Spirit of the Harvest: Sweet Corn Soup (Sopa de Elote)

January 20, 2010

Spirit of the Harvest: Sweet Corn Soup (Sopa de Elote)

Renowned food author Beverly Cox, winner of the James Beard cookbook award, a Julia Child award and a IACP cookbook award, and food editor for Native Peoples Magazine, contributes a monthly column and weekly recipes to TankaBar.com. The Spirit of the Harvest columns are published the second Wednesday of every month. Recipes from Beverly run on intervening Wednesdays.

In the great pre-Hispanic corn cultures of the Americas, the appearance of the season's first tender ears of corn was greeted with rejoicing and thanksgiving ceremonies. The young corn was roasted in the husk and eaten off the cob or made into delicate fresh corn tamales, a naturally sweet-tasting fresh atole, or a soup. Sopa de Elote, traditionally made in Puebla at this time of year, combines the young corn with onions, chiles, and tomatoes. Though it is best made with freshly picked corn, frozen corn kernels also make a good soup.

Makes: 6 servings


3 tablespoons butter or corn oil
1/2 cup chopped white onion
2 fresh poblano chiles, roasted, peeled, seeds and ribs removed,
cut into thin strips
1 clove garlic, peeled and minced
6 cups fresh corn kernels (8 to 9 ears), or one 16-ounce package
frozen corn kernels
1 large ripe tomato, or 4 ripe plum tomatoes, diced
6 cups chicken broth
1 to 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro or parsley
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Vegetable oil for deep-frying
4 to 6 corn tortillas, cut into small strips
1 cup crumbled queso fresco, or crumbled feta, or 1 cup sour cream


Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat.
Add the onion and saute until slightly softened, 1 to 2 minutes.
Add the chile strips, garlic, and 2 cups of the corn kernels.
Cook, stirring often, for 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.
In a blender or food processor, puree the 4 remaining cups of corn kernels together with the tomato and 1-1/2 cups of the chicken broth.
Press the puree through a coarse-mesh sieve into the saucepan.
Add the remaining 4-1/2 cups chicken broth, half of the cilantro, and salt and pepper to taste.
Bring the soup to a boll, then reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 10 to 15 minutes, until the flavors are well blended.
Meanwhile, pour the oil to a depth of 1 inch in a skillet and heat.
Fry the tortilla strips until they are crisp and golden, about 1 minute. Remove them with a slotted spoon and set them aside. Drain them on crumpled paper towels.
Ladle the soup into individual bowls and top each serving with the cheese, tortilla strips, and cilantro.

Beverly Cox is the food editor of Native Peoples Magazine and a former food editor and director of food styling for Cook's Magazine. She holds a Grand Diplome from Le Cordon Bleu in Paris and apprenticed with Gaston LeNotre.

Beverly has written 13 cookbooks, including Spirit of the Harvest, North American Indian Cooking, winner of the James Beard and IACP cookbook awards in 1992, and Spirit of the West, Cooking from Ranch House and Range, winner of a Julia Child award in 1997, and Spirit of the Earth, Native Cooking from Latin America, an IACP cookbook award finalist in 2002, all co-authored with food photographer Martin Jacobs. Their most recent book is Eating Cuban, 120 Authentic Recipes from the Streets of Havana to American Shores.

Beverly and her husband, Gordon Black, an architect turned rancher, live on the historic Eagle Rock Ranch in Northern Colorado where her great grandfather homesteaded in 1872. Beverly teaches hands-on cooking classes for small groups who want to combine cooking with the experience of visiting a working cattle ranch.

You can contact Beverly at BeverlyCox@TankaBar.com

For more information about Beverly's cookbooks featuring Native American recipes:

Body, Mind and Spirit: Native Cooking of the Americas

Spirit of the Harvest: North American Indian Cooking

Spirit of the Earth: Native Cooking from Latin America

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