Ingredient Intelligence

What Exactly Is Baby Corn, and Where Does It Come From?

published Jul 8, 2022
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Pickled young corn cobs on a wooden board, milk corn cobs.
Credit: Getty Images/maksim kulikov

A stalwart of stir-fries, baby corn is in the realm of baby vegetables that are both cute and fun to eat. Unlike its baby carrot friends, which are adult carrots masquerading as babies, baby corn is just what it sounds like — the small, early growth on a stalk of corn, and although it’s not quite as sweet as its mature counterparts, it makes up for it by being adorable.

What is baby corn? 

Baby corn is the immature growth of any variety of corn. Rather than allowing the corn to grow to maturity, baby corn is harvested before the corn has been fertilized, when it can still be eaten whole, cob and all. 

Where does baby corn come from?

Most baby corn consumed in the United States comes from Asian countries — especially Thailand, where it’s harvested by hand. It’s this hand-harvesting requirement (regular corn harvesting machinery isn’t made for the small size of baby corn) that makes fresh baby corn almost impossible to find commercially in the U.S., and thus, most of the baby corn available comes in jars or cans unless you happen to grow your own. However, a few online retailers, including Melissa’s, do sell fresh baby corn, shipped right to your door.

What does baby corn taste like? 

Baby corn has a similar flavor to corn, but because it’s picked early, it lacks the starch that gives summer corn its characteristic sweetness. Instead, it has an earthy, almost nutty flavor and a satisfying pop in texture.

How do you cook with baby corn?

Baby corn can be added, whole or sliced, to stir-fries and sautés, where it retains its crunchiness. It can also be grilled, as in a riff on elote in which baby corn is substituted for fully grown corn on the cob. Baby corn can also be eaten raw, in salads and grain bowls. As a perfect dipper, baby corn is also a fun addition to crudité platters.