Grilled Corn with Cilantro Cashew Pesto

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Grilled Corn with Cilantro Cashew Pesto topped with queso fresco is a fresh, salty, and unique spin on Mexican street-style corn. Perfect for cookouts or a summer snack! 

grilled corn with green pesto and crumbled cheese on it, mug of pesto in the background
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Tender Grilled Corn with Tangy Cilantro Cashew Pesto

Grilled corn with cilantro cashew pesto is a culinary delight that brings together the smoky, sweet flavors of grilled corn with the rich, aromatic qualities of cilantro and cashew pesto. The process begins with the grilling of fresh corn cobs to perfection, where each kernel bursts with a sweet juiciness, enhanced by the subtle smokiness from the grill. This simple yet elegant cooking method transforms the humble corn into a dish that’s both rustic and sophisticated. The charred lines on the golden kernels not only add visual appeal but also a depth of flavor that is the hallmark of any great grilled dish. The corn, with its inherent sweetness, becomes the perfect canvas for the vibrant and flavorful pesto.

The cilantro cashew pesto is a fusion of fresh, bold flavors and smooth, nutty undertones. The pesto, a blend of fresh cilantro leaves, roasted cashews, garlic, and Parmesan, strikes a delicate balance between earthy and zesty. The cilantro, with its lively, citrusy notes, complements the rich, creamy texture of the ground cashews, while a hint of garlic adds a subtle warmth. This green, luscious paste is further brightened with a splash of lemon juice, bringing a refreshing acidity that cuts through the richness. When slathered over the warm, grilled corn, the pesto melts slightly, allowing all the flavors to mingle beautifully. The result is a dish that’s not only visually striking with its vibrant green against the golden yellow but also a symphony of flavors and textures – the crunch of the grilled corn against the smooth, velvety pesto. This dish, simple in its ingredients but complex in its flavors, is a testament to the magic that happens when fresh produce meets the grill.

grilled corn with green pesto and crumbled cheese on it

How to Make Grilled Cheesy Corn with Pesto

First assemble the following ingredients:

  • Corn (6) – Provides a sweet, juicy base that contrasts beautifully with the bold flavors of the pesto.
  • Salted butter (4 tbsp) – Adds a rich, creamy layer to the corn, enhancing its natural sweetness and adding depth to its flavor.
  • Sea salt (1 tsp) – Enhances the overall flavor profile, bringing out the natural sweetness of the corn and the freshness of the pesto.
  • Fresh ground pepper (1/4 tsp) – Offers a subtle heat and earthiness, complementing the sweet corn and the herby pesto.
  • Unsalted raw cashews (¼ cups) – Contribute a creamy texture and a nutty flavor to the pesto, balancing the sharpness of the other ingredients.
  • Cilantro leaves (1 bunch) – Bring a fresh, citrusy, and slightly peppery taste to the pesto, infusing it with a vibrant herbaceous flavor.
  • Garlic clove (1) – Adds a pungent, spicy depth to the pesto, enhancing the complexity of the sauce.
  • Zest of lime (1/2) – Provides a zesty acidity to the pesto, brightening up the flavors and adding a refreshing tang.
  • Serrano chile (½ teaspoon) – Introduces a spicy kick to the pesto, elevating its flavor with a subtle but noticeable heat.
  • Extra-virgin olive oil (½ cup plus 2 tablespoons) – Serves as the smooth, rich base for the pesto, binding all the ingredients together and adding a silky texture.
  • Crumbled cotija cheese (½ cup) – Offers a salty, tangy finish to the dish, complementing the creamy pesto and the sweet corn.

Use this Method:

Prep Corn. Pull husks of corn down, without pulling them off, to expose silks. Remove silk strings from corn. Pull corn husks back up, and soak in water for 10 minutes. Preheat grill to high. Dry the corn then rub with butter and sprinkle with the salt and pepper.

Grill. Add corn to grill, cook on high, turning every 5 minutes to grill each side equally and prevent burning.

Make Pesto. Gather other ingredients for the pesto, and set up a food processor. Add cashews to food processor and pulse until finely ground. Add other ingredients and blend until slightly runny and spreadable. Taste and add sea salt if needed (the pesto has somewhat salty ingredients, so taste to find the perfect amount before adding in additional salt.)

