Esquites, Mexican street corn in a cup

Do you know what esquites are? They are authentic Mexican street food and are found throughout Mexico. It is one of the typical foods you see in restaurants or food trucks on the streets of cities and towns.

Three esquites glasses on two wooden cutting boards
There is no exact word for esquites in English, but it means corn in a cup.

What are esquites (elote in a cup)?

Esquites are corn kernels stewed with chili and epazote (affiliate link), served with mayonnaise, crema, lime, and chili powder. The typical way of making them is with shelled white corn, and usually, the eloteros (people who sell corn-elote on the streets of Mexico) bring them in huge aluminum or peltre pots on top of a cart hooked to their bicycles.

It is also such a typical and authentic Mexican street food that you can find esquite and corn on the cob vendors in every park in Mexico.

But the authentic esquite is NOT a corn salad or grilled corn kernels, and in Mexico, we do not eat it as a side dish. 

Mexican vendors

It is fun to watch them; they usually have huge aluminum pots mounted in some homemade structure attached to their bikes. They typically have two pots, one with esquites and the other with corn on the cob, to prepare the Mexican street corn.
No matter what you ask for, they would always ask… “Con todo?” (“With everything?) You choose all the toppings from there.

How they prepare it

If you choose corn on the cob, the vendor takes it out of the steaming pot, sticks a wooden stick to the cob, pulls down the husks, and smothers it with the toppings of your choice: mayonnaise, lime, Crema Fresca, ground chili, and queso fresco, usually cotija.

If you choose esquites, which you can usually find in a pot next to the corn on the cob, they are served in foam or plastic cups. They typically use a ladle to serve all the kernels, then place the ladle on top and return the excess liquid to the pot.

And again, they would ask…With everything? If you say yes, they would add mayo, Mexican crema, cheese, lime juice, and ground chili. I do have to say my favorite way to eat it is with salt, lime juice, and ground chili powder.

Why make esquites with hominy?

In Mexico, fresh corn is white, and it is not sweet. In the United States, corn is yellow and very sweet; I have not found a type of corn similar to Mexican corn. Shoepeg corn is the closest one but not readily available. That is why I thought of making esquites with hominy corn. The flavor is similar to Mexican corn.

about this mexican corn recipe

Also, this esquite recipe is easy and makes a delicious treat in no time, even if you have a can of pozole hominy in the pantry or a bag of frozen pozole corn in the freezer.


  • Hominy. I confess that I use the one in a can ready to eat. You can also use natural pozole and put it to cook yourself, but to make this recipe, it has to cook.
  • Epazote (affiliate link). Epazote is a pungent herb very common in my country; I can not think of a fresh herb to substitute it. So, if you do not find it, keep it out; if it is your first time trying, start with one sprig and slowly add more. You could substitute with fresh cilantro, but it would never be the same.
  • Chile serrano. Serrano chili, diced. Remove the veins and seeds if you don’t want them to be so spicy.
  • Butter. I use vegan butter, but you can use whatever you like best.

ingredients For serving

  • Vegan mayonnaise, homemade with aquafaba or Vegenaise, also works well.
  • Fresh lime juice, a lot, and lime wedges to finish.
  • Chilli powder, about a teaspoon of chili powder per serving. Use Tajin or another Mexican chili mix; I don’t think cayenne pepper is a good substitute for this popular street food in Mexico.
  • Fresh Mexican crema and a good tablespoon of cotija cheese.

How to make corn in a cup?

  1. First, sauté the diced chile with butter, and then add the corn.
  2. Add your water, salt, and epazote. Stir and leave it until it starts to boil. Taste, adjust the flavor, and get ready to serve it.
  3. Serve the corn and a little broth in small cups. Finish with lime juice, one or a couple of tablespoons of mayonnaise (I use vegan mayo), and chili powder. Eat with a spoon.
preparing the mexican esquites with chili powder, limes and salt

when and how to serve

Esquites are perfect for that afternoon craving; they are ideal as a snack or start a meal. In Mexico, we also serve them at parties, and it is a typical snack at all carnivals.

Answers to your burning questions

Can you store esquites? Yes, store them in an airtight container in the fridge. It will last for about three to five days. You could also freeze them in a freezer-safe bag.

Can they be served cold? Yes, but I do not recommend it. Esquites are not Mexican corn salads, so do not serve them cold or at least warm.

What does esquite mean? Mexican corn in a cup.

Are they healthy? It all depends on the quality of the ingredients. But yes, they could be healthy-ish if you don’t add Cheetos or other widely processed food.

Are esquites vegan? This recipe is vegan, but the authentic esquite recipe is vegetarian. They normally are finished with cotija chees or queso fresco.

Other recipes that you may like:

Here is the recipe I made with hominy (hominy corn), perfect for a party, a day in the afternoon, or even the children’s lunch box. It’s one of my favorite vegan Mexican street foods. When you make it, take a photo of it and share it on FB, Instagram, or save it on Pinterest if you will make it later.

hominey esquites

Esquites, Mexican street food

Alejandra Graf
Esquites are corn kernels stewed with chili and epazote, served with mayonnaise, crema, lime, and chili powder.
5 de 1 voto
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 10 mins
0 mins
Total Time 20 mins
Course Snack
Cuisine Mexicana
Servings 6 people
Calories 92 kcal


  • LArge soup pot


  • 2 tbsp butter
  • jalapeño
  • 4 cups corn kernels
  • 3 cups of water
  • 3 tbsp epazote, chopped
  • salt

For serving

  • mayonnaise
  • lime juice
  • ground chili
  • salt


  • First, sautéed the diced chile with butter and then add the corn.
  • Add your water, salt and the epazote. Leave it until it starts to boil. Taste, adjust the flavor and get ready to serve it.
  • Serve the corn and a little broth in glasses. Finish with lime juice, mayonnaise, and chili powder.


Serving: 250gCalories: 92kcalCarbohydrates: 22gProtein: 3gFat: 1gSaturated Fat: 1gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 1gCholesterol: 1mgSodium: 218mgPotassium: 204mgFiber: 2gSugar: 4gVitamin A: 62IUVitamin C: 2mgCalcium: 34mgIron: 1mg
Keyword Corn chowder, esquite, hominy, Mexican corn chowder


Nutritional information of this recipe is only an estimate, the accuracy for any recipe on this site is not guaranteed.

Did you make this recipe?Tag @piloncilloyvainilla on Instagram and hashtag it #brownsugarandvanilla so we can all see your creations.
Latest posts by Alejandra Graf (see all)

Notify of
Recipe Rating

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments





Would love your thoughts, please comment.x