~ These Corn Salad Recipes showcase so many delicious ways to use one of summer’s most beloved ingredients. Quick and easy to prepare … these are absolute favorites my family enjoys, summer after summer! (With a few we adapt to make all year long, too!) ~
These Recipes Are All: • Made in 30 Minutes or Less • Make Ahead (or Have Make-Ahead Steps) • Most Are Also: • Vegan (and Vegetarian) • Gluten Free •
Ahhhhh … summer sweet corn. It’s like sunshine on a plate.
No wonder it’s probably the most iconic of all summer veggies.
Here in Ohio, it’s practically a holiday-worthy event when the local sweet corn makes its first, long-awaited appearance at the farm market.
From corn on the cob to endless casseroles, sautés and fresh corn salads, there are so many ways to prepare it. And somehow we just never get tired of it! And then … that fresh-picked, straight-from-the-farm corn is gone again, all too soon, as autumn rolls in and pumpkins and apples elbow that sunshine-y corn out of the way for another year.
Besides gloriously perfect, simple corn on the cob, my family’s go-to way to enjoy sweet corn is in quick, easy corn salad recipes.
In fact, I almost prefer corn salads over corn on the cob. Salads are just a much-less-messy way to enjoy fresh corn. No smeary butter on your cheeks or flecks of corn stuck in your teeth (never a fabulous fashion statement at picnics!).
The Very Best Corn Salad Recipes
Over the years, we’ve created quite a few favorites we look forward to making each summer (and some of them all year ’round!).
I’m excited to collect these recipes all together for you here, so you can pick the ones you’re most excited to try next, and to share at all your summer cookouts and block parties.
But I wanted to go beyond just sharing our best corn salad recipes … I also wanted to be sure you had all the tips and tricks you need to select great sweet corn, and to cook it (whether you’re making one of our salads or not).
Be sure to peek down below the recipe list, for lots of helpful tips and little hacks I’ve learned through the years!
First, though … the recipes!
Grilled Corn Salad Recipes
We love this recipe best with caramelized, grilled corn. But, authentic Mexican Street Corn is sometimes roasted or boiled, instead of being grilled. So, in a pinch, feel free to cook your corn however you choose, whether that’s on an outdoor grill, or via some tamer (rain-free!) method indoors.
Although I’ve listed this super-easy recipe under the “Grilled Corn Recipes” section, you can also quickly toss it together with fresh, raw corn. (Honestly, that’s what I usually do – it’s soooooo fast that way!) This salad is also wonderful as an appetizer salsa for dipping tortilla chips – super versatile! And, you can even make it ahead, too. With this recipe, you’ve got LOTS of options!
This ultra-simple, 4-ingredient salad perfectly showcases summer corn. The smoky-sweet grilled flavor is balanced by a nonfat dressing featuring tangy lime juice and a pleasant, tingling heat from cayenne pepper. As easy as can be, yet bursting with great flavors!
Raw Corn Salad Recipe
Did you know that you actually don’t have to cook fresh corn at all? Showcase the very best, freshest corn in this incredibly fast recipe … with absolutely no cooking needed! Sweet summer corn combines perfectly with juicy cherry tomatoes and creamy avocado. It’s so very easy but absolutely crave-worthy, too!
Corn Salads That Work with EITHER Fresh or Frozen Corn
Whether you use kernels that are fresh or frozen, corn is a must-have addition to this showstopper salad. This delicious masterpiece takes those potluck-classic layered salad recipes to whole new heights (literally!). Pile it high in a trifle bowl, and it’ll definitely be the “Oooooh … who made that?” hit of any picnic. But don’t worry – you know we’ve got shortcuts and make-ahead tips to ensure that it’s quick and simple, too!
I usually use frozen corn in this recipe, so I can make it all year ’round. But, it’s outstanding with fresh sweet corn, too – whether you choose to cook it or use it raw, straight off the cob. Regardless, the corn is a delicious part of this complex salad that’s loaded with flavor and texture from red peppers, edamame, black beans and quinoa … plus an amazing lemon-dijon soy sauce dressing. Wonderfully unique! Be prepared –because everybody will ask you for the recipe!
Ok, so now that you’re totally drooling (and trying to decide which recipe to make first) … let’s talk about those tips and tricks I promised you …
How to Choose the Best Sweet Corn (A Quick Trick)
Most people will say that the best way to ensure you choose a good ear of corn is to pull back some of the husks and take a peek inside.
You want to find firm, full kernels all the way to the tip.
But, some farmers or stores may not appreciate that approach. And, sometimes I’m just in a hurry (I’ll bet you are, too), and I don’t have the time to pull back a bunch of husks in search of the perfect ear of corn. In those situations, a quick hack is to:
1) Look for full-looking ears with fresh tassels and then …
2) Quickly feel the top of the corn (the pointy end) to see if it feels well-formed and mature inside.
You’ll find it’s surprisingly easy to feel which ears aren’t well developed, without even pulling back the husks to check.
How to Store Fresh Sweet Corn
Fresh corn is always best when it’s used right after it’s picked – before those wonderful natural sugars convert to starch.
But, storing it properly can buy you some time if you aren’t able to use the corn the same day you buy it.
Leave the Husks On
One side benefit of NOT pulling back the husks when you select your ears of corn (as I recommend above) is that you actually want those husks left on for storing your corn. That helps to keep your corn as fresh as possible and prevents it from drying out.
