Couscous Corn Salad (Mexican Street Corn Salad)

This easy Couscous Corn Salad recipe puts a fun twist on Mexican street corn. Smoky grilled corn, a creamy cumin-lime dressing, and pearl couscous (pasta) combine to create this delicious salad.

This salad is based off of  traditional Mexican Street Corn, or Elotes – grilled corn that’s slathered in a tangy cream sauce and sprinkled with chili powder, cotija cheese and fresh cilantro.

With traditional street corn, the husks are tied up, making a handle of sorts, so that it can be enjoyed on the go.

It’s my favorite way to eat corn and I basically never eat corn on the cob unless it’s dressed up with all those fixings now.

I love street corn so much that I even made it into these Mexican Street Corn Chicken Tacos and then, this Mexican Street Corn Soup.

And now… this Mexican Street Corn Salad with Couscous.

Why You’ll Love It!

The smoky corn, the tang of the lime, that creamy sauce, and the surprise pops of pearl couscous – This is not your traditional, boring salad. Nope. You will be hooked on it – Promise.

It’s perfect for summer BBQs. But, it’s also perfect for meal prep because you can make the salad up to three days ahead of time and pack it for lunch.

Ingredients for street corn salad in bowl before tossing together.

Ingredients Needed

  • Corn – You can use corn on the cob that’s grilled, or you can use frozen corn. There’s no need to defrost it. Just char it in a skillet with some olive oil for a bit.
  • Pearl Couscous – Aka israeli couscous.
  • Chicken Broth – Or, bone broth or chicken stock, or just use additional water.
  • Lime Juice – Fresh is best!
  • Red Bell Pepper & Red Onion
  • Cilantro & Green Onions
  • Jalapeno Pepper – If you’d like a less spicy salad, you can remove the seeds, or leave it out entirely.
  • Sour Cream & Mayonnaise
  • Spices – Paprika, cumin, salt & pepper.
  • Cotija Cheese – Cotija is a Mexican cheese that crumbles easily and has a nice tang to it. Look for it in your local market next to the packaged cheeses. If you can’t find it, feel free to substitute feta in its place – It’ll be equally as delicious!

How to Make It

  • Char the Corn: Prepare grill for medium heat. Grill corn, turning occasionally, until tender and charred, 8–10 minutes; let cool slightly. Cut kernels from cobs and transfer to a large bowl. Alternatively, you can use 3 cups of frozen corn kernels. There’s no need to defrost it. Just heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over high heat and add the corn. Cook until it gets a nice char, about 5-7 minutes.
  • Make the Couscous: Meanwhile, prepare the couscous. In a saucepan combine the broth, water, 1/4 cup lime juice and 1 ½ teaspoons salt, bring the mixture to a boil, and stir in the couscous. Cover the pan, and let the couscous simmer for 10 minutes. Remove the lid, fluff the couscous with a fork and let it cool in the pan.
  • Make the Dressing: In a small bowl, whisk together the remaining ¼ cup lime juice, sour cream, mayonnaise, paprika, cumin, black pepper and remaining ½ teaspoon salt. Set aside.
  • Combine: To the bowl with the corn, add the cooled couscous, bell pepper, onion, cilantro, green onions, and jalapeno. Stir to combine. Drizzle on the dressing, and the cheese and toss gently to combine. Season with additional salt and pepper, if necessary. Enjoy!

Recipe Variations

  • With black beans: Drain and rinse a can of black beans and toss them into the salad.
  • With avocado: Pit and cube one avocado, and add it to the salad.
  • With chipotle: To the dressing mixture, add one diced chipotle pepper and 1 TBSP adobo sauce from the can.
  • No mayo: Use greek yogurt, or extra sour cream, in place of the mayonnaise.

What to Serve with It

How to Make Ahead & Store

Store any leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to three days.

FAQs

Is this couscous corn salad spicy?

As the recipe is written, is does pack some heat. You can tame down the heat by removing the ribs and seeds from your jalapeno. Or, for an even milder version, you can leave the jalapeno out altogether.

