Zesty Black Bean and Corn Salad

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Have you been chosen to bring a side dish at an outdoor BBQ, but not sure what to make? Today is your lucky day!

This salad is a celebration of summer deliciousness (although it is wonderful year-round). It’s bright, vibrant, and deep in flavor. And the best thing is you can do all the prep work up to a day or two in advance, and then assemble just before serving! WIN!

A large white serving bowl filled with black bean and corn salad with two gold serving spoons tucked in beside the salad.

How To Make Black Bean and Corn Salad

There are so many things to love about this salad.

First, of course, is the taste. So fresh! But, almost just as great (almost), is how easy this salad is to put together (once you’re done prepping).

Delicious and easy!  Who could ask for anything more?


Preparing the Corn

As mentioned, all of the prep work can be done up to 1 to 2 days in advance of assembling the salad for serving.

This includes the corn. Fresh, sweet summer corn adds amazing flavor and color to this gorgeous salad.

EXPERT TIP: We think grilling the corn and then cutting the kernels from the cob is delicious and beautiful, too. Simply rub a little olive oil over 4 ears of shucked corn, and grill until lightly charred in places. Remove, and once cool enough to handle, use a large knife to cut away the kernels. In a pinch, you can use two 14 oz. frozen corn.  Thaw and cook according to package instructions (you may have more than 2¼ cups). 

A person using a chef's knife to cut grilled corn kernels from an ear of a corn.

Next, it’s time to add all the prepped veggies into a large bowl.

The combination of the following ingredients makes one of the freshest and most delicious salads we’ve ever had or served:

  • Grilled sweet corn – cut from the cob
  • Black beans (canned) – rinsed
  • Red bell pepper – seeded and chopped
  • Jalapeno – seeds and ribs removed, finely chopped
  • Red onion – finely chopped
  • Avocado – peeled, pit removed, and roughly chopped

EXPERT TIP: All of the veggies (except for the avocado) can be prepped up 2 days in advance. You can also make the dressing up to a couple of days in advance. About an hour before serving, prep the avocado, add to the other veggies and beans with the dressing, mix together, cover, and chill for about an hour…and then serve!

A glass bowl filled with a portion each of chopped avocado, red onion, corn kernels, jalapeno, red bell peppers, and black beans.

How To Dress the Salad

The wonderful vegetables and black beans need a zesty dressing to bring it all together.

We love the combination of a little sweetness from the honey with savory soy, lime juice, and cilantro.

EXPERT TIP: In order for all the components of the dressing to mix, you’ll need to emulsify them, or fully integrate them. This can easily be achieved by adding all of the dressing ingredients to a jar with a tight-fitting lid. Shake the jar vigorously for about a minute, and you’ll see the dressing has thickened and become homogenous. Don’t worry if the chopped cilantro separates and floats to the top, this is normal. Always give the dressing a good solid shake in the bottle before adding it to the salad.  This can also be achieved by whisking the ingredients in a medium-sized bowl until mixed. 

A hand holding a glass jar half filled with cilantro lime dressing.

Go ahead and pour the emulsified dressing all over the veggies and black beans.

The smell is nothing short of amazing.

And the combination of colors is truly spectacular.

A person pouring a cilantro lime dressing from a glass jar into a glass bowl filled with black beans and cut vegetables.

Tips for Making Black Bean and Corn Salad

Fresh is Best – Go with fresh vegetables. Canned black beans work just fine here, however, if you prefer, you can soak dried beans overnight, and then gently simmer them for a few hours before draining.
Adapt to Tastes – This salad has a tiny bit of zing to it, mostly from the finely chopped jalapeno. As long as you remove all of the seeds and the ribs on the interior of the pepper, you will get minimal heat. If you want no heat at all, then simply omit the peppers, or only use half. If you want more, go with 2 peppers, or leave some of the seeds in. Chopped tomatoes are a nice substitute for red bell peppers, if you desire.
Storing – This salad is really best served fresh. We don’t recommend assembling the day before serving. If serving outdoors, you may want to consider placing the salad in a bowl that sits in another bowl filled with ice. It will stay nice and fresh indoors for several hours.

Use a couple of large wooden spoons to gently mix the salad together.

A glass bowl filled with fresh corn, black beans, red bell peppers, and avocado pieces all being stirred by a wooden spoon.

When To Serve

We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again, this is a wonderful dish to serve at an outdoor BBQ.

It’s so good, however, you can serve it year-round with great results. Because it has a bit of a zest to it, it’s a wonderful side to a Mexican or Tex-Mex dinner party.

Looking for other amazing BBQ dishes? Try our:

Southern Baked Beans
Classic Pasta Salad
Best-Ever Potato Salad
Classic Coleslaw
Slow-Cooker Corn on the Cob
Cajun Coleslaw

And we just love this amazing bean and grilled corn salad!

A large white serving bowl filled with black bean and corn salad with two gold serving spoons tucked in beside the salad.

Every time we serve this salad, so many folks want the recipe.

And we seldom have any leftovers.

If you’re looking for a delicious side dish that’s not the run-of-the-mill standards…this Zesty Black Bean and Corn Salad is the one for you!

So good and so beautiful!

A large gold serving spoon holding up a big scoop of black bean and corn salad.

Ready to make the best side dish on the block? Go for it!

And when you do, be sure to take a photo of it, post it on Instagram, and tag @HowToFeedaLoon and hashtag #HowToFeedaLoon!

A large white serving bowl filled with black bean and corn salad with two gold serving spoons tucked in beside the salad.

