High-Protein Vegetarian Elote Recipe
Spicy sauce slathered on grilled corn on the cob. What’s not to love? Just the description makes you crave Elote – a street food snack. This enticing Mexican street food is now transformed into a high-protein Elote Bowl with simple ingredient additions. A full meal that will make you dream of the leftovers. Aside from the irresistible taste of Elote corn, there are some healthy reasons to indulge in this flavorful dish. It’s a fantastic source of vitamins and minerals and packed with protein and fiber thanks to corn, beans and quinoa.
What is Elotes & Esquites?
Elotes began in Mexico City and are now served as a snack throughout Mexico and some US cities. It is famously served on a stick as an on-the-go snack. There is an off-the-cob version of this dish called esquites, served in a cup. Elotes and esquites are derived from the Nahuatl language, the American Indian language of the Uto-Aztecan civilization in central and western Mexico. The word elote means tender cob, and esquite means toasted corn. This grain is such a vital part of the food culture in Mexico that there are five words for corn: mazorca, elote, choclo, jojoto, and marlo. If all the indigenous languages are included, there are 68 words for corn in Mexico!
Elote Bowl Ingredients and Substitutions
- Quinoa is considered to be one of the healthiest foods in the world. This nutrient-packed grain is a seed from a flowering plant in the Andes. It’s gluten-free and rich in iron, fiber, vitamins, and protein. It has a nutty flavor, like brown rice, and a crunchy texture. It must be rinsed in a mesh strainer before cooking to rinse off the bitter taste of naturally occurring saponin. If your package says pre-washed, this step can be omitted. Quinoa comes in white, black, red, and tri-color. Any of these will work for this recipe.
- Chickpeas, or garbanzo beans, add fiber and protein to the recipe. They are also roasted in the oven to enhance the nutty flavor and provide a crunch.
- Limes – fresh limes provide the benefit of adding fresh zest (peel) and juice.
- Frozen Corn or Frozen Roasted Corn is extra convenient and lets you make this vibrant dish year-round. Of course, fresh corn is always superior and outstanding when in season. but I crave this recipe so much that I look for the “easy button” option.
- Radishes – raw radishes are fresh and spicy and add crunch and color to the recipe.
- Cilantro – no substitutions. If you do not like this herb, omit it.
- Jalapenos – add crunch and heat. If you are heat-adverse, Jalapenos can be omitted, but removing the membranes and seeds will diminish most heat. They keep the dish closer to its Mexican roots.
- Greek Yogurt – I use Greek Yogurt in the sauce because it is always in my refrigerator. A traditional recipe would use sour cream or Mexican crema. Use the most easily obtained ingredient for your household to simplify your life. If you like to make homemade Mexican Crema, try this recipe from A Couple of Cooks. Warning, it takes a few days!
- Avocado Mayonnaise – gives a tangy richness to the sauce. I use Primal Kitchen Avocado Mayonnaise, but your favorite brand can be added. Consider omitting the mayo and double the yogurt quantity if you watch fat calories.
- Parmesan Cheese, Cotija Cheese, or Queso Fresco can be used in the sauce. I always have Parmesan, so that is my go-to ingredient
- Cayenne Pepper adds a delightful punch, but you can also use chili powder or Tajin Classico Seasoning – a popular Mexican seasoning blend of chili peppers, lime & sea salt.
- Pepita Seeds (pumpkin seeds) provide crunch and beneficial nutrients.
Game Day Party Food
Have fun and change the color scheme to match your favorite sports team. Quinoa comes in black, red, or white. I used black quinoa and carrots or orange peppers for a Bengals theme party during the playoff season. The color combinations are endless to match your themed event by incorporating different color garnishes and veggies.
- Add a spoonful of pepita pesto – get the recipe from the Black Bean and Plantain Stew with Pepita Pesto. I often make these two dishes the same week to take full advantage of making this delicious pesto sauce on two meals.
- Grill the whole ears of corn on the outdoor grill for a more traditional Mexican Elote recipe; cut off the kernels after grilling.
- Spice it up. Cut the jalapenos crosswise to include the membranes and seeds to get more heat!
- Shortcuts – use pre-cooked quinoa from a packet or meal prep quinoa earlier in the week.
- Vegan – Substitute yogurt, mayonnaise, and cheese for vegan-friendly ingredients.
- Meat Lovers – add slices of chicken. Try it with Grilled Chicken Breast with Ginger Lime Marinade.
- SCD – too many ingredients are illegal to transform this recipe into a Specific Carbohydrate compliant meal.
- Mediterranean – use a Mediterranean Diet-compliant mayonnaise or make homemade; You can also omit mayonnaise and double up on the yogurt; use Parmesan Cheese in the lime sauce rather than Cotija or Queso Fresco.
- Low-Carb Diet – use this recipe for special occasions or as a side dish with another lean protein choice and a healthy salad. This recipe has 87 grams of carbs – see the nutritional panel.
- Gluten-Free – no substitutions needed, but double-check your mayonnaise label for compliance.
- Paleo – too many ingredients are not permitted to swap out and make it work on a paleo diet -no corn, dairy, beans, or grain allowed.
Rinse quinoa with water in a mesh sieve.
Cook quinoa in a small saucepan until the water is absorbed - 17 - 20 minutes.
Roast garbanzo beans on a sheet pan with olive oil and seasoning.
Cook frozen corn in skillet until charred in some spots.
Gather Easy Elote Bowl components to assemble in a serving bowl.
Serve Easy Elote Bowl with garnishes on top.
More Reasons to Love this Recipe
This Vegetarian Elote Dinner Bowl recipe is a high-protein meal with 26 grams. It also is high in fiber with 16 grams which meets – 53% of the recommended daily allowance; It’s also loaded with vitamins and minerals – check out the nutritional panel below the recipe. Leftovers are outstanding in tacos, and quesadillas, or add some diced avocado and dip it with tortilla chips. Make this Mexican street corn-inspired recipe a regular meal.