This delicious and flavorful elote corn chowder is inspired by the favorite Mexican street food elote. Featuring fresh summer corn, a blend of spices, fresh lime juice, crema (or sour cream) and garnished with cotija cheese, this soup will become your new favorite late summer dinner.
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I’m so thrilled to share this incredible elote corn chowder with you.
Inspiration for this recipe came to me while on vacation with my family. I was trying Trader Joe’s elote corn dip for the first time while my mom was talking about making corn chowder with the fresh corn she just purchased.
And boom..it just clicked! Why not combine the two and make an elote corn chowder?
This elote corn chowder features all the delicious flavors of Mexican street corn. It is the perfect meal for late summer while fresh corn is in season and at its sweetest!
This chowder is creamy, flavorful, loaded with fresh corn and has a slight kick.
The garnishes are key – salty cotija cheese and fresh cilantro take this corn chowder to the next level!
One great thing about this soup is it’s easily adaptable. You can control the spice level to your liking, you can switch up the garnishes and it can also be adapted to be vegetarian or vegan.
See below for all substitution options.
What is Elote?
Elote, which translates to ‘corn cob’, is a popular Mexican street food. It can be found being served up from street vendors, as well as at restaurants, festivals and fairs in Mexico City and other cities and towns around Mexico and the U.S.
Elote, or also known as Mexican street corn, consists of grilled corn slathered in a mayonnaise and Mexican crema mixture, sprinkled with cotija cheese crumbles, chili powder and cilantro and finished with a spritz of lime juice.
Fresh corn: this chowder is meant to celebrate corn season, so fresh is best! You’ll need about six ears of corn for this recipe.
Garlic and onion: the primary aromatics in this recipe and adjustable if you LOVE garlic and onions.
Poblano pepper: one poblano pepper will add mild heat and delicious flavor to this chowder.
Low sodium chicken stock: I like to use low sodium stock so the sodium content is easily adjustable based on preference.
Half & half: half & half keeps this chowder a bit lighter but still helps thicken it up.
Mexican crema or sour cream: while Mexican crema is more traditional, it can be difficult to find in grocery stores in the U.S. Sour cream is very similar, just slightly thicker, and will also work great.
Lime juice: adds a bit of acidity and zip.
Spices: chili powder, cumin, smoked paprika, cayenne (optional), oregano, salt and pepper.
Cotija cheese: don’t skip this garnish! It adds so much delicious, salty and cheesy flavor.
Cilantro: cilantro adds a fresh and citrusy flavor that really brightens this chowder.
All the below garnishes are optional, but add great flavor and/or texture.
Charred corn kernels
Avocado slices or chunks
Sour cream or Mexican crema
Heat 2 tablespoons of butter and 2 tablespoons of oil olive in a 5 to 6 quart dutch oven over medium heat.
Add diced onion, poblano pepper and minced garlic. Sauté for 4 to 5 minutes, until soft and fragrant.
Add corn and all the spices. Give everything a good toss and cook for an additional 1 to 2 minutes.
Add chicken stock, bring to a soup to a simmer, cover dutch oven with lid and simmer soup for 30 minutes.
Ladle 3/4 of the soup into a large blender. Blend soup until smooth. Pour soup back into dutch oven with remaining soup.
Add sour cream or Mexican crema, half and half and lime juice. Stir soup to mix.
Ladle soup into bowls. Garnish with cotija cheese, fresh cilantro and other optional garnishes, as desired.
Measure out all your spices before starting the chowder.
Char the corn on the grill or in a grill pan to add a smoky depth of flavor to this chowder.
To easily cut the corn off the cob, lay the cob down flat on a cutting board and use a sharp chef’s knife to cut the corn off one side of the cob. Rotate the cob 1/4 and repeat until all the corn is cut off the cob.
Add corn cobs to the soup while it simmers to help flavor the chowder.
If you are unsure on the amount of cayenne to use, start with a little (or none). Taste the soup before serving and add more as needed, based on your spice preference.
If your chowder is a bit thin, you can mix 1/2 teaspoon of corn starch or tapioca starch with 1 tsp of water and add it to the chowder over low heat. Stir and cook for an additional 1-2 minutes until thickened.
Can I use an immersion blender instead of a regular blender?
Yes, but I recommend blending in the mixing cup that comes with the immersion blender in batches. If you blend directly in the pot, the texture will be slightly off. You will get a soup with partially blended corn, rather than a smooth and creamy mixture mixed with whole corn kernels.
Why not blend all of the soup?
You can certainly blend all of the soup if you want a completely smooth and creamy soup. Blending about 3/4 of the soup results in a creamy soup with some whole corn kernels in every bite.
Are poblano peppers spicy?
Poblano peppers are mildly spicy and less spicy than jalapeños. You will get a very subtle heat if you just use the poblano and no cayenne. You can adjust the cayenne according to your spice preference. If you want more heat, use jalapeños instead of a poblano.
What is cotija cheese?
Cotija is a cow’s milk cheese that is popular in Mexican cooking. It is white in color, salty in flavor and very crumbly. It is used as a garnish as it does not melt very well.
Cotija can be found in most grocery stores in the specialty cheese section (typically near the deli).
How can I store elote corn chowder?
Elote corn chowder can be stored in an air tight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or in the freezer for up to 6 months.
Fresh corn: while fresh corn is best, you can use frozen or canned corn instead.
Poblano pepper: for more heat, you can replace the poblano pepper with two jalapeño peppers.
Chicken stock: you can use chicken bone broth for additional flavor and nutrients.
Half & half: whole milk or heavy cream works as well.
Sour cream: use Mexican crema if you can find it for a more authentic recipe.
Chili powder: try ancho chili powder in place of regular chili powder for a smoky kick!
Cotija: if you can’t find cotija, you can use crumbled queso fresco or feta for the garnish.
Vegetarian: use vegetable stock instead of chicken stock.
Vegan: use vegetable stock, a dairy free unsweetened creamer instead of half and half, vegan cream cheese in place of the sour cream and omit the cotija (or use vegan feta).
More Recipes You’ll Love
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- Easy Summer Corn Orzo Salad
- Summer Shrimp and Corn Risotto
Elote Corn Chowder
- 2 tbsp avocado or olive oil
- 2 tbsp butter
- 6 cups fresh corn (approx. 6 ears of corn)
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- 1 cup diced white or yellow onion
- 1 poblano pepper seeds removed, diced
- 1 1/2 tbsp chili powder
- 1 1/2 tbsp cumin
- 1 tbsp smoked paprika
- 1 tbsp oregano
- 1/2-1 tsp cayenne optional
- 1 quart chicken or vegetable stock
- 1 cup half and half
- 1/2 cup sour cream or Mexican crema
- 1/2 lime juiced
- Cotija cheese
- Fresh cilantro
- Heat butter and oil olive in a 5 to 6 quart dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion, poblano pepper and garlic. Sauté for 4 to 5 minutes, until soft and fragrant.
- Add corn and all the spices. Give everything a good toss and cook for an additional 1 to 2 minutes. Add stock, bring to a soup to a simmer, cover dutch oven with lid and simmer soup for 30 minutes.
- Ladle 3/4 of the soup into a large blender. Blend soup until smooth. Pour soup back into dutch oven with remaining soup. Add sour cream or Mexican crema, half and half and lime juice. Stir soup to mix.
- Ladle soup into bowls. Garnish with cotija cheese, fresh cilantro and other optional garnishes, as desired.
- Jalapeño slices
- Charred corn kernels
- Avocado slices or chunks
- Sour cream or Mexican crema
- Tortilla strips
- Smoked paprika
- Lime wedges