14 Ingredients That Will Take Canned Corn To The Next Level

open can of corn
open can of corn - Gordonbellphotography/Getty Images

Canned corn is reliably tasty — but it can always be improved. Luckily, there are plenty of ingredients out there that you can use to do so. Canned corn is one of those foods that seems to go with pretty much anything: Its sweet-savory, bright taste is incredibly versatile, and it fits into a range of flavor profiles, with different ingredients accentuating its sugary notes or more mellow undertones and unlocking brand-new dimensions.

Adding ingredients to canned corn can also give it brand-new textures and a more satisfying mouthfeel. While canned corn has a moreish, juicy plumpness to it, it's somewhat lacking in the crunch and smoothness departments –- and certain vegetables or fats can bring it to life immediately. You can often add these ingredients without having to spend any time toiling over a hot stove, too, and nor do you need to row the boat out on your additions. Many ingredients that go well with canned corn are just as shelf-stable as this common product, and amping up your kernels can be as simple as throwing a few things together. Ready to take your corn game to new heights? Let's go.

Read more: 14 Liquids To Add To Scrambled Eggs (And What They Do)

bowl of smoked paprika
bowl of smoked paprika - Bhofack2/Getty Images

Corn and smokiness are a perfect pair. With canned corn, however, this can be harder to achieve: Separated kernels are tougher to grill to smoky perfection than whole ears of corn are. Luckily, if you want to give your canned corn ultimate flavor, you can simply add a little smoked paprika. This form of paprika is made by drying peppers over a smoking fire, which pumps them full of charred, woody notes that you can apply directly to your kernels.

Bear in mind that you'll need to cook your smoked paprika to bring out its flavor notes. Therefore, don't just sprinkle it over your kernels: Fry it gently in a little oil, before stirring your corn through. Doing this will create a paprika-infused oil that will coat every piece of corn, and make it taste a little more substantial. You may also want to add a pinch of salt to brighten it up even more (although if your corn comes in a salty brine, that may not be necessary). If you want to add even more smokiness, try frying some bacon or smoked sausage in your paprika oil before combining it with your corn.

lime juice being squeezed
lime juice being squeezed - 4kodiak/Getty Images

There's a reason why canned corn and lime juice go so well together: They just work. These two ingredients are, of course, staples of Mexican cuisine and can be found together in countless dishes, but you can also combine them more simply. A spritz of lime juice over a bowl of canned corn will give it a vital hit of sourness, contrasting its sugary notes to give you a sweet-sour flavor experience. At the same time, it has a gently floral taste and scent that pairs well with corn's bright profile.

Naturally, though, you don't have to just use the two ingredients. A lime juice and corn combo can serve as the base of full meals, where the dual flavors are central. Try transforming your canned corn into an elote bowl, where the combination of lime and corn work to cut through the dense, creamy notes from your cheese and mayonnaise. Or make some simple corn tacos, combining your canned corn with a few herbs and spices and using lime juice to give it some last-minute zing.

soy sauce with soybeans
soy sauce with soybeans - Alter-ego/Shutterstock

Although canned corn has some lightly savory notes, it often needs a bit of an umami boost to make it sing. That's where your secret ingredient of soy sauce comes in. Soy sauce is full of umami, due to its fermentation process, and its combination of savoriness and saltiness does nothing but wonders with corn. The vegetable's natural sweetness helps to balance out the powerful savory flavors in the sauce, and it gets into every corner of the kernels, making each bite tasty.

You can use soy sauce simply with corn, by sprinkling a little over your kernels and serving it in a bowl, or combine it with additional ingredients. In our opinion, though, the fewer the additions here the better. Adding a fat can make the duo's flavors pop even more, so try stirring through a pat of unsalted butter alongside your soy sauce. Just watch out for the amount of sauce you use, as it can be incredibly salty; 1 tablespoon contains 878 milligrams of sodium, almost 40% of your daily value. If your canned corn is packed with salt, this can give you a side dish that's full of sodium, and unpleasant to eat. ‌

herb compound butter on board
herb compound butter on board - Chatham172/Shutterstock

It's probably no secret that butter goes well with canned corn — after all, it goes well with everything. However, it's especially delicious when mixed with those bright gold nuggets of sweetness. Butter's deep creaminess works as a mellowing force with corn, giving it an undercurrent of smoothness and a rich, fatty depth that pairs perfectly with the already-buttery notes of the vegetable. If you use salted butter, it can also season your corn as it adds extra dimensions.

Regular butter will take your corn a long way, but if you want to make your side dish really special, add some rich compound butter. Making compound butter is a breeze: Just pick the flavors or seasonings you want to add and blend them into your butter, then shape it into a block or spoon it into a dish. For corn, try a compound butter made with garlic and chives, to give the vegetable a savory, floral, slightly peppery flavor. Alternatively, try adding chili powder and cilantro for a Mexican-inspired twist. Even just mixing in some freshly-ground black pepper will add heaps of flavor to your corn.

