Fresh corn is one of the highlights of summer. When it’s in season it’s sweet, juicy, and super affordable, so I love to take advantage! For this salad I paired fresh sweet corn with another summer staple, zucchini, and charred them both over high heat to bring a smoky grill-like flavor. This Charred Corn and Zucchini Salad is so simple and delicious, and perfectly captures the beauty of fresh summer produce. I know this is going to become my new go-to summer side dish. ☀️😎
I used a super hot 10″ cast iron skillet to char my vegetables for this salad, but you actually have a couple of options. If you have an outdoor grill and love cooking outside, you can char your vegetables over an open flame. A grill pan on your stove top will also work.
OR, if you live near a Trader Joe’s store, they have sell frozen corn that is already “fire roasted” with that nice smoky flavor, which makes for a nice short cut. You can then do the zucchini and onion in a hot pan like I did, or even roast them in the oven until caramelized on the edges.
I had actually planned to make a chipotle ranch to go with this salad, but when I tasted the salad pre-dressing I thought it was absolutely perfect as-is and adding the dressing would mask the beautifully fresh flavors of the in-season vegetables, so I left it off. The little pops of saltiness from the feta and the sweet juices from the vegetables provided all the flavor I needed.
If you’re still interested in doing a chipotle ranch, I basically just made my Homemade Ranch Dressing without the parsley and with a 1/2 tsp chipotle powder added. Lime Crema would also be really good dressing for this Charred Corn and Zucchini Salad.
How to Serve Charred Corn and Zucchini Salad
As mentioned above, I think this is like, the perfect side dish for summer. It would go great with Cilantro Lime Chicken, grilled chicken slathered with Homemade BBQ Sauce, Blackened Shrimp Tacos, or Green Chile Turkey Burgers. Or, make it part of a vegetarian platter with some Quick Seasoned Black Beans and rice, like I did in the photos below.
In addition to being served as a side dish, salads like this also work great as a taco filling or topper! You could even spoon it onto a pile of nachos!
Charred Corn and Zucchini Salad
This Charred Corn and Zucchini Salad perfectly captures the flavor of summer with fresh sweet corn, salty feta, and a smoky grill-like flavor.
- 2 Tbsp high heat oil* ($0.47)
- 3 ears fresh sweet corn ($1.20)
- 2 zucchini ($1.13)
- 1/2 red onion ($0.22)
- 2 pinches salt and pepper ($0.05)
- 1/4 cup chopped cilantro** ($0.10)
- 2 oz. feta ($0.75)
Remove the husks and silk from the corn cobs, and cut the stems off. Brush the surface of the corn with oil.
Heat a cast iron skillet or gill pan over medium heat for at least five minutes, giving it plenty of time to build up a lot of heat. Once very hot, add the corn cobs. Allow the corn to cook, turning occasionally, until the kernels have become bright in color and some have developed deep char marks. This should take about 15 minutes total.
While the corn is cooking, slice the zucchini in half lengthwise and the red onion into thick rings. Brush all sides of the zucchini and onion with oil.
When the corn is finished cooking, remove it to a cutting board to cool slightly, and add the zucchini in its place. Cook the zucchini on each side until well charred (about 10 minutes total), then remove to the cutting board. Lastly, cook the onion slices until charred on each side (about 5 minutes total).
Slice or chop the zucchini into half-rounds or quarter-rounds. Chop the onion into small pieces. Roughly chop about 1/4 cup of cilantro. Place the zucchini, onion, and cilantro in a large bow.
Stand the corn cobs on end and use a sharp knife to carefully slice down each side to remove the kernels. Place the kernels in the bowl with the zucchini, onion, and cilantro.
Season the vegetables with a couple generous pinches of salt and pepper, then toss to combine. Finally, crumble the feta over top and gently toss one more time to combine. Serve immediately or refrigerate for later. This salad can be served slightly warm or cold.
*Use a high heat oil like peanut oil, safflower oil, light olive oil (not extra virgin), or avocado oil.
**If you don’t like cilantro, sliced green onion is a good alternative for this salad.
Step by Step Photos
Remove the husks and silk from three ears of corn. Cut the stems off as well, to make it easier to stand them on end when slicing the kernels off later. Brush the surface of the corn cobs with high heat cooking oil (I’m using avocado oil).
Heat a cast iron skillet or grill pan over medium heat. Give it at least five minutes to really build up some heat before adding the corn. Once really hot, add the corn and let them cook, turning occasionally, until the kernels brighten in color and some develop a nice char (about 15 minutes). You’ll notice that the raw corn has kind of a cloudy, pastel color, but as the kernels cook they turn bright in color and almost slightly translucent. Once cooked, remove them to a cutting board to cool slightly.
While the corn is cooking, slice two zucchini in half length-wise and brush each side with oil.
Also slice 1/2 of a red onion into rings and brush with oil (I already had half an onion in my fridge that had been cut lengthwise, otherwise I would have cut them into full rings instead of half-moons).
When the corn is finished cooking and removed from the pan, do the same with the zucchini (about 10 minutes total) and then the red onion (about 5 minutes total). The goal is to char the outside, but not completely over cook the vegetables so they are limp and lifeless.
Slice the zucchini into half-rounds or quarter rounds, dice the red onion, and chop about 1/4 cup cilantro. Stand the corn cobs up on their end and use a sharp knife to carefully slice down each side to cut the kernels off. Add the corn, zucchini, red onion, and cilantro to a large bowl. Season with a couple large pinches of salt and pepper, then toss to combine.
Finally, crumble about 2 oz. feta onto the salad and gently toss once more.
The salad can be served immediately (warm) or chilled for later!
Makes a great vegetarian meal prep or burrito bowl with black beans and rice!