This Chili Lime Salmon recipe is topped with creamy esquites (Mexican creamy corn salsa) and can be ready to go in less than 30 minutes!
Two of my favorite recipes combine to make this quick and easy 30-minute meal! ♡
First up — chili lime salmon. We make some version of this salmon at least once a month here in our house to serve up in either tacos, fajitas, burrito bowls, taco salad, or on its own with a fun topping or salsa such as this. It’s super easy to cook either on the stovetop or in the oven, seasoned with a simple blend of spices and a squeeze of fresh lime, and always SO delish!
Then to this savory salmon, we add one of the world’s best corn salsas — esquites. Also known as elote en vaso or chascas, this creamy Mexican corn salsa is one of my favorites to make this time of year with fresh corn (or you can just as easily use canned or frozen corn too). The corn is caramelized and lightly charred in a bit of butter and then tossed with a flavorful blend of fresh lime juice, cilantro, cheese, red onion, jalapeño, mayo and a touch of chili powder. And while we most often make this as a dip in our house to serve with tortilla chips, we recently whipped up a quick batch to serve over salmon and rice and it was absolutely fantastic. My husband immediately insisted that we make it again stat, so I have a hunch this recipe is quickly going to become a regular in our house.
Feel free to swap in a different protein (such as chicken, pork, steak, shrimp or another kind of fish) in place of the salmon, if you’d like. And of course, feel free to adjust the ingredient amounts in the esquites to make the corn salsa more or less spicy or creamy to taste.
This recipe is so flavorful and simple — I think you’re going to love it!
Chili Lime Salmon with Esquites Ingredients
Before we get to the full recipe below, here are the ingredients that you will need to make this chili lime salmon with esquites…
Salmon: Feel free to choose whatever variety of salmon that you prefer — with or without skin, up to you — which we will then season with a blend of chili powder, garlic powder, cumin, and sea salt.
Corn: Any type of whole-kernel corn will work for this recipe, so feel free to use corn that has been freshly carved off of the cob, canned corn, or (thawed) frozen corn.
Jalapeño: This recipe calls for one fresh jalapeño, cored and diced, which will result in a salsa that I find quite mild. But feel free to omit the jalapeño if you are averse to heat, or double the amount of jalapeño (and/or leave in the seeds) if you would like the esquites to be even spicier.
Mayo: Feel free to add more or less mayo if you would like, to make the esquites more or less creamy.
Lime juice: I highly recommend having plenty of fresh limes on hand to add to both the esquites and the salmon, plus we enjoy adding extra to the rice too.
Cotija cheese: This delicious, salty, crumbly, Mexican cheese made from cow’s milk is traditionally used in elote and esquites. But if needed, feta cheese or even some freshly-grated Parmesan could be used as a substitute.
Cilantro: I also recommend adding lots of fresh cilantro to the esquites — plus some extra to top the entire dish, if you’d like. But if you are averse to the flavor of cilantro, you are welcome to omit it entirely.
Garlic and seasonings: Finally, you will need lots of fresh garlic, chili powder, sea salt and black pepper to season the esquites. (Plus, as mentioned above, garlic powder and cumin to season the salmon.)
Tips For Making This Recipe
Here are a few additional tips to consider when making this recipe…
Use a thermometer on the salmon: You all know my mantra when it comes to cooking proteins — I highly recommend using a cooking thermometer! Especially with salmon, this will help you avoid over-cooking or under-cooking the fish, which can happen within a minute or two.
Use a non-stick pan: I highly recommend making the esquites in a non-stick skillet. Otherwise, the corn has a tendency to stick as it is cooking.
Avoid over-stirring the corn: In order for those corn kernels to caramelize and get slightly charred, they need to sit for awhile in the pan without being stirred. So just keep a close eye on the corn and give it a stir every so often once the bottom layer starts to look slightly golden and caramelized.
Feel free to prep the esquites in advance: This corn salsa can be refrigerated in a sealed container for up to a few days if you would like to prep it in advance.
Make a double batch of the esquites: And I highly recommend making a double batch, while you’re at it, so that you can have extra on hand to eat as a dip with tortilla chips. So good!
Here are a few other options to consider when making this recipe…
Pan-sear the salmon: If you would like to cook the salmon on the stovetop, heat 1 tablespoon oil in a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat until the oil is hot and shimmering. Add the salmon skin-side-up and cook for 4 minutes. Then flip it and cook for 3-5 more minutes until the thickest part of the salmon reaches your desired temperature (I recommend 125°F for medium doneness).
Use a different protein: Cooked chicken, pork, steak, shrimp, tofu, or another type of fish would also be delicious alternatives to salmon for this recipe.
Make the esquites more or less spicy: If you are averse to heat, feel free to omit the jalapeño in the corn salsa. Or if you prefer an even spicier salsa, you are welcome to leave in the jalapeño seeds and/or add a second jalapeño.
Use Greek yogurt: If you aren’t a big fan of mayo, you can sub in plain Greek yogurt as a lighter option.
Add epazote: Traditional Mexican esquites are made with fresh epazote, so feel free to add some in if you would like. We have a hard time tracking it down here in Barcelona, but it is typically much more available in the herb section in American (or specifically Latin American) grocery stores.
Add beans: We’ve also served this dish with black beans, refried beans, or drunken beans — any of which I would also highly recommend!
More Favorite Salmon Recipes
Looking for more easy salmon recipes to try? Here are a few of my faves…
Cook the salmon. Meanwhile, heat the oven to 375°F. Place the salmon filets skin-side-down on a small baking sheet and brush the tops and sides of the filets evenly with olive oil. In a small bowl, whisk together the chili powder, garlic powder, cumin and salt, then sprinkle the mixture evenly on top of the salmon filets. Bake for 10 minutes, or until the thickest part of the salmon measures either 125°F (for medium doneness) or 135°F (for medium-well). Remove baking sheet from the oven and immediately transfer the salmon filets to your serving plates.
Prepare the esquites. While the salmon cooks, heat the butter in a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat until melted. Add the corn and sauté for 5 to 7 minutes, stirring occasionally, until it begins to caramelize and char just a bit. Add the garlic and jalapeño and sauté for 2 minutes more, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and transfer the corn mixture to a large mixing bowl. Then add mayo, lime juice, cotija, cilantro, chili powder, and toss until evenly combined. Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed.
Combine. Serve the salmon over rice or quinoa, if desired. Then drizzle each salmon filet with a generous squeeze of lime juice, top with the esquites, and enjoy!
Pan-seared salmon option: If you would like to cook the salmon on the stovetop, heat 1 tablespoon oil in a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat until the oil is hot and shimmering. Add the salmon skin-side-up and cook for 4 minutes. Then flip it and cook for 3-5 more minutes until the thickest part of the salmon reaches your desired temperature (I recommend 125°F for medium doneness).
Chili powder: Please note that this recipe calls for American-style chili powder, which is actually a blend of mild spices and is not cayenne. If you are an international reader, please look for an American-style chili powder to make this recipe.
Corn options: Any whole-kernel corn will work for this recipe, so feel free to use canned corn, (thawed) frozen corn, or corn freshly carved off the cob.
Serving suggestions: I recommend cooking 2 cups of uncooked rice (which will yield about 6 cups cooked rice) if you would like to serve this dish over rice. Quinoa, farro, or cauliflower rice would also be delicious alternatives. And as mentioned above, this dish would also be delicious served with some type of beans (black beans, refried beans, drunken beans, etc).