(Note: this post was originally published on May 26, 2019. It has since been updated with new photos and a few tweaks).
A Grilled Corn Salad for Summer
Meet your new best friend for summer BBQs and picnics: this colorful salad with succulent grilled corn and red onions, sweet strawberries, creamy avocado, fresh cilantro, and a zippy toasted cumin and lime dressing. I've been making this summer corn salad for years because it's easy, make-ahead friendly, and a total crowd pleaser.
This salad has all of my favorite summer ingredients combined with a Mexican-inspired flavor profile. Corn and strawberries both scream summer, and grilling the corn gives it such lovely flavor. Grilled red onions make it feel perfectly suited to a BBQ, and avocado provides lovely richness. Simply put, this pretty strawberry salad is my greatest summer love.
Grilled Corn Salad Variations
Especially in a potluck setting where everyone builds their own plates, having a versatile dish is really important. This summer corn salad is hearty enough to star as a main dish for those who don't eat meat. It can act as a salsa and be scooped up with chips. It can happily sit alongside or on top of a burger. It can be a side dish next to grilled fare. Basically, it can be different things to different people.
This salad is easily adaptable, so feel free to change it up to suit your own needs. If you want to make it heartier, mix in some cooked farro or quinoa and/or add some grilled tofu on top. Feel free to use romaine instead of baby kale, peaches instead of strawberries, or fresh mint instead of cilantro. If you want to create some additional decadence, add some feta (or vegan feta, or cotija) on top; see the photo directly below for this version.
If you want to prepare this summery strawberry salad ahead of time, you can grill the corn and onion, clean the greens and cilantro, cut the strawberries, and make the dressing a day in advance. Keep everything in the fridge in sealed containers. When you're ready to serve, just toss everything together. Make sure to add the avocado just before serving so that it doesn't brown, and keep the pepitas off until the end so they don't get soggy.
Homemade Salad Dressing
I'm a huge believer in the beauty of a unique, customized, homemade salad dressing to match every salad. It's fresher and better for you than anything from the store, and you can tailor it to match the other flavors you're working with and the overall feeling you want the salad to have. Make sure to check out my Healthy, Whole Food, Plant Based Salad Dressing Guide for lots of ideas. But for the purposes of this strawberry salad post, we're focusing on one very special salad dressing that's toasty, fragrant, zippy, and a touch sweet.
Toasted Cumin Lime Dressing
The dressing for this summer corn salad is a bit unique and I'm excited for you to try it. You'll lightly toast some whole cumin seeds in olive oil, then combine the cumin seeds and the infused oil with lime zest, lime juice, honey (or agave), and salt. Toasting the cumin seeds only takes a couple extra minutes and yields the most wonderful, complex flavors that compliment the sweetness in this strawberry salad perfectly. But if you're really crunched for time, you could omit the cumin entirely and just make a dressing from olive oil, lime juice, and honey. Or, add a bit of freshly-grated ginger instead, it's wonderful and faster than toasting the cumin seeds.
Ingredients and Substitutions
Here's what you'll need for this strawberry salad recipe, as well as some thoughts, tips, and possible substitutions. If you make any substitutions, I'd love to hear about it in the comments section below.
Corn. In season, it's wonderful to grill full cobs and cut the kernels off. Out of season, I usually grill frozen corn on my indoor grill pan. For maximum ease, Trader Joe's sells frozen corn that's already grilled; using the TJ's shortcut makes this summer corn salad such a breeze to prepare.
Fresh cilantro. Fresh mint is also lovely, or use a combination of the two.
Greens. I've shown baby kale here because it's so pretty, but chopped romaine would work fine too.
Roasted salted pepitas
Olive oil. You'll use the oil to toast the cumin seeds. Choose something with a subtle flavor so that it doesn't overpower the rest of the dressing ingredients. Avocado oil would work too.
Whole cumin seeds. A total flavor powerhouse! They need to be toasted though; I don't suggest trying to use them raw. See the section above for suggestions if you can't find them or don't want to use them.
Honey. For a fully vegan version of this grilled corn salad, agave would be the best substitute since it has a subtle flavor and is a natural pairing with lime and avocado.
Isn't this such a great salad for a summer get-together? I love that it's so versatile and flexible based on how you're serving it and what flavors you want to create. I also love the colors of this grilled corn salad; it's so vibrant with the red strawberries, yellow corn, green kale, and purple onion. Everything about this salad makes me think about warm summer evenings and parties on the deck.
Even though this is a simple combination of ingredients, something about it is just so special. The juicy berries, hearty corn, creamy avocado, and crunchy pepitas really bring out the best in one another. I'll be serving this summer corn salad on the deck all season long and I hope you will too!
It makes me so happy to hear from you and see your creations! Please leave a comment below and let me know what you think about this recipe. If you post a photo on Instagram, hashtag #TheRogueBrusselSprout and tag me (@TheRogueBrusselSprout) in the post text so that I'm sure to see it.
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Remove the husks from the corn and cut the onion into rounds.
Grill the corn and onion until tender and delicately charred. Then, put them in a sealed container in the fridge and let them cool completely.
To make the dressing, heat the olive oil over medium heat in a skillet. Add the cumin seeds and toast them for a couple minutes until they smell fragrant and just barely start to brown. Immediately transfer the seeds and oil to a large mixing bowl so that the seeds stop cooking, then allow the oil to cool completely.
To the cumin oil, add the lime zest, lime juice, honey (or agave), and salt. Mix well.
Cut the kernels from the corn and dice the onion, then add both into the bowl with the dressing and mix well.
Add the more delicate ingredients (strawberries, avocado, finely chopped cilantro) and mix gently.
Add a bed of baby kale to a serving platter, then plate the rest of the salad on top of the greens. Garnish with roasted salted pepitas.