Sweet Corn & Poblano Chile Chowder

What I love most about this chowder is its golden yellow hue and full sweet taste of fresh corn just of the cob. Over many summers of fresh corn bounty, I have explored every way imaginable to obtain a more pronounced corn taste in my corn soups, and the method presented here is “numero uno” thus far.

It is also perhaps the easiest method, as it involves pureeing the corn kernels with stock before the cooking begins. Thus, there is no scalding, dripping soup to ladle into a processor. In addition, this method allows for both a puree of corn, corn kernels, and a variety of colorful, perfectly cooked diced vegetables, which really enliven the whole effect.

I have purposely kept this soup vegetarian, but if you have leftover diced ham and you want to use it, I imagine a cup or two would be a tasty addition. In this case, toss the ham in the butter before you add the onions and sauté it for a minute or two. This helps to bring out the flavor.

You might also want to check out another wonderful corn soup that uses this method, Fresh Corn & Chipotle Soup with Prawn, Avocado & Lime Escabeche.

Sweet Corn & Poblano Chile Chowder  

This is the quintessential corn chowder, bursting with fresh corn flavor and punctuated with colorful veggies and chiles. To my palate, the little bit of spicy heat really enlivens the total effect.

Ingredient Note   Although there are a fair number of chiles in this soup, the result is only a little spicy, as long as you remove both the seeds and the ribs from the chiles. If you want more heat, add ½-1 teaspoon of crushed red pepper (cayenne pepper flakes) to the onions while they are sautéing.

Technique Note   A sure way to ruin this soup is to overcook the potatoes, celery, and carrots. Okay, to be fair, the soup will not actually be ruined, meaning inedible, but it won’t be perfection either. To allow for cooling, refrigerating, and later reheating, always undercook the final addition of vegetables.

Technique Note   The amount of flour specified here is just enough to produce a barely thickened soup base, which is my usual preference. Overly thickened chowders are a blight on the soup world! J Nevertheless, if you want a chowder with a little more body, you can add an additional 2 tablespoons of flour at Step 6. 

Quantity Note   This makes a large batch of soup, but it is even better after a day or two mellowing in the refrigerator. Even with only 2 to 3 folks in the house, this bisque never lasts beyond day three.

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 cups chopped yellow onion (1 pound chopped; about 1 large or 2 medium-size onions)
3 fresh jalapeno chiles, cored, cut in half lengthwise, seeded and ribbed (use rubber gloves!)
4 cloves garlic, peeled, and minced or pressed
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour

8 cups fresh yellow corn kernels, cut from the cob, divided in half  (you can use frozen in a pinch)
5 cups vegetable stock, divided  (chicken stock also works well)
2 fresh poblano chiles, cored, cut in half lengthwise, seeded and ribbed, minced (use rubber gloves!)
4 cups, ½-inch cubed, new potatoes (20 ounces; red or gold)
1½ cup diced celery (about 3 large ribs)
1½ cup diced carrots (about 3 large carrots)
2 cups half and half
2 teaspoon sea salt, or more to taste

freshly ground black pepper, to taste
½ cup chopped flat leaf parsley
softened unsalted butter, optional

  1. In a large stovetop casserole or wide soup pot, over medium-high heat, melt the butter. Add the onions, jalapeno chiles, and garlic to the casserole and cook over medium-low heat until onions are softened but not browned, about 15 minutes.  
  2. While the onions are cooking, add 4 cups of the corn kernels and 2 cups vegetable stock to a blender. Liquefy on high speed. If the mixture seizes up and won’t move, stop the blender and scrape down the sides of the container. Add another 1 cup of vegetable stock. Continue blending until the corn mixture looks quite smooth.  
  3. This step isn’t absolutely necessary but does produce a velvety texture. Pour the corn mixture through a medium-fine sieve into a bowl. To extract all of the liquid, push against any solids remaining in the sieve. If you liquefy the corn long enough, you will have only about 1-2 tablespoons of solid particles remaining in the sieve. Discard these.
  4. Alternatively, just leave the corn puree in the blender until needed later in Step 7.
  5. Back to the onions. Sprinkle on the flour and cook, stirring constantly, for several minutes.
  6. Slowly add the remaining 2 cups vegetable stock, whisking constantly to keep flour lumps from forming. When the stock is fully incorporated and the soup base is free of lumps, add the corn puree and bring to a full simmer. Simmer slowly for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent scorching on the bottom of the casserole. Stir in the cream.
  7. Add the poblano chiles and potatoes, and continue simmering for 5 minutes. Add the diced celery and carrots and simmer for an additional 5 minutes or so, until the vegetables are almost cooked through but still very firm and crunchy. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  8. Remove the soup from the heat and transfer all that you won’t be eating immediately to a storage container, seal, and refrigerate until ready to serve.
  9. When ready to serve, heat only the amount of soup that you plan to use and simmer for 1-2 minutes to complete the cooking of the diced vegetables.
  10. To serve, ladle into bowls, grind pepper over the top and sprinkle on a little chopped parsley. If you want to gild the lily, float a teaspoon of softened butter on each serving.

