Healthy Mexican Street Corn (Esquites) Stuffed Peppers


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(Note: this post was originally published on October 6, 2019. It has since been updated with a few tweaks.)

Street Corn Gets an Upgrade

What's better than Mexican street corn? Not much. But I'd argue that this Healthy Mexican street corn stuffed into charred rainbow peppers is even more delicious than the original.

Mexican street corn (a.k.a. elotes) is truly a delight. Charred, slathered in a creamy sauce, and kissed with lime, it's a magical meeting of sweet, salty, and tangy. Cut it off the cob and serve it salad-style (a.k.a. esquites) and it's just as delicious but easier to eat. That's why esquites is the most perfect appetizer, happy hour snack, and game-day food (or even a meal, especially with this more nourishing version).

This recipe puts two different spins on the classic. First, this better-for-the-body version uses protein-rich yogurt instead of mayo and makes a few other important swaps, yielding a much lighter dish that's easily plant-based with a few tweaks. Second, the flavor-packed but still healthy esquites then gets stuffed into beautiful, sweet, juicy grilled peppers. It's a veggie-filled appetizer that everyone loves!

Healthy Mexican street corn recipe stuffed into colored peppers

How to Make Healthy Street Corn

Although classic street corn is well-loved (and with good reason!), many recipes call for a large amount of mayo, cheese, and often butter. I think it's a bit of a bummer to take a beautiful veggie and slather it in a load of dairy fat, so years ago I started experimenting with alternative versions. This healthy esquites recipe makes a few simple but important swaps: (1) the veggies are cooked in just a bit of olive oil instead of butter, (2) the creamy base is protein-rich yogurt instead of mayo, and (3) the amount of cheese is modest. It's also easily veganized.

How to Make Vegan Street Corn

This recipe is vegan with just two simple choices. First, for the yogurt, choose an option that is plant-based, plain, and unsweetened. You'll have the best results if you use a thick, full-fat yogurt with a creamy texture. Second, for the cheese, choose a vegan feta or use small cubes of tofu. I've used the tofu trick multiple times with this recipe and it's wonderful, plus it really increases the protein in this healthy Mexican street corn dish, making it decidedly dinner-worthy.

Beautiful, colorful grilled peppers ready for stuffing

Serving Options

This healthy street corn recipe is infinitely flexible. If you want more robust portions, use full-sized bell peppers; conversely, you can use baby bell peppers for a cute two-bite appetizer. As written, the recipe makes enough to fill about 3 large bell peppers or 12 baby peppers (each cut in half); just scale up or down as needed based on your pepper size and the number you want to make. Like it spicy? Use poblano peppers (or even jalapenos) instead of bell peppers. You can serve these either cold or room temperature, so you have some options if you're hosting a crowd.

Make-Ahead Tips

These pretty peppers are make-ahead friendly and are great for a party. You have a couple options for how to prepare this healthy street corn appetizer in advance. You can grill the veggies, make the filling, store everything in containers overnight, and stuff the peppers before serving. Alternatively, you can stuff the peppers ahead of time and store them assembled. I prefer the former since the result is a little bit fresher, but the latter is fine if you're really looking to be efficient. When you're ready to serve these cute, healthy esquites peppers, you can do it right out of the fridge (i.e. cold) or let everything come to room temperature. I don't recommend heating them up though, since the yogurt could get runny.

If you prepare these peppers ahead, just be careful of the garnishes. The avocado, cilantro, and pepitas are best added just before serving. If you're unable to add the garnishes last-minute, swap them out for something more robust that won't get wilted, soggy, or brown (e.g. diced cherry tomatoes, pickled jalapenos, etc.).

Healthy esquites made with yogurt instead of mayo, then stuffed into peppers

A Sneaky No-Cook Option

Short on time? You can convert this into an entirely no-cook recipe with the help of the freezer section! Instead of grilling your own corn, just buy frozen grilled corn and defrost it in the microwave. Easy! This is also a great option for out-of-season, when you can't get good corn on the cob; it's how I make this recipe during the winter.

What about other shortcuts? While I love grilling the peppers for both the taste and visual appeal, it's not critical. This recipe will work fine with raw peppers, especially if you're using baby peppers for smaller portions. You can either omit the onion entirely, or just use it raw (although if you use raw onion, I suggest chopping it very finely and significantly decreasing the amount).

Isn't this a clever trick? While I absolutely prefer the grilled version of this dish, sometimes you just need to take the easy way out. This no-cook option will get you healthy Mexican street corn peppers in no time.

