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Don’t Miss Out: Best-Ever Mexican Corn Pasta Salad!

This salad is a delicious comfort food that comes together in under 30 minutes! The pasta is mixed with fresh corn, cilantro, bell peppers, lime juice, and Cotija cheese.

It combines savory and tangy flavors of mayo, Greek yogurt, lime juice, chili powder, and cayenne pepper. You can grill the corn or cook it on the stovetop. It’s a perfect Summer pasta salad for potlucks, barbecues, picnics, and cookouts!

Simple 30-Minute Pasta Salad

This recipe is inspired by classic Mexican street food, Elote (or Mexican corn on the cob). It features pantry staples and can be made in under 30 minutes. Because it is so simple, the Mexican Street Corn Pasta Salad is what I usually make on the days when I don’t feel like spending too much time in the kitchen or when it’s simply too hot outside to cook.

  • This recipe is easily adjustable to what you have available. For best results, grill the corn, but you can totally cook the corn on the stovetop (boil it) or even use canned corn if you’re short on time.
  • This salad can be made ahead and keeps perfectly well in the fridge!
  • Bring it to picnics, potlucks, BBQs, parties, cookouts, and other festivities. It’s a perfect pasta salad to make in the Summer or year-round.

Summer salad that you can make year-round

This crowd-pleasing pasta salad is loaded with fresh corn, sweet red bell pepper, black beans, green onions, and cilantro. Mexican street corn pasta salad is really easy and simple!

  • It’s a perfect choice for your favorite summer events – backyard barbecues, picnics, potlucks, and block parties.
  • It works as an appetizer, side dish, or even as lunch. You will love how vibrant and colorful this street corn pasta salad turns out!  I usually eat it as a meal for 3 days in a row!
  • It’s simple enough to serve as an everyday salad with your weeknight dinner or to serve for a special occasion when you’re entertaining guests or have company over.

What is Mexican street corn?

  • Mexican Street Corn is usually grilled and covered with butter, mayonnaise, Cotija cheese, and cayenne pepper. It is also called Mexican corn on the cob (Elote).
  • In this recipe, you can either grill the corn, or, to make it super easy, boil the corn on the cob in a pot of water. If you’re in a time crunch, use canned corn kernels – drained.

Do you have to use Cotija cheese?

  • To make authentic Mexican Street Corn, you have to use Cotija cheese. Cotija cheese is a hard milk cheese that is very salty, with a strong flavor. It’s a pretty firm cheese and is perfect for grating over corn. It’s super tasty!
  • If for some reason you can’t find Cotija cheese, use Feta cheese instead. It’s very similar in flavor to Feta cheese. So, really, I could’ve used Feta cheese in this recipe, too.  And, whenever I can’t find Cotija cheese, I always use Feta instead.

How to grill the corn on the cob

Grilling corn is super easy and takes no time!

  1. First, preheat your outdoor grill for medium-high heat.
  2. Prepare the corn. Peel the husks and remove the silks.
  3. Then, brush corn with olive oil, salt, and pepper all over. I used 3 ears of corn on the cob.
  4. Grill until lightly charred for about 10 or 15 minutes (depending on your grill). Rotate the corn frequently while grilling.

Salad ingredients

  • Pasta. I used fusilli (or spiral pasta) as it works really well in pasta salads! My next best choice would’ve been bow tie pasta (farfalle)
  • Corn. I boiled 3 years of corn (corn on the cob) in a pot of boiling water for about 5 or 10 minutes. Then, when the corn was cooled, I sliced the corn kernels off the cob with the knife. You can also grill your corn or use canned corn.
  • Red bell pepper adds color and texture to the Mexican street corn salad. You can also use green or orange bell peppers.
  • Black beans. I used low-sodium black beans that I drained and rinsed really well.
  • Green onions are a must-have in this recipe. They have a milder flavor than regular onions and work perfectly as a garnish in pasta salads.
  • Cotija cheese. I bought grated Cotija cheese which was a time saver! You can also use crumbled Feta cheese instead.
  • Fresh cilantro is a key ingredient here. Make sure it’s super fresh and not wilted.

Salad dressing ingredients

Combine all the salad ingredients listed below in a glass mason jar and whisk well with the fork:

  • Mayonnaise provides creaminess and blends the rest of the ingredients together.
  • Greek yogurt is mixed together with the mayonnaise to reduce the richness of the salad dressing.
  • Freshly squeezed lime juice is a must and tastes so much better than the bottled kind. I squeezed half of the medium size lime into this salad dressing. Use more if you like.
  • Sriracha sauce adds a little bit of heat and spice. You don’t need much – I used just 2 tablespoons of it.
  • Chili powder is a perfect spice for the Mexican street corn salad dressing.
  • Cayenne pepper – use it sparingly as it adds lots of heat to any dish quickly!
  • Salt and pepper – add those to taste at the very end.
  • Tip: If your dressing is too thick, thin it out with more Greek yogurt, lime juice, or simply a small amount of water.

