No Guilt Southwestern Corn, Kale and Quinoa Salad

A healthy, make-ahead salad that’s low on guilt yet full on flavor, this Southwestern Corn, Kale and Quinoa Salad will become a new family favorite in no time.

This No Guilt Southwestern Corn, Kale and Quinoa Salad is the perfect healthy, make-ahead meal that will please the whole family!

How, oh how is it August already?? This summer has just flown by but, hey, we still have at least a month left, so let’s make the most of it, shall we? It may mean different things to different people, but I think one thing we can all agree making the most of summer does NOT mean is spending a ton of time in the kitchen – which is why you need some of this No Guilt Southwestern Corn, Kale and Quinoa Salad in your life.

With the little one keeping me busy and the beautiful weather keeping us outside, I’ve personally found myself in the kitchen less than I have probably ever been in my life, which means I am loving anything that I can make a big batch of in advance. I need to be able to come home from a morning at the beach, reach into the refrigerator and have lunch there waiting for me – because goodness knows the little one will NOT wait for me to whip up any sort of elaborate meal!

This Southwestern Corn, Kale and Quinoa Salad is just what my summer-loving heart ordered. Full disclosure, this recipe was inspired by a Trader Joe’s salad I grabbed in complete haste one day when I knew there was nothing waiting for me at home for lunch. Yes, it was a quinoa salad (which, on its own can be quite drab) but somehow the sweet corn, juicy tomatoes and creamy poblano-cilantro dressing all complemented each other just perfectly. So I set out to make my own version!

A healthy, make-ahead salad that's packed with protein and nutrients.

The salad part was pretty obvious – quinoa, corn, kale, tomatoes and some chunks of poblano pepper for good measure – but then came the dressing. I loved the creaminess of the dressing in the TJ’s version, but if this was going to be my go-to grab-and-go lunch, it needed to be as healthy as possible – which meant, Greek yogurt! I love how thick and creamy it is while also having so many nutritional benefits. And, honestly, I knew that all the other ingredients I’d be adding in were so packed with flavor that that was all I needed.

Speaking of those other ingredients – garlic, cilantro and roasted poblanos, I’m looking at you! I knew that would be all I needed to make this No Guilt Southwestern Corn, Kale and Quinoa Salad of mine a reality.

So, it’s pretty obvious that this recipe is packed with flavor, but the other thing I love so much about it is how much of it can be prepped in advance. Literally each of the steps that requires cooking can be done up to a few days ahead of time, so you can work on it whenever you have a free minute (or 10) in the kitchen. And, once it’s done and assembled, you’ll have enough Southwestern Corn, Kale and Quinoa Salad to last you at LEAST a week.

Meal prep lovers unite! This No Guilt Southwestern Corn, Kale and Quinoa Salad is nutrient-rich and will give you an entire week of healthy lunches.

If those aren’t all signs of a winning recipe, I don’t know what would be!

Maybe it’s time you see for yourself… 😉

No Guilt Southwestern Corn, Kale and Quinoa Salad
Prep Time
20 mins
Cook Time
10 mins
Total Time
30 mins

A healthy, make-ahead salad that’s low on guilt yet full on flavor, this Southwestern Corn, Kale and Quinoa Salad will become a new family favorite in no time.

Course: Main Course, Salad, Side Dish
Keyword: make-ahead, meal prep, quinoa, southwestern
Servings: 8 people
Calories: 355 kcal
Author: CaliGirl Cooking
For the salad:
  • 2 cups uncooked quinoa
  • 1 poblano pepper
  • 2 ears of corn, kernels cut off the cob
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 2 cups kale, destemmed and cut into bite-size pieces
For the dressing:
  • 1 cup plain, non-fat Greek yogurt
  • 1 poblano pepper
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 3/4 cup cilantro leaves
  • 1/4 - 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  1. Cook the quinoa according to package directions. (I usually put one part quinoa to two parts water in a saucepan, bring it to a boil, turn it down to a heavy simmer and let cook with the lid on for about 10 minutes, or until water is absorbed.) Fluff gently with a fork and let cool completely.

  2. Next, you’ll want to cook the peppers (both of them) and the corn. If you have a gas stove, simply cut the stem off of the peppers and hold them over a burner until they are lightly charred. If you have an electric stove, you may have to head to your grill to get that nice looking char. Let cool and then cut one pepper into large chunks and one into a small dice.

  3. For the corn, heat 1 tablespoon of butter in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Once the butter is melted, add the corn kernels and cook, stirring occasionally, until they are golden brown and smell caramelized. Remove from heat and let cool. 

  4. The final thing you’ll want to prep before assembling the salad is the dressing. Combine all dressing ingredients (including the charred poblano that is in large chunks) in a blender, omitting the olive oil and salt for now. Blend until ingredients are fairly creamy, then start streaming in the olive oil, until you come to a consistency you like. Finally, season with salt. 

