We are closely approaching the arrival of summer. The weather gets warmer, the days longer, and we anxiously await gatherings with friends and family to celebrate the completion of another school year. Having grown up in Southern California, I’ve been blessed to have access to fresh fruit and produce via local farmers markets. Summertime produces the juiciest watermelon, freshest strawberries that perfume the air, and my favorite: sweet summer corn.
I remember going to Huntington Beach at the crack of dawn with my dad so that we could reserve a coveted fire pit for our family. We would build a steady fire with wood ready for smores, hot dogs and a large pot filled with ocean water straight from the Pacific. Boxes of yellow sweet corn would be dumped into the boiling water and cooked until the kernels were plump and juicy. Sticks of butter nestled in empty coffee cans melted next to the fire and acted as butter baths to submerge the cooked corn in.
It was common to eat three or four ears of corn in one sitting and have the glisten of butter covering your entire face. Having grown up in a Mexican-American home, we loved our elote. Corn is sacred in Mexican culture and is considered a “gift from the Gods.” A sign of rebirth, it’s an important crop and utilized in so many Mexican dishes like tamales, tortillas and sopes.
Modern-day American cuisine has popularized the elote, which is essentially roasted or boiled corn on a stick covered with mayonnaise, crema, chile powder, salty cheese, lime juice and a good spicy hot sauce. Mexican street corn has become a staple at food trucks, food festivals and street fairs across the country.
What are corn riblets?
Thanks to social media apps like TikTok, many food trends have taken foodies by storm. One of the most recent and most popular trends is “corn ribs.” Ears of corn are carefully quartered, seasoned, then roasted on the grill, smoker or air fryer. The result is a natural bending of the corn that replicates a single slice of baby back ribs, or “riblet.”
These corn “riblets” are so fun to eat, visually stunning and kid-friendly. They allow you to enjoy the crunchy exterior while savoring the sweet and juicy flavors and true essence of corn.
My version fuses these trendy riblets with the classic Mexican street corn. The result is a stunning corn riblet with a little Mexican flare that will get your nose sweating and you taste buds dancing to Selena. It makes a great appetizer for a party or a summer side dish to accompany that grilled steak.
In the words of Ignacio in “Nacho Libre:” Save me a piece of that corn!Print
- 6 ears of fresh sweet corn (what’s local and in season is typically best)
- 2 tbsp. high-heat oil, like avocado or grapeseed oil
- ¼ stick unsalted butter melted
- ½ tbsp. BBQ rub (I love Red Beards #8 or Meat Church Holy Gospel.
- ½ tbsp. low sodium Tajin
- ½ cup Cotija cheese crumbled
- Cilantro (leaves only) finely chopped for garnish
- Squeeze of lime to taste
- Favorite hot sauce to taste (I love Valentina)
- ¾ cup Crema Mexican (also known as Mexican table cream. I love Cacique!)
- Cut off both ends of corn that have been shucked. Using a sharp knife carefully cut them in quarters lengthwise. (NOTE: This can be very dangerous, so make sure your cutting surface is secure and that caution is used)
- Toss the riblets in oil, melted butter and BBQ rub.
- Prepare grill to 375 degrees. Lightly char corn on both sides, then finish with indirect heat until they start to curl; about 10 to 15 minutes total.
- Toss the riblets in the crema to evenly coat, then sprinkle with cotija cheese, spice with Tajin, garnish with chopped cilantro, a squeeze of lime, and hot sauce to make it zing!
Pro tip: These bite size summer treats are addictive! Try them with avocado and cilantro crema, crumbled chorizo with queso fresco, or maybe with chipotle mayo, crushed corn chips, and pickled jalapeños.
Want more Mexican and Mexican-inspired dishes? Check out these recipes!