How to make Mexican street corn pasta salad

  1. First, start cooking pasta in a pot of boiling water.
  2. While the pasta was cooking, make the creamy salad dressing by combing the dressing ingredients in a mason jar and whisking them with the fork to combine.
  3. Next, combine cooked corn kernels, diced red bell pepper, rinsed and drained black beans, green onions, grated Cotija cheese, and cooked and drained pasta in a large mixing bowl.
  4. Finally, add the salad dressing and mix well with the salad. Season the salad with salt and pepper, to taste.

Recipe notes and recommendations

  • Make it a meal. Even though I prefer to eat this salad as is, you can add some protein to make it a complete meal. Mexican street corn pasta salad goes great with grilled chicken, pork, or steak!
  • Substitution for homemade salad dressing. I love the creamy, tangy, and fresh homemade salad dressing! However, if you’re short on time, use the store-bought salad dressing of your choice. I recommend cilantro-lime-based store-bought salad dressings.
  • Cook pasta al dente for best texture. This kind of texture works the best with the pasta salad especially if you want to make it ahead. To cook pasta al dente, you normally have to boil pasta 2 minutes shorter than normal. For example, if the package instructions tell you to boil pasta for 10 minutes – cook the pasta in boiling water for 8 minutes instead.

Can you make this pasta salad gluten-free?

Of course! Use gluten-free pasta of your choice. Lentil or chickpea gluten-free pasta will taste great here.

Can you make it ahead?

This salad can be made 48 hours in advance.

  • If you plan to make this salad ahead, mix all the salad ingredients together, except the salad dressing. Refrigerate in an airtight container.
  • Make the salad dressing and keep it separately from the salad, in a glass mason jar with the lid in the fridge.
  • Keep those 2 ingredients refrigerated until ready to serve. Mix the creamy salad dressing with the salad right before serving.

Storage Tips

  • Store leftover street corn pasta salad in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
  • If you plan on refrigerating the salad, you can combine all the salad ingredients in a separate airtight container.  Combine salad dressing ingredients separately in a mason jar (with the lid). Refrigerate both until ready to use.  When ready to serve, add the salad dressing from the mason jar to the salad and mix.
Mexican Street Corn Pasta Salad

Mexican Street Corn Pasta Salad

Yield: serves 4 people
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes

It's a perfect Summer pasta salad for potlucks, barbecues, picnics, and cookouts!

Instructions

Ingredients

Ingredients you need to cook

  • 8 oz fusilli spiral pasta or use rotini, farfalle (bow-tie), penne, or rigatoni
  • 3 ears corn on the cob or use canned corn

Other salad ingredients

  • 1 red bell pepper diced
  • ½ cup black beans from the can, drained and rinsed (½ can - 83 grams)
  • ½ cup Cotija cheese grated
  • ½ bunch cilantro chopped

Salad dressing

  • ¼ cup mayonnaise
  • ½ cup Greek yogurt
  • 1 small lime freshly squeezed or more to taste
  • 2 tablespoons sriracha sauce
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder or more
  • cayenne pepper to taste (use it sparingly, it adds heat fast)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Garnish

  • 4 green onions chopped
  • chili powder to taste

Instructions 

Cook pasta

  • Bring a large pot of water to boil. Add pasta and cook pasta al dente according to the package instructions. While the pasta is cooking, proceed with the rest of the recipe.
  • When the pasta is done, drain.

Cook corn

  • You can either grill the corn on the cob or boil it in the pot of water on the stovetop. Or, simply use canned corn kernels.
  • How to grill it. Remove the husks and the silks from corn on the cob. Preheat your outdoor grill to medium-high heat. Brush corn with olive oil, salt, and pepper all over. Grill until lightly charred for about 10 or 15 minutes. Rotate the corn frequently while grilling. Let it cool. Once cooled off, slice the corn kernels off the cob with the knife.
  • How to boil it. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Remove the husks and the silks from corn on the cob. Boil the corn for about 5 or 10 minutes until cooked. Remove it from the pot and let it cool. Once cooled off, slice the corn kernels off the cob with the knife.

Make the salad dressing

  • Combine all salad dressing ingredients in a mason jar. Whisk well with a fork.
  • Note: use cayenne pepper to taste and use sparingly as it adds heat fast. Skip it if you don't like things too spicy.

Assembly

  • In a large mixing bowl, combine cooked and drained pasta, cooked corn kernels, diced bell pepper, drained black beans, grated Cotija cheese, and chopped fresh cilantro. Mix.
  • Add salad dressing and mix to combine. Season with salt and pepper.
  • When serving, top with chopped green onions and sprinkle with chili powder. You can also sprinkle the salad with extra cheese if you like.

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I’m Jennifer Schlette, a Registered Dietitian and Integrative Nutrition Health Coach. I love cooking, reading, and my kids! Here you’ll find the healthiest recipes & substitutions for your cooking. Enjoy, and be well, friends!

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