Corn and Zucchini Salad with Basil Vinaigrette

from 3 votes

Looking for a refreshing and vibrant dish to add to your summer menu? This Corn and Zucchini Salad with Basil Vinaigrette is the perfect solution! Sweet summer corn, raw zucchini ribbons, crispy bacon and a homemade basil vinaigrette come together in this light yet satisfying summer salad.

Zucchini and corn salad topped with crispy bacon and cotija cheese.

If you’ve been hanging around here for a while, you’ll know I’m a big fan of fresh, vibrant salads that make the most of seasonal produce. We’ve had our fair share of summer salads, from watermelon and feta to classic tomato and burrata. Today, we’re tossing a new contender into the mix with Corn and Zucchini Salad with Basil Vinaigrette.

So, what makes this colorful medley a standout? Picture sweet summer corn, zucchini ribbons, crispy bacon and crumbled Cotija cheese, all draped in a zesty homemade basil vinaigrette. It’s the perfect dish to showcase the season’s best flavors, offering a fresh and light side that pairs beautifully with grilled meats or stands strong on its own.

This Corn and Zucchini Salad Is:

  • Ready in just 20 minutes.
  • Packed with fresh summer flavors.
  • Made with simple, wholesome ingredients.
  • Light yet satisfying.
  • Perfect as a cold appetizer for barbecues, picnics or as a healthy side dish.
  • Tossed with a flavor-packed DIY basil vinaigrette dressing.

Ingredients

Small bowls of cotija cheese, corn kernels, crispy pieces of bacon, diced red onion, and basil vinaigrette and a plate with ribbons of zucchini.

For the vinaigrette:

  • Basil: I love putting fresh herbs in vinaigrette — and basil has to be one of my favorites. It’s herby and bright, but not overpowering. 
  • Spinach: This tender, leafy green easily blends into the dressing.
  • Garlic: Don’t worry about mincing the garlic — a rough chop is totally fine. The blender will do the rest of the work for you.
  • Red onion: This is milder than yellow or white onion, which is why it’s fine raw in this basil dressing! 
  • Red wine vinegar: Instead of this, you could use white wine vinegar, apple cider vinegar or lemon juice.
  • Extra-virgin olive oil: This has a stronger flavor than regular olive oil, which is why I prefer it for this vinaigrette.

for the salad:

  • Bacon: I find cutting bacon into pieces with kitchen shears is honestly easier than using a knife!
  • Corn: This corn salad tastes best at the height of summer, when corn is in season. 
  • Zucchini: This is such a versatile vegetable. It can be shaved into zucchini ribbons and eaten raw (like in this corn and zucchini salad), turned into zucchini and corn fritters or even baked into oatmeal chocolate chip cookies.
  • Red onion: Finely dice the red onion for this salad. If you find the onion too pungent, you can soak the pieces in ice water for 15 minutes, then drain them. This will remove their bite!
  • Cotija cheese: Crumbly and deliciously salty, I love cotija cheese in this summer salad recipe. Feta cheese would also be delicious!

See the recipe card for full information on ingredients and quantities.

This recipe consists of two parts – making the dressing and assembling the salad.

1. Make the basil dressing.

This vinaigrette is really as easy as adding things to a blender. Simply place everything but the oil into a blender, pulse to chop, then stream in the olive oil while the blender is running. Let the blender run until the basil dressing is smooth! 

a few tips:

  • DO add the olive oil while the blender is running. This will make sure the dressing emulsifies and becomes creamy. Adding the oil all at once could make it harder for it to incorporate, resulting in a separated vinaigrette!
  • DON’T use a food processor instead of a blender. It won’t be able to get the garlic and onion fine enough or make the dressing as creamy.
  • DON’T worry about finely chopping the garlic or onion before adding them to the blender. This is just more work for you!

2. Make the salad.

The hardest part about this salad is cooking the bacon, which is to say it’s not hard at all!

  1. Cook the bacon. Add the bacon to a skillet set over medium-low heat. Cook until it’s crispy, then use a slotted spoon to transfer it to a paper towel-lined plate. Leave three tablespoons of bacon fat in the pan. 
  2. Add the corn kernels to the skillet. Cook the corn in the bacon fat until it’s lightly softened.
  3. Peel the zucchini into ribbons. Trim off the ends of the vegetable, then use a peeler to peel the zucchini.
  4. Add the rest of the ingredients. Place the zucchini ribbons in a large bowl and add the corn, diced red and basil vinaigrette. Toss to combine. 
Zucchini ribbons, diced red onion, corn kernels, and basil vinaigrette in a large glass mixing bowl.
  1. Add the crispy bacon and cheese. Top the salad with the bacon and cotija cheese and serve.

