July 4, 2020

Corn Chowder with Chile, Lime and Cotija

Oh, my gosh. Smitten Kitchen has become my favorite source for recipes! I tried this chowder the other day and it was amazing. The lime and cheese flavors are perfect, so don't skip the finishing mixture.

Corn Chowder with Chile, Lime and Cotija
Photo Credit: Smitten Kitchen


8 medium/large ears corn, husks and silks removed
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 large onion, preferably Spanish, chopped fine
2 medium cloves garlic, minced
1 to 2 jalapeño peppers, finely chopped
1 tablespoon mild chili powder or 1 teaspoon of a hotter one
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
4 cups vegetable or chicken stock or broth
2 15-ounce cans small red or black beans, drained and rinsed (or one of each) 
1 cup whole milk
Salt and freshly ground black pepper or cayenne to taste
1/2 to 1 cup heavy cream


1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup sour cream or Mexican crema
1/2 cup finely crumbled Cotija, feta or ricotta salata cheese, plus more for serving
1 lime, divided
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
Chili powder or a chili-lime seasoning such as Tajín
Baked tortilla chips (optional)
Diced avocado (optional)

For the soup:

With a sharp knife, cut kernels from 8 ears corn (you should have about 6 cups); transfer half to a bowl. Chop the other half into pulpy bits on a cutting board or blend them in a food processor until half-pureed. Add to bowl. Firmly scrape any pulp remaining on cobs with back of knife into bowl with corn. Set corn aside.

In a large (5 quarts is ideal) heavy pot, heat olive oil and butter over medium. Add onion and cook until tender and beginning to brown at the edges, about 6 to 8 minutes. Add garlic, jalapeño and chili powder and cook together for 2 minutes more. Add flour and stir into onion-garlic mixture until it disappears. Stirring constantly, gradually add stock. Add beans, corn, and 1 cup milk and bring to a simmer. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for 10 to 13 minutes, until corn is tender. 

Add salt (about 1 tablespoon Diamond kosher salt) and freshly ground black pepper or cayenne to taste. Add cream to taste (1/2 cup sufficient, but it will be less creamy than traditional) and cook for 3 minutes more.

To finish: 

Combine mayonnaise, sour cream or crema, cheese, and juice of half a lime in a bowl; stir to combine. Cut second half of lime into wedges.

Ladle soup into bowls and dollop in center with 1 tablespoon (or more to taste) of mayo-cheese mixture. Squeeze lime juice over to taste, sprinkle with chili powder and chopped cilantro and serve, baked tortilla chips on the side if you wish.

My Notes:

This makes a lot of soup, so next time I'll cut it in half.

My corn cobs were very dry, so I didn't get a lot of corn "milk." Once I removed the kernels, I simmered the cobs in a pot with the chicken stock while finishing the rest of the preparations.

I used a Vidalia onion.

We don't care for spicy food, so I left out the jalapeno and only used 1 teaspoon of chili powder. That's why my photo shows a much whiter-looking soup.

I didn't have small red beans, so I substituted with navy beans.

For the finish, I used feta which I find to be less salty than the Cotija.

I didn't have any cilantro, but I did add diced avocado.

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  1. I once made a great corn chowder that was flavored with saffron, but I lost the recipe. THe corn cobs were cooked in the pot to add more flavor to the broth. This sounds like a good flavor combination.

    be well... mae at maefood.blogspot.com

    1. I'll bet that chowder was delicious, Mae. The only time I've used saffron is in Paella, which I haven't made in years!

  2. I don't know if I've have corn chowder. I've had clam chowder lots of times but not corn.

    1. Marg, we eat a lot of clam chowder (we live on the Oregon coast, so it's available everywhere!), but I've only had corn chowder a few times. This was really good!

  3. I recently checked out a Smitten Kitchen cookbook, not sure if this one is in there so, thanks for the recipe. Looks so good. You ought to hook up with Deb at Kahakai Kitchen for her Souper Sunday event! She hosts every week and you can link with soup, salad or sandwiches.

    1. Tina, I found this recipe online. I have her first cookbook, but haven't sampled any of those recipes. I know. It's time! Thanks for the recommendation for Deb at Kahakai Kitchen. I'll take a look. Have a good week!

  4. I want to make this recipe. Corn was my favorite vegetable as a child, and I still love the taste. I will save this one. Thank you, Les.

    1. Deb, I especially love the corn we used to get in Nebraska. So tender and sweet. I hope you enjoy this recipe. I plan to make it again and maybe add some shrimp. Or substitute the beans with potatoes. I'm always fussing with recipes. :)

  5. I've tried several Smitten Kitchen recipes from the website and they've all been good. After we move, I'll have to treat myself to a cookbook. Your corn chowder looks amazing!

    1. JoAnn, I really need to try some of the recipes in her cookbook! I bought it more for the photos and stories, but now that I know she's a great cook, I need to sample those in addition to the ones I find online.

  6. I do love a good corn chowder and this looks like an especially good flavor combination. Got to try it!

    1. Hope you enjoy it, Claudia. The flavors are really good!

  7. This looks so yummy and like the perfect winter dish. I just don't crave these types of food when it's so freaking hot out here in Texas. Will have to save the recipe!

    1. Iliana, I wouldn't want to eat soup during the hot summer days in Texas, either! We're pretty lucky to have such mild temps on the coast.


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