Contrary to popular belief, this fresh corn side dish doesn’t get its origins in the South, but we sure like to claim it as our own.
Corn succotash combines all the goodness of summer — sweet corn, lima beans, and cherry tomatoes — into one colorful dish that’s equally tasty served hot or at room temperature, as a side, or even as a light meal.
Cooking diced onion and fresh cut-off corn kernels in bacon drippings infuses this easy succotash recipe with amazing flavor. At the end of cooking, top it all off with chopped basil for even more freshness. My family loves this Summer succotash so much, I can’t make it often enough!
I like to serve my sweet corn succotash Southern-style with bacon, but you can certainly leave it out completely to make it a vegan dish. Both variations are fresh and delicious!
Looking for more tasty ways to use up your farmer’s market haul? My roasted okra is topped with an amazing honey-mustard-bacon dressing — YUM! Or, I have a cheesy casserole that’s a great way to use up an abundance of Summer squash.
Why you’re going to love it!
- Fresh flavor. Use veggies from your garden or the farmer’s market.
- Complements most any main dish. Makes a tasty side for chicken, fish, or pork.
- Easy to make. Have it on the table in just 30 minutes!
Corn Succotash: behind the recipe
First introduced to the Pilgrims by 17th century Native Americans, today succotash is typically served as a side dish instead of being the main meal. In the Pilgrims’ time, cooked succotash was a hearty stew of corn, beans, and squash and quickly became a staple for the hungry new immigrants.
Key ingredients and substitutions
- Sweet corn — The fresher the better! Look for corn on the cob with fresh, green husks and tender white or yellow silks. Dark brown silks and brown spots on the tip of the husk indicate the corn is not as fresh and could be drying out.
- Lima beans — Use either fresh or frozen, cooked until al dente. Many succotash recipes also incorporate chopped zucchini, red bell pepper, or edamame.
- Tomatoes — Add small cherry or grape tomatoes near the end of cooking so that they don’t break down too much. They should be warmed through and soft, but not like stewed tomatoes.
- Bacon — Fried until crisp, use a small amount of the rendered fat to cook the onions and corn. If you want to leave it out, substitute a couple tablespoons of either extra virgin olive oil (for vegan) or unsalted butter.
- Basil — Herbs add a touch of fresh flavor to finish off a dish. Here, I prefer basil cut into a chiffonade, but you could also use fresh oregano or tarragon.
How to make Southern succotash
STEP 1 | Prep the vegetables
- Use a sharp knife or corn tool to slice off the fresh corn kernels into a bowl, dice the onion, and slice the tomatoes in half.
- Cook the frozen lima beans in the microwave per the package instructions, but reduce the time by about half. They will finish cooking in the skillet with the corn.
STEP 2 | Fry the bacon
- Choose a large, deep non-stick skillet or a cast iron pan so you have plenty of room to stir the food during cooking.
- Pan fry 3 to 4 slices of bacon until it is crisp. Transfer to a paper towel lined plate to drain. Reserve a couple tablespoons of the rendered fat in the frying pan.
- Save the rest of the bacon drippings in your refrigerator for up to 3 months to use in other recipes.
STEP 2 | Sauté the onions and corn
- In the same pan, cook the onion and and cut off corn over medium hight heat until the onions are translucent and the corn is tender. You should be able to easily pierce the kernels with the tip of a paring knife.
- As the corn heats up, sugars will release and the kernels should get slightly caramelized. Stir often so that it does not burn.
STEP 3 | Add lima beans and tomatoes
- Lower the heat and add the lima beans and tomatoes. Cook and stir for about 1 minute, until the beans are tender and the tomatoes are warmed through.
STEP 4 | Garnish and serve
- Crumble up the bacon slices and stir it into the succotash. Taste and adjust the seasoning. If your bacon is particularly salty, you may not need to add much more. A few grinds of black pepper is always nice, though.
- Serve directly from the skillet or transfer the succotash to a bowl. Just before serving, garnish with fresh basil leaves cut into a chiffonade.
- Basil flavor is most vibrant just after it has been torn or cut. Once it hits the heat of the dish, its flavor will slowly start to fade. When reheating and eating leftovers, snip some new basil leaves and add them again to the dish to brighten it up.
Frequently asked questions
You could use frozen corn, but I don’t recommend doing so. You definitely should not substitute canned corn.
Cooked succotash will keep for 3 to 5 days in the refrigerator. To reheat leftovers, place them in a skillet over medium heat until warmed through and the bacon bits begin to sizzle. Top with more fresh basil to serve.
- 3 - 4 slices bacon
- 1/2 cup chopped onion
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 4 ears fresh corn (3 cups kernels)
- 1 1/2 cups frozen lima beans cooked al dente
- 1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes halved
- 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, sliced in chiffonade
- Flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- In a large, deep skillet over medium heat cook the bacon until it is crisp, about 8 - 10 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel lined plate. Reserve 2 tablespoons of the bacon drippings in the skillet.
- Increase the heat to medium high. Add the onions, corn, and garlic to the skillet, and cook 5 10 7 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions are tender and the corn is slightly caramelized.
- Lower the heat to medium, and stir in the lima beans and tomatoes. Cook for another minute, until the beans are tender but still crisp.
- Crumble the cooked bacon and add to the succotash. Season to taste with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
- Top with fresh basil and serve immediately.
- Cooked succotash will keep for 3 to 5 days in the refrigerator.
- To reheat leftovers, place them in a skillet over medium heat until warmed through and the bacon bits begin to sizzle. Top with more fresh basil to serve.
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Amount Per Serving: Calories: 124Total Fat: 3gSaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 2gCholesterol: 6mgSodium: 135mgCarbohydrates: 20gFiber: 4gSugar: 6gProtein: 6g
Sheila @ Life, Love & Good Food
Recipe Developer, Food Photographer, Food Writer
Sheila Thigpen is the publisher of Life, Love, and Good Food — a Southern food blog — and the author of Easy Chicken Cookbook and The 5-Ingredient Fresh and Easy Cookbook. After 20+ years in the publishing industry, she retired in 2018 to focus on her own creative endeavors full time. She and her husband live near the beautiful Smoky Mountains and have a precious little granddaughter who has stolen their hearts. As an influencer, Sheila has collaborated with brands like Creamette, Kroger, HERSHEY’S, Hamilton Beach, Garafalo Pasta, OXO, Smithfield, Valley Fig Growers, and more.