I want to make this Mexican Street Corn Salad for a potluck. Can I make this recipe ahead of time?

Yes, you can make this salad ahead of time. I will keep in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

What’s the best way to get corn kernels off the cob?

Place the grilled corn, stalk side down into the hole of a bundt pan and then cut around the cob. The kernels will fall right down into the pan and will make for much easier cleanup – You won’t be chasing those kernels all over the place.

    Overhead shot of Mexican street corn salad in serving bowl.

    Wine Pairings

    • Try pairing this salad with a creamy, fruit forward Viognier or an unoaked Chardonnay. Fruit-forward, with a bit of body to them, they stand up nicely to the spiciness of this dish.

    More Salad Recipes

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    Did you try this Corn Couscous Salad?

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    Overhead shot of Mexican street corn salad in serving bowl.

    Mexican Street Corn Salad

    This Couscous Corn Salad puts a salad twist on Mexican Street Corn. Smoky grilled corn, a creamy cumin-lime dressing, and pearl couscous combine to create this delicious salad.
    4.99 from 71 votes
    Print Pin
    Prep Time: 15 minutes
    Cook Time: 10 minutes
    Total Time: 25 minutes
    Servings: 6 people

    Ingredients

    Instructions

    • Prepare grill for medium heat. Grill corn, turning occasionally, until tender and charred, 8–10 minutes; let cool slightly. Cut kernels from cobs and transfer to a large bowl.
    • Meanwhile, prepare the couscous. In a saucepan combine the broth, water, 1/4 cup lime juice and 1 ½ teaspoons salt, bring the mixture to a boil, and stir in the couscous. Cover the pan, and let the couscous simmer for 10 minutes. Remove the lid, fluff the couscous with a fork and let it cool in the pan.
    • In a small bowl, whisk together the remaining ¼ cup lime juice, sour cream, mayonnaise, paprika, cumin, black pepper and remaining ½ teaspoon salt. Set aside.
    • To the bowl with the corn, add the cooled couscous, bell pepper, onion, cilantro, green onions, and jalapeno. Stir to combine. Drizzle on the dressing, and the cheese and toss gently to combine. Season with additional salt and pepper, if necessary.

    Notes

    • DO AHEAD: Dressing can be made 2 days ahead. Cover and chill. Corn can be grilled and cut from cobs 1 hour ahead. Store airtight at room temperature.
    • *** You can also use 3 cups of frozen corn kernels. There’s no need to defrost it. Just heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over high heat and add the corn. Cook until it gets a nice char, about 5-7 minutes.
    Did you make this recipe?Mention @platingsandpairings or tag #platingsandpairings!

    Nutrition

    Calories: 295kcal | Carbohydrates: 46g | Protein: 9g | Fat: 8g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Cholesterol: 15mg | Sodium: 1108mg | Potassium: 327mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 5g | Vitamin A: 795IU | Vitamin C: 24.5mg | Calcium: 86mg | Iron: 1.3mg

    This Mexican couscous salad recipe was originally published in 2018. It was updated in 2021 to add new photographs and again in 2023 to add new content. The original recipe remains the same. Enjoy!

    17 thoughts on “Couscous Corn Salad (Mexican Street Corn Salad)”

    1. 5 stars
      Thanks for this recipe Erin. I’m gonna try it soon, but I wanted to pair it with a protein. The lime chicken sounds good, but we kinda sorta use chicken a lot already. Do you have any other protein recommendations for it like a beef, pork, fish or other?

      Reply
    2. please please please when you are figuring out the nutritional stats, include the serving size – ounces, grams, cups whatever- instead of “6 servings”. you have dynamite recipes but if someone is counting calories, carbs, etc, its vital information. and for all the recipes online, not enough pay attention to this kind of need….i have private clients who want the info – some for weight issues and some for medical issues – and i can’t use the recipes even tho i really want to.

      Reply
    3. 5 stars
      This is delicious! I have made it 3 times in the past month everyone who has it wants the recipe :). I have been using farro instead of couscous. This is my summer go to!

      Reply

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