Dijon mustard and spoon
Dijon mustard and spoon - Fcafotodigital/Getty Images

Canned corn and mustard? It may not be a combination you've thought of, but once you try it, you won't look back. Dijon mustard brings a huge amount of flavor to corn, and amps it up in ways that other condiments can't. The fiery, peppery, tangy notes of Dijon provide a dynamic contrast to corn's sweet, buttery flavors, and round out the flavor profile of the vegetable well. As it is quite salty, it also helps to intensify corn's natural flavors.

While you can combine canned corn and Dijon mustard fairly simply, we prefer using it in combination with other ingredients. It's perhaps best as part of a salad dressing for an avocado and corn salad, where its fierceness is tempered by oil and vinegar. If you don't have Dijon to hand, you can use pretty much any type of mustard you like: Even yellow mustard will brighten up your corn considerably (and its vibrant yellow tones will match the vegetable perfectly). Just remember that when it comes to mustard, a little goes a long way. Even a tiny bit too much will make your dish nearly inedible, and your nose feeling like it's been set on fire.

bunch of parsley
bunch of parsley - SakSa/Shutterstock

There are lots of herbs that go with corn, but parsley is probably our favorite. The herb's peppery and cheerfully bright notes give a bowl of corn some much-needed freshness. Parsley, like many herbs, is as aromatic as it is flavorful, and its fresh scent gives corn an extra dimension of appeal that it somewhat lacks on its own (have you ever smelled corn? It's pretty bland). Parsley's verdant green colors also fleck each kernel, giving your side dish an appealing two-tone effect.

Now, we're well aware that there are probably a load of cilantro fans out there thinking "hey, what about us?", and we hear you. Cilantro is, of course, a classic combination with corn. Here, though, we're talking specifically about leaving out other ingredients, and just mixing the herb and the vegetable — and in that situation, we find cilantro to be a bit too overpowering, masking the flavor of the corn. Parsley, on the other hand, elevates the corn's flavors. We would always recommend using fresh parsley instead of dried when it comes to canned corn, as the dried version's intensity doesn't quite work as well here.

chef chopping red onion
chef chopping red onion - Angelsimon/Getty Images

There's something about canned corn and red onion that just works. Chopped red onion adds a punchy, piquant flavor to your corn, contrasting its buttery sweetness with a hit of acidity. While most people use these two ingredients with other additions to create a more complicated dish, like a black bean corn salad, they're just as good in a more simple combination of corn and onion.

We're talking about raw red onion here, of course, which gives the most punchy flavor — but don't be afraid to use cooked red onion, too. When cooked, red onion develops a subtly deep sweetness, with its sulfuric punch brought down a notch. This sweetness works well with canned corn, with its bright sugariness pairing perfectly with the more mellow onion flavors. If you want to use raw onion, but want to bring its intensity down somewhat, just soak your pieces in a little water for around 30 to 60 minutes. Doing this will help dissolve the enzymes in the onions, reducing their bite and strength while retaining their moist crispness.

Korean corn cheese
Korean corn cheese - Drong/Getty Images

Corn and cheese are a match made in heaven. Both foods have a deep creaminess, a slight sharpness, and a sunny hue that makes combining them a delicious and visually-appealing move. You can use basically any type of cheese you want with corn, and you'll likely get a good result. However, we would recommend going for some gently sharp options, like a medium cheddar or manchego, to make the contrast between the vegetables and dairy more pronounced and give you more flavor.

To combine cheese with corn, it's kinda as simple as stirring some grated cheese with drained canned corn kernels, and putting the mixture on your table. If you want to flex your chef muscles, though, you can join the two by making Korean corn cheese. To do this, mix your corn with mayonnaise and some seasonings of your choice, and then tip everything into a dish. Top it with some sliced or grated mozzarella, and bake or grill the dish to cheesy, gooey perfection. Korean corn cheese makes a great side dish to stews or pasta dishes.

roasted bacon on cutting board
roasted bacon on cutting board - Apomares/Getty Images

Yes, we know we sound like a broken record here, but it's true: Bacon's pretty tasty. When it's mixed with corn, though, somehow it gets even better. Bacon delivers a host of flavor profiles that corn lacks, with its umami-filled, fatty, salty notes boosting this humble vegetable to new heights. Bacon's inherent sweetness also goes perfectly with corn's sugar-filled flavors, and its fats bolster the veggie's buttery dimensions. In short, combining the two creates a lot of flavor.

