Cilantro-Lime Bean Salad with Fresh Corn and Avocado

This cilantro-lime bean and corn salad is on heavy rotation when summer rolls around. The more excuses to eat fresh corn, the better, don’t you agree?? Fresh corn is so juicy and sweet, the perfect addition to zippy bean salads, especially when doused in a generous amount of lime and cilantro.

Lime and corn: a perfect duo.

Maybe it’s the contrast between the tart citrus and sweet corn. Maybe it’s the slightly floral character that both have. I don’t know exactly what it is, but lime and corn go together like tomato and basil. The tender beans and creamy avocado add the perfect textural contrast, making this a salad worthy of any meal, from neighborhood potluck to grill night. 

In peak season, corn is best appreciated fresh from the cob.

Summer corn, with it’s juicy freshness, needs no cooking–just cut it straight from the cob into your mixing bowl. When its texture is at its prime, raw corn is juicy, tender, and crunchy. Paired with creamy beans and silky avocado, this salad is full of delightful contrasts.

A generous dousing of lime juice and zest balances the natural fattiness of the avocado and oil-based dressing, but it’s the fresh cilantro and jalapeño that really take this salad home. The combination of cilantro, fresh chili pepper, and lime is classic and delicious, reminiscent of your favorite pico de gallo or salsa verde. It makes the final bean salad experience bright and familiar, harmonizing with the richness of the avocado and creamy beans.

If you’re not a fan of cilantro you can omit it, but I recommend replacing it with another herb. Try an equal amount of parsley, or even thinly sliced scallions or chives. Similarly, if you’re not a fan of spicy heat, try using just half the jalapeño or substitute it for a milder pepper like poblano or green bell pepper. If you’re craving more heat, leave the seeds and ribs in the jalapeño or switch it out for a spicier chili, such as serrano or habanero.

This bean and corn salad can work with whatever beans you have on hand.

Cranberry beans are a wonderful base for bean salads, but they certainly aren’t the only option. You can use this same method for pinto beans, red kidney beans, cannellini beans, black beans… Pretty much most beans that you can buy in a can. Quickly heating the beans helps them to better absorb the flavors of the dressing, which means that you are, in effect, marinating them. (Of note, if you don’t have a microwave, just gently heat the beans on the stove in a small pot or skillet.)

Once you’ve picked your bean, you can also change up the acidic ingredient. As I said above, I love the fruity zip of lime, especially when paired with sweet summer corn, but lemon would work just as well. Vinegars of all kinds are also delicious. Try an herby infused vinegar, or just a simple white wine vinegar. Serve the salad with grilled shrimp or tucked into quick and easy chicken tacos. Fabulous!

If your corn options are looking grim, you can make this salad with frozen corn. Make sure to thoroughly thaw the corn, and pat it very dry with a kitchen towel. Excess moisture released as the corn thaws will turn the salad into soggy soup, so it’s important to blot up as much liquid as possible.

Notes for Success:

Make sure you remember to add your shallot or onion to the bowl when the beans are hot. The ambient heat and the acidity of the lime juice will mellow the raw onion bite considerably as the mixture cools.

As mentioned above, if you don’t have a microwave, you can heat your beans on the stove over low heat. You can also warm them in the oven, so if you’re baking or roasting something anyway, just toss your beans in a heat-proof dish and pop them in the oven until hot.

This calls for the zest and juice of 1 lime. That’s much less fussy than measuring out an exact amount of zest or juice, but use your best judgement. Are the limes in your market abnormally dry this week? Maybe start with the juice of one and a half limes and serve extra wedges at the table. Do you adore lime everything, all the time? You might want to increase the amount of zest right of the bat!

And finally, use good oil. You’re going to taste it in this recipe, so if you use the bottle of olive oil that sits next to your stove getting stale, it will make your salad taste stale. This is the time to break out the yummy stuff!

Cilantro-Lime Bean Salad with Fresh Corn and Avocado

With a strong amount of cilantro, lime, and plenty of fresh summer corn, this salad is a favorite in the warmer months. It's punchy and cheerful, and such a doodle to throw together! Heating the tender, creamy beans before dressing them helps to speed up flavor absorption. It's the perfect side when grilling, tucked into tacos, or simply served with a runny egg and crusty bread.
YIELD4 Servings
TOTAL TIME 20 mins


  • One 15½-ounce cans cranberry beans or pinto beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 shallot, halved and sliced into thin half-moons (Or about ¼ of a large red onion, thinly sliced)
  • ¼ cup good quality extra-virgin olive oil (See Notes)
  • Finely grated zest and juice of 1 lime
  • 1 jalapeño, seeded and thinly sliced
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • cups fresh corn kernels (From about 2 ears)
  • cup lightly packed chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 ripe avocado, diced


  • Step 1
    Microwave the beans in a large bowl until hot to the touch, usually 2 minutes or less. To the hot beans, mix in the shallot, oil, lime zest and juice, jalapeño, 1 teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon black pepper. Set aside to marinate until cooled to room temperature.
  • Step 2
    Once the beans have cooled, stir in the corn and herbs, then gently fold in the avocado. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.

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