  5. In a large bowl, combine all salad ingredients – quinoa, corn, diced poblano, kale and tomatoes – then pour on dressing and stir to combine. Salad will keep for up to a week in the refrigerator!

Sauteed Corn with Fresh Tarragon and Shiitake Mushrooms

Can I just drown myself in a sea of corn and not come up for air for the next 9 days?

Sauteed Corn with Fresh Tarragon and Shiitake Mushrooms | CaliGirl Cooking

Guys, the stress is real right now, and all I want to do is sit in a corner in my PJs with a giant bowl of Sauteed Corn with Fresh Tarragon and Shiitake Mushrooms in my lap and my cell phone turned off so I can’t answer phone calls, texts or emails. Is that too much to ask?

I’m normally not the type who would succumb to the pressure of planning a huge event like, say, ahem, my wedding(!!) But, as it’s known to do sometimes, life threw me a giant curveball yesterday and MY LAPTOP COMPLETELY DIED. Cue huge panic attack. I know, I know, it shouldn’t be that big of a deal, but when you’re in the virtual business of blogging AND your wedding is less than two weeks away, it’s a pretty. big. deal. So, please bear with me as I piece together this blog post from a foreign computer and minimally touched up photos. We’re going to be keeping it REALLY real here today…

UPDATE as of late Tuesday evening: My computer is alive! Thank goodness for our super-awesome IT guy at work who worked his magic and brought it back to life. Phew, what a relief! Back in the saddle again…

Sauteed Corn with Fresh Tarragon and Shiitake Mushrooms | CaliGirl Cooking

But aside from the fact that my Monday was ruined by my laptop dying, our weekend was pretty fantastic. Our friends’ wedding in Napa was absolutely stunning, the weather was perfect, the Bride was GORGEOUS…We literally couldn’t have asked for anything better. The only bummer was that we had to turn around and come home so soon! We’re really looking forward to spending more quality time in our favorite Wine Country once the wedding is behind us and we have some more free time to travel and relax 🙂

So let’s get into this Sauteed Corn with Fresh Tarragon and Shiitake Mushrooms. It’s actually a very fitting time for me to post this recipe (it’s been in my back pocket for a while), as we’re just getting back from a trip to Napa and this dish was inspired by one my Dad and I had at Ad Hoc (one of Thomas Keller’s restaurants in Yountville) back when I lived there. It was part of their prix fixe brunch menu and, as soon as we tasted it, we knew we had to recreate it at home so we could enjoy it any time we wanted.

Sauteed Corn with Fresh Tarragon and Shiitake Mushrooms | CaliGirl Cooking

You know what I love most about this recipe? It is soooo simple but sooooo good! Like, forehead slap, “Why didn’t I ever think of this flavor combo before?” good.  After all, there are only four ingredients and it takes less than 20 minutes to make. Now how’s that for a delicious side dish?

It’s also the perfect dish for summer and all that comes with it: barbecues, dinner parties, block parties, easy weeknight meals that don’t require you to stand over the stove for long periods of time, etc. I can guarantee you that no matter who you serve this to (as long as they like mushrooms) will fall in love and ask you for the recipe. Lucky for you, you can just send them here to the blog!

Sauteed Corn with Fresh Tarragon and Shiitake Mushrooms | CaliGirl Cooking

So, here’s the long and short of it:

We cut some corn kernels off their cobs.

We sauté them in butter (I highly recommend using Kerrygold here) with fresh tarragon and shiitake mushrooms until the corn starts to get those tasty little golden edges.

We season with salt.

We serve in all its deliciousness.

Easiest recipe ever, right??

Okay, in light of recent (and upcoming events) I’m going to keep this short and sweet today. See you all on Friday for a super fun cocktail recipe!!! XO

Sauteed Corn with Fresh Tarragon and Shiitake Mushrooms

5 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 20 minutes

Yield: Makes 4-6 servings

A delicious, easy side dish featuring fresh summer corn, tarragon and savory mushrooms.


  • 4 tablespoons high-quality butter (I recommend Kerrygold)
  • 5 ears of fresh corn, kernels cut off the cob
  • 6 ounces shiitake mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons fresh tarragon, chopped
  • Salt to taste


  1. Melt butter in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat.
  2. Once butter is melted, add corn, mushrooms and tarragon, stirring to coat.
  3. Saute over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until corn turns lightly golden.
  4. Season with salt and serve immediately.
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Sauteed Corn with Fresh Tarragon and Shiitake Mushrooms |

Oh heyyyyyy good lookin’!

If you liked this recipe, you might also like:

Spicy Coconut Corn Shrimp Cocktail

I’m one-upping the classic shrimp cocktail.

