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Vivian Howard’s Cilantro Lime Sweet Corn

5 stars based on 19 votes

cilantro lime sweet corn

For Mother’s Day the kids gave me a cookbook that’s been on my wish list for months: Vivian Howard’s much-acclaimed Deep Run Roots: Stories and Recipes from My Corner of the South (Little, Brown and Company, 2016). I don’t know how to articulate my love for this book other than to say that it’s so beautifully written and photographed, even if I never cooked a single recipe from it, I’d still treasure it. Vivian Howard is the owner and chef of Chef and the Farmer in Kinston, North Carolina and also the creator and star of the PBS documentary and cooking series A Chef’s Life. Her book is so much more than just a collection of recipes — it’s a personal story of Southern cooking filled with warm family anecdotes, tales from the restaurant business, and insight into the food and culture of Eastern North Carolina. Yes, there are a lot of “cheffy” recipes in the book – like Braised Pork Shoulder and Sweet Potato Free-Form Lasagna or Fried Green Tomatoes with Curried Peach Preserves and Whipped Feta — but for every one of those, there’s an equally homey and simple one, like Grandma Hill’s Candied Yams or this corn dish that my family loves.

A quick note before we get to the step-by-step: this version of the recipe is slightly different than the one in the cookbook. I made a few minor adjustments to simplify it and suit my cooking style, but the essence and taste of the dish are the same.

To begin, remove the kernels from the cobs. The best way to do this is to this (without having corn kernels fly all over the kitchen) is to hold the cob upright in a large bowl with the flatter end down and use a sharp knife to slice downward as close to the cob as possible.

Next, combine the corn, 1-1/2 cups water, salt and sugar in a 10-inch skillet or medium saucepan and bring to a boil.

Reduce the heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes — until the corn is tender-crisp and there are about 2 tablespoons of water left in the pan.

Stir in the butter, lime zest, lime juice, cilantro, and cayenne pepper.

Serve warm and enjoy!

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Cilantro Lime Sweet Corn

Servings: 4
Prep Time: 15 Minutes
Cook Time: 20 Minutes
Total Time: 35 Minutes


  • 4 cups corn (cut from about 5 ears)
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • Zest of 2 limes
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, finely chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper


  1. Combine the corn, 1-1/2 cups water, salt and sugar in a 10-inch skillet or medium saucepan. Bring the liquid to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium and cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes -- until the corn is tender-crisp and there are about 2 tablespoons of water left in the pan (it's fine to eyeball it; it doesn't need to be exact).
  2. Stir in the butter, lime zest, lime juice, cilantro, and cayenne pepper. Taste and adjust seasoning, then serve warm.
  3. Make Ahead: This dish can be made up to a day ahead of time but wait to add the cilantro until right before serving.

Nutrition Information

Powered by Edamam

  • Per serving (4 servings)
  • Serving size: 1 cup
  • Calories: 234
  • Fat: 14 g
  • Saturated fat: 8 g
  • Carbohydrates: 29 g
  • Sugar: 10 g
  • Fiber: 3 g
  • Protein: 5 g
  • Sodium: 412 mg
  • Cholesterol: 31 mg

Reviews & Comments

  • 5 stars

    The best corn side dish ever – my husband and guests raved and wanted to know when I’ll make this again!! Another home run, Jenn!

    - Muffy on September 25, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    This recipe was great! I made a couple modifications which were that I added less butter, 2 Tbsp, and used frozen corn (though I’m sure it tastes better with fresh!). There was just the right amount of spice and it was a great side for the fajitas I made. I also had it on the side of eggs as well, which gave them a nice kick!

    - Meenakshi Mehra on September 18, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    This recipe is sooo very delicious, I have been making it back-to-back all summer long! Aside from being fantastic on its own, it is also great added to tacos, on top of fresh sliced tomatoes with basil and balsamic glaze, and included in a meat empanada filling. I fear we will go into withdrawal when corn season ends.

    - Barbara Webster on July 27, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    I made this for the first time about a month ago and I have made it every week since (sometimes twice!). Super easy and melt in your mouth delicious. The tang of the lime and sweetness of the corn go perfectly together and the cilantro makes it taste super fresh.

    - Elizabeth on July 5, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    I have made three of your recipes since yesterday. The Caesar Salad with the Grilled Chicken and this Corn recipe.
    All delicious and so easy!
    Happy 4th !

