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This 20 minute Mexican Street Corn Pasta Salad is loaded with fire-roasted corn, Cotija, and a deliciously tangy, creamy dressing. It's quick and easy to throw together and is made up of mostly pantry ingredients that you've probably already got in your kitchen!
You'll Love This
- The flavors are out of this world. The creamy dressing has just the right amount of tangy, lime flavor with a subtle hint of spice. It's got enough mayo to give it some serious creaminess, but not so much that it feels heavy. Mix that with perfectly al dente pasta, fire-roasted corn, and fresh chopped cilantro, and this is a side dish that dreams are made of!
- It consists of mainly pantry ingredients. This is one of those recipes where we pretty much have everything on hand at all times and can throw this salad together at a moment's notice! Frozen or canned corn, pasta, mayo, sour cream, lime, chili powder - the only thing we sometimes don't have is Cotija cheese, in which case I'll substitute queso fresco or feta cheese instead!
- It's something new and different in the world of pasta salads. There is nothing wrong with a fun Pesto Tortellini Pasta Salad Salad, Creamy Vegan Cucumber Pasta Salad, or a Cilantro Avocado Southwest Pasta Salad but this Mexican Street Corn Pasta Salad is one of those dishes that your friends probably haven't had before. Which makes it even more fun to share!
Ingredients and Substitutions
- Pasta - I like to use rotini for this recipe, but you can use any short cut of pasta or whatever you have on hand!
- Fire-Roasted Corn - I have found that frozen fire-roasted corn gives this salad the best flavor, but regular canned corn kernels work just as well! The fire-roasted corn adds that signature smoky, charred flavor - so check the freezer section at your grocery store to see if you can find some!
- Cotija or Queso Fresco - I have made this street corn pasta salad with both types of cheese and both were delicious! Cotija is similar to Parmesan so it will have a bit more of a salty flavor. Queso fresco is more like super mild feta cheese but still adds great texture and flavor. Either works well in this recipe!
- Fresh Cilantro - Do not omit this! You could sub fresh parsley in its place, but fresh cilantro is one of the key ingredients in this pasta salad!
- Sour Cream - Use full fat, regular sour cream for the best flavor.
- Mayo - If you’re not into mayo, you can just add more sour cream in its place, but the mayo adds a super creamy texture and just enough fat to give it the perfect flavor. I promise the dressing will NOT taste like mayo!
- Garlic Powder - I don’t recommend using fresh garlic for this pasta salad as it will be too overpowering and I like the way the garlic powder mixes right in with the creamy dressing.
- Lime Juice and Zest - This is another non-negotiable ingredient! The fresh lime zest and juice really gives this pasta salad the signature elote inspired flavor.
- Chili Powder - This is interchangeable with paprika if you don’t have chili powder on hand. I prefer the smokiness and slight spice from the chili powder but paprika works well too!
Toss cooked pasta in olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Pop it in the fridge to cool.
Mix until well combined.
Pour most of the dressing over the pasta.
Toss until everything is well coated.
Transfer to serving platter, drizzle with remaining dressing, and garnish with fresh chopped cilantro.
- Moderately salt your pasta water! Salting the pasta water is the first step in seasoning this dish and it's going to do a lot to boost the flavor of the pasta itself. I recommend adding 2-4 tablespoons of Kosher salt to the boiling water before adding the uncooked pasta. You want the pasta water to be as salty as the sea, literally. Once you start salting your pasta water, you will never stop, I promise.
- Cook the pasta just until al dente. Nothing ruins a pasta salad quicker than mushy, overcooked pasta. I like to cook the pasta for 1 minute less than the lowest recommended cooking time on the package directions. So if the package recommends 9-11 minutes, I start (carefully) tasting the pasta after 8 minutes and pull it off the heat and strain it as soon as it's al dente.
- If sweet corn is in season where you are, you can definitely use corn on the cob instead of frozen corn! There's no need to cook the corn before adding it to the pasta salad. Freshly cut, uncooked corn from the cob is one of life's greatest pleasures. OR if you have leftover grilled corn on the cob - cut it from the cob and use that!
- The dressing in this pasta salad will thicken as it sits. I would recommend dressing it just before serving, or if you'll be enjoying this pasta salad a few hours after you make it, feel free to add a splash of lime juice or even milk to loosen things up.
What is Mexican Street Corn
- Mexican Street Corn, also known as Elote, is corn on the cob covered in mayonnaise or Mexican crema, then sprinkled with Cotija cheese, chili powder, and fresh chopped cilantro. It's a popular street food in Mexico and is served with the husk still attached so you have something to hang onto while you eat.
- My street corn pasta salad recipe is in no way meant to be an authentic version. This is very much a Midwestern twist on a Mexican classic. I have used some of the same flavors of Mexican street corn and translated them into a quick and easy pasta salad.
- My intention is always to honor the origins of the recipes that I am recreating. If you are looking for a traditional Elote recipe, here is a delicious one that you should definitely try!
- Pesto Tortellini Pasta Salad
- Cilantro Avocado Southwest Pasta Salad
- Creamy Cucumber Pasta Salad
- Simple Tuna Pasta Salad
- Greek Chickpea Pasta Salad
- Tomato & Mozzarella Caprese Pasta Saad