This sweet corn salad is the perfect summertime side dish, or you can turn it into a main course with grilled shrimp or chicken!

Close up of fork taking bite of sweet corn salad

Sweet corn salad

Corn. Corn. Corn. Corn. As I’ve mentioned in years past, I’m an Illinois native, and corn runs in my blood. I love the stuff, especially since I only have a month or two to gorge on it each year. Corn season began a couple of weeks ago in the Hudson Valley, and we’ve been eating it every weekend slathered with butter and sea salt, straight off the cob. I’ve even trained the kids in the art (read: “chore”) of shucking corn, which they happily (read: “naively”) find entertaining. While I love steamed and boiled corn, grilled corn is especially appealing right now, since it requires no stovetop action and imparts a fabulous smoky flavor.

Overhead shot of sweet corn salad on counter with glass of wine on the side

Easy corn salad recipe

Whenever we have corn with dinner I always make a few extra cobs so that I can use the kernels later in the week in dishes such as salads, tacos, polenta and/or pasta. This sweet corn salad is a great use for leftover corn, but it’s also reason enough to cook it in the first place. Sweet kernels get tossed with a slightly smoky and creamy ancho dressing, along with a few handfuls of arugula, radishes and crumbled feta or cotija cheese. The dish was inspired by Mexican street corn but feels lighter and more vibrant, with a range of textures and tastes. The corn salad is fantastic alongside grilled meats or fish, or piled over pounded chicken breasts (it’s like a Mexican take on chicken paillard). I also love it as a main course when topped with shrimp or chicken.

Close-up side view of corn salad

Creamy ancho dressing

The creamy but light dressing for this salad is a cinch to make and ties everything together. Lime juice and mayonnaise provide the base for the dressing, and get whisked with garlic, smoked paprika and ancho chile powder for flavor. If you can’t find ancho chile powder (which is simply ground ancho chilies) you can use a regular chili powder blend instead (which is a blend of ground chilies with other spices such as cumin and oregano). The dressing can be made several days ahead of time.

Overhead shot of half-eaten sweet corn salad

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Sweet Corn Salad with Creamy Ancho Dressing

This easy salad is a spectacular showcase for sweet summer corn. You'll need cooked corn kernels, which you can either steam, boil or grill (it's a great way to use up leftover corn!). If the corn is really fresh you can even use it raw. If you can’t find ancho chile powder, you can use a standard chili powder blend. Serve the salad as a side dish, or turn it into a main course by topping it with grilled shrimp or chicken. Sometimes I add avocado as well!

Course Salad
Cuisine American
Keyword corn salad, sweet corn recipes, sweet corn salad
Prep Time 15 minutes
Total Time 15 minutes
Servings 4 -6 people
Author Nicki Sizemore

Ingredients

Dressing

  • ½ teaspoon lime zest
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 1 garlic clove, grated
  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 teaspoon ancho chile powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Salad

  • 4 cups cooked corn kernels (about 4 cobs)
  • 3 handfuls baby arugula
  • 4-5 radishes, thinly sliced
  • ¼ cup coarsely chopped cilantro
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ cup crumbled feta or cotija cheese
  • 2 tablespoons toasted pumpkin seeds (optional)

Instructions

Make the dressing

  1. In a small bowl, combine the lime zest, lime juice and grated garlic clove. Whisk in the mayonnaise, ancho chile powder, smoked paprika and olive oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Assemble the salad

  1. In a large bowl, toss the corn kernels with the arugula, radishes and cilantro. Add the dressing and toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with the feta or cotija cheese and the pumpkin seeds (if using); serve it up!

Recipe Notes

Do Ahead: The dressing can be refrigerated for up to 5 days.

Tips:

  • This is a great way to use up leftover cooked corn. You could use steamed, boiled or grilled corn. If the corn is really fresh and sweet you can even use it raw! 
  • If you can’t find ancho chile powder (which is just ground ancho chilies) you can use a chili powder blend instead (which is a mix of ground chilies with other spices).