With Cotija cheese, cilantro, sour cream, and lime, Mexican Street Corn Soup is a fun and full-flavored way to serve sweet summer corn. It’s easy to prepare, too!
Before I was a food writer, I was that girl who flooded her friends’ social media feeds with cell phone pictures of what she was cooking and eating. There’s no shortage of humorous memes out there about people like me, I know! Three summers ago, I posted a picture of the Mexican Street Corn Soup I’d made for dinner, and my phone lit up with a flurry of notifications. Comments ranged from, “I need this recipe!” to the descriptive, “I’m drooling all over my keyboard,” and the suggestion that led us to where we are today, “Start a food blog already, Amanda!” When I thought about it, creating a place to share recipes with friends sounded like a fun idea. Except, I soon learned that to start a blog, you have to know stuff other than how to make soup. Things such as what you want to call your site (let’s not even talk about how long I dwelled on that detail), the technical end of navigating blogging software, and the magical, mysterious world of SEO. By the time I got my act together that year, corn season was long over. It only occurred to me last week, as what had to be my ten-thousandth pot of this soup simmered on the stove, that I’ve never published the recipe!
As a lifelong Jersey girl, summer corn practically runs through my veins. We have some of the sweetest, most delectable varieties here in the Garden State, with the coveted Silver Queen (white) and Butter and Sugar (bi-color) being my personal favorites. Nothing beats a simple grilled ear of corn at a barbecue, rolled in butter and sprinkled with sea salt, or topped with cheese, herbs, spices, and lime, à la Mexican Street Corn. At peak season, the corn is so ripe that you can even eat it uncooked. That said, I have a serious weak spot for corn soup. Take those same elements you enjoy “on the cob” and simmer them into a naturally rich, creamy, full-flavored soup and I’m in heaven.
Mexican Street Corn soup is as easy to make as it is versatile to serve. The heat level is customizable to your personal preferences (I like mine mild, but feel free to go to town with the chili powder if that’s your thing!). To “up” the smoky quality, you can certainly grill the corn instead of pan-roasting the kernels as directed below, but don’t skip the step of simmering the stripped cobs in the broth. I’ve always been amazed by how much sweet, milky deliciousness is hidden in the cobs themselves. They’re a natural flavor trove! I like to serve this soup hot as a light dinner, but have made something of a habit out of having the leftovers chilled for a refreshing lunch.
To my family and friends who have encouraged me from the start and have been endlessly excited about the recipes I’ve shared on Striped Spatula: Thank you. It’s long overdue, but this soup’s for you!
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Mexican Street Corn Soup
- 1/4 cup olive or vegetable oil
- 6 cups fresh corn kernels, from 8-10 cobs (save 6 of the stripped cobs for simmering the soup)
- 1 cup chopped yellow onion
- 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon chili powder (depending on your heat preferences), plus additional to taste
- kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- 4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
- 1/2 cup sour cream
- 1/2 cup grated Cotija cheese, plus additional for garnish (substitute Parmesan or Romano if Cotija is unavailable)
- 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
- 1 teaspoon grated lime zest
- 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons chopped cilantro, divided
Heat oil in a large, nonstick pot or Dutch oven until shimmering. Add corn kernels, chopped onion, 1/8 teaspoon chili powder, 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until onions are soft and corn is light golden brown in spots, about 10 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, 1 minute. Remove 1-1/2 cups of corn mixture from the pot and set aside. Stir broth and 6 stripped corn cobs into the pot, scraping up the brown bits on the bottom. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 20 minutes.
Use tongs to remove corn cobs from pot and discard. Stir sour cream and Cotija into the soup. Transfer soup to a blender or food processor (in batches, depending on the size of your unit for safety), or use an immersion blender to puree soup until smooth. Return soup to pot and if needed, gently reheat to desired serving temperature. Stir in half (3/4 cup) of the reserved corn mixture, lime juice, and 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and chili powder.
Toss remaining 3/4 cup corn with lime zest and 2 teaspoons chopped cilantro. Serve soup, topped with a few spoonfuls of the corn mixture, and an extra sprinkling of Cotija, if desired.
Tip: To strip corn, place cob horizontally on a cutting board and shave the kernels with a sharp knife, rotating the cob as you go. Alternatively, brace the tapered end of the cob vertically in the center of a Bundt or tube pan, shaving the kernels from top to bottom as they fall into the pan.