    - Debbie Sheppard on July 1, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    I’ll confess, I made this recipe using frozen “organic supersweet white corn” which had already been cut off the cob. Simmered the frozen corn kernals for 5 to 7 minutes in approx. 1/4 cup water. Then proceeded as directed in Jen’s recipe. Absolutely delicious! I will be making this again & again.

    - Nancy on June 29, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    I made this dish to go along with crab cakes-perfect choice. I cooked as instructed with the exception of omitting sugar. I lucked out and got “sweet” sweet corn, and did not think it needed the additional sweetness of sugar.

    - Kary Chiles on June 22, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    This was a really great twist on sweet corn. Really loved the lime and cilantro, but like others the corn was already sweet enough so I cut the sugar.

    Wanna make it even more amazing? Grill your corn on the cob with a brush of olive oil, salt & pepper instead of cooking in liquid. Makes for a simply wonderful side with any other summery dishes.

    This is definitely a keeper!

    - Gregory Cutler on June 22, 2017 Reply
  • If you place a smaller bowl upside down in the center of the larger bowl, it is easier to slice the corn off.

    Not my idea, just saw it somewhere, works great.

    - Ann Marriott on June 22, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Beautiful corn side. My cook time was reduced because the kernels were small. Amazing flavour combination! My guests kept going back for more!

    - Jody on June 10, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    This is wonderful! Skipped the sugar as the corn was sweet already.

    - Janet on June 8, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    This was my first corn dish of the season! Unbelievable! So delicious and so easy…my husband wants a lot of it this summer!

    - Laura Cox on June 3, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Excellent recipe if you love cilantro. Very easy and very fresh tasting. Great side for the summer cookouts!

    - Marilyn B on June 1, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    I also made this Memorial Day weekend and it was perfect with the ribs and chicken I smoked. Easy and quick, and something a little lighter to go along with meat and potato salad. Had to give everyone the recipe.

    - Robbin on June 1, 2017 Reply
  • I happen to have several cans of corn in my pantry. Would canned sweet corn work as well?

    - Danielle on May 31, 2017 Reply
    • Hi Danielle, Unfortunately canned corn won’t work for this recipe since it’s already cooked. Sorry!

      - Jenn on May 31, 2017 Reply
  • I would love to bring this to a potluck – any suggestions – should I refrigerate it and then serve cold? Thanks for your help!

    - Susan on May 30, 2017 Reply
    • Hi Susan, Feel free to make ahead and refrigerate (although add the cilantro before serving) but the butter may congeal in the fridge – in that case just reheat in the microwave and serve room temp. Enjoy!

      - Jenn on May 31, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Fresh sweet corn…how could you possibly improve on it?? But, you did!
    This recipe is so easy and quick! The corn is tastier than ever with the additions of lime and cilantro; cooking in salted water with a touch of sugar also boosted flavors -and- lots of butter afterward! Thanks, Jennifer, for another winner!

    - Kathy Vukasovich on May 30, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Delicious! Thank you for another outstanding recipe!

    - Coleen Paul on May 29, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Delicious.Only change I made was I added siracha instead of cayenne pepper.Will definitely be making again!

    - Dani on May 29, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Delicious! I had a few ears of corn handy, so I halved the recipe (all except the butter), and my husband and I loved it. I will make this again and again. Thanks, Jen!

    - Katie on May 29, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Made this for a Memorial Day BBQ, simple and very flavorful!!!

    - Michelle on May 29, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Delicious! Just happened to have bought corn before seeing your recipe, so we gave it a try and loved it!! The water didn’t cook down nearly as much as stated in the first 15 minutes, and I debated whether to drain it a bit or cook longer. I cooked it longer. We will be having this whenever there is good corn in the store. The flavors are wonderful. Thank you!

    - Judy on May 25, 2017 Reply
  • Looks amazing! I am going to try this weekend and serve with some baby back ribs!

    - Kathy Y. on May 25, 2017 Reply
  • Love your stuff, Jen. Sweet corn is one of our family faves! Plus lime, etc. of course ??? Easy and healthy and yum!

    - Amy/Chew Out Loud on May 25, 2017 Reply
  • Excellent recipe! I am looking forward to our local white corn coming into season. Thank you.

    - Bev on May 25, 2017 Reply

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