How to Make BBQ Corn Ribs

Bathed in a butter-spice mix, quartered sweet corn smoked until a perfectly curled rib and topped with cilantro and cotija cheese.
smoked corn ribs

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This is my take on the corn ribs craze that has swept through social media lately.

Before you dismiss these as just another food fad, I urge you to give them a try. These smoked corn ribs are the perfect addition to your summertime barbecue.

This recipe takes its inspiration from the flavors of Mexican Esquite, or street corn, but you can put any flavor twist on it that you like.

Keep it corny

Did you know that corn is actually wild grass? It has been consumed by humans for over 10,000 years and originated in Mexico before being brought to The United States during migrations.

Another fun corn fact is that there is always an even number of rows in every cob of corn and an average cob of corn has up to 800 kernels.

corn cobs, butter and spices on the table
Easy to find, easy to cook – you just can’t go wrong with sweet corn

Sweet corn is one of the few vegetables that is grown in all 50 U.S. states, making it easy to find year-round.

Corn is a sweet and versatile vegetable that tastes amazing when grilled or smoked, making it the perfect side dish or appetizer for any barbecue event!

How to make bbq corn ribs

1. Chop corn cobs into quarters or “ribs”

The first step is to chop your corn cobs into quarters, which can be a little tricky. If you have whole ears of corn, the best bet is to chop off the end of each ear so that you have a flat surface to work with.

The key here is to use a sharp knife and a steady work surface because it can be a little difficult to cut through the cob. Just take your time and go slow to avoid slipping and cutting yourself.

a gloved hand chopping a corn cob with a chef's knife
Be extra careful when chopping the cob. Use a sharp knife and take your time.

Place the end of the cob down on a flat surface and position your knife on the top. I found that rocking the knife back and forth in a see-saw motion was a good way to get started. Once you get about ¼ of the way through the cob it should slice easily.

Once you’ve cut the cob in half, lay the half-cob with the kernel side up and slice it in half as well. If you place it with the kernels facing down, you are going to squish them and lose all that sweet corn flavor.

2. Add some flavor

The next step is to make a wet rub to spread on your corn. Basically, it’s just melted butter and spices mixed to create a thin paste to brush on your corn.

Add your butter to a small, microwave-safe bowl and microwave it for about 15 seconds to melt it. Then you can add your spices to the melted butter and mix it all up with a spoon.

chopped corn cobs coated in a wet rub
Feel free to experiment with spice blends

This recipe calls for a Mexican-inspired blend of spices, but this is where you can really make this recipe your own because you can create any spice blend that you like.

Alternative wet rubs to try:

  • Garlic & Herb: 4 tbsp butter + 1 tbsp minced garlic + 2 tsp Italian seasoning
  • Low Country Boil: 4 tbsp butter + 1 tbsp Old Bay seasoning
  • Curry & Spice: 4 tbsp vegetable oil + 1 tbsp curry powder + 2 tsp turmeric
  • Asian Zing: 2 tbsp soy sauce + 1 tbsp sesame oil + 1 tsp brown sugar + 1 tsp five spice powder + 1 tsp hot chili powder

Use a basting brush to brush the wet rub on each piece of corn and make sure they are well-coated.

3. Fire up the smoker

These corn ribs take much less time than their pork counterparts. You want to smoke them around 250°F, but if you already have something else on the smoker then anywhere between 225°F and 300°F will be fine.

corn ribs covered in wet rub on a baking tray in the smoker
You can smoke these corn ribs alongside other dishes to save time

You want to place the corn with the cut side down, so the kernels are facing upward. I smoke them for about an hour, but once they start to curl and take on a more rib-like shape then you know they’re done.

You could alternatively cook these on the grill at a higher heat. If you opt for the grill, then I recommend grilling them on medium-high heat for about 20 minutes, or until they just start to char on the edges.

smoked corn ribs with cilantro and cotija cheese
Serve it as an appetizer or as a vegetarian alternative to traditional ribs

To really bring out the flavors reminiscent of Mexican street corn, you can top these with a bit of chopped cilantro, a squeeze of fresh lime juice, and a sprinkle of cotija cheese. 

These corn ribs can be served as an appetizer or as a side dish. Pair them with your favorite grilled chicken, smoked ribs, or even perfectly cooked steaks. Plus, they can be an amazing vegetarian alternative for traditional ribs. The possibilities are endless! 

More smoked appetizers to try

smoked corn ribs

Smoked Corn Ribs

Bathed in a butter-spice mix, quartered sweet corn smoked until a perfectly curled rib and topped with cilantro and cotija cheese.
5 from 1 vote
Print Pin Rate
Course: Appetiser, Side Dish
Cuisine: American, Mexican
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
Servings: 4
Calories: 203kcal
Author: Breanna Stark


  • 4 ears of corn
  • 4 tbsp butter (melted)
  • 1 tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • ¼ tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tbsp cotija cheese (crumbled)
  • 1 tbsp cilantro (chopped)
  • 1 lime


  • Pre-heat your smoker to 250°F.
  • Start by cutting each ear of corn into quarters.
  • Place 4 tbsp of butter into a microwave-safe bowl and microwave for 15 seconds.
  • Add the chili powder, smoked paprika, cumin, garlic powder, and cayenne pepper to the melted butter and stir until a thin paste forms.
  • Coat each piece of corn in the butter mixture with a basting brush until well-coated.
  • Place on the smoker for about an hour, or until the corn starts to curl and look like a rib.
  • Top with cotija cheese, cilantro, and a squeeze of fresh lime juice.


Calories: 203kcal | Carbohydrates: 20g | Protein: 4g | Fat: 14g | Saturated Fat: 8g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 34mg | Sodium: 196mg | Potassium: 329mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 6g | Vitamin A: 1444IU | Vitamin C: 9mg | Calcium: 40mg | Iron: 1mg
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