Assemble. When corn is soft to the touch, remove from grill and remove husks. Generously slather pesto on corn, top with crumbled queso fresco. Serve immediately.

grilled corn with green pesto and crumbled cheese on it, mug of pesto in the background

Tips and Tricks for Making Cheesy Pesto Grilled Corn

For Grilling the Corn:

  1. Preheat Your Grill: Ensure your grill is properly preheated to a medium-high temperature for even cooking.
  2. Oil the Corn Lightly: Brush the corn lightly with olive oil or melted butter to prevent sticking and enhance flavor.
  3. Remove Husks and Silk: For a full char and smoky flavor, grill the corn without its husk. If you prefer a milder taste, leave the husks on.
  4. Rotate Regularly: Turn the corn every few minutes for an even cook and to avoid burning.
  5. Don’t Overcook: Grill the corn until it’s tender and has a slight char, usually about 10-15 minutes, to maintain juiciness.

For the Cilantro Cashew Pesto:

  1. Use Fresh Cilantro: Fresh cilantro offers the best flavor. Wash and dry it thoroughly before use.
  2. Toast the Cashews: Lightly toasting the cashews in a dry pan can enhance their nutty flavor.
  3. Balance Your Ingredients: Adjust garlic, lemon juice, and seasoning levels to taste. The lemon juice adds a nice acidity which balances the richness of the cashews.
  4. Consistency is Key: Blend the pesto to your desired consistency, adding more olive oil if necessary for a smoother texture.
  5. Vegan Adaptation: Omit Parmesan cheese or use a vegan substitute if desired.

Assembling the Dish:

  1. Apply Pesto While Corn is Warm: Spread the pesto over the corn as soon as it’s off the grill so it melts slightly and coats evenly.
  2. Garnish for Extra Flavor: Garnish with additional chopped cilantro, a squeeze of lemon, or a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese for added taste and presentation.

Additional Tips:

  1. Make Ahead: The pesto can be made a day ahead and stored in the fridge, which can actually help the flavors to meld together better.
  2. Storage for Leftovers: If you have leftover pesto, store it in an airtight container in the fridge. It’s great on sandwiches, pasta, or other grilled vegetables.
  3. Experiment with Flavors: Feel free to add other herbs to the pesto like basil or mint for a different flavor profile.
  4. Serving Suggestions: This dish pairs well with barbecue meats, a summer salad, or as a standalone vegetarian dish.
grilled corn with green pesto and crumbled cheese on it, mug of pesto in the background

FAQs

How do I grill the corn for the best flavor?

Preheat your grill to medium-high heat. Remove the husks and silk from the corn, brush lightly with oil, and place directly on the grill. Turn occasionally for an even char, grilling for about 10-15 minutes until kernels are tender and slightly charred.

Can I make the cilantro cashew pesto ahead of time?

Yes, you can prepare the pesto up to a day in advance. Store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Before serving, give it a good stir and let it come to room temperature to enhance its flavor.

How do I store leftover pesto?

Store any leftover pesto in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week. You can also freeze it for longer storage.

Is there a nut-free alternative to cashews in the pesto?

Yes, if you’re allergic to nuts or prefer a nut-free version, you can use sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds as a substitute.

Can I use frozen corn instead of fresh?

Fresh corn is ideal for grilling, but you can use thawed frozen corn cobs if fresh isn’t available. The texture and flavor might vary slightly.

Can I make this recipe vegan?

Absolutely! Skip the Parmesan cheese in the pesto or use a vegan cheese alternative to make it vegan-friendly.

What if I don’t have a grill?

You can roast the corn in the oven at 400°F (200°C) for about 20-25 minutes, turning occasionally, or char it in a grill pan over the stove.

grilled corn with green pesto and crumbled cheese on it, mug of pesto in the background

What to Enjoy with Corn

Main Dishes:

  1. Grilled Chicken or Turkey: The smoky flavor of grilled poultry pairs wonderfully with the herby and nutty taste of the cilantro cashew pesto.
  2. Barbecue Ribs: The rich, savory flavors of barbecue ribs complement the freshness of the pesto.
  3. Fish Tacos: Grilled corn with cilantro cashew pesto adds a unique twist when served alongside or inside fish tacos.
  4. Vegetarian Burgers: A great side for plant-based burgers, adding an extra layer of flavor.
  5. Steak: The robust flavor of steak is nicely balanced by the lightness and herbiness of the grilled corn.

