Calabacitas Chowder (Summer Squash, Corn, and Green Chile)

Calabacitas Chowder made with New Mexico green chile, squash and sweet corn @mjskitchen #greenchile #summer #squash

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It’s hard to believe that it was two years ago when I first talked about calabacitas and introduced you to my Calabacitas Enchiladas.  As much as I make calabacitas in one form or another, I’m surprised I don’t have this website full of squash, corn and green chile recipes.  Well, let’s fix that shall we.  The other day on my weekly visit to the Nob Hill Growers’ Market I picked up some beautiful young leeks, a few yellow squash and some sweet corn (the first I’ve seen this season).  All I needed now was green chile. July is still a little early for fresh green chile, but I did have some in the freezer.  Therefore, because the cooler weather and rain (finally!), it just felt right to turn such a beautiful bounty into a fresh Calabacitas Chowder.

For this calabacitas chowder, the squash is used as the base by cooking it the way my mother use to cook it, until it is pretty much mush. Once cooked, the squash is pureed with a little water.  The leeks are sauteed in olive oil and added to the pureed squash along with corn and green chile.  A little milk (or milk substitute) and some herbs and spices are added for a delicious sweet and spicy calabacitas chowder.  Top with crumbled bacon or chopped avocado (whichever you prefer), and serve a few tortilla chips on the side.

Calabacitas Chowder

New Mexico Sweet white corn

 White Sweet Corn from Wagner Farms, Corrales, NM

Calabacitas Chowder Recipe
30 mins
30 mins
Total Time
1 hr

A late summer, early fall chowder made with leeks, summer squash, corn and roasted green chile.

"*" See Kitchen Notes for more information or links to special ingredients.

Course: Soup, Vegetarian
Cuisine: New Mexico, Southwestern
Yields: 4 servings
Recipe Author: MJ of MJ's Kitchen
Step 1
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 medium summer squash (yellow or zucchini), coarsely chopped
  • 4 large cloves garlic, chopped
  • ¼ tsp. cumin-coriander spice mix
  • 2 cups water and more as needed
Step 2
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 3 young leeks or 1 medium leek, about 1 cup chopped, whites chopped
  • 2 ears sweet corn, shucked and cleaned
  • ¼ to ½ cup roasted, green chile, finely chopped
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • 1 cup half and half or dairy substitute
  • 1 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley or cilantro
Toppings (Choose one or two)
  • Chopped scallions
  • Chopped cilantro or parsley
  • Crispy bacon, crumbled
  • Chopped Avocado
  • Grated cheddar or Monterey Jack Cheese
Step 1
  1. Heat 2 Tbsp. olive oil in a soup pot over medium heat.
  2. When the oil is hot, add the squash and saute’ for about 5 minutes. If squash starts to brown on the edges, reduce heat.
  3. After 5 minutes, add the garlic, reduced heat to medium low and saute’ another 5 minutes.
  4. Add 2 cups water and the spice mix. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer. Simmer until the squash is translucent, about 10 to 15 minutes.
  5. Transfer to a large bowl (for immersion blender) or to a blender. Blend the squash to a puree’. It should be pretty thick.
Step 2
  1. While the squash is cooking, chopped the leeks and set aside.
  2. Prepare the corn by cutting the kernels off the cobs, then using the back of a knife or a flat edged spoon, scape the cob to extract as much corn and corn milk as possible. Set aside.
  3. Dice the roasted green chile. Set aside.

  4. Once the squash is done and has been transferred into another dish, add 1 Tbsp. oil to the soup pot. When the oil is hot, add the leeks and saute’ over a low heat for about 10 minutes or until soft.
  5. Add the corn and saute’ 2 minutes.
  6. Add the pureed squash to the leeks and corn. Add another ½ cup liquid. Soup should still be rather thick. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook, stirring frequently for 5 minutes or until the corn is cooked.
  7. Removed from the heat and add the green chile, half and half, and fresh herbs. Stir to combine. If chowder is still too thick, add more liquid ¼ cup at a time, until a desired thickness.
  8. Taste. Add more salt and pepper if needed.
  9. Serve immediately or refrigerate overnight.
To serve, ladle into bowls and top with toppings of choice. Serve with tortilla chips, or warm flour or corn tortillas.
Kitchen Notes

Calabacitas – Calabacitas is a traditional New Mexico early fall dish of summer squashes, corn, and green chile. Some versions add tomatoes and others add cheese.


The Squash – Any summer squash or combination of summer squash can be used.  I prefer yellow squash or one yellow squash and one zucchini.  When cooking the squash, be sure to cook it until it is translucent and soft, and blend it long enough for a nice puree’.  It makes a great base for this soup because it is extremely flavorful and yields a wonderful texture.  If you don’t like squash, I can guarantee that you’ll still love this dish.  It’s not the least bit “squashy”.


Corn -Use  fresh corn (cut right off the cob), frozen or canned, whatever you have on hand. Fresh white sweet corn is absolutely delicious!


