An easy recipe for vegan elote- fresh corn cobs, grilled with a herby Mexican lime marinade, coated in a plant-based Brazil nut cotija cheese, and slathered with tangy ancho chili mayo. A perfect way to upgrade your taco nights, or to accompany a bucket of vegan fried chicken whether you are vegan (yet) or not!
Elotes can be made outdoors on a charcoal grill, and also indoors with a stove-top grill pan. I love grill pans that can fit on two burners, so that cooking for a crowd is easy. Grill pans that have grill marks on one side and a flat griddle surface on the other side are double handy- because then you have a kick-ass pan for whipping up big batches of pancakes, like these vegan blue corn pancakes!
👀 Watch me demonstrate the heck outta this recipe!
I have taught a couple of classes on plant-based Mexican cuisine. This recipe was featured in a plant-based taco class along with a whole bunch of hyper-flavorful vegan taqueria classics. You might also like to check out this Mexican Vegan Cuisine class where I share recipes for ancho chili seitan tamales, street corn tostadas, roasted poblano mango salsa, thick and outrageously cheesy quesadillas, chili arbol and epazote tortilla soup, and tres leches cake.
I broke this recipe up into three parts to make it easy to prep any part of it ahead in advance.
These large nuts hail from the Amazon rainforest in Brazil. Packed with selenium, they add a nutty crunch to dishes. In your recipe, they bring a unique texture, and if needed, almonds or cashews can be swapped in. If you can't consume nuts, just leave them out and increase the amount of breadcrumbs you use.
A vegan mayo alternative, Vegenaise, is a plant-based condiment. It provides a creamy base for your recipes. If unavailable, you can use homemade vegan mayo or silken tofu blended with a bit of lemon juice.
Nutritional yeast, often called "nooch," originates from deactivated yeast cells. Rich in B-vitamins, it adds a savory, cheesy flavor to your dishes. For a substitute, try miso paste or a combination of cashews and lemon juice.
Common in Indian cuisine in dishes like kala chana, lauki, and vegan butter chicken, asafetida comes from the dried sap of a root. It has a pungent aroma but imparts a mild, garlicky flavor when cooked. In its absence, use garlic powder or finely chopped garlic for a similar taste.
Panko Bread Crumbs
These Japanese-style bread crumbs offer a light, crispy coating. They absorb less oil than traditional breadcrumbs, which is why I bread my tofu katsu with 'em. Opt for regular ol' breadcrumbs if you're out of panko.
Derived from smoked and dried red peppers, this spice adds a smoky depth to dishes like Turkish stuffed cabbage and my vegan shawarma! If unavailable, regular paprika with a dash of liquid smoke can give a comparable smokiness.
*See the recipe card at the bottom of the page for exact quantities and cooking directions.
How to make perfect vegan elotes
Make the brazil nut cheese!
Combine the Brazil nuts, garlic, paprika and olive oil and a mixing bowl. Spread the contents of the bowl out onto a parchment paper lined baking tray, and roast in the oven at 350 degrees F. for 8-9 minutes until the nuts are toasted, without the onions or garlic burning.
Place the contents of the tray into a food processor, and grind for 60 seconds into coarse meal. Add the nutritional yeast, salt asafetida and bread crumbs, and pulse a few times to combine.
Make the chili mayo!
Whisk together vegan mayo, chipotle powder, ancho chili powder, hot sauce, lime juice and tomato paste in a small bowl using the tines of a fork or a tiny whisk.
Marinate the corn!
Mix together the corn marinade ingredients while you preheat your stove top grill pan or outdoor grill.
Brush the corn liberally with the marinade.
Grill and dress up the corn!
Grill the corn for about 4 minutes on each side, until nice dark grill marks are formed all over. This should take about 14-18 minutes total.
Brush the grilled corn all over with the chili crema.
Coat each ear of corn all over with a heavy dose of the brazil nut cheese.
Garnish with fresh cilantro, a splash or two of hot sauce, and serve!
Tweak this recipe, why dontcha?
Gluten-Free Freaks: Mexican street corn can be effortlessly made gluten-free by either substituting gluten-free breadcrumbs in place of the panko, or just leaving the panko out completely.
Elote salad: Dude! Don't underestimate the power of this corn salad as a side for a barbeque, potluck, or picnic. I might even like it more this way than on the cob. Grill the corn in the marinade as directed, then allow the corn to cool. Cut the corn off the cob with a sharp knife, and mix it with the chili mayo and brazil nut cheese. Place it in an attractive serving dish and top with chopped cilantro leaves and thinly sliced red onion. This street corn salad also makes an downright bangin' condiment to put on tacos and vegan burgers.
