Watermelon salads are so refreshing in the summer. I love the classic watermelon and feta salad, but I’ve been looking to develop a vegan watermelon salad. I love the combination of corn, chili, and lime — a flavor profile typical of Indian or Mexican cuisine, and I thought it’d go really well with sweet watermelon. Herbs brighten the dish, and corn nuts add a salty, crunch.
What are corn nuts?
Corn nuts are made from whole corn kernels that are soaked in water, then roasted or deep-fried. They are available in South American grocery stores (and larger grocery chains like Whole Foods). Native Americans used to make parched corn, a similar roasted corn kernel product. Corn nut varieties are also found in countries like Mexico, Peru (called cancha), and Ecuador.
How do we make this dish?
The dish comes together really quickly. You’ll just need to grill some corn until it chars slightly, let it cool, then add to chunks of watermelon and toss with a chili lime dressing. Mix in herbs and garnish with corn nuts and you’re done.
What substitutions can I make?
Herbs: The combination of cilantro and scallion adds a really nice, savory tinge to the dish, but mint or parsley would also be nice.
Corn nuts: While the flavor profile might change slightly, cashews or peanuts would be great in this salad too.
Recipe: Spiced Watermelon And Charred Corn Salad
- 1 ear of corn (husked)
- 1/2 tbsp avocado oil or neutral oil (plus more for coating the corn)
- Juice and zest of 1 lime
- 1/4 tsp chili powder (use less if you are sensitive to heat)
- 1/2 cup finely chopped herbs (I used cilantro and scallion, though you can use whatever herbs you have at home)
- Salt and pepper
- 1 lb watermelon (cut into bite-sized chunks)
- 1/4 cup corn nuts (optional)
- First, prepare the corn. Heat a grill pan or saute pan (cast-iron works great) on medium-high heat. Brush the corn lightly with neutral oil, then add to the pan and cook for about 10 minutes, rotating occasionally, until corn is fully cooked and charred on multiple sides. Let cool, then cut the kernels off the cobs and place into a medium serving bowl.
- Next, make the dressing. In a small jar with a lid (or small bowl), mix together the 1/2 tablespoon of avocado oil, juice and zest of 1 lime, chili powder, and herbs. If using a jar with a lid, you can shake to combine. Season the dressing with salt and pepper. The dressing should taste slightly spicier, more acidic, and saltier than you’d like since it’ll mellow out when tossed with the salad ingredients.
- Toss the salad. Add the watermelon and dressing to the bowl with the corn and mix to combine. Season again as needed.
- Prepare the corn nut garnish. If using corn nuts, place them in a plastic zip-loc bag and seal shut. Then crush them with the bottom of the small jar, a rolling pin, or a can. You’re looking for pea-sized pieces (nothing smaller) for just a bit of crunch. Once crushed, sprinkle the corn nuts on top of the salad.
- Serve immediately or place in the fridge for up to 30 minutes then serve.