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Grilled corn smothered with peanut sauce is a brilliant, tasty mess

This is one of those recipes that grab me by the name alone, and I hope it does the same for you: Grilled Corn With Peanut Sauce. I adore the former, and I adore the latter, so put the two together, and I’m in heaven.

Cookbook author Rukmini Iyer writes that she got the idea from Indonesian gado-gado — particularly its sauce based on peanut butter, coconut milk and chiles. “It occurred to me that the dressing, slightly adapted, would work beautifully with grilled corn on the cob — and, joy, it did!” she writes in her latest book, “The Green Barbecue.”

A heavily dressed corn on the cob always reminds me of the Mexican staple esquites, a.k.a. elote, but in this case the flavors are distinctly Southeast Asian. It could hardly be easier: After chopping ginger and chile, you whisk together the sauce, grill the corn, and spoon the sauce over the cobs before serving (or let guests do it themselves).

If you want to cook the corn indoors, by all means, do — either in a grill pan or under the broiler. And if you find shucking it to be too much of a pain, you should try my favorite microwave method, which I seem to refine almost every year. Just this month, I read a take on it from America’s Test Kitchen: You cut through the cobs on one end, douse them in water, microwave them for several minutes, and then easily shake them out of the husks. When you hold them by the silk end to do that, the silks come off so easily and cleanly you might never prep corn another way.

Summer is for grilling corn. Here are four ways to do it.

Of course, when you make this recipe, those clean cobs get plenty messy again from the sauce — but who cares? When it tastes this good, and you’ve got napkins at the ready, messy just means fun.

Make Ahead: The prepared sauce can be refrigerated for up to 5 days before you grill the corn.

Storage Notes: Refrigerate the corn and the sauce separately for up to 5 days. Reheat the corn in the microwave before serving.

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  • 6 ears fresh corn in their husks
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil or vegetable oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine salt
  • 1/4 cup crunchy peanut butter
  • 1/3 cup canned full-fat coconut milk
  • 1 fresh red chile (such as Thai bird’s eye or Fresno), stemmed, seeded and finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh chives
  • 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger

Step 1

Prepare a charcoal or gas grill for direct heat, medium-high (400 to 450 degrees; see NOTE).

Step 2

Cut off the stalk end of each cob (the end opposite the silks) right through the first row of kernels. Run water over the ears to soak them thoroughly, put three of them on a microwaveable plate and microwave on HIGH for 5 minutes. Hold each ear by the silk end and shake up and down, letting the ear fall out, twisting and pushing from the silk end if it needs some help. Repeat with the remaining ears of corn.

Step 3

In a large bowl, coat the corn with the oil and season with the salt.

Step 4

In a small bowl, whisk together the peanut butter, coconut milk, chile, lime, soy sauce, chives and ginger.

Step 5

When the grill is hot, grill the corn, turning often, until it’s browned or charred to your liking, 3 to 4 minutes per side. (If using a grill pan, heat it over medium-high heat until smoking before cooking the corn, turning it often and working in batches if necessary, 3 to 4 minutes per side. If using the broiler, position a rack in the closest position, transfer the corn to a sheet pan and broil, turning often, 5 to 6 minutes per side.)

Step 6

Transfer the grilled corn to a serving platter and spoon the sauce on top, or divide among plates and serve the sauce alongside, letting guests spoon the sauce on top.

Nutrition Information

Per serving (1 ear corn plus 2 tablespoons sauce)

Calories: 228; Total Fat: 14 g; Saturated Fat: 4 g; Cholesterol: 0 mg; Sodium: 367 mg; Carbohydrates: 24 g; Dietary Fiber: 2 g; Sugar: 7 g; Protein: 6 g

This analysis is an estimate based on available ingredients and this preparation. It should not substitute for a dietitian’s or nutritionist’s advice.

Adapted from “The Green Barbecue” by Rukmini Iyer (Countryman Press, 2022).

Tested by Joe Yonan; email questions to

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