This spicy watermelon salad features charred corn, fresh herbs, and crushed corn nuts in a chili lime dressing. It’s so fresh and flavorful — a comforting side dish for hot weather.
Watermelon salads are so refreshing in the summer. I love the classic watermelon and feta salad, but if you know me, I always want a super bright and punchy salad.This spicy watermelon salad features a 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. Growing up, we’d always eat grilled corn rubbed with chili and lime, and this dish is inspired by that flavor profile; to me, the slight heat of the spice with the corn and watermelon is my definition of comfort in the summer!
How do we make this spicy watermelon salad?
For me, this dish really represents summer! It’s light, refreshing, and oven-free, so you’re not heating up your kitchen. You’ll chop up some watermelon and herbs, make a quick dressing with oil, chili powder, and lime, and crush some corn nuts. The only cooking involves charring the corn on the stovetop — but if you’ve got an outdoor grill, that’d be even better! Simply grill the corn until charred on all sides, then let cool completely before cutting the kernels off the cob. Once all the components are ready, toss them together and enjoy!
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.
What substitutions can I make for this spicy watermelon salad?
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.
What can I serve this salad with?
I would highly recommend serving this salad with a grilled protein, such as fish or chicken, or some tacos! And I’d definitely suggest this Mint Cardamom Lemonade as a refreshing pairing.
Recipe: Spiced Watermelon And Charred Corn Salad
- 1/2 tbsp avocado oil or neutral oil, plus more for coating the corn
- 1 ear of corn, husked
- 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. The grill pan may begin to smoke, so I recommend covering the pan with a lid. Remove the corn from the heat and let cool to room temperature, 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.
- Sprinkle corn nuts on top of salad and serve immediately. Or, if you'd like to chill the salad further, you can place it in the fridge (without the corn nuts) up to 30 minutes before serving. Just before serving, top with the corn nuts.