Summer Corn Salad Recipe

A crunchy, sweet no-cook summer corn salad. The salad is a breeze, has a ton of toasted pepitas & sunflower seeds, tossed with a brown sugar lemonade vinaigrette.

Summer Corn Salad

Summer is corn salad season. And this is a good one. I lugged a big sack of corn home from the market the other day thinking I would throw together a picnic salad to take on a hike out to the coast. Raw corn kernels with a vinaigrette I've been hooked on bit lately. If you can imagine a lemonade vinaigrette made with a bit of brown sugar, you'd be in the ballpark. Beyond that, the salad gets a ton of toasted seeds for crunch, and a generous showering of Mexican oregano to bring things back to Earth. The hike fell through, and we ended up eating the salad at home instead of overlooking the Pacific. The concession? A short walk to the Dahlia garden in Golden Gate Park, which is in bloom right now.

Summer Corn Salad Recipe

I went a bit over-board with the dahlia pictures here. I can't help it. It happens every time I stop by with a camera in tow. This garden sits to the right of the Conservatory of Flowers in Golden Gate Park. A little pocket of color, easy to miss from the road. Just about this time each year the flowers explode into an incredible range of blooms. The dahlias have fanciful names like: eden lemonade, skip-to-my-lou, clouds & rain, weston pirate, and bel fiore.

Summer Corn Salad Recipe

On this particular visit I chatted with one of the gardeners. She told me about the annual sale, and the Dahlia Society of California. She was friendly, and had a meticulous pencil-drawn chart of the garden.

I'm convinced this is one of the happiest place in San Francisco this time of year. It's hard not to be charmed by these giant candy-colored pom-poms. People smile, they chat with each other, they pepper the gardeners with questions. One of my favorite classes in college was about urban planning. One of the theories we talked about was triangulation - the idea that a good public space has something for people to look at or experience together. Strangers end up talking to each other, congregating, sitting around. A shared experience. I see this dynamic at the dahlia garden, and it's part of what I love about visiting the space.

Summer Corn Salad Recipe

I hope you enjoy the corn salad if you try it. It's a breeze to throw together, and it travels well in an over-sized jar. You can toss the corn and shallots ahead of time, just leave enough room to throw the seeds and oregano in just before serving/eating. -h

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Summer Corn Salad

Save the corn cobs if you like - you can simmer them for a while to make a quick corn stock. I did this for a corn soup recently - turns out great. Also, if Mexican oregano is hard for you to come by, you can substitute fresh oregano, or chives, or whatever herbs you like, really. Mexican oregano is unique, potently fragrant, and zesty and earthy all at once - I have a fondness for it with corn, and with mushrooms as well.

6 ears of corn
1 large shallot, minced

1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
v. scant 1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
2 tablespoons brown sugar
3 tablespoons sunflower oil

3/4 cup / 4 oz / 115g toasted pepitas
3/4 cup / 4 oz / 115g toasted sunflower seeds
1 teaspoon Mexican oregano

Shuck the corn and use a knife to cut the kernels from the cobs. Place the kernels in a medium bowl with the shallot while you make the dressing.

Combine the lemon juice, salt, and sugar in a small bowl or jar. Gradually add the oil, whisking vigorously until the dressing comes together. Taste, and adjust with more lemon juice, salt or sugar, if needed. This dressing should be on the sweet side, not overly tangy.

Just before serving, add the seeds to the bowl of corn along with 2/3 of the dressing. Toss well, really get everything well coated. If you want more dressing, add more to taste. Crush the oregano between your palms and let it shower down on to the salad. Toss one more time and serve.

Serves 6 or more.

Prep time: 10 minutes

If you make this recipe, I'd love to see it - tag it #101cookbooks on Instagram!

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sounds wonderful! great pictures! ~Melissa

Nice! I just got SO much corn in our CSA. Working on a summer salad recipe of my own using bbq sauce in the dressing :-)

I've never thought to try corn raw, it sounds delicious - thanks! Your fantastic salads archive is keeping me inspired through a very hot NC summer. Most of our flowers are long gone :( the dahlias look beautiful.


My dad started growing dahlias after we saw them at the fair one year. Now they always remind me of him. Their variety and beauty are amazing. The salad is definitely one I want to try. I love fresh corn but we always grill it. This looks even easier for a super hot day.

Oh I love this idea- and those flowers are just gorgeous!

We have this awesome corn coming in from the town next door - Hadley Sweet Corn - and I love corn salad. I use tomatoes, cilantro, salt, and lime to season.

Looks lovely! One of my good friends has been making something similar this season with a little parmesan and bringing me some now and again. It's perfect late night snacking food in my opinion!!!

What a simple and refreshing salad! I love raw sweet corn in the summer but I've never tried it with sunflower seeds & pepitas - looking forward to making this soon!

The corn+Mexican oregano combo sounds delicious and the dahlias really are lovely. I live near an iris garden, and when the flowers all bloom at once it's glorious. Happy summer!

Is the first week of september will be a great time to be in SF? Hope to see some amazing blooms if i'm not too late! Cannot wait to be there... :-)


What would be the best substitute for the Sunflower Oil? EVOO, Grapeseed or Canola?

Kathy Ziegenmier

When we were living in Vancouver I took full advantage of the great corn you have out there. Now back in the UK it's another story. For some reason, they just don't grow and appreciate good corn here. I was never excited about corn when Theresa (a native Canadian) used to talk about it growing up in Cambridge as I did. Then I tasted it when we moved to Canada and it was a different story. Only recently you can actually come across corn that doesn't come in a tin, bu it's just not fresh generally. You'll have to post me some of that sack of yours ; )

Looks like this would be best with super fresh corn. Love the flavors and the touch of sweetness to this salad.

What a lovely little story :) I'm so intrigued by the idea of a lemonade dressing--thanks! We're picking the first of our corn this weekend, this is definitely going in the rotation :)

I love the summer when the produce is so fresh and flavorful that it is better to eat everything raw.

Heidi, this sounds so simply delicious, and I love the combination of sour, sweet and crunchy. I'm definitely going to have to pick up some corn this weekend and try it out! Thanks!

Oh good grief! I just fainted and fell out of my chair. This looks ah-may-zing. Making this as soon as I get my vision back.

I don't think you went over-board with the dahlia photos - positively stunning. The colour on the last flower takes my breath away; hard to imagine anything more spectacular than nature. Even with our most advanced technology, we can't mimic it. Thanks Heidi.

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