Skillet Mexican Charred Sweet Corn

This quick and easy cast iron Skillet Mexican Charred Sweet Corn is a super flavorful Mexican side dish to pair with favorites like carne asada and fish veracruz… We love this side dish with a tajín rubbed chicken breast or pork chop and Mexican green bean salad. Delicioso!

A red cast iron skillet with Mexican Charred Sweet Corn - a great Mexican side dish!

👩🏻‍🍳 Tamara Talks – About Charred Food

Ever since working on my Cajun-style shrimp and charred okra, I’ve been enamored with the complex flavor of cooking food on high heat to the point of charring it. Obviously, you don’t want the food to taste burnt, but a bit of char adds delicious, smoky flavor to the food.

Growing up in the house of a poor grad student (my dad), we wasted nothing. If my mom burned a piece of toast, she ate it. YUCK. That is not what I’m suggesting here. You want the caramelized, slightly smoky flavor that comes from cooking in a smoking hot skillet or over a flame! Think blackened catfish and charred Hatch green chiles in salsa verde. Bon Appétit has some great charred food recipes.

Is Charred Food Bad For You?

We practice moderation at Andersen casa, and not many foods/preparation methods are “off limits.” The chemical reaction when food is charred can be carcinogenic, and what is unclear, is how much charred food poses substantial risk.

Obviously, you don’t want to eat charred food every day. Nor do you want to eat food covered in char – that just tastes burnt. The little bits of dark brown/black you’ll achieve with this charred corn recipe should be fine.

For more information, see Is charred food bad for you?

📋 Ingredients Notes

Here is a quick look at the ingredients in the recipe – it’s handy to use at the grocery store or as a summary of what you need. Skip to the recipe for quantities.

Ingredients for skillet Mexican charred corn - corn, bell pepper, jalapeno, cumin, red onion, garlic, cotija on a cutting board.
  • corn – This charred corn is simply amazing with corn-off-the-cob. I have used frozen corn, and it’s a close second. I am not one to keep canned corn on hand, so I haven’t tried it. I imagine it would work fine.
  • sweet bell pepper
  • jalapeño – If you prefer more heat, serranos are a good option. I have also used Fresno chiles. I love their sweet, fruity heat.
  • onion – Onion is optional, but we like it. Red, sweet, yellow, or shallots are all good options.
  • garlic
  • ground cumin
  • aged cotija – The salty tang of aged cotija works really well. I think feta would be the best substitute. You could also use queso fresco.
  • garnishes – We like chopped cilantro, scallions, and lime wedges!

🔪 Step-By-Step Instructions

Add the corn to an extremely hot pan.
Add the corn to an extremely hot pan with a drizzle of oil.
A wooden spoon with the corn in a cast iron skillet.
Begin charring the corn. Do not move the corn around in the pan for 2 to 3 minutes to allow the charring.
The corn in the skillet with a wooden spoon and cumin.
Once the corn is charred, reduce heat and add the onion, garlic, cumin, jalapeno, and bell pepper. Saute 1-2 minutes
A red skillet with skillet Mexican charred sweet corn and a wooden spoon.
To finish the charred corn, turn off the heat, and add the cotija, cilantro, green onion, and a squeeze of lime (optional).

💭 Tips for Charring Food

What kind of oil should I use? You want a VERY HOT pan to char your corn. That means olive oil is not a good choice because its smoke point is too low. I use either refined coconut oil or vegetable (canola) oil. You’ll want to use only a tiny amount. You’re not frying the corn (or other food), and you do want it to stick the pan.

Do I have to use a cast iron skillet? No. However, I find that charring/blackening food happens more efficiently in a cast iron skillet. The cast iron handles the intense heat very well. You may use a heavy-bottomed skillet/saute pan. A thin, lightweight pan may burn rather than char the food.

Can I use a non-stick pan? A non-stick pan is not recommended. The food needs to adhere to the pan to create the caramelized edges.

A blue shallow bowl with a tajin pork chop, skillet Mexican charred sweet corn, and Mexican green bean salad.

🍷 Pairing Suggestions

We enjoy Skillet Mexican Charred Sweet Corn with a grilled Mexican spice-rubbed pork chop or tajín rubbed chicken breast (recipe coming soon). Add a Mexican green bean salad for a healthy dinner with a south-of-the-border vibe! This easy Mexican side dish pairs well with even the simplest grilled meat/fish. It’s gluten free, vegetarian, and delicious!

As summer days shorten, you’re likely to find fresh sweet corn available in your local markets. It’s definitely worth the extra effort to cut it off the cob. If not, or if you don’t want to mess with it, substitute frozen (rather than canned) corn.

Signature in red and green with chiles and limes. Healthyish Latin cuisine.

A red skillet with skillet Mexican charred sweet corn and a wooden spoon.

Skillet Mexican Charred Sweet Corn

Charred sweet corn with jalapeno, bell pepper, cumin, garlic, cotija and cilantro in a quick and easy Mexican side dish…
4.50 from 2 votes

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Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes
Course Side Dishes
Cuisine Mexican
Servings 4 servings
Calories 217 kcal


  • 1-2 teaspoons refined coconut oil or vegetable oil
  • 4 ears of sweet corn - cut off the cob (about 2 cups)
  • ½ small red onion - chopped (1/4 to 1/2 cup)
  • 1 teaspoon garlic - minced
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 bell pepper - chopped
  • 1 to 2 jalapenos - minced
  • 1 ounce cotija - crumbled (extra for garnish)
  • ½ cup cilantro leaves - rough chopped
  • lime wedges - for garnish


  • Char the corn – To a very hot skilled, drizzle a bit of oil, and then add the corn. Do not move it around in the pan for a minute or two to allow the edges to char. Give it a stir, and allow it to char more edges until you achieve the amount of charring you prefer.
  • Add the aromatics and peppers – Reduce the heat, then add the chopped onion, garlic, and cumin to the skillet. Stir to combine, and cook until onion softens before adding the bell pepper and jalapenos. Cook an additional 3 to 4 minutes.
  • Finish the charred corn – Turn off the heat on the skillet. Add the crumbled cotija and cilantro, then season with salt and pepper. (Keep in mind the cotija is salty!). Garnish with a squeeze of lime (if desired) and additional cotija and cilantro.


Macronutrients are an approximation from, and for reference only.


Calories: 217kcal | Carbohydrates: 3g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 1g

NOTE: Macronutrients are an approximation only using unbranded ingredients and Please do your own research with the products you’re using if you have a serious health issue or are following a specific diet.

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