This Mexican street corn pasta salad recipe is a fantastic way to enjoy grilled corn all summer long! You will love the zesty chipotle lime dressing!
I love corn on the cob, but it can be a bit messy to eat, so why not turn it into a meal and make it into a pasta salad?! YES. This pasta salad has all the flavors of Mexican street corn. It does not disappoint. Corn on the cob is one of my favorite things to eat, and when you pair it with that smoky dressing, it's heavenly. This dish works as a main course or a side!
One of my most popular recipes on here is actually a chipotle lime ranch dressing. I just love that flavor profile!! I didn't stray too far from the classic Mexican street corn cooking techniques, so I used chipotle chili pepper vs. the chilis in adobo sauce I used for that other dressing, but the flavors are similar. This pasta salad dressing can be whipped up in under 5 minutes and you don't need to use a food processor, so bonus points for simplicity and fewer dishes. 😉
I've made this pasta salad with both bowtie pasta and penne. I prefer the penne, but really any pasta shape should work just fine in this Mexican street corn salad recipe.
You may also like my elote creamed corn recipe.
What is Mexican street corn (elotes)?
Traditionally, it's grilled corn on the cob that's slathered in a delicious spicy mayo blend and topped with Cotija cheese.
How to make Mexican street corn pasta salad (overview):
Cook your pasta al dente; rinse with cool water and drain well.
Meanwhile, prep your other ingredients. Grill the corn until nicely charred (about 10-12 minutes), and make your dressing.
Once everything is ready, toss together. Serve pasta salad immediately or cover tightly and chill first. Can be made a few hours ahead if needed, but I prefer to eat this recipe soon after it's made.
What can you substitute for Cotija cheese (Queso Cincho)?
If you can't find Cotija cheese (a Mexican cow's milk cheese that's easy to grate), just use finely grated parmesan cheese, feta, or even ricotta salata (the kind you can grate - not the soft kind). I have a heck of a time finding Cotija here in Canada, but I would think that it's much easier to find in places like Texas or California!
Will you try this riff on Mexican street corn?
Let me know in the comments below if you've made it!
Mexican Street Corn Pasta Salad
- 3 cups uncooked penne pasta
- 4 cobs of corn husks & silk removed
- Olive oil for coating corn
- 1 cup Cotija cheese (or use finely grated Parmesan or feta)
- 1/2 medium red onion chopped
- 2 tablespoons cilantro chopped
- Salt & pepper to taste
- 1/2 cup mayo
- 1/2 cup sour cream, Greek yogurt, or Mexican crema
- 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon ground chipotle chili pepper (or to taste)
- Juice + zest of 1/2 lime
- Salt & pepper to taste
- Boil a large, salted pot of water for the pasta and cook it al dente according to package directions. Once it's cooked, rinse with cold water and set aside to cool (drain well).
- Oil your BBQ/grill's grate and preheat it to high.
- Coat your cobs of corn with olive oil, then grill it for about 10-12 minutes, turning every few minutes until you've got nice char marks (I used a gas BBQ with the lid down). Let the corn cool until it's easy to handle.
- Meanwhile, prep your other pasta salad ingredients and add them to a large bowl. Mix the dressing ingredients together in a small bowl.
- Using a sharp knife, carefully cut the kernels off the corn cobs once they're cool enough to handle. Add the corn to the salad bowl.
- Toss until everything is combined. Add salt & pepper as needed (you'll likely need a fair amount with so much pasta, but the cheese can be salty so make sure to taste as you go along). Serve immediately or chill first (but make sure bowl is tightly covered so dressing doesn't dry out).
- As always, adjust dressing ingredients to your tastes as needed (e.g. use more lime, more lime zest, more spice, etc). The dressing is a bit spicy, so I recommend halving the chipotle chili pepper if you want it milder. You definitely want to use some spice, however, because it gives the dressing its signature smoky flavor.
- Every BBQ/grill/grill pan varies, so using my corn cooking time as a guideline and adjust as needed.
- I think this recipe is best fresh or made a few hours ahead, but you can certainly enjoy the leftovers too.
- This is the handy tool I use to zest the lime for this recipe.
- I use a jar (McCormick brand) of dried & ground chipotle chili pepper (it's a powder).
- Serves 4-6 depending on how much people eat.