Smoked Corn Salad: A Labor Day Recipe

Smoked Corn Salad: A Labor Day Recipe

My oldest daughter remarked recently that the problem with Mexican-inspired side dishes is that everyone seems to just take a regular recipe and add corn or black beans to it. I also complained loudly when Emeril Lagasse once did a Kentucky-themed episode of his cooking show that just involved him splashing bourbon into every dish. With that said, this is a corn dish that I created for a birthday taco dinner, so I will freely admit I am a hypocrite of the first order. But this recipe still kicks ass.

The original recipe that inspired this dish called for using corn on the cob, but I have found that in most recipes it’s better to start with the canned stuff. It’s already tender enough to eat straight out of the can, while corn on the cob, if not cooked properly, can be a bit too crunchy. So I used 4 cans of yellow and white mixed sweet corn. I mixed the corn with a very small amount of canola oil to keep it from burning and then put it into a disposable 9×13 casserole dish. The key to this dish is to get a good smoke flavor into the corn. Having never smoked any vegetable before, I didn’t have any expectations going in. Now having done so, I have found that corn seems to take smoke really well and I’m already thinking about what other vegetables I want to experiment with (carrots are the front-runner).

I prefer charcoal, so once I had a hot bed of coals, I put on a generous amount of mesquite chips that had been soaked in water for 30 minutes. The casserole dish went on top and I closed the lid on the grill for about 20 minutes. When I opened it back up I expected the corn to be starting to blacken in a few spots, which was what I wanted for visual appeal. That was not the case because the canned corn seemed to have too much residual moisture. This is where using cob corn might be better because I think the dryness will cause it to blacken more. Regardless, the mesquite did the trick and the corn had absorbed plenty of smoke. I brought it into the house and my wife immediately smelled the smoke from across the house.

The corn then went into a 375 degree oven for about 30 minutes to roast more. While waiting, I made the sauce. I started with about 2/3 cup of mayonnaise and added a 7oz can of Herdez salsa verde. My hope was that the flavor of the tomatillos would really complement the smoke on the corn, but after trying the sauce, there wasn’t much flavor beyond the mayonnaise. Not wanting to water it down by adding more salsa verde, I went to the spice cabinet. I add some garlic powder and a fair amount of chile powder. This did the trick and gave the sauce just enough zing. When the corn was done I mixed them together. I added some diced pimentos for color and the dish was done.

I was extremely happy with the results here. Some things I might try next time would be less mayo and more salsa verde or to possibly add some green chiles. The smoke taste was so strong that I wouldn’t do anything to crank it up any more. The dish was well-received at the birthday party and I’m looking forward to trying it again on the next crowd. All-in-all a very easy recipe and something different than chips and salsa.

Hope everyone has a great Labor Day and enjoys the four-day workweek.



4 cans sweet corn (yellow or mixed yellow & white) drained

1 tablespoon canola oil

2/3 cup mayonnaise

7oz salsa verde

garlic powder to taste

chile powder to taste

1 small jar, diced pimentos drained



Mixed corn and canola oil and put in grill-friendly pan. Start smoke in grill, add corn and close lid for 20 minutes. After smoking, place corn in a 375 degree oven for 30 minutes. While roasting, mix mayo, salsa and seasonings. Remove corn from oven and mix sauce and pimentos with corn.

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Mike Dwyer is a writer in Louisville, KY. He writes about culture and the outdoors for Ordinary Times. He is also one of several Kentucky authors featured in the book This I Believe: Kentucky. Mike is active on Facebook and Instagram. He lives with his wife and daughters in the distant suburbs, at the place where neighborhoods give way to farms and forest.

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15 thoughts on “Smoked Corn Salad: A Labor Day Recipe

  1. Do you think either sour cream or heavy cream might do as well as the mayo?

    Your friendly neighborhood how-can-someone-be-allergic-to-mayo corn lover


      • Unfortunately it’s something to do with the commercial production process (preservative maybe?) – I am not at all allergic to homemade old-fashioned mayo and 100 percent allergic to every commercial mayo, or ranch dressing, or “creamy” any-style salad dressing that I have tried. Even if I don’t know it’s there, it will lead to Much Immediate Unpleasantness upon consumption. Only thing that seems to fix it is baking – there’s a few cake recipes that have some mayo and they seem fine – I hypothesize that whatever-it-is gets broken down during the same chemical transformation that turns flour, sugar, baking powder, and eggs into cake :).

        Good to know about the sour cream. We’ll have to try it out one of these days.


        • From Googling:

          Miracle Whip is made from water, soybean oil, high-fructose corn syrup, vinegar, modified corn starch, eggs, salt, natural flavor, mustard flour, potassium sorbate, paprika, spice, and dried garlic.

          The actual list of ingredients in Hellmann’s Real Mayonnaise are soybean oil, water, whole eggs and egg yolks, vinegar, salt, sugar, lemon juice, calcium disodium EDTA (used to protect quality), natural flavors.

          [Kraft real mayonnaise] Soybean Oil, Water, Eggs, Egg Yolks, Vinegar, Contains Less than 2% of Sugar, Salt, Lemon Juice Concentrate, Calcium Disodium EDTA as a Preservative, Dried Garlic, Dried Onions, Spice, Natural Flavor.