Makes about 16 cups; serves 8-12.

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  1. Patricia Torres says

    I first tried this recipe in New Mexico from my husband’s step grandmother. I haven’t tried this particular recipe but a similar one. I found this one once i had already started my batch.

  2. Susan says

    I guess it’s getting to be that time of year, hmm? Just auditioned a butternut (from my garden) squash soup that my daughter and I riffed from a recipe she had. It was so good..but it can wait ’til later. I need to try this one while I can still get my hands on some fresh corn. I love that there are chili’s in this to add a little bite to the sweet corn. And potato chunks too? Excellent!

    • Susan S. Bradley says

      Susan, thanks so much! Yes, I too am scurrying to eat all the fresh corn I can get my hands on before the season ends. But, wow, those winter squash are so tempting in the markets. The colors! And suddenly I am thinking of pumpkin and caramel all the time. Fall is so magical. Can’t wait to see what you come with on the butternut squash soup front.

  3. Kim in MD says

    This looks absolutely amazing, Susan! My husband is going out of town for a couple of days and I was browsing my favorite food blogs for a special going away dinner recipe- this is it! Thanks so much!

  4. City Share says

    I have a ton of corn to eat up this week. It’s been so hot for so long, I forgot how much I like corn chowder. Thanks for sharing your recipe.

  5. Mary-beth says

    Susan: Just last week I made Creamed Corn for F.’s birthday dinner, and used this method for pureeing the corn/stock. It was heavenly! I’ll try this, for sure. m-b

    • Susan S. Bradley says

      Mary-beth, I thought I was a GENIUS for coming up with this idea. Well now we are both geniuses. :-) Happy birthday to Frank!

  6. says

    This looks yummy. Corn and potato is a natural pairing. I made Rick Bayless’s corn and poblano chowder and found it somewhat lacking in flavor and texture. I like the idea of only pureeing half the corn.

    • Susan S. Bradley says

      Todd, thank you. I hope you will agree this chowder has a big corn flavor. I hit upon the idea of pureeing the corn after too many corn chowders with not enough corn taste. Adding more corn didn’t work as the broth was still bland. Without bacon or seafood (as in Clam Chowder), it just wasn’t working. Not only is the flavor wonderful now, but the color is lovely too. Hope you’ll try it.

  7. Julianne says

    I had thought the same thing when it the website first became un-copy and paste-able — but after a few attempts I noticed that there is a “print this post” button at the bottom below the “share the love” icons. It takes you to a separate page and there you can copy it to save or print.

  8. Naomi says

    I hope I am not out of line here in asking this question: Why do you discourage my copying your recipe to my destination (I use a recipe software where I keep recipes I’d like to try)? Apparently you have no problem with my using the recipe or you would not post it, but what is the point of forcing me to write it down on a pad before I can use it? I’m sure there are factors I’m unaware of but as I see it, if you want me to try the recipe, you will not make it difficult to do that. Help me understand?

    • Susan S. Bradley says

      Naomi, thank you for asking this. The anti-copy feature prevents other websites from grabbing my content and publishing it to their site. This was occurring quite a lot and infriges on my copyright. Of course I want you to have the recipe for your personal collection. There is a Print This Post button just above the Comments section. Just click that and you will get a print option. I’ve asked MauiJim to try to make that phrase bigger so folks don’t miss it. Best…Susan


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