You know how most grocery stores now offer a convenient trashcan, right next to their fresh corn display, so you can husk your corn on the spot? Yeah … well, unless you plan to use that corn the moment you return home … avoid that handy trashcan like the plague!
Husk your beautiful, fresh corn just before you use it!
Keep It Refrigerated
Store those (husk-on!) ears very loosely in a plastic bag in the fridge.
Don’t over-crowd the corn in its bag, though. You want a bit of air to be able to circulate so moisture doesn’t make the corn moldy.
How to Cook Corn on the Cob (For Salads or for Any Other Purpose, Too)
Your options are practically endless!
And, there’s not really some magical amount of cooking time or degree of doneness you’re shooting for here. Some people prefer their corn more done than others, so there’s no “right” answer.
Wow – pretty low-pressure, huh?
Here are tips for getting it right, however you prefer to cook it up …
Corn can actually be eaten raw, straight off the cob. No cooking needed!
I have blissful memories of standing in the summer sunshine next to my grandmother, in the middle of her huge organic garden, eating a just-picked ear of sweet corn mere moments after we’d picked it.
Boiling or Steaming (In a Double-Boiler on the Stovetop)
When I was growing up, these were my mom’s go-to cooking methods.
Just a few minutes will do it.
Honestly, though, I can never be bothered to drag out pans for this anymore. Instead, I usually toss my corn in the microwave or onto the grill.
When I’m not grilling corn, I almost always microwave it.
Super quick and easy!
I just husk however many ears I need, and pile them on a microwave-safe plate. Then, I cook them for about 3-5 minutes (depending on how many ears I’m doing).
You can grill corn either with the husks still on … or off.
Grilling corn with the husks on is a bit like steaming it, right in its own little jacket. But going that route doesn’t produce the richly seared, caramelized grill marks that you get if you remove the husks first (which is what I prefer to do). Plus, when the husks are still on, you have to be extra vigilant that they don’t catch fire. (You’ll often see recipes that use the husk-on method suggesting that you soak the corn for a while first, to prevent grill flare-ups – which seems like unnecessary extra time to me).
I like to put my husked corn directly onto the grill grates, to get the full benefit of those toasty grill marks.
Grilling only takes 5-10 minutes over medium to medium-high heat (depending on how roasty-toasty you want your corn to be and how powerful your grill is). Just be sure to turn the ears occasionally so they develop nicely caramelized brown spots all over.
In the Oven
I personally never bother to fire up the oven for this, but you certainly can roast your corn in the oven, too – husked or unhusked, or even in a foil packet.
In Your Instant Pot
As my friend Kristen explains, you can even cook your corn in your Instant Pot!
Take Your Pick!
Some corn salad recipes are specifically designed to leverage a certain cooking method – such as grilling the corn for a smoky flavor.
So, I certainly recommend using the cooking method called for in each recipe, if possible (whether you’re making one of my corn salad recipes, or someone else’s).
But if a thunderstorm suddenly drenches your perfectly laid plans for a grilled corn salad, just remember that there are virtually endless ways to punt on this one – pick a different cooking method and roll with it!
How to Cut Corn Off the Cob
I’ve got two methods I use pretty much interchangeably.
#1 With a Knife
• Grab your favorite chef’s knife (this is mine).
• Stand your ear of corn upright on a cutting board, with the flat end (where it was picked from the stalk) resting on your board, and the pointy end up.
• Holding firmly at the top (above where you’ll place your knife), carefully cut down toward the board, rotating the corn cob slightly after each cut, so you cut a few rows at a time.
#2 With a “Corn Stripper”
There are also quite a few “corn stripper” tools on the market. (I like a handy one from OXO that includes a little compartment to collect most of the kernels as they’re cut away.)
Corn strippers work in basically the same way as a knife would: stand the ear up on a board and cut down, away from you.
These tools are a little less messy than the knife method, since the little compartment collects the corn kernels and helps to prevent kernels from skittering off across your kitchen.
Maybe – it depends on the specific recipe. Some of the recipes, such as the grilled corn salads and fresh corn salads simply won’t be the same at all, and you definitely want to use fresh corn there. But, other recipes (such as the Chicken Taco Salad) will work with either fresh or frozen corn. And, although you can use fresh corn in the Corn, Edamame and Quinoa Salad, that recipe is actually specifically written to use frozen corn (which makes it a terrific corn salad to make all year long).
I’d advise against it. The texture and flavor of canned corn won’t be as good as fresh or even frozen. When corn needs to be the star of a salad recipe, canned is rarely the best choice.
As I mentioned above: usually. Grilled corn salads, for example, are typically best with the caramelization a grill provides. BUT … if a thunderstorm suddenly rolls in or your grill runs out of propane (I can’t be the only one this happens to!), you can generally get at least a similar result by choosing a different cooking method. So, although the end product may not be EXACTLY the same as what the original recipe intended, you’ll generally still end up with something pretty yummy if you need to switch up the cooking method in a pinch.
I’ve got corn (carefully stored in its husks in a plastic bag, of course!) waiting for me in my fridge right this very minute. I’m so excited … a delicious Corn Salad awaits!
I hope your summer is filled with lots of garden-fresh sweet corn, too. Now you’ll know exactly how to showcase it!