          The only ingredients all three have in common is soybean oil, eggs, vinegar, and salt. (Miracle whip lacks lemon juice, sugar, and calcium disodium EDTA.)

          My guess is soybean oil. The FDA doesn’t require listing it as an allergen because almost all soybean oil used in other products is highly refined and contains few allergens, but they are there, and people with soy allergies post about the mayonnaise issue.

          Healthline says “Soy, along with cow’s milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, fish, and shellfish, make up the “big eight” allergens. These are responsible for 90 percent of all food allergies, according to the Cleveland Clinic.”

          Nobody at home would make mayo with soybean oil.

          So, are you perhaps allergic to soy beans?

          If so, don’t bother with Hellmann’s Canola mayo because they add soy flavors to it. People with soy allergies tried that and it didn’t work.

          Primal kitchen avocado oil mayo might work. (Ingredients: Avocado Oil, Organic Cage-Free Eggs, Organic Egg Yolks, Organic Vinegar, Sea Salt, Rosemary Extract.)

          And there is soy-free vegenaise if you can stand an egg-less recipe.

          And there’s Wilderness family naturals mayo, made with coconut oil, olive oil, and sesame oil.

          Last year I got into mayo because I sometimes make ranch dressing with a Hidden Valley spice packet and coconut milk instead of mayo. I’ve had it come out great and I’ve had a few misses with it because it really needs a good emulsifier. Then I got the idea of dehydrated mayo to make a backpacking ranch dressing, but some giant food conglomerate already has the patent on it.

          Anyway, regarding the corn salad recipe, can I substitute something like beans for the corn? I don’t have any canned corn. I do have popcorn, which in theory would work, but the texture would be quite different. El Bulli would totally go there, though. They’ve done some very innovative things with popcorn.


          • it seems more likely, based on other allergies (and on being able to eat all the tofu and miso I want), that i’m allergic to both potassium sorbate, calcium disodium EDTA, and a few dozen other things, or to a natural chemical byproduct of the main ingredients that happens in the jar and takes a while to build up… I appreciate you pulling things apart like that though.


            • Hrm… I checked out “dangers of salad dressings” and the only allergen it mentioned was that one. “EDTA may cause allergic reactions, asthma attacks, skin rash and possible kidney damage.” Potassium sorbate, on the other hand, just seems to be toxic and mutagenic, except for people who have a potassium food allergy.

              We add a lot of anti-microbials to processed food, and my feeling is that if they kill microbes in the food, then they’re not making our good gut microbes too happy either. Westerners have unhappy flora.

              A few years ago I developed an allergy to coffee. That was devastating because coffee was most of my fluid intake. In remembrance, I rewrote an act of Hamlet into an homage to coffee.

              BTW, the weirdest allergy I’ve helped diagnose was a cold allergy. Hollywood producer Ronald D. Moore’s wife had a severe allergic reaction to something when she jumped into her swimming pool. She was trying to figure out what it was, and I said “It was the cold water.” Sure enough, out of the blue she’d become allergic to cold. Cold urticaria

              Anyway, the avocado oil mayonnaise I linked above doesn’t have any preservatives except rosemary extract. That might be just the ticket.


              • Funnily enough, I don’t actually enjoy mayo (other than the homemade stuff) since I’ve always had such an adverse reaction, but I should check out the avocado oil variant! I’m allergic to really odd stuff myself – eg American cheese, sometimes touch – but cold water is a new one on me!


  2. We’ve been getting into grilling veggies lately and have evolved a method for corn that produces good results consistently. Shuck only the leaves that are already dry, but leave the ones that are still moist. Cut off the tips to remove the silk and cut off any excess stem. Soak for about a half an hour. Put directly on the coals turning every 30 seconds or so until the leaves are pretty black. Then put them on the grill for 5 to 10 minutes, until they are tender when stabbed with a knife.

    Depending on your tastes, you might leave them in the fire longer and get more char on the kernels or just start them on the grill to begin with – although putting them right in the fire really speeds things up.

    While you’re at it, you might put a red pepper on the coals, turning until charred all over, then putting in a covered bowl until cooled and scraping off the charred skin.

    I know this is a lot less convenient than using the canned stuff, but if you have the time and inclination it’s worth it.


    • My general grilling-veggies hack (which doesn’t apply to corn, but what-the-heck-I’m-here):

      1. Cut into the size you intend to grill. (Optional: lightly salt)
      2. Start grill and let get hot, while cut veggies sit in open air
      3. When grill ready, add veggies (which have at least partially air dried) to grill, cook as normal
      4. When cooked, toss in EVOO/whatever other seasoning you want.

      That way you get the char you want, they suck up some EVOO flavor because they are dry on the outside, and you aren’t dripping away your seasonings on the grill. Works a charm for zucchini/asparagus/peppers/etc.


  3. Grilled veggies: Since I’m a wimp and hate the heat and humidity, I bake/roast. Now that it’s cooling off-just waiting for the mosquitoes to die…then be grilling.

    Regardless. Chop veggies-broccoli, carrots, zucchini, mushrooms and tomatoes and put in roasting pan. Add rack of your preferred meat. I did swordfish for the GF this weekend, but have done tandoori chicken or pork, regular pork chops with sage, etc.

    The corn dish looks good. Ever thought about combining the smoked corn with pico? That could be a tasty snack.


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