Serving Suggestions

When it comes to what to serve with this corn and zucchini salad, here are some of my favorites:

And don’t forget the peach sangria popsicles or easiest-ever ice cream cake for dessert!

How to Store

This salad is best stored before it’s dressed, so nothing gets soggy. You can store the separate components for up to 3 days in airtight containers in the fridge. 

The dressing will last for up to 5 days, stored separately, in an airtight container in the fridge.

Zucchini and corn salad topped with crispy bacon and cotija cheese. Small bowls of cotija cheese and ground black pepper are beside the salad.

More Summer Salad Recipes

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Salad

Corn and Zucchini Salad with Basil Vinaigrette

Summer's freshest produce stars in a quick-fix recipe for Corn and Zucchini Salad with Basil Vinaigrette featuring raw zucchini ribbons, sweet corn, crispy bacon and crumbled Cotija cheese.
Author: Kelly Senyei
5 from 3 votes
A top-down view of Corn and Zucchini Salad with Basil Vinaigrette in a large white serving bowl next to a small bowl filled with cotija cheese
Prep Time 25 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes
Servings 6 servings

Ingredients 

For the vinaigrette:

  • 1 cup packed basil leaves
  • 1 cup spinach leaves
  • 2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • 2 Tablespoons roughly chopped red onion
  • 3 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

For the salad:

  • 6 slices uncooked bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 4 ears uncooked corn, kernels cut off the cob
  • 2 medium zucchini
  • 1/2 medium red onion, small diced
  • 1/2 cup crumbled cotija cheese

Instructions 

Make the vinaigrette:

  • In a blender, combine the basil, spinach, garlic, red onion and vinegar and pulse just until combined. With the motor running, stream in the olive oil and continue blending until the vinaigrette is smooth.
  • Taste and season the vinaigrette with salt and pepper then set it aside.

Make the salad:

  • Add the bacon to a large skillet set over medium-low heat. Cook the bacon, stirring as needed, until all the fat has rendered and the bacon is crispy. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to a bowl and leave 3 tablespoons drippings in the pan.
  • Increase the heat to medium-high. Add the corn kernels and cook, stirring, until softened slightly, about 2 minutes. Add the corn to a large bowl.
  • Trim the ends off the zucchini then use a vegetable peeler to cut them into very thin ribbons. Add the zucchini ribbons and diced red onion to the bowl with the corn. Drizzle in the vinaigrette and toss to combine.
  • Top the salad with the reserved bacon and cotija cheese then serve.
  • ★ Did you make this recipe? Don't forget to give it a star rating below!

Nutrition

Calories: 223kcal, Carbohydrates: 4g, Protein: 3g, Fat: 22g, Saturated Fat: 5g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g, Monounsaturated Fat: 14g, Cholesterol: 12mg, Sodium: 155mg, Potassium: 245mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 2g, Vitamin A: 865IU, Vitamin C: 15mg, Calcium: 89mg, Iron: 1mg

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5 from 3 votes

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Comments

  1. Hi Kelly, sounds like a tasty recipe! If I can’t find the fresh corn, how much frozen corn would be the equivalent for this recipe?

    1. Hi Kat! You’ll need about 2 cups, which is the the equivalent of a 10-ounce package of frozen corn. Looking forward to reading your results!

  2. 5 stars
    Made this wonderful salad for company. SOOOOO GOOD! Made in advanced & served cold. I didn’t have spinach, so just used the basil in the vinaigrette and about half the liquid ingredients. Everyone loved every last bite and the leftovers were great! I happened to also make an orzo/bruschetta salad. On day 2 I threw both leftovers in the same bowl with some added basil vinaigrette + balsamic glaze and WOW! Thanks for the great recipe!

  3. This sounds really good. You list spinach in the ingredients for the dressing but it’s not listed in the instructions for making the dressing. Is it needed? Thanks!

    1. Thanks so much for catching that, Maureen! I just updated the recipe. The spinach goes in with the other dressing ingredients.