Green Chile – There is no substitute for New Mexico’s roasted, chopped green chile; however, if you can’t stand the heat or you don’t have green chile, then just roast up a couple of poblanos, or red or green bell pepper.  You won’t get the heat with the bell pepper, but the flavor will still be quite good.


Leeks – If you don't have leeks, you can substitute onion or a combination of leeks, onions, shallots, scallions – any of it works.


Cream – Half and half or a milk substitute like almond or soy milk are best.  Anything thicker, like cream or evaporated milk yields too heavy of a chowder.


Toppings – You really don’t need much. I usually go for color and texture like some chopped parsley, bacon, and / or chopped avocado. A drizzle of chile infused oil works quite well.


Tortilla chips on the side makes a great complement and like most chowders, can be crumbled on top like crackers.  They add a crunchy texture to this creamy calabacitas chowder.


Calabacitas chowder made with New Mexico green chile, corn and yellow squash |


This green chile link will take you to more recipes with green chile.

This squash link will take you to more recipes with squash.


Other Calabacitas dishes:


Calabacitas Enchiladas

Calabacitas Cornbread


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74 Responses to “Calabacitas Chowder (Summer Squash, Corn, and Green Chile)”

  1. Sherri @The Well Floured Kitchen August 14, 2013 at 5:51 am #

    This looks delicious! I love the combination of cumin/coriander but I don’t think I’ve used it in a soup before. Can’t wait to give this a try.

    • mj August 14, 2013 at 9:34 pm #

      Thanks Sherri! I hope you enjoy it and thanks for dropping by!

  2. Chaya August 13, 2013 at 9:47 pm #

    This is a new squash to me but I have not yet met a squash, I don’t like. You certainly make it sound like it should be on my table. Thanks for sharing this with us at My Meatless Mondays

    • mj August 14, 2013 at 9:32 pm #

      Thanks Chaya! I’m with you – I love squash!

  3. Terra August 11, 2013 at 8:07 pm #

    Corn chowder is my most favorite soup, adding calabacitas just makes it that much better! Your recipe really sounds wonderful! With only a month or two until cool weather, I am getting excited to make lots of yummy soup:-) Yum, Hugs, Terra

  4. Swathi August 5, 2013 at 9:33 pm #

    Delicious chowder, fresh corn and squash always best in the summer. Love it . thanks for sharing with Hearth and soul blog hop.

  5. Bill July 29, 2013 at 9:02 am #

    Hi MJ, Our farmer’s market always has great corn this time of year and I’m always looking for corn recipes. This one looks fantastic. I might tone down the heat a bit but everything else looks delicious! i especially like the idea of bacon and avocado topping. Awesome post and great photos!

  6. Nami | Just One Cookbook July 28, 2013 at 8:31 am #

    I always adore your soup recipes, and this chowder goes to my to make list! Love that you added other veggies (leeks and squash, yum!). I would be so happy with this chowder and good bread… delicious!

    • mj July 28, 2013 at 1:28 pm #

      Thanks so much Nami! We do like our soups in this house. 🙂

  7. Amber @ The Cook's Sister July 25, 2013 at 10:11 am #

    What a great dish! I’ve never heard of Calabacitas until today. Looks amazing! Love that you were able to use fresh corn for this recipe! I would love to give this a try! I think I might need another trip to NM sometime soon. 🙂

    • mj July 25, 2013 at 5:32 pm #

      Thanks Amber! Calabacitas is really big here in the fall when the green chile starts a roasting. Many restaurants serve it as a special in Sept/Oct. If you like summer squash, the pan sauteed calabacitas is quite good. However, if you’re not a squash fan, you’ll still love this chowder.

  8. Reese July 25, 2013 at 8:51 am #

    This is one ultimate comfort soup, MJ! I love that the soup can be served as a stand-alone meal, hearty and substantial. All the wonderful nature harvests that go into the soup is delightful. I’ve bookmarked your green veggie soup and this is another one to make once the weather is starting to cool off. Thank you for sharing MJ!

    • mj July 25, 2013 at 5:30 pm #

      Thanks Reese! Yes- it really is comfort food isn’t it? 🙂 I hop you get to make it and you and Mark enjoy it.

  9. Dedy@Dentist Chef July 25, 2013 at 8:29 am #

    pretty tasty and refreshing chowder,,,
    i think i’m gonna use butternut pumpkin with the recipe……

    • mj July 25, 2013 at 5:29 pm #

      Thanks Dedy! I think butternut pumpkin would be fabulous with this dish. Great idea!

  10. Liz July 24, 2013 at 7:11 pm #

    About mid-summer, I start missing soup…so this came at the perfect time. How yummy it must be with fresh corn on the cob!

  11. Charles July 24, 2013 at 2:41 pm #

    That sounds so good MJ – all those wonderful fresh ingredients! I’ve never tried “white” sweetcorn… is it very different to the regular yellow stuff? (although even that is kinda pale creamy before it’s cooked).

    • mj July 24, 2013 at 7:35 pm #

      Thanks Charles! White sweet corn is pretty much the same as yellow sweet corn. I think yellow corn has a tougher skin, but other than that, it’s pretty much the same. Even after cooked, it keeps the creamy color.

