Elote Style Quinoa Salad Recipe - Pinch of Yum
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Elote Style Quinoa Salad

21 reviews / 4.9 average

Elote Quinoa Salad made with velvety peppers confit, juicy sweet corn, homemade dressing, cotija cheese, lime, and spices. Perfect for summer and so, so good!

That’s it! Summer is on its waaaaay! And just in time for this bright, nutty, totally satisfying, creamy dream salad.

This post is sponsored by ALDI

It packs a real nutritional punch thanks to the quinoa and black beans, but then OH, DOES IT GET ZAZZED. Velvety peppers confit, piles of fresh juicy sweet corn, and a homemade dressing bringing the best of the best elote (Mexican street corn) flavors together like zippy lime, salty cotija cheese, and chili powder. And as always, we have big love for ALDI for having everything we need for this dream to come true, including all of the fresh (like, “it gets delivered every single day” fresh!) summery produce packed into this salad delight.

Mexican street corn, served either as elote (on the cob) or esquites (kernels in a cup), is a staple snack in Mexico, and rightly so. This beautifully savory grilled corn is either stuck on wooden sticks or shaved from the cob and served in little cups depending, painted in mayo, lime juice, cotija, and chili powder, and joyfully carried around and munched on by many. The very best of grab-and-go!

We’re taking inspiration from all those beautiful delicious flavors, shaving that fresh raw sweet corn right off the cob, and piling and tossing and mixing with some other chompable greats. Warning: highly addictive salad ahead.

In This Post: Everything For Elote Quinoa Salad

Ingredients For This Elote Quinoa Salad

The ingredient list here is simple, don’t need much to deliver big on flavor. And so we’re going to our affordable and high-quality faves over at ALDI for the entirety of this list.

They have such a wide variety of delicious fresh produce, lots of organic options, and you KNOW we love that ALDI cheese section (seriously, it’s amazing), so of course we’re hitting that up here! Here’s what you’ll need:

For the salad:

  • Simply Nature Organic Quinoa
  • fresh sweet corn
  • Simply Nature Organic Black Beans
  • mini sweet peppers (cooked into pepper confit)
  • cilantro

For the dressing:

  • Burman’s Mayo
  • Pueblo Lindo Grated Cotija Cheese
  • Stonemill Chili Powder
  • buttermilk
  • garlic
  • limes
Ingredients for elote quinoa salad

Let’s Make This Fresh Summery Salad

Alright, let’s get this summer star ready.

  1. Quinoa and prep. Use your fave method to cook quinoa and get your sweet corn shaved from the cobs.
  2. Pepper confit. Drizzle a generous amount of olive oil in a skillet and add the pepper rings. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 20 minutes or until very soft and roasty-looking. For a flavor bonus, you can squeeze a little lime juice in the pan to lift all the browned bits off the bottom of the pan when you’re done!
  3. Homemade dressing! You’ll whisk all the ingredients up and then taste and adjust as necessary. It might taste super salty and that’s okay! It’s going on a bunch of raw, unseasoned ingredients so you’re going to want it to have lots of flavor.
  4. Toss and serve. Throw everything in a bowl (or okay fine, arrange nicely if you are a star) just before serving. Drizzle with all that beautiful creamy dressing. Yum!

That’s it! Pretty easy peasy. Then you can continue to doll it up as you like.

But Raw Corn? In a Salad?

Yes! Raw sweet corn is quite delicious! It’s crunchy, bursty, and has an almost creamy sweet taste. It really is quite a dream!

You’ll just take a sharp knife and run it right down your cob and get all those yummy pale golden gems off and into your salad bowl. Yes and yes.

If you’re not feeling like taking the raw corn adventure (be brave! you can do it!), you can of course totally cook your corn first. Get a nice char on it from the grill to really up those elote flavors or you could sauté it in a hot skillet for a similar effect.

If you’re really in a pinch, you could sear up some frozen corn, but it won’t have quite the same crunch or sweet pop.

Elote quinoa salad in a bowl with a fork

The Best Ways To Cook Quinoa For This Salad

The stovetop method is a good way to go:

  1. Rinse for at least 30 seconds under running water or toast your quinoa first! It helps get rid of the natural bitterness on the outside quinoa (thanks to the naturally-occurring saponin coating).
  2. Use a 2 parts liquid to 1 part quinoa ratio (using broth instead of water can add more flavor!).
  3. Bring to a boil and then lower heat and simmer until all liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat, cover, and let steam for a few minutes until those little curly coils bust out.
  4. Remove lid and fluff with fork. It should smell nutty, fluff easily, and no liquid should be left!

