Sweet and Spicy Corn Salsa (Trader Joe’s copycat recipe)


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All you need to make this sweet and spicy corn salsa are a few ears of corn, a bell pepper and a handful of spices. This Trader Joe’s copycat recipe is perfect with chips, but you can also spoon it over salads, marinated chicken, and tacos. 

overhead image of corn salsa in a small glass bowl with tortilla chips on a white plate

If you’re looking for a way to “spice” up your collection of salsa and dip recipes, I have just the sweet and spicy corn salsa for you. This at-home copycat version of one of Trader Joe’s most popular salsas is great because it saves a trip to the store, can be made in minutes, and will stay fresh for almost an entire month!

Those plump and juicy corn kernels cook right in the simmering vinegar, sugar and spice-infused base so, there’s no need to do any pre-cooking or grilling. And the gently cooked red onions add a pleasant punch of flavor to the other aromatic spices. If you need a reliably good, sweet and spicy salsa for summer entertaining, or a fun new appetizer idea for the big game, you will love this recipe.

What is the Inspiration Behind Sweet and Spicy Corn Salsa?

The mouthwatering inspiration behind this dish is TJs Corn and Chili Tomato-less Salsa. A crazy good mix of sweet corn flavors, spicy peppers, and enticing spices. Let’s just come out and say it: Trader Joe’s has the best salsas, dips, condiments, and sauces. You could spend a whole year coming up with new recipes inspired by their unique flavors. If you like the Trader Joe’s version, you will love this sweet and spicy corn salsa.  

How to make it

  1. Create the flavor base of the salsa. Combine the wet ingredients and spices in a large saucepan, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. 
  2. Add more aromatics. Reduce heat to a simmer, add the diced onion and cook for 6 to 7 minutes.
  3. Add the corn and red pepper and simmer for 5 minutes to integrate the sweet and spicy flavors.
  4. Pack the salsa. Transfer the corn salsa to a glass jar, and pour just enough cooking liquid over the top to cover the corn kernels and peppers. 
  5. Refrigerate. This salsa needs at least a day to fully develop its flavors, but can be refrigerated for up to 3 weeks if you want to make a batch ahead and store.
  6. Serve with chips for dipping, or use as a vibrant topper on tons of different dishes.
corn on the cob resting on a blue dish towel


  • Distilled White Vinegar, Sugar, Water – This classic brining trio lays the foundation for an amazing salsa. The vinegar also helps the flavors stay fresh for weeks.
  • Mustard Seeds, Red Pepper Flakes, Cumin Seeds – Standard mix of spices and seasonings for brining, pickling or creating a flavor base for a vibrant salsa. 
  • Red Onion – A natural aromatic, red onion turns slightly sweet when cooked down. 
  • Corn Kernels – Sweet corn kernels give a juicy crunch to this salsa. Feel free to use fresh or frozen corn here. Stock up on corn when it’s in season for the freshest flavors, and the lowest corn prices. 
  • Red Bell Pepper – Adds a beautiful red color to the yellow corn, and balances the sweetness with mild pepper flavor.


  • Use a mix of corn – Use a mix of white and yellow corn for a dynamic table top look. Check out your local farmers market for colorful heirloom varieties of corn that will make this sweet and spicy salsa a gorgeous addition to your appetizer or snack spread.
  • Add different mix-ins – Salsa recipes can be tweaked to integrate so many different flavors. Add avocado, yellow or orange peppers, or white onion.
  • Try different seasonings – Herbs like cilantro, and spices like jalapeno and coriander, can add so much depth to the salsa. Mix and match to find your favorite flavor profile.

What to serve with corn salsa 

Sweet and spicy corn salsa makes a great dip for all kinds of chips. But, like so many Trader Joe’s inspired recipes, this salsa works dozens of ways. Add the corn salsa to a Southwest salad. Serve alongside enchiladas, tacos, or burritos. Use as a topper on marinated chicken or fish. Make a vibrant egg scramble with a few spoonfuls of this salsa. 

How to freeze 

Freezing this copycat Trader Joe’s recipe is easy. Simply store the salsa in a secure airtight container and enjoy within 2-3 months.

How long does Trader Joe’s corn salsa last?

The distilled vinegar in this salsa gives it a longer than average life, while still maintaining its freshness. Corn salsa can be made ahead of time and stored for up to 3 weeks. 

Is corn salsa spicy?

Because this recipe for Trader’s Joe’s style corn salsa includes red pepper flakes, it does have a little kick to it. The balance of the sweet and spicy flavors ensures that your taste buds won’t be overwhelmed, but if you’re sensitive to spice, you can cut down on the amount the recipe calls for and use just a dash.  

overhead image of a glass mason jar full of corn salsa

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overhead image of corn salsa in a clear glass bowl on a white plate with tortilla chips
4.34 from 12 votes

Sweet and Spicy Corn Salsa (Trader Joe’s copycat recipe)

All you need to make this sweet and spicy corn salsa are a few ears of corn, a bell pepper and a handful of spices. This Trader Joe’s copycat recipe is perfect with chips, but you can also spoon it over salads, marinated chicken, and tacos.
Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 15 minutes
Total: 25 minutes
Servings: 4 cups


  • Saucepan
  • Mason Jars
  • Slotted Spoon
  • Sharp Knife


  • 1 cup distilled white vinegar
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (adjust, using more or less depending on your spice preference)
  • 1/4 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 1/2 cups diced red onion
  • 4 cups corn kernels, fresh or frozen
  • 1 cup diced red bell pepper


  • In a saucepan that is large enough to hold all of the ingredients, combine the vinegar, sugar, water, mustard seeds, red pepper flakes, and cumin seeds. Bring it to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the liquid to a low simmer.
  • To the simmering liquid, add the diced onion. Simmer until the onion is translucent, 6 to 7 minutes.
  • Stir in the corn and red pepper. Simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat.
  • Using a slotted spoon, transfer the corn salsa to a glass jar, pressing down lightly to pack the corn. Gently pour the remaining cooking liquid from the saucepan over the packed salsa just until it is covered.
  • Refrigerate the salsa for at least a day (to allow the flavors to develop) and up to 3 weeks.
  • Serve with chips for dipping.


Calories: 307kcal | Carbohydrates: 69g | Protein: 5g | Fat: 3g | Saturated Fat: 0.5g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 351mg | Potassium: 405mg | Fiber: 5g | Sugar: 49g | Vitamin A: 1391IU | Vitamin C: 55mg | Calcium: 32mg | Iron: 1mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Author: Jess Smith via Inquiring Chef
Cost: $3.00
Calories: 307
Keyword: easy appetizer, easy salsa, homemade salsa
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About Jess Smith

Jess is the recipe creator and photographer at InquiringChef.com. She spent nearly a decade as the Chief Recipe Developer for the award-winning meal planning app Cook Smarts. Her colorful, healthyish recipes have been featured in popular online publications including Parade, Hallmark, and HuffPost.

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