If you want to keep things simple, try baking or frying bacon slices until they're incredibly crispy. Then, crumble them over a bowl of warm canned corn, mix the two together, and serve as a superpowered side. To make your combo more fancy, mix summer corn with BLT flavors in a bacon, basil and tomato skillet corn dish. The addition of herbs and tomato gives your corn and bacon a note of fruitiness and a light acidity that helps brighten your flavors even further. You can serve this dish as a side, or pile the whole thing into a sandwich and go to town.

bowl of sliced jalapeños
bowl of sliced jalapeños - Jiri Hera/Shutterstock

Corn and jalapeños are often found together in various combinations: in salsas, scattered over tacos, or as part of a casserole. In our opinion, though, keeping things clean and mixing the two more simply is the way to go. Jalapeños bring a huge amount of flavor to canned corn, with its spicy, vinegary dimensions helping to round out the more mellow taste of the vegetable. When chopped finely and stirred through corn, you can create a fiery side dish in seconds.

A dash of jalapeño brine can add further spice and vinegariness, and also season your corn well, boosting its salt and sugar content and making it even more dynamic. Alternatively, using fresh jalapeños can give your corn more of a grassy note and a slow-building heat. If you're looking for the spiciest jalapeño peppers at the store, keep an eye out for stress marks. These marks, which can appear as white lines or dots over the surface of the pepper, can indicate that the jalapeño was reared under more vigorous conditions, which can increase its capsaicin levels. It's this capsaicin that gives jalapeños their spice. ‌

woman pouring honey onto spoon
woman pouring honey onto spoon - BlkG/Shutterstock

Canned corn is already pretty sugary, but if you want to boost its sweetness even more, leave the granulated white sugar on the shelf. Instead, reach for honey, which has a floral, slightly warm sweetness that can boost and round out your corn's flavor without putting your teeth on edge. Some honey can also have a surprising degree of complexity, and carry licorice-like, almost spicy flavors that fill out the plainer taste of corn.

If you're looking for maximum flavor with minimum effort, mix a teaspoon or so of honey with canned corn, and add a pinch of salt for a sweet-salty punch. Remember, though, you shouldn't just use any old jar of honey. Choose the perfect jar by going for an unpasteurized version, as the pasteurization process can affect its flavor (and it's also unnecessary, as bacteria can't grow in honey anyway). You might also want to try out a few different types from varying locations, to see what your perfect flavor balance is — remember that honey tastes different, depending on where it's from.

ground cumin and cumin seeds
ground cumin and cumin seeds - asmiphotoshop/Shutterstock

Cumin and canned corn: The combination has more going for it than just some snappy alliteration. The flavors of this warm spice perfectly fill out the flavor of canned corn, with its bright, juicy, sweet dimensions given an underpinning of earthiness by the cumin. While it can be easy to assume that the spice is fairly mild, using even just a little too much can completely change the flavor of your dish and make it taste muddy, so remember that a small amount goes a long way.

To use cumin with canned corn, the ground version is best, as it allows the flavor to distribute evenly and prevents you from having to chew through chalky seeds. Using the two is as easy as mixing them together, but to add more flavor (and to stop the cumin from overpowering things), combine them with extra veggies, herbs, and seasonings in a zesty corn and cucumber salad. While you can use raw ground cumin, gently frying it in a little oil before you mix it with your corn can create even more depth, and take a slightly chalky edge off the spice.

creamed corn in bowl
creamed corn in bowl - Bhofack2/Getty Images

Canned corn goes seamlessly with dairy, with both delivering creamy notes to the palette. So it's only natural that the creamiest food of them all, heavy cream, would go well with the vegetable. Cream and corn is, of course, an established combo, with it forming the basis of creamed corn recipes everywhere.

You can also use other types of cream to amplify your corn. Sour cream and canned corn go especially well together, thanks to sour cream's gentle acidity. This sour note stops the corn combo from getting too dense and bland. Crème fraîche can have a similar effect, and both sour cream and crème fraîche can give your corn some useful thickness and bulk. If you want to keep things on the lighter side, go for half-and-half — but so you don't end up with what feels like corn floating in some milk, thicken it up by melting cheese into it.

bowl of fresh chicken broth
bowl of fresh chicken broth - MaraZe/Shutterstock

Corn can be a simple, delicious side dish, but it can also lack punch. While you can add some simple flavor by mixing it with a little salt, doing this can make it taste a little briny. To give it this boost of saltiness while also adding umami and some herbal notes into the equation, use chicken broth instead. Using well-made homemade chicken broth can give your canned corn a huge amount of depth instantly, and even a simple chicken bouillon made from a cube will provide more flavor than you think.

Naturally, though, you don't just want to pour chicken broth over your corn and hope for the best — doing this will give you a thin, runny combination of wet corn and dull broth. We recommend simmering your canned corn in chicken broth instead. By doing this, your corn will take on the flavors of the broth more capably, plumping up and turning deeply juicy and delicious. Chicken broth isn't the only type of broth you can use to do this, either. Beef broth can give your corn a deeper, meatier flavor, whereas vegetable broth can produce a brighter result.

Read the original article on The Daily Meal