Roasted Chili Corn Salsa

Roasted Chili Corn Salsa

What makes this salsa so perfect? It's the sweetness of the corn, the way that sweetness hits the caramelized onions, especially if caramelized with butter instead of oil. And it's the smokiness of the roasted poblano. This makes a simple and practical snack for sharing with friends. Poblano peppers add a bit of spicy warmth, but are not overwhelmingly hot.

You can serve this salsa with tortilla chips and no, that's not too much corn flavor. If, by some miracle, you do not finish the salsa in one sitting, you can use the leftovers to top any kind of tacos. This salsa is best enjoyed fresh. In fact, it's best served warm, immediately after making. but it will keep well, refrigerated, for about four days, and can be reheated.

“Warm or chilled, the roasted corn salsa was delicious—it was great with tortilla chips, and I can’t wait to try it on tacos. I think it would be excellent on just about any kind of taco: shrimp, fish, meat, chicken, or vegetable.” —Diana Rattray

A Note From Our Recipe Tester


  • 4 ears of corn

  • 1/2 liter water

  • 1/4 cup dried epazote

  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt, more to taste

  • 1 poblano pepper

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter

  • 1/2 medium diced white onion

  • 1 cup chopped fresh cilantro

  • 1/4 cup lime juice , from about 4 limes

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Roasted Chili Corn Salsa ingredients on a cutting board

    The Spruce / Maxwell Cozzi

  2. Cut the kernels off the corn cobs. After shucking, lay an ear of corn on its side on a cutting board. Slice the kernels off one "side" of the ear. Rotate the ear to set it on this now-flat side. Slice another "side" off the ear. Continue until you've removed all the kernels.

    Cut the kernels off the corn cobs on the cutting board

    The Spruce / Maxwell Cozzi

  3. Place the kernels in a pot and add the water, epazote leaves, and salt. Bring to a boil and simmer until the kernels are tender and turn a darker yellow, about 8 minutes. Drain and reserve the kernels.

    Corn, water, epazote leaves, and salt in a pot on the burner

    The Spruce / Maxwell Cozzi

  4. If you have a gas stove, grasp the poblano pepper with tongs and hold directly over the flame until the skin turns black. Turn to roast each side the same way.

    If you do not have a gas stove, set your oven to broil. Place the pepper under the flame on a baking sheet and heat until the top turns black, about 7 minutes. Turn and allow the other side to roast the same way.

    Poblano pepper held with tongs over a gas burner

    The Spruce / Maxwell Cozzi

  5. Place the roasted pepper in a bowl and cover with a kitchen towel to steam for 10 minutes. Then, peel the charred skin off the pepper. Cut off the stem and remove the seeds. Dice the pepper and reserve.

    Chopped poblano pepper on a cutting board

    The Spruce / Maxwell Cozzi

  6. Melt butter in a medium saucepan and add the onions. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until onions start to caramelize, about 10 to 15 minutes. They should be golden brown, not dark brown. Add the corn kernels and sauté together to mingle the flavors, about 5 minutes.

    Corn mixture cooking in a pot on the burner

    The Spruce / Maxwell Cozzi

  7. Add the chopped poblano pepper to the corn and onion mixture and sauté for another minute or two. Add salt to taste and pour the mixture into a serving bowl. Toss with cilantro and lime juice. Serve with tortilla chips.

    Roasted Chili Corn Salsa in a pot on the burner

    The Spruce / Maxwell Cozzi

Handle Chiles With Care

Take care to wash your hands thoroughly after handling chiles. Some people use gloves or wrap their hands in plastic bags to protect themselves. Oils from the chiles can irritate your eyes and nose if you handle chiles and then absentmindedly touch your face.

How to Use Roasted Chili Corn Salsa

Roasted chili corn salsa can be enjoyed as a side dish, appetizer, or condiment. Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Use this tangy salsa to top fish tacos, shrimp tacos, or beef tacos.
  • Spoon roasted chili corn salsa over enchiladas or burritos.
  • Serve the chili corn salsa warm with tortilla chips.
  • Spoon corn salsa over a plate of nachos.
  • Serve roasted chili corn salsa with a hearty pot of chili.
  • Serve the warm salsa on the side with steaks.
  • Chili corn salsa makes a great burger topping.
  • Serve the salsa with fajitas.

Recipe Variations

  • Instead of cooking on the stovetop, you could cook the ears of corn and the poblano pepper directly on a grill. You will still want to caramelize the onions.
  • Add queso fresco, mayonnaise, and chile powder for an esquites-inspired variation.
  • For extra smoky flavor, add about 1/2 teaspoon of smoked paprika.

How to Store

  • Keep covered in the refrigerator for up to four days.
  • To freeze, refrigerate to chill first, then place in a freezer bag. Label with the name and date and freeze the corn salsa for up to 3 months.
  • To reheat, put the frozen corn salsa in a saucepan and heat over medium-low heat until hot, stirring occasionally.


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