Salads:

  1. Tomato and Avocado Salad: A fresh salad like this enhances the flavors of the grilled corn.
  2. Quinoa Salad: A light and nutritious option that goes well with the nutty flavors of the pesto.
  3. Mixed Greens with Vinaigrette: A simple green salad with a tangy dressing complements the richness of the pesto.

Side Dishes:

  1. Roasted Vegetables: A mix of roasted vegetables like bell peppers, zucchini, and eggplant pairs nicely.
  2. Coleslaw: A classic side that offers a crunchy and creamy texture contrast.
  3. Garlic Bread: Ideal for soaking up any extra pesto.

Beverages:

  1. Iced Tea or Lemonade: Refreshing and light, these drinks balance the richness of the pesto.
  2. Crisp White Wine: A wine like Sauvignon Blanc pairs well with the herbaceous and nutty flavors.
  3. Craft Beer: A light ale or lager complements the smokiness of the grilled corn.

Desserts:

  1. Fruit Sorbet: A light and refreshing end to a meal featuring this dish.
  2. Lemon Bars: Their tartness contrasts nicely with the savory pesto.

Try these other BBQ favorites:

Click here to see all our corn recipes!

grilled corn with green pesto and crumbled cheese on it, mug of pesto in the background

Grilled Corn with Cilantro Cashew Pesto Recipe

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Grilled corn on the cob with cilantro cashew pesto sauce.

Grilled Corn with Cilantro Cashew Pesto

Yield: 6
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes

Grilled Corn with Cilantro Cashew Pesto topped with queso fresco is a fresh, salty, and unique spin on mexican street-style corn. Perfect for cookouts or a summer snack!

Ingredients

  • 6 ears corn
  • 4 tbsp salted butter, melted
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp fresh ground pepper
  • ¼ cups unsalted raw cashews
  • 1 bunch cilantro leaves
  • 1 garlic clove, grated on a Microplane-style grater
  • Zest of ½ lime
  • ½ teaspoon seeded and finely chopped serrano chile
  • ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • ½ cup crumbled cotija cheese, plus 1/2 cup for topping

Instructions

  1. Pull husks of corn down, without pulling them off, to expose silks.
  2. Remove silk strings from corn.
  3. Pull corn husks back up, and soak in water for 10 minutes.
  4. Preheat grill to high.
  5. Dry the corn then rub with butter and sprinkle with the salt and pepper.
  6. Add corn to grill, cook on high, turning every 5 minutes to grill each side equally and prevent burning.
  7. Gather other ingredients for the pesto, and set up a food processor.
  8. Add cashews to food processor and pulse until finely ground.
  9. Add other ingredients and blend until slightly runny and spreadable.
  10. Taste- add sea salt if needed (the pesto has somewhat salty ingredients, so taste to find the perfect amount before adding in additional salt.)
  11. When corn is soft to the touch, remove from grill and remove husks.
  12. Generously slather pesto on corn, top with crumbled queso fresco.
  13. Serve immediately.
Nutrition Information
Yield 6 Serving Size 1
Amount Per Serving Calories 280Total Fat 19gSaturated Fat 8gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 10gCholesterol 30mgSodium 853mgCarbohydrates 25gFiber 3gSugar 6gProtein 7g

Nutrition is automatically calculated by Nutritionix - please verify all nutrition information independently and consult with a doctor or nutritionist for any and all medical and diet advice.

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About Courtney

Courtney loves to share great wine, good food, and loves to explore far flung places- all while masting an everyday elegant and easy style at lifestyle blog Sweet C’s Designs. Sweet C's devoted to finding the best food and drinks you'll want to make or find, around the world!

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1 Comment

  1. Love grilled corn in summers, and this looks great. While I love eating out, I cant do it everyday. I need home cooked meals for most part of the week.