This zesty Elote-Style pasta salad is the perfect addition to your picnic table or potluck and comes together with pantry ingredients. I make this all summer long and hope you do too!
I absolutely LOVE corn on the cob, elote-style. The tangy spices and the salty cheese go beautifully with the sweetness and crunch of summer corn. I came up with this twist on the classic Mexican street corn snack when heading to a beach picnic last year. It was a HIT.
Since then, I have brought this to potlucks, picnics, a birthday party… you know that no one else will bring the same thing! I’m sure adding some diced up chicken would taste great too and then you’d have a whole meal in one dish. My s’mores krispie treats are a perfect accompanying dessert. You can even prepare the Mexican street corn pasta salad a day ahead no problem, just mix in the cilantro the day you want to serve.
This is truly one of those dishes you could just eat out of the bowl by the spoonful until the whole thing is gone. I can’t say I haven’t done that!
What is elote?
Elote is a corn served on the cob, slathered with mayonnaise, spices, Cotija cheese, and sprinkled with a dash of cilantro and squeeze of lime. Elote is referred to as Mexican street corn because you will find vendors street serving elote all over Mexico, just like you’ll find hotdog or pretzel vendors in New York City. Elote is commonly eaten during the summer at barbecues or picnics as well – first grilling the corn and then preparing all the toppings.
Yes. It can get a little messy. But so, so worth it.
- Pasta – I prefer fusilli bucati. The noodles are thin and not too overbearing. Orrochiette works nicely too. You can really choose any short-form noodle you would normally choose for a pasta salad (like bow ties, macaroni, etc.). The key is to wash the pasta after draining so the noodles don’t stick together. Let me know what noodle you try in the comments 🙂
- Corn – The obvious star of this recipe! No matter how you prep the corn, this dish will be so tasty. I’ve tried grilled, boiled, and frozen. Whatever your heart desires.
- Spices – I’ve played around with the spices and ratios and this particular blend is just so perfect! There is a KICK to this sauce, for sure, but it’s not overwhelming. After you mix in the spices to the mayo, give it a taste. It will definitely taste strong and that’s a good thing, because it will be toned down when the pasta, corn, and cheese are mixed in. However, you can always add a bit more mayo at the end so just trust me with this until it’s all mixed, then you can decide
- Cotija cheese – This is a key ingredient to elote. It provides a cold, salty balance to the warm spicy dish. It’s an aged cows cheese that is kind of like.. a dry feta? You can find this at any Mexican market, but my Trader Joe’s also carries it too.
- Cilantro – I love the freshness that the cilantro herb brings to this dish.
How to make this elote-style pasta salad
Cook the pasta according to package instructions. Prepare the corn any way you’d like (grill or boil cobs, heat the kernels from frozen, or pop open a can).
Prepare the flavor bomb of a sauce. Mix together the mayonnaise, lime zest, lime juice, cumin, chili powder, paprika, coriander, and salt.
Mix it all together. Add the cooked pasta and corn to a bowl and mix the sauce in. Once combined, stir in the Cotija cheese and cilantro.
To serve, sprinkle any remaining Cotija cheese, cilantro leaves, and paprika for a beautiful presentation.
- Any short form pasta noodle will work in this pasta salad. I love the fusilli bucati from Trader Joe’s, but this recipe would be wonderful with rotini, farfalle, orrochiette, fiorelli, cavatappi, gemelli, or cascatelle.
- Feel free to prepare the corn any way you’d like. I have made this elite-style pasta salad grilling corn, boiling corn, and reheating from frozen. There’s no wrong answer!
- Unfortunately, there isn’t a great substitution for Cotija cheese. Queso fresco or even feta could work but the flavor profile will change slightly.
- I have tested this recipe will all sorts of different spices and ratios, and I have found this to be the best. That being said, everyone’s taste buds are different so feel free to play around while you make it! Keep in mind, the spiced mayonnaise will have a very strong flavor before mixed into the pasta, corn, and Cotija cheese. This is a zest and bold dish that I would not recommend muting!
How to serve this Elote-Style Pasta Salad
I like to serve this pasta salad cold or room temperature. Freshly cooked pasta is warm, as is freshly cooked corn. The mayonnaise and cotija cheese will be cold, so when combining everything, you get a room temperature-ish dish. If left in the refrigerator, the pasta salad will cool down.
You can also choose to serve this dish warm. To do so, mix the pasta, corn and mayonnaise together before the corn or pasta has time to cool. Fold in the cotija cheese and cilantro last.
This recipe is wonderful as a side dish at a cookout, picnic, or pool party. If you make this at home for dinner, I think grilled chicken would be a perfect protein.
If you wanted to prepare this elote-style pasta salad ahead of time, I would recommend NOT mixing the spiced mayonnaise in until ready to serve, as the sauce will be absorbed by the noodles over time. This results in a dryer pasta salad. I would also wait until serving to garnish with extra Cotija cheese and cilantro.
You can store the pasta salad in the fridge for up to five days. The Mexican street corn flavors actually build over time so will taste great in subsequent days. However, the sauce can dry up as the noodles soak the moisture in – but still delicious! I would recommend stirring in some additional mayonnaise, one tablespoon at a time, until the desired consistency is reached.
Feel free to eat this pasta salad cold, straight out of the fridge, or you can heat it up.
- After draining the pasta, rinse with water and drizzle with a bit of olive oil. This helps prevent sticking. You can also lay the pasta out on a sheet pan to cool off quicker.
- Use your hands to crumble the cotija cheese. It has a similar texture to feta!
Other recipes you may enjoy:
Lastly, if you do make this elote-style pasta salad recipe (first of all, thank you!!), be sure to leave a comment and rating below! It would mean the world to me if you tagged me on Instagram or TikTok so I can see your creations.
Elote-Style Pasta Salad (Mexican Street Corn)
- 32 oz cooked corn (about 5 cobs)
- ½ lb short-form pasta such as fusilli
- ¾ cup mayonnaise (175g)
- 1 tablespoon cumin
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- 1 teaspoon paprika plus more for garnish
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon cayenne optional
- 3 limes zested and juiced
- ⅔ cup cotija cheese crumbled
- ¼ cup fresh cilantro chopped
- Cook pasta according to instructions. Drain, rinse with cool water, and let cool and set aside.
- Cook the corn (boil, grill, cook from frozen, etc). Let cool and set aside.
- Meanwhile, add ¾ cup mayonnaise to a 4 qt bowl. Add the lime zest, lime juice, cumin, paprika, chili powder, coriander, and salt. Mix until combined.
- Add the pasta and corn into the bowl with the sauce and mix thoroughly.
- Crumble the cotija cheese (option to set aside 2 tablespoons for garnish). Fold the cheese into the pasta and corn.
- Add the cilantro last, reserving a few cilantro leaves for garnish.
- Lastly, garnish with the remaining cotija cheese, a dash of paprika for color, and the cilantro leaves.