Corn Salad with Cilantro & Caramelized Onions

August 4, 2011

Test Kitchen-Approved

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
In This Recipe


  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:
Salad|Corn Salad|Corn|Onion|Pork|Vegetable|Vinegar|Cilantro|Make Ahead|Serves a Crowd|Summer|Gluten-Free

Reviews (97) Questions (8)

97 Reviews

Roy C. November 20, 2018
Just found this recipe and could not wait to try it. I had to use frozen corn and substituted for the pancetta. O.M.G.! What a delightful salad! Can hardly wait till fresh corn is plentiful again.
Megan July 9, 2016
This was so good. I used bacon because I'm cooking on an island and no access to pancetta. I added some halved cherry tomatoes as well. It was a hit! Thank you for this recipe!
tjm December 7, 2014
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.
Mulzee April 27, 2014
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!
LeeLeeBee December 2, 2013
It's almost summer Down Under and I can't wait to start making this recipe again.
teemee August 7, 2013
Every time I make this, there isn't a drop left. Thank you so much for posting this recipe, we absolutely love it!
Author Comment
Ms. T. August 8, 2013
Thanks for the kind words--so glad you like it!
mward September 19, 2011
This is such a great way to have corn...
DAVILCHICK September 17, 2011
I was in a rush so I cheated and bought Trader Joe's frozen. Totally yum and easy. Thanks Ms. T!<br />
Author Comment
Ms. T. September 18, 2011
Thanks--glad you liked it! And good to know that frozen corn is an option--several people have asked about that.
SEW September 6, 2011
java&foam August 30, 2011
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!
adorrain August 29, 2011
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.
Author Comment
Ms. T. September 3, 2011
Ha, this made me laugh. No joke. Glad you liked it :)
deanna1001 August 26, 2011
YES!!!! This was divine.
mzmecz August 26, 2011
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.<br /><br />Thanks for a lovely contribution to harmonious living at our house.
ttfn300 August 22, 2011
Made this last week (with some slight variations) for a BBQ and it was a hit!
Author Comment
Ms. T. August 22, 2011
Glad it was a hit. What your variations? I love to hear about those.
Bevi August 22, 2011
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<br />was the star of the dish. I think this combination could be made with either raw corn or grilled corn as well.
Bevi August 22, 2011
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.
Author Comment
Ms. T. August 22, 2011
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 :)
Author Comment
Ms. T. August 22, 2011
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!
AntoniaJames August 22, 2011
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)
Bevi August 22, 2011
Majoram - thanks for the tip, AJ!
Rust Q. August 22, 2011
Made this tonight and we love it. Think it could also be good with a finely chopped Serrano pepper mixed in
Author Comment
Ms. T. August 22, 2011
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.
ktcita August 23, 2013
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.
Author Comment
Ms. T. August 22, 2011
Thanks for the feedback--I'm so glad to hear that people are trying, enjoying, adding new twists and passing it on :) <br /> <br />@ yasminny: duck bacon sounds like a fantastic substitution! Where do you get duck bacon, I'd like to try that. <br /> <br />@ Lori Hahn: oooh, arugala and cherry tomatoes sound like a great compliment.
yasminny August 21, 2011
I love this recipe! I substituted duck bacon for pancetta and it worked very well. Addictive said my husband. Thanks for sharing Ms. T!
jenniebites August 21, 2011
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.
Lori H. August 21, 2011
Yes, this is a winner! Made it for dinner last night and served it over arugula with some sun gold cherry tomatoes!
isabelita August 21, 2011
Yummm! Cannot wait to try this dish. Caramelized onions and cilantro, delicious.
Mary M. August 20, 2011
Just made this for supper -- so easy, and wonderfully delicious! This is definitely going to be making a reappearance on our table!
AnnP August 17, 2011
This salad is so delicious! We tried it for dinner last night but didn't vote because we hadn't tried the other recipe (dairy restrictions) Thanks for sharing!
lorigoldsby August 17, 2011
Congrats! What a yummy salad, we enjoyed it very much!<br />
gingerroot August 17, 2011
Congratulations on the win, Ms. T! What a lovely summer salad.
Author Comment
Ms. T. August 17, 2011
Wow. I'm beyond thrilled. It has meant so much to me to get all these nice comments from wonderful cooks all over the place. Thank you all for making Food52 such a great community! <br /> <br />And thank you to my friends Chris and Sandra for the recipe inspiration. WE won! <br /> <br />Now on to cherry tomatoes :)
Midge August 17, 2011
Hurray Ms.T!
lapadia August 17, 2011
Congrats, Ms. T! A wonderful addition to Food52's Book2 :)
fiveandspice August 17, 2011
Congrats Ms. T, this is a really delicious dish!
Panfusine August 17, 2011
congratulations on the win Ms.T!<br />
Sagegreen August 17, 2011
Congrats on the win!
boulangere August 17, 2011
Oh yay for you! Perfect summer salad!
TheSpicyRD August 17, 2011
Beautiful recipe! Love the combo of corn and cilantro. Add pancetta and caramelized onions-yum!
Lizthechef August 17, 2011
Congratulations on your winning recipe - a great contest!
Author Comment
Ms. T. August 17, 2011
Thank you so much Liz. Your corn pudding was a very worthy opponent--can't wait to try it :)
