Grilled Corn Salad

This smoky, hearty grilled corn salad with cherry tomatoes, basil, onions and a creamy sesame seed dressing is not just out-of-the-world delicious, it is also free of any added oils. You can fire up the grill for this recipe, or make it in your kitchen, over the stovetop, and it’s great both as a side or a light meal. It’s also vegan, of course, and it can be nut free and soy-free.

Closeup photo of grilled corn salad with cherry tomatoes, basil and creamy sesame dressing on a white platter.

With summer beginning to slip away, I, for one, am making sure I can grab all the goodness it still has to offer. The flavor of smoky, roasted or grilled corn is one of those.

Roasted corn is a beautiful childhood summer memory for me. Each year, when ears of corn popped up in the market, my dad would bring some home, peel them and then roast them over the stovetop until the kernels crackled, burst and charred. He would then rub each cob with lemon dipped in salt and chili powder, much like street vendors in Bombay do. It was simple and yet it was delicious to an extent no words can describe.

Now, in my kitchen in the DC area, so far from my childhood home in Bombay, I roast corn cobs for my son every summer and rub them with a slice of lemon dipped in salt and cayenne. We can never get enough of this tasty treat so this year I found one more way we could enjoy our beloved roasted corn: in this amazing grilled corn salad with cherry tomatoes, basil and a creamy sesame seed dressing.

This is not just a colorful recipe with every color of the rainbow in it. It is also extremely healthy and versatile and it takes very little time to make. You can also customize it to include other veggies that can be eaten raw, and it is free of any added fats.

Closeup photo of grilled corn salad with cherry tomatoes, basil and creamy sesame dressing on a white platter.

Why you’ll love this grilled corn salad

  • It’s delicious. The grilled corn with the sweet basil, tart-sweet tomatoes and the creamy sesame seed dressing is full of flavor and freshness.
  • It’s summery. All the flavors of summer are packed in this salad.
  • It’s easy. Salads are generally easy, of course, and this one is no different. You will need to grill the corn, but that takes minutes, and there’s barely any chopping involved. The simple salad dressing comes together in a blender and takes under five minutes to make.
  • It goes with anything. Or it can be a light meal buy itself. You can serve this corn salad with just about any entree you cook up, but on days when you don’t feel like making a fuss you can serve this as a meal, especially if you add the optional tempeh.
  • It’s gorgeous, colorful and healthy. All of those colorful veggies are so, so good for you and they taste so good too.
  • It is oil-free. There are no added oils in this recipe and the only fat comes from healthy sesame seeds and cashews in the dressing.

Ingredients for grilled corn salad

  • 4 ears of corn. Remove husks and silk before grilling.
  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes. Use red or a mix of colors, as I did.
  • ½ red onion. You don’t want too much onion because it can be spicy raw, but a little bit adds amazing color and flavor.
  • ½ cup basil leaves. Leave tiny leaves whole and tear larger leaves into smaller pieces. The basil adds amazing freshness to this recipe.
  • 6 oz tempeh bacon. This is optional, but I like some healthy protein here, especially when I serve it as a light meal by itself. You can use regular unflavored tempeh as well and it would taste amazing with the dressing.

For the creamy sesame dressing

  • 1 tbsp sesame seeds. Roast them lightly on a skillet until a couple of shades darker.
  • 2 tbsp rice vinegar. This adds amazing tartness. If you have to substitute, use apple cider vinegar.
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup. I love the rich flavor of maple syrup in this dressing but you can sub sugar if necessary.
  • 2 tbsp tamari (or soy sauce). This really bumps up the flavor. If soy-free, leave out and add salt to taste or no-salt seasoning.
  • 1 tbsp raw cashews. For the lovely creaminess. If nut-free, use same quantity of pumpkin seeds.

How to grill or roast the corn

Overhead photo of grilled corn salad on a white platter with creamy sesame dressing on the side and a fork.


I don’t have a grill. Can I still make this?

You don’t need a grill to make this grilled corn salad. If you have a gas stovetop or a grill pan you can grill the corn on it just as easily. My favorite way to grill the corn, in fact, is directly over the stovetop because it’s the quickest, although the popping corn does make a small mess that you will need to clean up later. That’s how I prepped the corn this time because it was raining outside and I just didn’t feel like getting the grill fired up.

Can I use other vegetables in this corn salad?

You can definitely add other or more veggies to this salad, including bell peppers, zucchini squash, cucumbers, radishes and more. Baby spinach or arugula would be nice adds as well with the roasted corn.

More yummy vegan salad recipes

Tight closeup of a colorful grilled corn salad with tempeh bacon, cherry tomatoes, basil and creamy sesame dressing.

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