Zesty Black Bean and Corn Salad

This Zesty Black Bean and Corn Salad is everyone's favorite BBQ side dish. However, it's great year-round, too. In the Summer, get fresh sweet corn, grill it, and then cut off the kernels! All the prep work can be done up to 2 days in advance (except peeling the avocados). Assemble an hour before serving!
5 from 4 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: American, Tex-Mex, Mexican
Keyword: BBQ Side Dish, black bean and corn salad recipe, Easy side dish recipe
Prep Time: 25 minutes
Cook Time: 12 minutes
Resting: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour 37 minutes
Servings: 8 people
Calories: 183kcal


  • Gas or charcoal grill


  • cups corn 4 ears, grilled, and cut from the cob, or frozen, completely thawed
  • 2 15 oz cans black beans drained and rinsed
  • 1 red bell pepper cored, seeded, and finely chopped
  • 1 jalapeno seeds and ribs removed, finely chopped
  • ½ cup red onion finely chopped
  • 1 avocado skin and pit removed, roughly chopped

For The Cilantro-Lime Dressing

  • cup cilantro fresh, chopped
  • cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • ¼ cup lime juice fresh
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tsp honey
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp cumin ground
  • 1 tsp Kosher salt
  • ½ tsp black pepper freshly ground


  • Place corn, beans, bell pepper, jalapeno, onion, and avocado in a large bowl.
  • Prepare the dressing by adding all of the ingredients into a jar with a tight-fitting lid. Affix the jar and shake vigorously for 1 minute until well combined.
  • Pour the dressing over the veggies and bean mixture. Use two large wooden spoons to gently mix the salad until all the components are coated with the dressing.
  • The salad is okay to serve immediately, but is even better if covered with plastic wrap and placed in the refrigerator for 1 hour.
  • Transfer to a serving bowl and serve.



To prepare the corn, heat your gas or charcoal grill to medium heat.  Brush olive oil over 4 ears of corn with all the silk removed.  Add a dash of salt all over the corn.  Place on the grill, and cook, turning occasionally, until slightly charred in places, about 15 minutes.  Allow the corn to cool, and then hold the corn upright in a shallow bowl.  Carefully, and slowly, use a large knife to remove the kernels from the cob.  
Everything can be prepped up to 2 days in advance, except for the avocado.  1 hour before serving, prep the avocado, then place everything in the serving bowl.  Gently mix, chill for 1 hour, and then serve. 
If you remove the seeds and the ribs from the jalapeno, then there will be very little heat with the salad.  Omit the jalapenos, or only use half for no to extremely little spice.  Double the jalapeno, or leave some seeds in for more heat.
If making the dressing in advance, be sure to shake it (or whisk it) vigorously before adding to the salad.
If serving outdoors in very hot weather, consider placing the salad in a bowl that will fit into another large bowl lined with ice.  The salad will keep inside on the counter for several hours.
Though the salad is tasty the following day, it is definitely best served within an hour of assembling. 


Calories: 183kcal | Carbohydrates: 16g | Protein: 3g | Fat: 11g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 9g | Sodium: 551mg | Potassium: 301mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 5g | Vitamin A: 762IU | Vitamin C: 29mg | Calcium: 14mg | Iron: 1mg
Tried this recipe? Take a Picture!Mention @HowToFeedALoon or tag #HowToFeedALoon!

POST UPDATE: This post was originally published in April 2014, but was updated with improved tweaks to the recipe with new tips and photography and a fabulous new video in June, 2021!


  • 5 stars
    I love this salad; the dressing makes the dish unique from. Similar recipes. I am sensitive to raw onion, but if I sub a shallot fore the red onion I don’t have an issue but still get the flavor

    • Hi AJ! Shallots are a great sub for onion! We are so so happy you are enjoying the recipe and thank you so much for sharing and for the GREAT review. That means the world to us!! All the best, Kris & Wesley

  • 5 stars
    I made this for a hot as hell Texas pool party and it was a huge hit!!! Kris and Wesley, y’all are my go to when I need a recipe and I always find something and it’s always delish!! Thank you so much!! PS… I used Trader Joes Frozen Roasted Corn instead of fresh (it’s what I had) and it was sooo good. I know Kris and Wesley’s fresh roasted would have been better!! God Bless y’all!! Keep the yummy’s coming!!

    • Kristy! It is always so great to hear from you and we are so so happy you had such great success with the salad! Sounds like you made it perfectly! Thanks as always for sharing and for the GREAT review! You know how much that means to us! Have a wonderful weekend! Kris & Wesley

  • 5 stars
    This dish was a HIT at our 4th of July BBQ! Paired wonderfully with BBQ ribs! I am not a fan of cilantro either but parsley is a great substitute. I shared your site link with many guests that raved about this dish! Thank you so much!

    • Hi there!! That is so fantastic to hear! And so glad you had success by going with parsley! Thank you SO MUCH for letting us know, for sharing the recipe with your guests, and for the fabulous review! You are AMAZING!!! Please stay in touch!! All the very best, Kris & Wesley

  • What if you are not a fan of cilantro? do y’all have a substitution idea, of just leave it out?

    • Hey Rhonda!!! So so sorry for the delayed response, dear friend! You could substitute fresh parsley, or just omit it. It’s still going to be yummy. Let us know if you make it and what y’all think!! xoxo Kris & Wesley

  • 5 stars
    I’ve made this before; I don’t like jalapeño peppers, so I add a splash of sriracha or a 1/4 tsp of Chile pepper flakes. I always do a light dip of the avocado in lime juice to prevent browning (particularly helpful on hot days)! Finally, when I want to ensure a good lunch meal, shred either rotisserie or grilled chicken breast (one will do; if doubling, do two)!

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