Overhead view of colorful bell peppers stuffed with healthy esquites

Ingredients and Substitutions

Here's what you'll need for this healthy Mexican street corn recipe, as well as some thoughts, tips, and possible substitutions. If you make any substitutions, I'd love to hear about it in the comments section below.

  • Olive oil. Or use your oil of choice for grilling.
  • Peppers. You can use either the adorable bite-sized baby ones or full-size bell peppers. I've found that this amount of filling is enough to stuff about 12 baby peppers or 3 large peppers (each cut in half), so scale up or down as needed.
  • Corn. In season, it's wonderful to grill corn on the cob and then cut the kernels off. Out of season, you can buy frozen or canned corn and grill it indoors. You can even buy frozen grilled corn for a shortcut; I can usually find it at Trader Joe's.
  • Red onion
  • Lime. You'll be using both the zest and the juice.
  • Cumin
  • Salt and pepper
  • Thick yogurt. Using yogurt instead of mayo is the trick to healthy esquites. Dairy or non-dairy is fine, but make sure to choose one that is unflavored and unsweetened.
  • Fresh, salty cheese. Although cotija is traditional, it can sometimes be difficult to find. Feta is a great substitute and has a similar flavor. Vegan feta will also work great, as would some very small cubes of tofu.
  • Fresh cilantro
  • Avocado
  • Roasted salted pepitas

A healthy Mexican street corn recipe for parties, garnished with avocado

Closing Thoughts

However you decide to make and serve these peppers, they're just plain fun! And with all the options I've given you above, I certainly hope you'll find a way to add them into your menu. These healthy street corn peppers have become a go-to in our house; I've made them for happy hour get-togethers numerous times, on Cinco de Mayo, and especially for summer deck parties when corn is in season.

One final tip: this re-imagined, healthy esquites filling is awesome as leftovers. So if you're having a party, don't hesitate to double or triple the filling. Use part of it to stuff peppers, then keep the rest in the fridge to roll into tortillas, scoop onto salads, or add to a burrito bowl. This is a recipe we really love and I'm excited for you to experiment with it.

Healthy street corn made with yogurt, stuffed into colorful grilled bell peppers

Share It!

It makes me so happy to hear from you and see your creations! Please leave a comment below and let me know what you think about this recipe. If you post a photo on Instagram, hashtag #TheRogueBrusselSprout and tag me (@TheRogueBrusselSprout) in the post text so that I'm sure to see it.

Suggested Pairings

Ginger Margarita

Grilled Corn Guacamole

Vegan Bean Dip

Orange Jalapeno Brussels Sprouts

Rainbow Mexican Black Bean Salad

Healthy Mexican Street Corn (Esquites) Stuffed Peppers

Mexican street corn salad (esquites) gets stuffed into colorful grilled bell peppers for a party-ready appetizer. This healthy Mexican street corn recipe gets its creaminess from yogurt instead of mayo, so it's a much more nourishing take on the classic.



For the Peppers and Filling

  • Olive oil for grilling
  • 3 large or 12 baby bell peppers
  • 3 ears of corn
  • Small red onion
  • Zest of a lime
  • Juice of a lime
  • 0.5 tsp cumin
  • Generous salt and pepper
  • 2 tbsp thick, plain yogurt (vegan if desired)
  • Big handful of fresh, salty cheese like feta (vegan if desired)

For Garnishing

  • Additional handful of feta
  • Handful of fresh cilantro
  • Avocado
  • Roasted salted pepitas


  1. Preheat the grill to medium heat and oil the racks well.
  2. While the grill heats, cut the peppers in half length-wise, remove the husks from the corn, and cut the onion into rounds.
  3. Grill the peppers briefly, just enough to char and flavor the edges, but so that they keep their shape.
  4. Grill the corn and onion rounds until tender and lightly-charred.
  5. Cut the kernels off the corn cobs. Then, while the corn is still hot, toss it with the lime zest, lime juice, cumin, salt, and pepper.
  6. Dice the onion and add it to the corn.
  7. After the corn has cooled to room temperature, stir in the yogurt and mix well. Add in the cheese and stir gently.
  8. Stuff the grilled peppers with the filling.
  9. Just before serving, lay the peppers out on a platter and garnish with additional cheese, fresh cilantro, avocado, and pepitas.

Leave a Comment

Please Share Your Thoughts!

Did you make this recipe? Did you make substitutions? How did you serve it? Any helpful tips? Please share your thoughts, since these insights are really useful to both me and to other readers.

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June 27, 2020
One of my favorite weeknight recipes. I’m generous with the citrus to give it a nice tang, and as a compliment to the salty pepitas. Great recipe!
Cold Climber
June 24, 2020
Love love love these! I always put the extra 'insides' with some sliced cherry tomatoes for a chip dip :)