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Street Corn Pasta Salad with Cilantro Pesto + Goat Cheese

Delicious vegetarian Street Corn Pasta Salad with sweet corn, red bell pepper, avocado, creamy goat cheese and a super addicting cilantro pesto. This easy corn pasta salad recipe is not only delicious but is also a great way to use up your summer corn. Impress your friends and family with best pasta salad ever! 

Prep Time
15 mins
Cook Time
30 mins
Total Time
45 mins

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It’s time to say hi to the BEST pasta salad I’ve ever made in my life! I first made this street corn pasta salad a few years ago and AK readers raved about it.

Well, it’s back again with a reminder to make it for all of your summer BBQs, parties and weeknight dinners. LET’S DO THIS THANG.

I’ve had a lot of experience with a wide variety of pasta salads. My Dad used to make his famous tuna noodle with lots of miracle whip while my mom preferred the healthier pesto and tomato based pasta salads. Basically, I grew up on pasta salads and wouldn’t have it any other way.

Usually, my go-to pasta salads are my Mediterranean pasta salad with beautiful roasted vegetables and my chickpea avocado pasta salad which is perfect for vegetarians who want extra protein. Both are delicious options, but nowhere near as incredible as this street corn pasta salad! I’m telling you, it’s a recipe you’re going to want to make again and again. PROMISE.

I first came up with this recipe when Tony and I were on one of our long morning walks by the lake. I was dreaming about a way to make a unique pesto and since I’m basically obsessed with cilantro, I knew that had to be it. First I thought about putting it on grilled street corn, but in my brain, the recipe kept evolving, and I’m so glad it did. This street corn pasta salad is so fresh and flavorful — I could eat it every single day.

Mexican street corn pasta salad ingredients on a grey surface

What is “street corn?”

Mexican street corn, also known as elote, is a common Mexican street food that consists of grilled corn (often on a stick) coated with a mixture of mayo, sour cream, cotija cheese, chile powder and lime. My take on street corn doesn’t involve any mayo, but rather grilled corn with cumin and chili powder, plus cilantro pesto and goat cheese in the pasta salad itself!

Ingredients in street corn pasta salad

This super flavorful street corn pasta salad is equal parts fresh, creamy, and a little spicy. Tony says it tastes like a Chipotle burrito bowl, which in his book means it’s pretty epic! Here’s what you’ll need to make it:

  • Grilled corn. The star of the show. Drizzle two ears of corn with a little avocado or olive oil, sprinkle with cumin and chili powder, then a sprinkle of salt and pepper. You’ll grill it to perfection, then shave off the corn with a knife.
  • Pasta. You can use any kind of pasta you like, although we really loved bowtie pasta in this. I also think rotini would be fantastic. My favorite gluten free pasta is the Trader Joe’s brown rice pasta. If you have any other great gluten free pasta recommendations, I’d love to hear them in the comments!
  • Cilantro pesto. This is basically a version of basil pesto, except we’re using lime juice, jalapeño, cashews and of course, lots of fresh cilantro aka my life blood. You might want to just double the batch and save some for putting on EVERYTHING (tacos, enchiladas, sandwiches, etc!).
  • Avocado. We’re making this heart healthy by adding ripe avocado. Plus, it adds another layer of creaminess.
  • Goat cheese. My latest obsession that I can’t stop putting in everything. If you’re not into goat cheese, sub feta or cotija cheese!
  • Red bell pepper: Adds a nice crunch factor and makes the pasta pretty.
  • Red onion: We’re only using a little bit, but it adds a ton of flavor. If you love onions, add more!

vegetarian street corn pasta salad ingredients in a bowl

Make this street corn pasta salad your own

This pasta salad recipe is super easy to customize to any diet type and with different ingredients you may have on hand. Here’s what I can recommend:

  • For the corn: if you don’t have a grill or any sweet corn available, canned corn will work just fine. You could also use frozen corn and simply thaw it before adding it to the recipe!
  • To make it vegan: simply omit the cheese.
  • Make it gluten free: simply use your favorite gluten free pasta shape.
  • Add protein: with grilled chicken, shrimp, bacon, or even black beans!
  • Choose your veggies: feel free to add or swap extra veggies like grape tomatoes, green onions, and arugula.

cilantro pesto being added to healthy street corn pasta salad in a bowl

How to make street corn pasta salad

  1. Grill your corn. Preheat your grill and drizzle corn with oil. Sprinkle with those delicious seasonings and place the corn directly on the grill. You’ll then want to turn the corn occasionally until it’s charred and cooked. Allow it to cool, then cut the corn kernels off of the cob.
  2. Cook the pasta. While the corn is cooking, cook the pasta according to the directions on the pasta package, then drain it, rinse it with cool water, and add it to a bowl.
  3. Make the pesto. Add all of the cilantro pesto ingredients to a food processor and process until smooth. Add water if necessary to help it blend up.
  4. Mix the pasta salad. Add the pesto directly to the bowl with the pasta and mix to combine. Then gently mix in your veggies and goat cheese.
  5. Garnish & serve. Garnish with extra cilantro, avocado, goat cheese and jalapeño slices, if you’d like, then serve and enjoy!

street corn pasta salad in a bowl with serving utensils

Don’t forget these delicious tips

With these easy tips & tricks you’ll have perfect street corn pasta salad every time!