fiveandspice August 16, 2011
This salad is really delicious! I was actually starting to get sick of corn in salads (horrors! I know), but this has brought me back around!
Author Comment
Ms. T. August 16, 2011
Thanks--what a nice compliment :) Best to savor the corn while you can. Before you know it, you'll be sick of butternut squash and longing for the corn days...
boulangere August 16, 2011
Good point, Ms. T
rooster August 14, 2011
lovely, I am making it tonight...three of my favorite foods-corn, carmelized onions and cilantro! BTW, I have a corn kernel remover you can have....(:
Author Comment
Ms. T. August 15, 2011
Great, let me know how it turns out for you!
SouffleBombay August 14, 2011
This sounds amazing! Good luck!
lime L. August 14, 2011
I would not have thought to make a reduction sauce with the balsamic and red onion but it sounds spot on. Bought corn and cilantro from yesterday's farmer's market. Can't wait to try this !!
Author Comment
Ms. T. August 15, 2011
Thanks Mom :)
csemsack August 13, 2011
To die for! Made this tonight, loved, loved it.
Author Comment
Ms. T. August 15, 2011
Thanks--so glad you liked it!
Lizthechef August 13, 2011
Hi, Ms. T, So sorry I missed you in the Bay Area -what a great place to live and cook! Best of luck, Liz
Author Comment
Ms. T. August 15, 2011
It is indeed a great place to live and cook :) Thanks and best of luck to you also!
Keri H. August 13, 2011
I am dying to try this recipe, Ms. T! <br />
Author Comment
Ms. T. August 15, 2011
Thanks Ker! It would be lovely with some New England seafood, al fresco by the beach :)
TheWimpyVegetarian August 12, 2011
Many congratulations, Ms. T! This looks really yummy! And I just noticed we're neighbors of a sort - I live in Mill Valley CA too!! I love having another food52er nearby!!
Author Comment
Ms. T. August 15, 2011
How cool! We should meet up at the farmer's market someday...
TheWimpyVegetarian August 15, 2011
Would love to! And I just got finished with a big event this weekend and can now RELAX!
boulangere August 16, 2011
OMG I miss the Bay Area!
Author Comment
Ms. T. August 12, 2011
Thank you so much for all the lovely comments. I'm truly touched and honored to get such wonderful feedback from the cooks whose recipes have made me drool for the last several months on Food 52! <br /> <br />BTW, does anyone know what tool they used to cut the corn off the cob in the photo slide show? I think I need one of those! I was planning to post a question on Food Pickle to see who had tips for removing the kernels without cutting them into juicy little bits. Corn pudding is lovely, but not when you are trying to make corn salad!
Author Comment
Ms. T. August 16, 2011
Thanks for the tips, cookbookchick. I just noticed the link and video on Food52--I'm a little slow like that. I will definitely have to get me one of those!
boulangere August 16, 2011
My favorite tools are a good knife, a cutting board, and this technique:
TasteFood August 12, 2011
sexyLAMBCHOPx August 11, 2011
Best of luck & congrats!
lorigoldsby August 11, 2011
Congrats on the EP, this is on the menu for lunch tomorrow so I can decide which way to vote. Good luck!
Author Comment
Ms. T. August 15, 2011
Thanks :) And I appreciate that you take your voting so seriously! <br />
anne_a August 11, 2011
Dessert's O. August 11, 2011
congrats! it looks (and im sure it tastes) wonderful!
Midge August 11, 2011
Congrats Ms. T. Sounds so delicious!
AntoniaJames August 11, 2011
My mouth is watering just thinking about those red onions caramelized in balsamic vinegar. I can easily see using that in any number of ways. Yummmmm! ;o)
Kitchen B. August 11, 2011
Yummy, yum yum. Congrats Mrs T - well done!
Waverly August 11, 2011
Sounds wonderful. Congratulations!
fiveandspice August 11, 2011
Congrats Ms. T! This looks like such a treat!
Sagegreen August 11, 2011
Congrats Ms.T on being a finalist. Your salad looks perfect!
boulangere August 11, 2011
I love corn salads, and yours is beautiful. Congratulations!
BlueKaleRoad August 11, 2011
Congratulations on being a finalist! Love the red onion in balsamic vinegar.
lapadia August 11, 2011
Congratulations on your EP and Luck to you on being a finalist, Ms. T! Such a delicious mixture of flavors :)
AntoniaJames August 11, 2011
Mmmmmm, this sounds outrageously tasty. Definitely will be trying it.Tomorrow!! Congrats. ;o)
EmilyC August 11, 2011
Congrats on being a finalist -- what a great recipe!
Bevi August 11, 2011
Congrats! I had a feeling about this one....
healthierkitchen August 11, 2011
Congrats! Sounds delicious!
gingerroot August 11, 2011
Congratulations! I had a feeling about your salad...looking forward to trying it soon.
nannydeb August 11, 2011
Congratulations! Sounds great!
Author Comment
Ms. T. August 11, 2011
Thank you so much--I'm thrilled! And special thanks to my friends Sandra and Chris, since this recipe is really inspired by theirs :)
TiggyBee August 11, 2011
I love this recipe! Congratulations!!
hardlikearmour August 11, 2011
Congrats, Ms. T! I knew this sounded awesome from the get go!
arielleclementine August 11, 2011
Congratulations! Can't wait to try your lovely salad!
Meatballs&Milkshakes August 11, 2011
Sounds delicious! I think I'll make this for a bbq next week!
gingerroot August 10, 2011
Yum! This sounds delicious.
Author Comment
Ms. T. August 10, 2011
Thanks gingerroot!
hardlikearmour August 4, 2011
This sounds seriously yummy. Wish I had a bowl right now.
Author Comment
Ms. T. August 5, 2011
Thank you! Your thai creamed corn sounds delicious too--can't go wrong with the corn and cilantro combo.