Esquites Get a Healthy Food Flip—Plus Cauliflower!

Esquites healthy & delicioso naihomy

Esquites are one of Mexico’s favorite street foods. This popular on-the-go snack in a cup is also exhibit A of the flavor mashup that makes the country’s cuisine so distinctive. Take a bite and you’ll taste the trio of seemingly competing sabores we can’t stop craving: sweet (corn)+ spicy (chile) + creamy (queso).

Food vendors all over Mexico hawk to-go cups filled to the brim with toasted kernels of street corn—topped with a velvety mix of cotija cheese, mayonnaise, lime juice, and ground chiles. This maíz treat can also include butter, oil, Mexican crema, the spice epazote, and more—depending on which street stand or food truck you buy from, and where in Mexico you find yourself when ordering.

Esquites—its name is the Aztec word for: toasted corn—is not to be confused with elotes, though both are prepared with the same savory chile-cheese combo. Esquites means the corn is savored off the cob, and elotes means the kernels are still attached to the cob.

Elotes Mexico City esquites
A food vendor in Mexico City selling her elotes—sweet corn still on the cob, covered with cotija cheese and chile powder. Esquites is a version of this street treat made with kernels that are off the cob and served in a cup.

We asked our Healthy & Delicioso food editor Naihomy Jerez to give esquites one of her famous food flips and nudge it into a more saludable direction. In place of the high-fat crema and vegetable oil, Naihomy, a health and wellness food coach, uses olive oil, which has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits . She swaps in soy mayonnaise for regular mayo. She mixes in cauliflower florets—loaded with vitamin B—with the corn to add fiber and calciferous nutrients.

Thanks to Naihomy’s flavorful food makeover, these esquites turn into a good-for-you snack that is still sweet, gracias to the corn and good for us.

To check out more of Naihomy’s food flips on traditional Latino dishes, check out her Healthy & Delicioso makeovers like these: nachos with ground turkey, arepitas de yuca, arroz con polloDominican moro de guandulesdulce con habichuela (an Easter staple, D.R.-style!), and pumpkin flan. She also healthied up some of our favorite drinks. Check out her vegan coquito, and—our favorite all-time drinks: lighter margarita and paloma.

Hungry for This Healthy & Delicioso Version of Esquites?

Esquites Get a Healthy Food Flip—Plus Cauliflower!

Recipe by Naihomy Jerez Cuisine: Mexican


Prep time


Cooking time




  • 2 cups 2 cauliflower florets, about half of a cauliflower head

  • 1 cup 1 fresh corn kernels, from about 2 ears of corn

  • 2 2 jalapeños

  • 1/2 cup 1/2 scallion whites

  • 3 cloves 3 garlic

  • 1 Tbsp 1 butter

  • 1 Tbsp 1 extra virgin olive oil

  • 2 Tbsp 2 vegan, soy-fee mayonnaise

  • 1/2 1/2 lime, juiced

  • 1/2 tsp 1/2 Himalayan salt

  • 1/4 cup 1/4 cotija cheese, plus extra for garnish

  • 1/3 cup 1/3 scallion greens, plus extra for garnish

  • chile powder, for garnish


  • Cut the cauliflower into florets and scrape the kernels off the fresh ears of corn.
  • Mince the jalapeños. (For less heat, remove the seeds and devein the chiles). Thinly slice the scallion, dividing the greens from the whites.
  • Place a saucepan on medium-high heat. Add the butter and extra virgin olive oil. Heat for 1 minute.
  • Add the cauliflower and corn, and stir until they are evenly coated with the butter-and-oil oil mixture. Let the vegetables cook for about 5 minutes, stirring 2 or 3 times.
  • Add the jalapeños, garlic, and scallion whites to the pan. Stir until everything is well mixed and let the mixture cook for about 10 minutes.
  • Remove the pan from the heat and place the mixture into a mixing bowl. Let it cool for about 5 minutes.
  • Add the mayonnaise, lime juice, Himalayan salt, cotija cheese, and scallion greens. Stir and mix well.
  • Transfer to a serving bowl and garnish with extra scallion greens, cotija cheese, and a dash of chile powder (for extra kick!).


  • Be sure to use a brand of butter that does not contain any added oils, such as Kerrygold butter.
  • If you’re pressed for time, you can buy pre-cut, pre-washed cauliflower florets and frozen corn kernels.

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