fabulous summer pasta salad to make for a quick dinner or to make in advance to bring to a picnic or cook-out.
We love it so much that we package it up for an easy dinner to eat at the beach while our daughter, Riley, plays in the sand. She wanders back and forth between eating and playing, and we get to enjoy a lovely laid back beach meal.
More Outstanding Pasta Salads
For the pasta salad:
- 8 oz dry bow tie (farfalle) pasta, cooked according to package instructions
- 1 ½ cups frozen corn, thawed
- 1 medium red bell pepper, seeded and diced
- 1 pint (about 1 ½ cups) cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1 (15 oz) can black beans drained and rinsed
- Small handful of fresh cilantro, chopped
For the dressing:
- ½ cup Trader Joe's Chile Lime Mayonnaise
- ½ cup sour cream
- ¼ tsp ground cumin
- ½ tsp Kosher salt
- A couple cranks of black pepper
- Juice of 1 lime
- Fresh lime juice
- Fresh cilantro
- Queso fresco or cotija cheese
- While the pasta cooks, add all of the salad ingredients to a large serving bowl. ¼
- To make the dressing: Whisk the mayonnaise, sour cream, cumin, salt, pepper, and lime juice together in a small bowl.
- Once the pasta is cooked, drain it and run it under cool water to bring the temperature down. Drain it well before adding to the serving bowl.
- Pour the dressing over the pasta and stir the pasta salad together. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Garniish with extra cilantro, queso fresco/cotija cheese, and a good spritz of lime juice.
If you don't have Trader Joe's Chile Lime Mayonnaise, you can make your own. Mix together: ¼ cup mayonnaise, ¼ cup sour cream, ½ tsp ancho chile powder, ¼ tsp ground cumin, ¼ tsp hot smoked or sweet paprika, ¼ tsp Kosher salt, 2-3 cranks of fresh black pepper, and the juice of 1 lime.