If you’re making larger batches, it can also be done in a rice cooker or Instant Pot! Make sure you still rinse or toast your quinoa first!

  • Rice cooker: Still a 2 parts liquid to 1 part quinoa ratio and it is usually done in about 30 minutes.
  • Pressure cooker: 1.5 parts liquid to 1 part quinoa. Cook on high for 3 mins, natural release for 10 minutes.

Mayo Alternatives

If you don’t want to go the mayo route, even though its salty creaminess can’t be beat, you certainly have other options for your dressing. You could try:

  • Greek yogurt
  • sour cream
  • Mexican crema
  • maybe an avocado?

You may have to adjust your buttermilk and cheese ratios to get the right consistency you’re looking for depending on what you use, but certainly play around with it!

What To Serve with Elote Salad

Between the quinoa and the black beans, this makes a really lovely and satisfying meal. But if you’re looking to bring some friends to the table, some grilled or rotisserie chicken would be delicious. A little bowl of salad and then all the chips and all the salsas and all the guac? Yes, please.

Serve this salad on the side of a taco party? THANK YOU FOR ASKING. Maybe some of these would be nice:

What we’re saying is, summer is coming, this salad is so, so good, and you are never going to want to stop.

Elote Style Quinoa Salad: Frequently Asked Questions

What should I serve with this?

This salad works great by itself and is incredibly filling, but if you wanted, some grilled chicken would be delicious to serve the salad alongside.

I’m out of buttermilk. Any substitution ideas?

Buttermilk is actually very easy to make at home! Read how to make your own here.

Any other kinds of cheeses to sprinkle on top?

Cotija cheese is our #1 pick here, but if you can’t find it, queso fresco can also work. It just crumbles a bit differently and is saltier.

Can this salad be prepped ahead of time for the week?

It sure can! Just save your dressing drizzles and cheese sprinkles for right before serving.

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Elote style salad in a bowl with a fork square

Elote Style Quinoa Salad

  • Author: Lindsay
  • Total Time: 40 minutes
  • Yield: 8 servings 1x


Elote Quinoa Salad made with velvety peppers confit, juicy sweet corn, homemade dressing, cotija cheese, lime, and spices. Perfect for summer and so, so good! 


Units Scale


  • 1 cup Simple Nature Organic Quinoa, uncooked
  • 5 ears sweet corn, cut off the cob
  • 1 can Simply Nature Organic Black Beans, rinsed
  • 1 package mini sweet peppers, sliced into small rings (about 23 cups)
  • olive oil for cooking
  • 1 lime
  • 1 cup chopped fresh cilantro


  • 1/3 cup Burman’s Mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup buttermilk
  • 1 clove garlic, grated
  • 1 teaspoon Stonemill Chili Powder
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon salt
  • juice and zest of two limes


  • 1/4 cup Pueblo Lindo Grated Cotija Cheese


  1. Cook quinoa and prep ingredients. 
  2. Drizzle a generous amount of olive oil in a skillet and add the pepper rings. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for about 20 minutes or until very soft and roasty-looking. Squeeze a little lime juice in the pan to lift all the browned bits off the bottom of the pan when you’re done! More flavor!
  3. Whisk up the dressing ingredients. Taste and adjust. It’s okay if it’s super salty – it’s going on a bunch of raw, unseasoned ingredients so we want it to have lots of flavor!
  4. Toss ingredients or arrange in a bowl just before serving (quinoa, corn, beans, peppers, cilantro, and topped with dressing and cheese). Serve with grilled chicken, dip with chips, or on its own as a meal!
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Category: Salad
  • Method: Toss
  • Cuisine: Mexican-Inspired

Keywords: elote quinoa salad, elote salad, elote recipe

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Thank you to ALDI for sponsoring this recipe!

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  1. Pinch of Yum Logo
    Sarah Rhoades

    Hi! This looks so yummy! I made the pepper confit in the Salmon salad and it was so delicious. I am allergic to quinoa though. Is there is substitution you would recommend?

    1. Pinch of Yum Logo

      My kids aren’t a fan of quinoa so I made it with brown rice and it was delicious! I just added the dressing to individual portions so the leftovers didn’t get soggy!

    2. Pinch of Yum Logo
      Krista @ Pinch of Yum

      You could try any grain –barley, farro, brown rice, couscous, regular rice!

  2. Pinch of Yum Logo
    Jamie Ward

    Wow! What a tasty recipe. I usually don’t make adjustments to a recipe I’m trying for the first time, but I fired up the gas grill – high heat – and lightly charred the corn and peppers. I topped the salad with some grilled catfish! Delicious!!

