4-ingredient Southern fried corn pan-fries corn with butter, salt, and pepper for a simple yet rich and delicious summer side dish in just 25 minutes! Perfect for BBQs, potlucks, and ANY gathering!
Juicy, fresh, in-season corn is the perfect way to add extra brightness to all your favorite summer meals. I’ve already shared recipes for boiled, microwave, Instant Pot, baked, and grilled corn on the cob and creamed corn, but this classic Southern fried corn is one of my all-time favorite quick and simple corn recipes.
It’s sweet, tender, and super buttery, and you can even make this delicious corn recipe with canned or frozen corn to enjoy all year!
What Is Southern Fried Corn?
It is a very popular and comforting Southern American side dish. Traditionally, it shucks, then pan-fries fresh, in-season corn kernels with butter and/or bacon drippings, salt, and black pepper (sometimes with a little sugar to bring out the sweetness of the corn) until lightly caramelized.
It’s rich, buttery, slightly sweet, savory, and mouthwateringly delicious. Plus, it really makes the most of this sweet-savory ingredient at the peak of its season. Best of all, it’s really simple to prepare with just one pan, 4 ingredients, and less than 30 minutes.
What Is Southern Fried Corn Made of?
- Corn: For the best results, use fresh in-season corn – ensuring the kernels are plump, and it’s as fresh as can be. However, frozen corn or canned corn will also work.
- Butter: Unsalted butter leaves you in 100% control of the sodium levels, but use lightly salted butter if needed and adjust the amount of added salt accordingly.
- Salt & Pepper: To season the pan fried corn to taste.
If you want a more savory flavor, replace 25-50% of the butter with bacon grease.
What Type of Corn Works Well for Frying?
Though it’s possible to use canned or frozen corn for this easy recipe, the best flavor and texture will come from summery, in-season fresh corn kernels right off the cob.
In terms of exact types, I prefer to use sweet corn varieties (like Silver Queen corn if you’re in the South), though starchier field corn works, too.
How to Make Fried Corn Southern Style
If required, first shuck the corn start by slicing ½ inch off the root end from each cob. Then, gripping the other side of the husk, twist and pull it so the corn slides free.
Once shucked, trim the stem if required, then hold each cob upright and use a small, sharp knife to slice downwards against the core, to remove the kernels. Repeat this all the way around each cob.
Placing the corn in the hole of a Bundt pan makes this super easy and mess-free.
Follow that by going back around and scraping off any remaining corn and corn milk from the cob with the back of the knife or a spoon.
Then, melt the butter in a large heavy-based skillet/cast iron pan over medium heat.
Once melted, add the corn and sauté it for about 10 minutes until the liquid thickens.
Then, add the salt and pepper (to taste) with the remaining butter, stir, and pan-fry for a further 5 minutes. Then serve immediately while warm.
How to Fry Corn Using Canned or Frozen Corn
You can easily use frozen or canned corn, but the method and end result will vary slightly as you’ll miss the extra starch from the scraped corn. You’ll also need to adjust the seasoning accordingly.
For every ear of corn, you’ll need about ¾-1 cup of corn kernels. Use frozen corn directly from frozen or thoroughly drained canned corn. Simply sauté the corn with the ingredients until it reaches your desired texture.
How to Serve Southern Fried Corn
It is an all-purpose, versatile vegetable side dish. It’s easy to pair with practically any protein/meal, though it’s particularly popular alongside:
- BBQ/Grilled meats like brisket, ribs, steak, pork chops, chicken, etc.,
- Fried chicken,
- Fried, grilled, or baked fish or shrimp,
- Fried okra,
- White or brown rice or quinoa,
- Southern-style biscuits (and gravy) or cornbread,
- Sauteed spinach, Swiss chard, or collard greens,
- Mashed potato,
- Pasta dishes.
Use leftovers to stir into salads, pasta or quinoa salad, stuffed peppers, tacos, fajitas, burritos, quesadillas, top corn chowder, make Mexican street corn (elote) or Southwestern corn, add to a hash, omelette, frittata, etc.
How to Store Leftovers
Store: Allow the Southern fried corn to cool and then store any leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-4 days.
Freeze: This recipe is freezer-friendly, though the texture changes upon thawing and reheating. I freeze it in Ziplock bags, spread flat, for up to 3 months.
Reheat: In a microwave in 20-second intervals or gently on the stovetop.
More Simple Vegetable Side Dishes
If you try this easy sauteed corn, let me know how it goes in the comments below. I’d appreciate a recipe card rating and would love to see your recipe recreations – tag me on Instagram @Alphafoodie!
Southern Fried Corn Recipe
If needed, prepare the corn
- If required, first shuck the corn start by slicing ½ inch off the root end from each cob. Then, gripping the other side of the husk, twist and pull it so the corn slides free.
- Once shucked, trim the stem if required, then hold each cob upright and use a small, sharp knife to slice downwards against the core of the cob to remove the kernels (placing the corn in the hole of a Bundt pan makes this super easy and mess-free). Repeat this all the way around each cob.
- Go back around and scrape off any remaining corn and corn milk from the cobs with the back of the knife or a spoon.
Cook the corn
- Melt the butter in a large heavy-based/cast iron pan over medium heat.
- Once melted, add the corn and pan-fry it for about 10 minutes until the liquid thickens.
- Add the salt and pepper (to taste) with the remaining butter, stir, and pan-fry for a further 5 minutes. Then serve immediately while warm.
- Season to taste: Taste it towards the end and adjust the seasonings to taste.
- A cast-iron skillet works best: It heats evenly and can help introduce a subtle extra char flavor to the sauteed corn that tastes out of this world.
- For extra flavor: Lightly brown the butter before adding the corn to the pan.
- To bring out the sweetness: A pinch of sugar will help enhance and elevate the corn’s natural sweetness.
- For a softer texture: I’ve read one method where the corn is grated off the cob so it’s in much smaller pieces and produces a softer, thicker overall texture.
- Sugar: Just a small amount of sugar will enhance/bring out the natural sweetness of the fresh corn. A sugar substitute may also work.
- Garlic: Finely minced and added to taste. Garlic powder would also work.
- Onion: Add a few tablespoons of finely diced or minced red or yellow onion (or shallots) for extra aromatic flavor and texture. Sauté for 2-3 minutes before adding the corn.
- Bell pepper: Add a few tablespoons finely diced for extra texture.
- For spice: Add minced jalapeño/chipotle pepper or a dash of cayenne pepper.
- Lime: Squeeze in at the end to brighten the overall flavor.
- Parmesan: To sprinkle when serving.
- Fresh herbs: Optionally garnish with fresh chives, green onions, or parsley.
- Thyme: To add aromatic dimension to the sauteed corn.
- Cream: Just a splash of heavy cream is all you need to enhance the creaminess without turning sauteed fresh corn into creamed corn.