blackened corn salad with ancho chile and lime


It’s a beautiful spring day today, gently warm and dappled with colour. The breeze drifts softly over sun-drenched trees, heady with sweet rose and eucalyptus. Bird calls are echoing outside my window, intermingled with the urban hum of tyres against blackened tar. I love days like this. The argent hues of spring bring the promise of summer; days at the beach, floaty sundresses, balmy evenings in the garden eating ice cream with sticky fingers.


As a diasporic Australian, I’ve always had strong associations with summer. The crackle of scorched grass underfoot, frozen spearmint milk, iceberg lettuce and the whir of an oscillating fan; all of these images mean ‘summer’ to my mind.

As I’ve grown older, Mexican food has also become one of my summer associations. It’s something to do with the colour, textures, spice and one-handed portability; perfect for nights by the pool drinking ice-cold Sol with lemon.

bowl avo

Though I’ve always been a fan of crisp quesadillas, guacamole and cheesy tacos, it’s only been over the past three years that I’ve discovered the delicious freshness of ‘real’ Mexican food such as spiced tamales, mole poblano and lime-drenched elotes or ‘seasoned corn on the cob’.

My first bite of fresh, blackened corn slathered in Mexican cream, crumbled cotija, chilli flakes, lime and garlic was heavenly. I’ve been eating it in various forms ever since.

husks jalapenos

One of my favourite ways of eating Mexican corn is in salad form, namely esquites or ‘Mexican street corn salad’. It contains all of the main ingredients of elotes but removes the need to gnaw at a sticky corn cob (less cheese on face and more in mouth is a win, in my opinion).

As the months have passed, my version of esquites has evolved to contain more herbs and less sticky, cheesy ingredients. Of course, the cotija remains, but the mayonnaise and Mexican cream have been replaced with creamy avocado and fruity olive oil.

cherrytoms cherrytoms2

The end result is a light, fresh corn salad that retains its lime-drenched goodness within a less cloying package. The fresh corn, colourful peppers, soft herbs and creamy avocado pay homage to my Mexican Corn Salad of one year ago whilst being ‘amped up’ by pickled jalapenos, powdered ancho chile and black pepper.

I’ve piled this corn salad into a soft tortilla with grilled fish and sour cream for an easy hand-held dinner. It’s also been a regular on the barbecue rotation alongside grilled asado, chimichurri and creamy potato salad. But in the late afternoons when I’m sitting alone in my kitchen, I just eat it from the bowl with a spoon. It’s that good.


Blackened Corn Salad with Ancho Chile and Lime

Serves 6-8 as a side dish

  • 4 ears corn, freshly washed and husked
  • 1/2 medium green pepper
  • 1/2 medium red pepper
  • 2 whole avocadoes
  • 5 spring onions, finely sliced
  • 200g mixed cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • a handful of mint*, washed and chopped finely
  • a handful of coriander*, washed and chopped finely
  • 2 limes, zest and juice
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tsp ancho chile powder
  • 2 tsp pickled jalapenos, drained and finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup grated cotija, crumbled feta or Parmesan cheese
  • sea salt
  • cracked black pepper

*you will need equivalent of 1/4 cup chopped herbs, mix and match as desired

Using a pair of heat-proof tongs, carefully rotate your corn cobs over a naked flame (gas cook top or portable gas hob) until hot and slightly blackened. When cool enough to handle, hold each cob over a medium-sized bowl and use a sharp knife to remove the kernels.

corncook cuttingkernels

Whist still warm, add in the juice and zest of one lime, salt and pepper, the ancho chile powder and a good slug of olive oil. Mix well and set aside.

peppersplit veg

De-seed your halved peppers and chop each into a rough dice (about 1x1cm). Peel your avocadoes and remove the stones. Cut each into a similar size dice to the peppers, then squeeze over the remaining lime juice to prevent browning. Add the peppers and avocado to the corn mix with the rest of the ingredients. Mix well, taste and season as necessary.

fin mixed

This salad is perfect in burritos or tacos, served alongside fish or chicken. It’s also great as part of a barbecue spread, accompanied by good bread, guacamole, chipotle sauce and copious amounts of char-grilled meat.

haute clup peppers

82 responses

    • Hey Matt, thanks so much for the kind words (and for introducing yourself, love your blog!). Mexican food is so awesome in summer… something about the colour, texture and spice when the sun is shining. Eating tacos with a cold Corona in my other hand is a version of summer bliss! Hope you like the salad. I saw from your recent salad post that we have the same ideas about interesting salads. Vegies are no longer the dull accompaniment!

      • I think you have just described the perfect summers day, Mexican, cold corona’s and the delightful Perth sun. I’ll let you know when I’m enjoying your salad with said corona :)

      • You’d better, I might just come join you (Perth food bloggers unite… I am quite excited to finally meet some likeminded Perth blogging kin in a couple of weeks!)

