Spicy Corn Cakes with Black Bean Salsa

These spicy corn cakes could be a delicious starter to a great meal, or they could be a vegetarian meal with a delicious side of green vegetable or green salad. They are also easy to make ahead of time and you can re-heat in the oven OR in your air fryer.

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Throw the word “cake” into a recipe and you’ve got everyone’s attention, right? 

These spicy corn cakes are not that kind of cake. Not the cake that is light and airy and sweet from sugar, loaded with icing and all things that you realize you shouldn’t eat after you’ve finished eating them. No, these corn cakes are a savory pancake that uses cornmeal and fresh corn kernels, along with a little zing from cayenne and Jalapeño peppers, and make the perfect vehicle for a tangy black bean salsa. They do have an element of sweetness to them, not only because they are small and cute, but because corn is naturally sweet. Make these in the summer when corn is at its best and you’ll enjoy the contrast of sweet heat as the spice and sugar come together to make your taste buds super happy.

Start by making the salsa – an easy throw together with some fresh lime juice. You could go all out and cook dried black beans from scratch if you like, but canned (drained and rinsed) are just fine. If you don’t like cilantro, just opt for parsley instead.

Black bean salsa in a bowl with a wooden spoon.

The corn cake batter is simple too. The hardest part is cutting the kernels of corn off the cob. You can use a chef’s knife for this – slice down the cob as it stands in a bowl or if you want more stability, slice the kernels off onto a tea towel so they don’t bounce all over your kitchen. Or, if you have a mandolin slicer, slide each side of the cob down the blade and make it super easy on yourself.

Spicy Corn  Cake batter in a glass bowl with a yellow spatula.

Cast iron is a perfect surface to use to fry these corn cakes. Because it retains the heat so nicely, it gives you nice color to the cake and perfectly crispy edges. Just remember to pre-heat the pan well over medium heat and don’t be shy about adding oil to the pan.

4 corn cakes cooking  in  a cast iron pan.

I love the mottled look to these corn cakes, which are full of texture from having a cornmeal batter along with whole kernels. 

Finished spicy corn cakes stacked up on a plate.

You can customize the size of the corn cakes according to how you plan to serve them. If they are an appetizer, make smaller cakes and be sure to serve an odd number of cakes on each plate. (Odd numbers always look better than even numbers.) If you’re planning on serving these cakes as an entrée, make them bigger and go for three on a plate, along with a side salad or some other veggies. 

Spicy Corn Cakes with black bean salsa on a white plate with green napkin.

Watch The Recipe Video

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Spicy Corn Cakes with Black Bean Salsa

  • Prep Time: 15 m
  • Cook Time: 10 m
  • Total Time: 25 m
  • Servings:
    6

Ingredients

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup cornmeal
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • ½ teaspoon paprika
  • cups fresh corn kernels about 3 large ears
  • 1 Jalapeño pepper minced
  • 3 scallions chopped
  • ¾ cup whole milk
  • ½ cup canola or vegetable oil
Black Bean Salsa:
  • 1 15-ounce can black beans drained and rinsed
  • 1 red bell pepper diced
  • ½ red onion chopped
  • 2 Roma tomatoes diced
  • pinch cayenne pepper
  • 2 tablespoons fresh cilantro chopped
  • 1 lime juiced
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • sour cream optional

Instructions

  1. Make the black bean salsa by mixing together the black beans, red pepper, red onion, tomatoes, cayenne pepper and cilantro. Add lime juice and season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Chill until ready to serve.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, cumin, salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper and paprika. Add the corn kernels, Jalapeño pepper, scallions and milk. Stir until combined. The batter will be thick.
  3. Heat the oil in a 12-inch straight-sided sauté pan over medium heat. Drop a small amount of batter into the pan. If the batter bubbles up, the oil is ready. Drop ¼ cup portions of batter into the oil. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes on each side until lightly browned. Transfer to a plate lined with paper towel. Hold the corn cakes in a 200°F oven to keep warm. Repeat with the remaining batter.
  4. Serve warm with black bean salsa and sour cream on top.
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