Mexican Esquites with spicy lime aioli

Spicy, creamy, and full of flavor, Mexican Esquites is sure to be a part of your Cinco De Mayo celebration every year! Frozen corn is charred in the oven with red onion and jalapeno before being mixed in a spicy, tangy dressing and garnished with a refreshing lime and cayenne aioli.

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Scoop of Mexican Esquites corn salad with a smear of spicy lime aioli.

I’m planning on celebrating Cinco De Mayo this year with an assortment of Chips And Dips, homemade Guacamole, Flavorful Chicken Fajitas, and a pitcher of Classic Cadillac Margaritas. Then for desserts, Strawberry Cheesecake Paletas are on the menu!

Cruising And Inspiration

I recently took a Virgin Voyages five-night cruise on the Scarlet Lady ship. After swearing off cruising, I was pleasantly surprised by Virgin. The fact that all tips are already built into your fare was a nice touch, as was the adults-only atmosphere. But what really differentiates a Virgin cruise is the food.  Oh, the food!

First, forget about the stuffy dining room where you are forced into one of two time slots to dine upon mass-produced, institutional-style food that is somewhat lacking. Also, you can wear what you want to dinner – there is no formal night, no themed nights. There is a ‘Scarlet Night’ where you are asked to wear red and enjoy the party around the ship.

Instead, you will be given the opportunity to enjoy everything from Korean barbecue to molecular gastronomy from one of nine restaurants. It was difficult to decide which was my favorite. I was a fan of the freshly made sushi in the Galley ‘cafeteria’. Loved the Korean barbecue and the freshly made pasta at the Italian trattoria. And the pizza flatbreads were some of the best that I’ve ever had.

I learned that I am a very adventurous eater with varied tastes. In the Test Kitchen, I discovered that asparagus sorbet with champagne ice cream is a delicious, grassy, palate cleanser that will leave you wanting just one more bite; corn can be consumed as a mousse, a saute, a crumble, and a bread; and beetroot foam is off the charts amazing!

But by far, I was addicted to the fare at the Pink Taco Mexican restaurant. Forget about the cheesy, fatty, Tex-Mex dishes. You won’t find queso on this menu. You will, however, enjoy the real deal, authentic cuisine that you might find at the best place in Mexico City.

Blue bowl with Virgin Voyage cruise Pink Taco's Esquites With Spicy Aioli and garnished with cilantro.

One of my favorite dishes at the Pink Taco was their Esquites With Spicy Aioli. It was incredible. The dish was also included as a brunch item as part of a workshop that I took called ‘Plate Snap Eat’. In the class, we learned about styling a plate of food, how to snap a photo, and then we were able to eat! After devouring my bowl of the esquites, I knew that I had to create something similar at home.

Scoop of Mexican Esquites corn salad with a smear of spicy lime aioli.

Story Of Esquites

The word ‘esquites’ comes from the Nahuatl word for toasted corn, izquitl. The Aztecs have a legend that the dish was created by Tiazocihualpili, a woman who ruled the Xochimilcas. It was eaten while celebrating the goddess, Cihuapipitin, who took care of and looked after women who passed during childbirth.

Another theory is that in the late 1800s, Emperor Maximillian and Empress Carlota of Mexico were making French recipes.  Mistakenly they used corn flour instead of wheat flour, thus creating a new variety of Mexican dishes with French names. They are believed to be responsible for adding cheese and mayonnaise to the classic esquites.

Ingredients Needed

  • Mayonnaise – I used Hellmann’s, but use your favorite full-fat brand.
  • Mexican Crema – I used Cacique, which can be found in most grocery stores, but sour cream also works.
  • Cotija cheese or feta cheese
  • Olive oil
  • Red onion, garlic, fresh cilantro, and limes
  • Frozen corn kernels
  • Cayenne pepper, chili powder, ground cumin, smoked paprika
  • Kosher salt and black pepper

Steps To Make This Recipe

  1.  Stir together the ingredients for the spicy lime aioli. Cover and chill until needed.
  2. Toss the frozen corn with olive oil and spices. Spread onto a baking sheet, along with the onion and jalapenos. Roast in the oven until lightly charred.
  3. Once the vegetables have cooled, chop the onion and jalapenos.
  4. Whisk together the crema, mayonnaise, and lime juice.
  5. Toss together the vegetables, the crema mixture, cilantro, and cheese.
  6. Garnish with the spicy lime aioli.
  7. Serve at room temperature.
Close up of a scoop of Mexican Esquites corn salad with a smear of spicy lime aioli.

Tips And Tricks To Make This Recipe

  • Use full-fat ingredients. Low-fat or fat-free tend to separate as the Esquites sit, making the salad ‘watery’.
  • Be sure to take the time to get a golden char on the vegetables. The char adds a ton of flavor to the salad and a more authentic flavor.
  • Store leftovers in a tightly covered container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. Stir gently before serving.
  • The recipe is very adaptable. Try adding diced red bell pepper, avocado, scallions, or celery. You can up the levels of spice and/or heat by adjusting the jalapenos, chili powder, or cayenne.

More Cinco De Mayo Recipes To Try

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