      • Tonight’s the night I make this! The weather is perfect for mexican food and cold beers, I’ll let you know how it turned out next week if we bump into each other at EDB13 :)

      • It’s freaking hot today isn’t it?! I’ve just gotten home myself, bought steaks as I can’t be bothered making anything more complex! Hope it turns out well for you… and yep, I’ll look out for you at the conference. Well, I’ll try… hopefully we have name badges or something!

    • It sure was, although I had the day off, so I managed to stay cool. Theres nothing wrong with a good steak :) I had steak tacos and your salad and the salad was a winner! so thank you for making my meal more enjoyable! :) Name badges sounds like a must!

    • Sorry for the delayed reply Whit. Hm, ancho chiles are the dried version of poblano. Not sure why they have different names (I probably should’ve noted that in the post) but the flavour is earthy, a little bit smoky, relatively mild in terms of heat. I love both dried chipotles and anchos but the latter is more tolerable for crowd heat tolerance, haha. Come over and you can taste some! x

    • Thank you Dolly! Yep, I’m absolutely loving it. I wore a t-shirt for half of the day today and a light jumper for the rest. Can’t wait for summer nights :) Hope that you are well lovely! xx

  1. i lived in mexico for 6 months, and i miss the elotes/quesadillas/mole every time i go to a mexican restaurant (they just don’t taste the same in minneapolis). this corn looks amazing, but i have one of those stoves without an open flame… think it would still be possible to get the flavor another way? or just as good without the roasted bits?

    • I’ve never been to Mexico but I can imagine how much better the food would’ve been over there. For a long time, we could only purchase very Westernized Mexican food here in Australia but the culture is gradually changing, mostly due to migration. There are a couple of awesome Mexican restaurants here now but they’re ridiculously expensive (I bet it’s about 5% of the price to buy it off the street in Mexico!). Re the open flame, it’s not entirely necessary. You can get a good result with a pan, just cut the kernels off the cob PRIOR to cooking. When I tried this method, I heated a pan on high with a splash of oil and then scorched the cut kernels in the pan for a bit of blackening and extra flavour. I then mixed in the other ingredients and it was almost as good :) Hope that works for you! xx

  2. Wonderful colours and flavours – herbs, avocado, chilli and the best way to eat corn…simply delicious! I have a very similar feeling about Summer and I laughed out loud with the mention of iceberg lettuce – cheese, tomatoes (from the garden) and lettuce in huge, crusty bread rolls it was for me after a day at the beach. Thanks sweet girl for always bringing a smile to my face :) big hugs back at you! x

    • Hello! Thanks so much for the comment. I wanted to portray the happy, colourful element of Mexican food in the dish and I’m glad that translated ok in photo form! It was lots of fun to photograph :)

  3. Hey Laura, I’m loving the idea of the mint in the salad! I’ve never had Mexican food with that flavour and the whole dish just sounds awesome. (I also totally agree with you about more food in mouth and less on face!).

    • Hey Jon! Thanks so much! Haha, yep I am a little bit of a fusion cook. I’ve never been to Mexico so I haven’t got the complete knowledge of their authentic methods but I’m learning as I go along. There are a few better Mexican restaurants here in Perth now (other than the crappy grated cheese, ground beef and iceberg lettuce tacos that we got during my childhood) and it’s always a treat to go and experience new things. Fresh Mexican food is pretty mind blowingly delicious. So different to burrito kits from the supermarket! ;)

    • Thanks so much Anna. I am so excited about summer… not too long to go now! Hope that the weather is treating you ok where you are? I appreciate your kind words about the pictures. They were so much fun to take, I love colours xx

  4. What a tactile post, I kept wanting to reach out and touch and taste. You guys are greeting spring and we have grumpy papa winter to look forward to. I’m jealous! … but back to the point: beautiful post and recipe Laura!

    • Aw, I’ll be complaining when Christmas rolls around!! I hate hot Christmases, I’d rather be in the icy cold Northern hemisphere! Thanks for the kind words Azita. I’m equally looking forward to reading your Persian winter recipes. I bought some dried limes the other day for one of your dishes. Cannot wait to try them! xx

      • Oh, I hadn’t thought about that. Yeah, it’s disorienting to think of Christmas season in the middle of summer. And oooh, so cool re dried limes. How exciting. Can’t wait to see what you’re going to do with them. I was planning on doing a post entirely about this ingredient … but stuff keep interrupting plans. You know, you could always just puncture one or two with a fork and throw it in a soup, it will give the soup a nice nutty tangy flavor.

      • I haven’t quite decided what to do with them yet. I liked your khoresh ‘eh karafs recipe, I’ve been drooling about it ever since I read it… maybe I’ll make that with Persian rice? I love the idea of throwing one into a soup also, so delicious and so easy! x

  5. Beautiful salad and post. This will have to wait until next year, alas, winter is going to be here soon and no fresh corn. Corn and tomatoes are my favorite thing about summer here. I love the flavors, it just jumps out at you it’s so robust.

