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Southwest Corn Chowder

Updated on August 17, 2014

Southwest Corn Chowder Takes a Texas Twist

A hearty chowder is just the right dish for a cold, wintry night. As a thinner version, it's even a treat for hotter months. Corn chowder with a few other veggie additions is also an economical choice when you need to feed a crowd. It's easy to prepare and can simmer until the potatoes are fork-tender or even a little mushier for that mashed consistency. With the right seasonings, there is no limit to how you can turn corn chowder into your own signature dish.

We Texans are good at that - giving things our own spin. Tex-Mex is a prime example. Some innovative border chef even took turnovers and turned them into "chilipanzingas." Yep, Texas is the only state to have its own turnover variation. Back to Southwest Corn Chowder. This is my personal version, developed right here in the middle-of-nowhere Texas. Now, it's your turn to try it out and then run with it. Enjoy!

First, a Little Taste of Chowder History

The name’s origin is a bit iffy and includes at least two possibilities. The first is that the word is a translation from the Old or Middle English term, jowter, which means fish peddler. In French, the word cauldron is “chaudiere,” which some claim is how chowder came to be in Americanized terms.

With its base of fish, chowder eventually became loved with the addition of clams in a thick potato-ey and cream or milk base, known as the New England version. Manhattan chowder uses tomatoes instead. As other versions evolved, all manner of foods became part of the base, including corn, of course.

My Texanized Version of Southwest Corn Chowder

Like so many other recipes, there are as many versions of chowder as there are the folks who make it. Some begin with a roux; others let potatoes provide the thickener. The veggie list is long, but in this recipe, I stick to carrots and onions as the add-ons.

However, because it is a Southwest recipe, it needs a little flavoring from canned green chiles. While fresh is always best, the canned variety is simply better in this case.

On the Texas side of this recipe, corn gets a little special treatment - out on the grill. Fresh ears, with husk and silks removed, char up nicely and add a uniquely crisp taste to corn chowder. Oil 'em up a little, let them cook for about three minutes on each side, cool them, and shave off the kernels.

Of course, we may not have the time for that last Texas step. Indoors, you can use frozen or drained canned corn. Add a little oil in a skillet, heat, and add kernels. Toss them around until they start to show a little browning and they're good to go.

This photo only courtesy of Morguefile; all others are copyright Cindy Kennedy.

Corn Chowder Recipe Tips

If using cornstarch for a thickener during cooking, remember it will lose its roux-like substance if simmered too long.

Make it creamier by removing some of the corn/potato mixture and pureeing, or mashing potatoes in the pot.

For fresh corn: pull back shucks, rub the silk away with a dry paper towel. After grilling or boiling, cut cob in half and use a sharp knife to remove kernels.

Four ears of corn is about the equivalent of four cups of kernels.

Jalapenos or other hot peppers are almost always options (except when you're cooking for a Texas crowd - no option but to add them!).

Bowl of Southwest Corn Chowder
Bowl of Southwest Corn Chowder

A big bowl of Southwest Corn Chowder is easy to make and is a hearty dish for small or large gatherings.

  • Prep time: 30 min
  • Cook time: 30 min
  • Ready in: 1 hour
  • Yields: 4


  • 4 cups corn kernels
  • 2 large potatoes (diced into bite sizes)
  • 2 medium carrots (julienned)
  • 1/2 white onion (diced)
  • 1 jalapeno (optional)
  • 3.5 cups chicken broth
  • 1 can diced green chiles (4 ounces with liquid)
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 teaspoons oil (or butter - to saute onions and carrots)
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon thyme
  • salt to taste
  • 1 cup cheddar cheese (grated for garnishing)


  1. 1. Over hot coals or on a propane grill, roast four ears of corn on the cob, let cool, then slice off kernels. As an alternative, heat a skillet, add oil and saute canned or frozen kernels until brown.
  2. 2. In a large pot, heat 2 teaspoons oil. Saute onions and carrots until slightly glazed.
  3. 3. Add chicken broth and diced green chiles.
  4. 4. Blend seasonings and mix in.
  5. 5. After simmering for about 10 minutes, add potatoes and continue cooking until fork tender.
  6. 6.Add corn and milk. Continue simmering until all ingredients are hot.
  7. 7. Serve in bowls immediately, topped with shredded cheddar cheese.
Cast your vote for Southwest Corn Chowder

Ultimate Chowders

Don’t limit yourself to a clam or corn based chowder. This cookbook expands horizons with various ways to take this comfort dish to new levels.

What (and where) is the best chowder you've ever had?

Let's chat over a bowl of chowder

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