How to Make Pan-Fried Corn

by Morgan Rush

Pan-fried corn makes for a simple, summery side dish. Some recipes call for additional ingredients to create a smoky or spicy flavor, but pan-fried corn is a satisfying side dish even without the extras. When possible, start with fresh, whole corncobs rather than canned corn.

Shuck the corn free of its husks, exposing the corn kernels. Then, clean the corn. A vegetable brush can help scour the corn for remaining husks or soil that might have become caught in between the kernels.

Use a knife to gently separate the corn kernels from the cob. Insert the knife deeply enough to get the bulk of each kernel. Otherwise, you’ll leave most of the corn on the cob. If the kernels come off in small sections, use your fingers or a spoon to gently break up the sections.

Pour vegetable oil into a hot skillet, taking care to avoid being splashed. Use just enough oil to coat the bottom of the pan. As the oil warms, slowly stir in the corn kernels. With a spoon, stir the corn to evenly distribute them in the cooking oil. Pan-fry the corn for about three minutes, or until the kernels begin to brown.

Sprinkle additional ingredients into the corn as desired. Some other ingredients, such as fresh herbs, require less cooking time. Salt makes a nice contrast for the sweetness of the fresh corn. For a spicier dish, stir in chipotle or red pepper flakes.


  • If the pan-fried corn has become slightly watery during the cooking process, briefly drain the mix before serving. Cutting and cooking the corn can release water, making it soupier than is normally desired for this side dish. Alternatively, if the cut corn yielded a drier consistency, adding a couple of tablespoons of water can make the dish slightly juicier.

    Pan-fried corn is beloved for its simplicity, but additional toppings can add variety and zest. Spoon sour cream and cilantro on top for a Southwestern feel. Cherry tomatoes and creamy avocado can create a more salad-like corn dish. Basil, garlic and balsamic vinegar can create a more Italian-like corn dish.

    If you don't find vegetarian side dishes appealing, begin the cooking process by frying some chopped bacon. When the bacon is finished, temporarily remove it from the pan and then use the same pan for frying the corn to incorporate additional smoky flavor. If the bacon fat makes the corn seem too greasy, spoon out the excess. When the pan-fried corn is finished cooking, stir the chopped, cooked bacon into the mixture.

Photo Credits

  • Irina Marcovici/Demand Media

About the Author

Morgan Rush is a California journalist specializing in news, business writing, fitness and travel. He's written for numerous publications at the national, state and local level, including newspapers, magazines and websites. Rush holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of California, San Diego.