Canned Chipotle Peppers Are The Key To Spicing Up Corn Chowder

Corn chowder has roots in the American Midwest and South, where corn is a staple crop. However, corn is first and foremost a Mexican crop and continues to be the foundation of most Mexican food. Mexican cuisine has perfected the marriage of earthy, savory corn with spicy chilis as evidenced by iconic dishes like poblano-stuffed tamales de rajas, corn chips and salsa, and the famous street foods Mexican elote and esquite corn snack. So, if you're looking for a spicy kick for corn chowder, canned chipotle peppers are a classic Mexican staple that fits the bill.

Canned chipotle peppers are dried jalapeños rehydrated, cooked, and preserved in a tangy, smoky, sweet adobo sauce made with vinegar, caramelized onions, tomato, sugar, dried herbs, and spices. They're an easy addition to a corn chowder recipe, with a long shelf life and wide availability in grocery stores across the U.S. Unlike a sprinkle of cayenne or smoked paprika, chipotles offer a much more complex flavor profile that will complement and enhance the sweet and savory nature of corn chowder's star ingredient.

Furthermore, it only takes a few juicy chipotle peppers to season an entire pot of corn chowder. When making our go-to corn chowder recipe, we'll mince a few chipotles to go along with the rest of the dried spices in the sauteed aromatic foundation before adding corn, potatoes, and cooking liquid.

Garnish, seasoning, and ingredient pairings for chipotle corn chowder

Chipotle peppers won't just complement the sweet and savory corn kernels, but they'll also pair perfectly with other classic corn chowder ingredients like earthy potatoes and salty, umami-rich bacon. You can also swap or add different seasonings and aromatics to highlight the smoky chipotle flavor. A sauteed foundation of bell peppers and diced jalapeños complement chipotle peppers' sweet and smoky notes with the vegetal notes of fresh peppers. Spices like cumin, chili powder, and smoked paprika will enhance the spicy zestiness of chipotles while also putting a Mexican twist on classic corn chowder.

You could likewise garnish chipotle-spiced corn chowder with complementary flavors that play up a tropical, Mexican, or Southwestern culinary theme. For example, you could top the soup with a dollop of unsweetened coconut cream or tangy Mexican crema to help turn down the heat. You could also garnish with fried corn tortilla strips, pickled red onions, pickled jalapeños, pico de gallo, or a sprinkling of salty, tangy cotija cheese. For a hybrid of chowder and pozole, you could swap a portion of yellow corn kernels with drained canned hominy.