Corn Salad with Cilantro & Caramelized Onions

By • August 4, 2011 100 Comments

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Author Notes: The good recipes get passed along from friend to friend like a game of telephone, with each cook adding their own twist until the last version is barely distinguishable from the first. This corn salad is one of those. My recipe was inspired by my friend Sandra, who brought it to a BBQ one day, where it was love at first bite. Her recipe was inspired by our friend Chris, and who knows where it truly began but it always ends with an empty bowl. Simple summer goodness. When I told Sandra she should enter the recipe in this contest, she said that I should enter my version instead, so here we are....Pass it on. - Ms. TMs. T

Food52 Review: Over the years, we've met and loved many a corn salad. The cool, sweet crunch practically screams summer, and the variations are endless. Ms. T's version includes a technique we've never seen before: first, she has you cook down red onion in balsamic vinegar and olive oil -- as the onion pieces soften into silky, purple jewels, they simultaneously create a rich, deeply flavored dressing for the rest of the salad. Once you toss this luscious mass with crisp pancetta cubes, fresh cilantro and barely cooked kernels of corn, you've got a corn salad that breaks new ground. We couldn't stop eating it, right from the bowl. - A&MThe Editors

Serves 6

  • 6 ears of fresh corn
  • 6 slices pancetta
  • 1 large red onion, peeled and diced
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
  • salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  1. Cook the corn on the cob in a large pot of boiling water for about 10 minutes. Drain hot water and plunge corn into a bowl of ice water to stop cooking. Drain corn and set aside to cool completely.
  2. Dice pancetta and cook in a heavy skillet over medium heat until brown and crispy. Use a slotted spoon to transfer pancetta to a plate lined with paper towels. Set aside.
  3. Pour off most of the pancetta fat from skillet, leaving a little goodness left in the pan for cooking your onions. Add oil, onions, vinegar, sugar, and dash of salt to pan, and cook over medium-low heat. Cook for about 20-25 minutes, stirring frequently until onions are caramelized and most of the liquid has evaporated. Remove pan from heat and set aside.
  4. Cut corn kernels off of the cobs and place in a large bowl. Add onion mixture and cilantro and stir to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper and if it seems dry, add a little more olive oil.
  5. If you’re making this ahead of time, cover and put it in the fridge. Take salad out about 3o minutes before serving to take chill off. Stir in ccrispy pancetta just before serving.

More Great Recipes: Corn Salad|Pork|Vegetables|Salads|Corn

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Comments (100) Questions (8)


9 months ago tjm

This is a great recipe. I used Trader Joe's frozen corn and substituted bacon instead of Pancetta. Served it with Fish Salpicon by Merrill Stubbs. Everyone loved it! Thank you for this recipe.


over 1 year ago Mulzee

Corn season just started here in Australia and this was the first recipe I made. So simple to make and delicious to eat! Thank you!


almost 2 years ago LeeLeeBee

It's almost summer Down Under and I can't wait to start making this recipe again.


about 2 years ago teemee

Every time I make this, there isn't a drop left. Thank you so much for posting this recipe, we absolutely love it!


about 2 years ago Ms. T

Thanks for the kind words--so glad you like it!


almost 4 years ago mward

This is such a great way to have corn...


almost 4 years ago DAVILCHICK

I was in a rush so I cheated and bought Trader Joe's frozen. Totally yum and easy. Thanks Ms. T!


almost 4 years ago Ms. T

Thanks--glad you liked it! And good to know that frozen corn is an option--several people have asked about that.


almost 4 years ago SEW



about 4 years ago java&foam

amanda and merrill were right about this one, i totally found myself sneaking bites of it in the kitchen before i took it out to my guests. its addictive and you cannot stop. thanks for sharing this great idea Ms. T!


about 4 years ago adorrain

Are you kidding me??? This is amazing. Absolutely amazing. Thank you for this perfect August-in-the-midwest recipe. I can't wait to bring this to a potluck and be the star.


about 4 years ago Ms. T

Ha, this made me laugh. No joke. Glad you liked it :)


about 4 years ago deanna1001

YES!!!! This was divine.


about 4 years ago mzmecz

My husband loves corn but I do not. The caramelized onions were the ingredient that drew me in. Happily, very happily, we were both delighted with the result and will prepare this dish all summer long.

Thanks for a lovely contribution to harmonious living at our house.


about 4 years ago ttfn300

Made this last week (with some slight variations) for a BBQ and it was a hit!


about 4 years ago Ms. T

Glad it was a hit. What your variations? I love to hear about those.


about 4 years ago Bevi

I made this for dinner last night. It was wonderful! I cut the recipe by one third because I had 4 ears of corn. It was addictive, a great combination of flavors, and the crisp pancetta
was the star of the dish. I think this combination could be made with either raw corn or grilled corn as well.


about 4 years ago Bevi

And I just made another batch for a neighbor who has the "cilantro tastes like soap" gene, so I made a substitution of parsley for her. It was good - I prefer using cilantro - but at least makes this recipe accessible to the "no cilantro" crowd.


about 4 years ago Ms. T

Glad you enjoyed it! My friend Sandra--whose recipe inspired my version--makes it with grilled corn, and our friend Chris--whose recipe inspired Sandra's--makes his with raw corn, so round and round we go :)


about 4 years ago Ms. T

Ha ha, yeah, I have some anti-cilantro friends too (I love them anyway), and I have substituted basil before. Not bad, but you can't beat the cilantro!


about 4 years ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

Fresh marjoram would be perfect in this, if you don't want to use cilantro. It's corn's best friend, though many people don't realize it. Use just the tiniest amount at first, adding more to taste, especially if you're picking your marjoram leaves off of a plant that's been in full sunlight/heat all day; the flavor of raw marjoram can be intense, especially under those circumstances. I was planning on making this tonight, and have just decided to try it this way! ;o)


about 4 years ago Bevi

Majoram - thanks for the tip, AJ!


about 4 years ago Rust Queen

Made this tonight and we love it. Think it could also be good with a finely chopped Serrano pepper mixed in


about 4 years ago Ms. T

Mmm, that sounds like a nice way to add a little heat. That would probably be good with grilled corn to take it in a Southwestern direction.


about 2 years ago ktcita

As well as the chill, a little preserved lemon is delicious. It was an accidental combination when I mixed this salad with the Moroccan Carrot Salad with Harissa (also on Food 52) which has harissa paste and preserved lemon. Btw. I love this corn salad. Thanks Ms T.


about 4 years ago Ms. T

Thanks for the feedback--I'm so glad to hear that people are trying, enjoying, adding new twists and passing it on :)

@ yasminny: duck bacon sounds like a fantastic substitution! Where do you get duck bacon, I'd like to try that.

@ Lori Hahn: oooh, arugala and cherry tomatoes sound like a great compliment.


about 4 years ago yasminny

I love this recipe! I substituted duck bacon for pancetta and it worked very well. Addictive said my husband. Thanks for sharing Ms. T!


about 4 years ago jenniebites

mmmmm, the onions carmelized in olive oil AND balsamic? they are amazing. i have a large bowl in front of me right now. i will be sure to pass it on.


about 4 years ago Lori Hahn

Yes, this is a winner! Made it for dinner last night and served it over arugula with some sun gold cherry tomatoes!


about 4 years ago isabelita

Yummm! Cannot wait to try this dish. Caramelized onions and cilantro, delicious.


about 4 years ago Mary McKnight

Just made this for supper -- so easy, and wonderfully delicious! This is definitely going to be making a reappearance on our table!