Moarrrr Garlic Pls: There's already a tiny bit of garlic in the brazil nut cheese, but it gets roasted and becomes a bit mellow before it's ground up with the remaining ingredients. If you would like a tiny bit more garlic flavor, add a minced clove of fresh garlic to the food processor when you grind up the cheese coating, and add a teaspoon of garlic powder to the ancho chili mayo, so that the dish has three dimensions of garlic flavor: fresh, roasted, and dried. You will love it if you are in love with garlic and want to marry garlic.
Steamed instead: I live in a mostly Central American neighborhood, and almost everyone here steams the corn instead of grilling it. Personally, I like the char and the additional flavor brought in from the grill marinade. But to steam it instead, just bring a pot of water up to a boil, and put the corn in. Put a lid on the pot, turn the flame off, and leave the corn in there for 4 minutes to steam but not get overcooked. You don't have to make the grill marinade for the corn this way. Making it this way keeps the corn moister, saves a little time, and cuts the shopping list down, but I prefer it grilled, and I bet you will too.
Frozen corn: Just kidding. I wouldn't suggest you used frozen corn on the cob to make this. Though our wallaby rescue Doyle loves corn, and in the winter when it's out of season we sometimes give him frozen corn on the cob. It's legit the only reasonable use for frozen corn on the cob in my opinion. Sorry to be a total snob like that...
Want to cut some prep time on this recipe?
You can substitute the chili mayo in the recipe with ⅔ of a cup of vegan sour cream with a squeeze of lime and 2 teaspoons of ancho chili powder.
You can skip my brazil nut cheese, and substitute vegan parmesan cheese mixed with 1 teaspoon chili powder.
How should I serve this? It looks messy!
Like all the most delicious vegan recipes, this one isn't designed for you to eat in a gorgeous vintage wedding dress. In Mexico, these are served with sharp wooden dowels inserted into the butt ends of them (or even sometimes both ends), to make handling easier and less messy. ...Or you can order these cute kitschy corn cob holders. ...Or just do what I do, and eat it with your hands, get a little messy and use a napkin, or some paper towels.
🤷♀️ Recipe FAQs
Elote (Mexican street corn) are not ordinarily vegan. They typically rely on cotija cheese and a crema based on mayonnaise, which contains egg. Don't dismay though! Elotes can be easily veganized at home using natural ingredients. Just don't order them from your local non-veg Mexican restaurant if you are vegan!
The street corn recipe I am sharing with you uses a tangy ancho chili crema, and a Brazil nut based vegan cheese coating. You are gonna love the everlasting heck out of it!
The authentic dish is made with milder white corn throughout Mexico by eloteros (street vendors of Elotes). The white corn is a bit milder and less starchy. This recipe is super-duper made with yellow sweet corn, or just about any fresh corn on the cob you can get your hands on. And let's be totally honest, vegan elote is not the traditional way anyway, so make it how you like it and how it is convenient to you!
Cooked corn is really best eaten when you make it. It tends to get gummy if you chill it and reheat it.
But if you make some ahead of dinner time, you can totally let it sit out at room temperature all coated with the brazil nut cheese for a couple of hours. Simply reheat in in a preheated oven at 400 degrees for 12 minutes before serving.
🤯 What would go great with this you ask?
Looking for more dishes to blow your guest's minds with at a picnic or bbq? Try these:
Easy Vegan Elote (Mexican Street Corn Recipe)
Brazil nut cheese coating
Make the Brazil nut cheese coating
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine the Brazil nuts, garlic, paprika and olive oil and a mixing bowl. Spread the contents of the bowl out onto a parchment paper lined baking tray, and roast in the oven for 14 minutes until the nuts are toasted, and most liquid has been absorbed or evaporated. Allow the nut to fully cool to room temperature for 20 minutes. Place the contents of the tray into a food processor, and grind for 60 seconds into coarse meal. Add the nutritional yeast, salt asafetida and bread crumbs, and pulse a few times to combine.
Make The Chili Mayo
- Mix the ingredients together in a bowl using a small whisk or the tines of a fork until smoothly combined.
Grill the corn
- Preheat a charcoal grill or indoor grill pan. Mix together the cilantro, lime juice, paprika, salt and olive oil in a bowl. Husk the corn, rinse it, and then brush all sides of the corn with the marinade. Grill each ear of corn for a couple minutes on each side until tender, and with some char and grill marks all around.
Dress up the corn and serve!
- While still hot, brush each ear of grilled corn with about 4 teaspoons of the chili mayo, and coat all around with the ground Brazil nut cheese. Sprinkle the outside of the coated corn lightly with a teaspoon of chili powder.
Achieve the perfect grill by using a stove-top grill pan or a charcoal grill. Opt for a grill pan with two burners for effortless cooking for a crowd, providing versatility with grill marks on one side and a flat griddle surface on the other 🌽 Tender Corn: Don't overcook the corn and have it dry out on you! Aim for just a little char, but tender and juicy corn.