Spicy Coconut Corn Shrimp Cocktail | CaliGirl Cooking

And giving it a summertime spin. Shrimp cocktail has long been a classic holiday or “celebration” food in our household. We bust it out for any occasion when the whole family is gathering together and catching up around a big table of hors d’eouvres, undoubtedly spoiling our carefully prepared dinner (don’t worry, we eat it anyways.) I love shrimp cocktail because it is a delicious, HEALTHY appetizer that you don’t have to worry about eating more than your fair share of. It’s also incredibly easy to prepare, if you should so choose. Pick up some cocktail sauce and pre-cooked shrimp from the grocery store and throw it on a lovely serving platter and you have a classy app that no one will judge you for not being homemade.

But of course, me being me, I had to fancy the dish up a bit and put my own spin on it. And since we’re kicking off summer next week, it’s only appropriate that I give it a warm-weather spin. So here’s what we do to make this incredibly tasty Spicy Coconut Corn Shrimp Cocktail: we marinate uncooked shrimp in a delicious olive oil-garlic-fresh dill concoction, pop it in the oven to cook, and then whip up our spicy coconut corn dipping sauce. Double win: This recipe boasts wayyyy more Spicy Coconut Corn “dipping sauce” than you’ll actually need, so we conveniently rename the leftovers “gazpacho” and have tomorrow’s lunch all figured out already. How’s that sound?

Spicy Coconut Corn Shrimp Cocktail | CaliGirl Cooking

This is another recipe that is going to be a great, healthy option for us in the days leading up to our wedding. In these busy times, it’s more important than ever for us to make sure our health is on point and we’re getting in as many nutrients as possible. Plus, we need to leave room for all of the not-so-healthy party foods we’ll be consuming at all of the events we have leading up to our big day (did I mention that we have THREE weddings to attend before our own in just 45 short days?)

It’s times like these when remembering and finding that balance is so gosh darn important. I fully plan on enjoying myself to the fullest at all of these weddings, because I know that I will make up for it and focus more on healthy, whole foods during the week. Plus, I’m sure I’m not the only one that finds that the more you deprive yourself and say you “can’t” have something, the more you crave it and are likely to go overboard once you give in. Let yourself indulge, don’t feel guilty about it, and get yourself back on track the next day. It’s that easy folks! No rocket science needed here, just a healthy dose of body positivity.

I imagine that this Spicy Coconut Corn Shrimp Cocktail will be a regular contribution for us any time we’re tasked with bringing some sort of food to a party or get-together. It’s a healthy crowd-pleaser that everyone will enjoy, and it really doesn’t take much time to throw together. The longest part of the process is marinating the shrimp, which if you plan in advance is really easy to get together and throw into the refrigerator.

Spicy Coconut Corn Shrimp Cocktail | CaliGirl Cooking

I love that this is a classic dish with JUST the right amount of spin. The perfect combination of sweet corn, creamy coconut and a slight spice from the jalapeno paired with the dill-marinated shrimp will really get your taste buds jumping. You’ll want to hit that Spicy Coconut Corn Shrimp Cocktail platter again, and again, and again and, you know what? You don’t even need to feel guilty about it.

Spicy Coconut Corn Shrimp Cocktail

1 hour

Cook Time: 10 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour, 10 minutes

Yield: Serves 8-10 as an appetizer

A summery spin on the classic shrimp cocktail with a spicy coconut corn dipping sauce.


    For the marinated shrimp:
  • 1 pound raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • Juice of ½ a lime
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 heaping tablespoon chopped fresh dill
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper
    For the Spicy Coconut Corn Cocktail Sauce:
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 3 ears of corn, kernels cut off the cob
  • 1/4 white onion, diced
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • Juice of ½ a lime
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper


  1. First, marinate the shrimp. Combine all ingredients for the shrimp in a gallon-size resealable plastic bag. Shake to combine and place in refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.
  2. While the shrimp is marinating, prepare the Spicy Coconut Corn Cocktail Sauce. In a medium sauté pan over medium-high heat, melt 1 tablespoon butter. Once butter is melted, add corn and onion and sauté until soft and beginning to brown. Remove from heat.
  3. Combine sautéed corn & onion, jalapeno, coconut milk, salt & pepper in a blender and blend until pureed. Transfer to a covered bowl and place in refrigerator to cool.
  4. After the shrimp has been marinating for at least 30 minutes, remove from refrigerator. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit and line a jelly roll pan with aluminum foil. Pour shrimp out of bag onto pan and bake in 400 degree oven for 6-8 minutes, or until cooked through. Remove shrimp from oven and let cool (it’s okay to put them in the refrigerator as well to expedite the process.)
  5. Once both shrimp and Spicy Coconut Corn Cocktail Sauce are sufficiently chilled, remove from refrigerator and place on a platter to serve.


Wine Pairing Note: This dish just screams for a lightly oaked Chardonnay. Seafood such as shrimp is a classic pairing for the varietal, and the creamy coconut soup pairs just as well, while the slightly lower alcohol content (as opposed to a red wine) doesn’t exacerbate the spice too much.

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Spicy Coconut Corn Shrimp Cocktail | CaliGirl Cooking

It’s a new kind of cocktail.

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