    • Aw, sorry to hear that corn disappears during winter Suzanne! Grrr, that’s a pain! We still get corn here in winter but it’s never as nice as the spring/summer harvest. I guess that’s one good thing about mild Australian winters. I love tomatoes too. Hope that you manage to find enough deliciousness during winter. I love robust winter food… mmm, potatoes and slow-roasts! xx

  6. Wow, Laura! This looks so tempting (especially the picture with the blackened corn upon on the flame) and the combination of ingredients sound so refreshing that you will make me a corn fan (which I have not been so far) :-). It can be cooked on a normal gas oven’s flame? Have to try that!

    • Thanks Claudia! Aw, you don’t like corn? I guess that’s fair enough. I do like it blackened though, the smokiness is so delicious against the sweet tomatoes and mellow avocado. Re the flame, yes I just cooked mine upon the gas burner on my gas cook top. You can probably cook it against the gas oven flame if you use long-handled tongs. Alternately, just cut the kernels off the cobs and blacken them against a very hot pan with a splash of oil. Works well in absence of an open flame! xx

  7. Blackened corn is a great ingredient, Laura, and your salad sounds like a delicious dish. I enjoyed reading of its evolution and think your substitutions were a great idea. I, also, enjoyed the photography. Your photos were well-shot and made this post a pleasure to read.

    • Thanks so much John. It was definitely delicious. I had a lot of fun photographing this post, it had a bit more colour than most of my other posts have had recently. Yay for salad weather!

  8. Oh this salad looks beautiful, Laura! And you totally cracked me up when you mentioned “less cheese on the face”, when I was little that was inevitable when eating this type of corn. Anyway, I’m totally in love with this version and your use of avocado is brilliant!

    • Hello lovely Ruby. Haha, yep… it’s so difficult not to get cheese on the face when eating elote! Terribly messy but worth it for the deliciousness! So glad that you liked the recipe, that means a lot (as I consider you to be something of an expert on the topic of Mexican food!). Hugs xx

  9. elote is my favourite!! this looks absolutely delicious, we will definitely have to give it a try. also what on earth is spearmint milk?? it sounds heavenly, I’ll have to search for it when I move to Melbourne next month! x

  10. elote is my favourite!! this looks absolutely delicious, we will definitely have to give it a try. also what on earth is spearmint milk?? it sounds heavenly, I’ll have to search for it when I move to Melbourne next month! x

    p.s. tapatío > cholula! :)

    • Thanks so much Priya! Aaaah, moving to Melbourne next month? Exciting (Perth trip on the horizon?!). Haha, spearmint milk was a Masters Dairy drink when we were tiny kids. It was sold in the same line as the chocolate milk, strawberry milk and mochas etc… it was just like drinking a spearmint milkshake, pre-prepared. So yummy! Hope that you manage to track one down xx

    • Thanks Holly, you’re lovely. Argh, it is indeed funny to be on other sides of the globe. I’ll be wishing for London when Christmas rolls around though. It’s not the same in the heat of Australia, sitting outside with beer and barbecued prawns! Glad that you enjoyed the story. Stay warm and dry beautiful!! xx

  11. This is such a nice dish! I often grill corn, and serve it with lime and cotija. And have tossed leftovers together with other things for a salad the next day. I don’t think I’ve made one as nice as this, though. Really excellent – thanks so much.

  12. Laura, once again … you have hit the mark, just so inviting – and fresh look. No more fresh corn over here .. but I’m sure I can work around it. So this now being bookmarked Tomorrow will I post … my adventure with you asparagus dish with soft-poached egg.

  13. Laura – this is such a gorgeous salad and it feels right at home here near the Mexican border! Your open paragraph was so beautifully lyrical, and I love that you used ‘argent’ as a descriptor. It is almost never used in American English and I miss it!

    • Thanks David! I love that you noticed my descriptor. Language is so beautifully rich and poetic to me, I try to make sure that I keep using words in the corners of my vocabulary so I don’t forget them! I appreciate your encouraging words about the salad too. I’ve never been to Mexico but I’d love to go one day. Sounds like your home has the best of both worlds :)

    • The colours did most of the work, didn’t they? Such a pretty myriad of colours and textures. This is one of my favourite salads. I do hope that it’ll become a favourite of yours too! x

  14. Pingback: Pork Carnitas with Lime and Chilli Guacamole « Laura's Mess

  15. Pingback: Easy Recipes for Cookout Side Dishes - HWP Insurance

  16. Pingback: And so this is (almost) Christmas « Laura's Mess

  17. Pingback: Picnics and Caramelised Onion Foccacia « Laura's Mess

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Cashew Kitchen

vibrant food. quiet soul. wild at heart.

Brooklyn Homemaker

modern classic recipes, story telling, and a little bit of history. Oh yeah, and schnauzers.

better than a bought one

as homemade should be

My Sweet Precision

Where flour, butter, and sugar collide

The Veggy Side Of Me

Deliciousy Green...

%d bloggers like this: