corn and black bean salad

Corn and black bean salad with chipotle dressing

29 June 2016

Clever growers have extended the seasons for most vegetables, even tomatoes, but truly fresh, sweet corn on the cob is something we still get only in the heart of summer. This time of year I want to eat it as often as I can.

I’m loving this no-wilt corn and black bean salad for Fourth of July. You can make it ahead (yay) without slaving in a hot kitchen (double yay), and it holds up for hours of happy eating (triple yay). It’s also super nutritious and delicious, and if you’re lucky enough to have some left over, it makes a perfect lunch straight out of the fridge.

For my nephew’s graduation party last weekend, I couldn’t get enough of a similar corn and black bean salad made by my friend Flo, which I dressed up with a drizzle with chipotle sauce intended for tacos. So I decided to make a corn salad of my own that would incorporate smoky chipotle directly into the dressing.

Corn salad is easy to make with leftover corn – no awkwardness of trying to cut kernels off a hot cob. But for cooking fresh, I just discovered how surprisingly good and efficient it is to steam the corn in its husk in the microwave.

cooked uncooked corn

Technically you don’t have to cook the corn for the salad – fresh sweet corn is crunchy and sweet raw too. But I tested both raw corn and fully cooked corn and came to the conclusion that lightly cooked corn works best.

corn comparison

Raw corn (rear left) is harder to shuck and to cut – the kernels pop off and fly everywhere – and the taste is starchier and not as fully sweet as cooked. Fully cooked corn (rear right) is sweet, but softer and stickier. Lightly cooked corn (front) has the crunch of raw and the sweetness of cooked, and it shucks and cuts easily.

For light cooking, a single cob at 90 seconds or three cobs together at three minutes in my powerful microwave worked (for contrast, the fully cooked cob in the photo was cooked alone for three minutes). You’ll have to test what works for your microwave. The microwave doesn’t cook evenly, so you’ll have spots that are more cooked than others; but for the salad it’s all fine.

Be sure to let the cob cool a bit before shucking so you don’t get burned by the steam inside.

lightly cooked corn

I like to tip my corn downward on the cutting board, instead of standing it straight up, so the kernels fall and bounce less (I couldn’t hold the knife and take the picture at the same time, so I’m just holding it up with the corn to illustrate). There are other tricks that may work better for you.

cutting kernels off ear

You can use any number of veggie combinations to dress up your corn and black beans. I have an orange bell pepper here, and cherry tomatoes. Cucumber would be great instead of or in addition to one of these.

Raw onions don’t agree with me, so I used sweet onions to start (red are prettier but sharper tasting) and soaked them first in cold water and then in the vinegar I was using to dress the salad. But a short cold water bath should suffice to take the edge off any raw onion.

corn salad ingredients

I added a few chives; scallions or cilantro would add both flavor and color too.

adding chives

With a non-leafy salad, I usually just pour over my dressing ingredients and mix them all in. But if you want to better control the amount of dressing, you can first whisk it in a bowl or shake it up in a jar. This is a simple mix of vinegar, olive oil, salt, pepper and smoky adobo sauce from a can of chipotle peppers in adobo. The simple vinaigrette is good too if you don’t have or can’t find chipotles in adobo.

chipotle dressing

Wait to add avocado until just before serving since it browns quickly.

avocado corn salad

I love this salad alone, or spooned over greens, or alongside summer grilling.

corn black bean salad

Celebrating freedom this July Fourth, as always, and love for our fellow Americans.

More summer recipes from the archives

Corn and Black Bean Salad with Chipotle Dressing
Fresh sweet corn makes a true summertime meal. This no-wilt salad is an ideal make-ahead dish for hot weather gatherings.


  • 5 ears corn (4-5 cups kernels)
  • 1/4-1/2 cup diced onion
  • 1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 bell pepper, any color, diced
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1 large avocado, diced (add just before serving)
  • Optional: chopped cilantro or scallions

Dressing ingredients

  • 3/4 teaspoon salt (may need more depending on your salt and the salt content of your beans)
  • 3/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 3 T extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 T red or white wine vinegar
  • 1 T sauce from a can of chipotle peppers in adobo


  1. Microwave corn in its husk until lightly cooked: in my high-powered microwave I can cook 1 ear in 90 seconds or 3 ears in 3 minutes (you can always put them back in for more time). Peek to see if kernels are hot and slightly translucent/pearly. Let cool before husking so you don’t get burned by steam.
  2. Put diced onions in a small bowl and add cold water to cover.
  3. Peel husks off corn and break off lower stem. With a sharp knife, carefully cut kernels off the cob.
  4. Add corn kernels to a large bowl, along with black beans (rinsed and drained), diced bell pepper, halved grape tomatoes and scallions (if using). Drain water from onions and add them to the bowl.
  5. Sprinkle salt and pepper over the vegetables and drizzle over olive oil, vinegar and adobo sauce from the canned chipotle peppers. Mix well and adjust seasonings to taste.
  6. Before serving, add diced avocado (and cilantro, if using) and mix gently into salad.

Serves 8-10.


  • Look for nice fat ears of corn and peel a bit of husk back to see that the kernels are well formed and tightly packed – small ears often have underdeveloped kernels that lack flavor and sweetness.
  • Feel free to use leftover corn, or steam/boil the corn on the stovetop, grill it etc.
  • Technically you don’t have to cook the corn for the salad – fresh sweet corn is crunchy and sweet raw too. Raw corn is harder to shuck and to cut – the kernels pop off and fly everywhere – and the taste is starchier and not as fully sweet as cooked. Fully cooked corn is sweet, but softer and stickier. Lightly cooked corn has the crunch of raw and the sweetness of cooked, and it shucks and cuts easily.
  • You can definitely make this salad with high-quality frozen corn as well. Use the corn straight from the bag (cooking will only make it watery), toss with other vegetables and dressing, and you’ll be good to go. The kernels defrost quickly and are ready to eat in minutes.
  • Feta or cojita cheese would be great instead of the avocado (or in addition to)
  • If you don’t have or can’t find chipotle peppers in adobo (usually available in the Mexican section of the supermarket), the dressing will also work without the added smokiness and heat of chipotle. Alternatively, you could add some dried chipotle chile powder, or smoked paprika and a bit of cayenne pepper. Or you could add oregano and cumin for additional flavor. But the salad is also perfectly great with the simple vinaigrette.
  • How to save the rest of your chipotles in adobo for later use – great to use in chili, tacos, soups, dips, sauces, etc.

Here’s the link to a printable version.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Susan DeWitt 3 July 2016 at 5:41 am

Sounds delicious! If you were to cook the ears of corn on the stove, rather than in the microwave, how long would you leave them in the boiling water?


cg 3 July 2016 at 5:56 am

hi susan – i think 2 to 3 minutes for fresh corn? you can always pull one out to sample and put it back in for more time if needed.


Lora Schutz 5 July 2016 at 8:28 pm

To keep corn from going everywhere when I cut it off the cob I take a piece of foil and ball it up and then open it up again and put that down on my cutting board. The uneven surface helps the corn from getting away, then I just dump it in my bowl after each cob.


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