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Summer in a Bowl – Grilled Corn Salsa

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The charred smoky flavors of the corn combine with the fresh flavors of the onions, tomatoes, cilantro, and lemon to make an easy and delicious side dish. Vegan

Someone trying to scoop grilled corn salsa with a chip from a white bowl

The simple recipes are one of the greatest joys of summer cookouts, whether it is just a backyard family gathering or block party. It is easy to make, low mess, low fuss, and a great way to bond over the shared cooking time.

This salsa is crunchy, sweet, tangy, fresh, and little spicy. Serve it with chips or on top of tacos enchiladas or add to the stuffing in flautas. Use the freshest ingredients you can find. It is best served fresh but can be made ahead of time and refrigerated for a day.

Use the plentiful fresh produce in summer – fresh corn, tomatoes, and cilantro. Whether you call it a salad or salsa it is a healthy and light side dish to serve. Not only is it healthy it is vegan as well. Add a cup of canned beans or grilled tofu and you can make a vegan meal out of this!

Selecting Corn

Have you ever noticed a messy pile of husks near the corn in the grocery store? Well, mine usually have and the store promptly puts up signs asking the patrons not to peel the husks or leave it on the floor for safety reasons. There is a reason why the people in the know resolve to this messy behavior – it is the best way to pick a good ear of corn.

Here are a couple of other ways to pick good corn when you don’t want to or can’t shuck them

  • Bright green husks – not dried, not brown, not faded
  • Tassels – Golden Brown and slightly sticky/wet not black or dried
  • Firm all over – Hold the ear in the palm and feel all over. A good ear will feel tight all over with plump kernels. Avoid ones with gaps as it is a sign of missing kernels.
Basic  ingredinets for grilled corn salsa displayed on a cutting board - grilled corn, red onion, lemon, green chili, tomato and cilantro

Grilling corn

There are many ways to grill the corn and it seems like all experts have their own versions. With the husk on or without the husk, on the charcoal grill or the gas grill or even over an open fire.

  • Over medium-high heat grill the corn with husk on (peel off a few leaving 3 to 4 layers covering the corn) until it is charred all over. Remove the husks and tassels and grill for another couple of minutes if you want charred color and marks or to finish cooking. It is messy, but if you are looking for a bit of flavor and plump kernels without the char marks this is the way to go.
  • Shuck the corn and lightly brush oil all over. Grill over medium heat turning often until charred all around.

Can’t grill?

This recipe works best with fresh corn. But in a pinch, you can find frozen grilled corn kernels, or sauté corn kernels in a lightly oiled pan. Not the same, but still delicious.

Grilled corn kernels, chopped tomatoes, onions, chilies and cilantro , and a slice of lemon for making the grilled corn salsa

Making the Salsa

Making this salsa is just a matter of chopping it all up and tossing it together.

Slice the corn off the cob

Snap the ear of grilled corn in half and stand it on a cutting board with the cut side down. Use a kitchen knife to slice the kernels.

Chop the tomatoes

If using regular tomatoes cut it cross wise and scoop out the seeds and pulp to avoid excess moisture. If you are substituting smaller tomatoes like cherry or grape there is no need to remove the pulp. Just halve the tomatoes and use.

Chop the chilies

A bit of spice is great in this dish and my preferred chili for this salsa is serrano, but Jalapenos or cayenne peppers work well too. Remove the seeds and ribs from the chilies to avoid any unwanted surprises. If your spice tolerance is really low consider using bell peppers instead.

Other ingredients

I like to use purple onions but you could opt for a sweeter version as well. Chop the onions and cilantro into small pieces. If you are using any other additions make sure that they chopped to the same size as the rest of the ingredients.

Optional additions

There are so many options that you can add to change the flavors slightly – here are a few suggestions

  • avocado
  • bell peppers
  • canned or cooked beans (black/kidney/pinto/garbanzo)
  • cherry tomatoes
  • pineapple
  •  tomatillos (grilled)

 the options are pretty much endless.

Putting it together

Once all the ingredients are assembled, toss it together with a dash of salt, pepper and lemon juice. Once mixed taste and adjust the seasoning per your preferences.

Serving ideas

These go great with any meat off the grill, curiously even the ‘pooh pooh salad’ people that I know seem to warm up to this salsa. Chips are another great option, whether it is tortilla chips or potato chips. Another fun way to use up any leftovers is to toss it with cooked macaroni along with a dash of spices – similar to the grilled pasta salad. I love these on tacos as well to add to enchiladas or even flautas.

In other words, you can turn it into an appetizer, snack, or part of your main dish.

Someone trying to scoop grilled corn salsa with a chip from a white bowl

Grilled Corn Salsa

By Syama
This is the freshest tasting grilled corn salsa. The charred corn kernels give it a smoky taste and the fresh crunchy vegetables provide a great contrast.
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 20 mins
Total Time 30 mins
Course Appetizer
Cuisine American
Servings 8
Calories 80 kcal


  • 4 Ears Fresh Corn
  • 1/2 C Red Onion diced
  • 2 Tomatoes (medium)
  • 1 Serrano or jalapeño pepper
  • 1 Lemon/ Lime (medium) juiced
  • 1/2 cup Cilantro, fresh chopped
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Optional (use any or all)

  • 1 Avocado Diced
  • ½ C Black beans
  • 2-3 Tomatillos grilled
  • 1 Bell Pepper


  • Preheat grill to medium-high. Grill the corn using your preferred method until charred. Cool a little and cut kernels from cobs.
  • Cut the tomatoes crosswise and remove the seeds and pulp. If substituting cherry tomatoes just halve them. Remove the seeds and ribs from the pepper and slice fine. Juice the lemon.
  • Add the corn, tomatoes, diced onions, cilantro, and any optional ingredients used into a large bowl. Sprinkle a little salt, pepper, and lemon juice on top. Toss everything together taste and adjust flavorings to your taste.
  • Let it rest for 10 minutes before serving. Refrigerate any leftovers and use them within a couple of days.


Nutrition Facts
Grilled Corn Salsa
Amount Per Serving
Calories 80 Calories from Fat 9
% Daily Value*
Fat 1g2%
Saturated Fat 0.2g1%
Sodium 14mg1%
Carbohydrates 17g6%
Fiber 3g13%
Sugar 4g4%
Protein 3g6%
Calcium 6mg1%
Iron 2mg11%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet. The nutrition values are only estimates. Actual values will vary depending on ingredients and usage.
Keyword Grilled Corn Salsa, Vegan Side Dish
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Someone trying to scoop grilled corn salsa with a chip from a white bowl - Pinterest friendly image
Grilled Corn Salsa

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