    1. Pinch of Yum Logo
      Krista @ Pinch of Yum

      Great idea to char the corn and peppers! So glad you enjoyed it, Jamie!

  3. Pinch of Yum Logo
    Buddy Stonesifer

    I made this last night. My husband said, “i think sometimes missing.” I said, “you mean do flavor?” I thought I was going to toss the recipe. Tonight, I made a second portion of dressing an mixed it in. It was SO GOOD with extra dressing!!! And next time I’ll char the corn.

  4. Pinch of Yum Logo

    We added premarinated grilled chicken and grilled the corn. A perfect summer meal!

  5. Pinch of Yum Logo

    This is sooo good! Such good meal prep. Would be great as a side dish for grilled chicken which is what I may do next time I make it!

    My Aldi was out of the cheese, probably due to your recipe 😉 so I used freshly grated Parmesan reggiano!

  6. Pinch of Yum Logo

    This was so good, the dressing was a total hit. It made plenty so we did salads with grilled salmon over the top a couple nights and then pan fried rock fish and used the rest as fish taco fillings 2 more nights (it’s just 2 of us). My typically sriracha-mayo loving husband said this dressing was perfect on the tacos!

    1. Pinch of Yum Logo
      Krista @ Pinch of Yum

      Such great ideas to make a week’s worth of meals! Thanks so much for the comment, Michelle!

  7. Pinch of Yum Logo

    Excited to try this for my gluten free self. Subbed feta for the cotija & it was delish! I also toasted the corn in the pan with the peppers. The whole family enjoyed it. We served alongside burgers but I’m looking forward to the leftovers in over a spinach salad tomorrow.

  8. Pinch of Yum Logo

    This was easy to make and my family loved it! We had it with some baked chicken breasts and it was perfect!

  9. Pinch of Yum Logo

    This was wonderful! My husband was unsure if this would be filling enough on it’s own. Turns out we had plenty and some leftovers! We had it with chips on the side but alone would be just fine. I think this would be a great meal prep recipe.

  10. Pinch of Yum Logo
    Julie W

    Are you serving this warm, room temp or chilled?
    Just looking for the optimum way to serve it….I’m sure it would be delicious at any temp

  11. Pinch of Yum Logo

    Made this for dinner tonight – so delicious! Charred the corn with the peppers and subbed Greek yogurt for the mayo and it was a hit. I added grilled tofu and my husband added grilled salmon. Tasty, filling, and super easy. Looking forward to tomorrow’s leftovers 🙂

  12. Pinch of Yum Logo

    Loved this! I made it tonight with a few adjustments. I used frozen corn I browned in a skilled with a little butter and garlic. I also added some jalapeño and red onion. Loved the beans in this! Will make this again for sure!

  13. Pinch of Yum Logo

    We made this one for dinner and it was fantastic. I really like the dressing and how it seasoned all the items in the bowl. A great way to have a satisfying healthy dinner. I am making sure I hang onto this recipe.

  14. Pinch of Yum Logo

    We made this last night with grilled salmon and it was outstanding! I’m already dreaming about the leftovers for lunch! Going into our rotation for the summer!

  15. Pinch of Yum Logo
    Sarah L.

    Excellent! The dressing was even better with just a small squeeze of hot honey. Added some mixed greens to make it lighter.

  16. Pinch of Yum Logo

    Hi!! This looks scrumptsh! Question…. Is there an easy way to make the dressing dairy free? Thank you!

    1. Pinch of Yum Logo
      Krista @ Pinch of Yum

      Hi! You could try using dairy free milk and a splash vinegar in place of the buttermilk!

  17. Pinch of Yum Logo

    Made this for dinner last night and was SUCH a huge hit. A super easy weeknight meal. Subbed feta because my store was out of cotija, and used regular bell peppers instead of the mini ones because I already had them in the house.

    Ate about half of it plain with a spoon and the other half with chips.

    Was totally surprised by how delicious and refreshing the raw corn was. Unexpected!!

  18. Pinch of Yum Logo

    One of my new favorites! Easy to bulk up with grilled chicken, extra vegetables, avocado. Tastes even better the next day!

  19. Pinch of Yum Logo

    Wow, this salad was outstanding! I substituted 2 of those 90 second race/quinoa packets and it was easy peasy. The dressing is magic!

  20. Pinch of Yum Logo

    I can’t recall ever seeing Burman’s Mayonnaise here in NS,Canada- what would a good alternative be? Hellman’s?

  21. Pinch of Yum Logo

    Made this today and it is so flavorable! Definitely a keeper I will make again and again!