  • Be sure to salt your pasta water and only cook until it’s al dente. This will ensure that it’s nicely seasoned and doesn’t get mushy.
  • Use a ripe, but firm, avocado so that it stays intact as you mix.
  • Add a squeeze of fresh lime juice if the pasta salad will be sitting out for a bit or if you’re making it ahead of time. This will prevent the avocado from browning.

healthy street corn pasta salad in two bowls with two forks

Make it ahead of time

You can absolutely make this recipe ahead of time! Just add everything except avocado. Store covered in the fridge until ready to serve. Once ready to serve add avocado and a little lime juice.

Personally, I love this pasta for parties. It makes about 6-8 side servings (or 4-5 large main servings), but people that I’ve tested it on have loved it so much that they’ve gone back for more! I promise you will too. I’ll be making it for the 4th of July and can’t wait to have it again.

More summer BBQ recipes you’ll love

Get all of my summer BBQ recipes here!

If you try this street corn pasta salad, be sure to leave a comment and rate it below and let me know how you liked it. And of course, don’t forget to snap a photo and tag #ambitiouskitchen on Instagram so I can see your beautiful creations. xo!

Street Corn Pasta Salad with Cilantro Pesto & Goat Cheese

4.98 from 42 votes
street corn pasta salad in a bowl
Course Lunch, Pasta, Side Dish, Summer, Vegetarian
Cuisine American, hispanic
Keyword healthy corn pasta salad, street corn pasta salad, summer pasta salad
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes
Serves 6

Delicious vegetarian Street Corn Pasta Salad with sweet corn, red bell pepper, avocado, creamy goat cheese and a super addicting cilantro pesto. This easy corn pasta salad recipe is not only delicious but is also a great way to use up your summer corn. Impress your friends and family with best pasta salad ever!

Ingredients

  • For the corn:
  • 2 large ears of corn, shucked and cleaned
  • 1-2 teaspoons avocado or olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon chili powder
  • ½ teaspoon cumin
  • Freshly ground salt and pepper
  • For the pasta:
  • 8 ounces bow tie pasta (or your favorite pasta)
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1/2 avocado, diced
  • 1/3 cup goat cheese crumbles
  • ½ cup diced red onion
  • For the cilantro pesto:
  • 1 cup cilantro leaves (about ½ a bunch)
  • 1/3 cup roasted or raw cashews
  • 1 small lime, juiced
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 jalapeño, seeded
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil or avocado oil
  • ¼ teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1-2 tablespoons water, if necessary to thin the pesto
  • To garnish:
  • Extra cilantro
  • 1/2 avocado, if desired
  • 2 tablespoons goat cheese crumbles

Instructions

  1. Preheat grill to high. Drizzle corn with olive or avocado oil. Sprinkle with chili powder, cumin, salt and pepper. Place the corn directly on grill and turn occasionally until corn is charred and cooked, about 10 minutes. Allow corn to cool then cut the corn from the cob and set aside.
  2. While the corn is cooking, you can boil your pasta until al dente, according to the directions on the pasta package. 
  3. Once the pasta is done, drain, rinse with cool water then add to a large bowl.
  4. Next make the cilantro pesto: Add cilantro, cashews, lime juice, garlic clove, jalapeno, olive oil, salt and pepper to the bowl of a food processor. Process until smooth, add water if necessary to help thin the pesto and make it easier to process.

  5. Add the pesto directly to the bowl with the pasta and mix to combine. 
  6. Next add in the corn, red bell pepper, avocado, goat cheese and red onion. Gently mix together.
  7. Place in fridge for serving for later, or serve immediately! Once ready to serve, garnish with extra cilantro, avocado, goat cheese and jalapeno slices, if you'd like. Serves 6.

Recipe Notes

To make ahead of time: Prepare salad as directed, adding everything except avocado. Store covered in the fridge until ready to serve. Once ready to serve add avocado and a little lime juice. Pasta salad can be made a day in advance.

Nutrition
Servings: 6 servings
Serving size: 1 serving (based on 6)
Calories: 343kcal
Fat: 16.8g
Saturated fat: 3.3g
Carbohydrates: 39.6g
Fiber: 6.5g
Sugar: 4.7g
Protein: 11.5g

Recipe by: Monique Volz // Ambitious Kitchen | Photography by: Eat Love Eats

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