  12. Peachy @ The Peach Kitchen July 24, 2013 at 3:13 am #

    It’s the rainy season here and I’m always in the mood for some chowder! This looks gorgeous!

  13. Hotly Spiced July 23, 2013 at 9:55 pm #

    This looks like a great chowder and so perfect for our time of year. This must have wonderful flavour with all the spices it has in it xx

  14. Gomo | cHowDivine July 23, 2013 at 8:37 pm #

    This is my kind of soup! I love a hearty, thick, chunky soup. So does my husband. He always mentions (complains) how much he loves “substantial” soups whenever we have watery or thin soups. He would seriously go crazy over this. Beautiful soup MJ!

    • mj July 24, 2013 at 7:33 pm #

      Thanks Gomo! Bobby and I also love substantial soups as you can see from this chowder. 🙂

  15. Kiersten @ Oh My Veggies July 23, 2013 at 1:55 pm #

    I love that gorgeous yellow squash! I always buy it when I see it at the farmers market. 🙂 This chowder would be a perfect lunch!

    • mj July 24, 2013 at 7:31 pm #

      Thanks Kiersten! I’m with you. I love yellow squash! I’ll be buying more at the market tomorrow.

  16. Javelin Warrior July 23, 2013 at 12:08 pm #

    Such a wonderful chowder, MJ! I love the combination of flavors and ingredients – and I love the use of the summer squash. So tasty!

    • mj July 24, 2013 at 7:30 pm #

      Thanks so much Mark! The summer squash made a great base for this soup!

  17. David Scott July 23, 2013 at 11:18 am #

    Did you know that you can get real New Mexico Green Chile dried and powdered? You haven’t lived until you have tried the real stuff! I get mine from the Chimayo Chile Brothers. Here is a link to their site:

    • mj July 24, 2013 at 7:29 pm #

      Thanks for the link David. Did you see my Green Chile Powder post? One of my links was to the Chimayo Chile Brothers where I purchased some. It’s quite tasty.

  18. Katerina July 23, 2013 at 11:08 am #

    Chowders are the best and corn adds so much sweetness to it! Perfectly made and even though it is summer here you tempted me to want to try this!

    • mj July 24, 2013 at 7:27 pm #

      Thanks Katerina! The corn I used was some of the sweetest I’ve had in quite a while.

  19. Gourmantine July 23, 2013 at 10:19 am #

    The recipe sounds so good, I’m definitely marking it, for when hot meals will be back on the menu, as in this heat it’s only ice cream for now 🙂

    • mj July 24, 2013 at 7:26 pm #

      Thanks Gourmatine! Yep – we’re back to the ice cream as well. The rain and cool weather have moved away from us. 🙁

  20. Treat and Trick July 23, 2013 at 9:58 am #

    Gorgeous photos and thanks for introducing a new dish to us! This combo sounds appetizing and interesting…

    • mj July 24, 2013 at 7:24 pm #

      Thanks so much! The combo is amazing!

  21. Asmita July 23, 2013 at 8:52 am #

    Looks delicious! I love corn chowder and this might be my new favorite!

    • mj July 24, 2013 at 7:24 pm #

      Thanks Asmita! It sure is our favorite! 🙂

  22. Carolyn Jung July 22, 2013 at 9:40 pm #

    I bet this is so satisfying, what with the sweetness from the corn and the kick from the chiles. Perfect bowl to dig into in the summer time.

  23. Swathi July 22, 2013 at 5:15 pm #

    Delicious chowder love the addition of spicy green chilie.

  24. Karen (Back Road Journal) July 22, 2013 at 12:30 pm #

    This sounds like my kind of chowder. I don’t care how hot it is outside…I love making corn chowder during the summer when fresh corn is so good.

    • mj July 24, 2013 at 7:23 pm #

      Thanks Karen! The sweet corn I used really did make this chowder!

  25. Purabi Naha | Cosmopolitan Currymania July 22, 2013 at 12:11 pm #

    This is a wonderful vegetarian soup. I’d love to include this to my list of “to-do-s”. I have never had squash in soup. So this is worth a try for sure!

    • mj July 24, 2013 at 7:22 pm #

      Thanks Purabi Naha! I’ve never used squash in soup before, but in this chowder is make a great thick base.

  26. Sissi July 22, 2013 at 9:52 am #

    One more southern – and definitely exotic for me – delight! I have never had it but it looks so homely and comforting… I would love it with some fresh chopped chili and avocado on top and with bacon too!
    Even the corn looks exotic and unusual: here I have seen only yellow corn. Does the white corn taste different? What you call squash is called here “yellow courgette (zucchini)” both in Switzerland and France (and Poland too if I remember). I thought that squash was not that close to courgette, but have just read that they are very close varieties sometimes called by the same name when small. A very interesting discovery!

    • mj July 22, 2013 at 9:57 am #

      Well, we’re just teach each other all sorts of things! 🙂 I have never heard of a courgette, but I just looked it up and that is exactly what this is! YES, a very interesting discovery! Thanks! As far as the white corn tasting different, not really. I think the main difference is more in the texture than the taste. The kernels of white corn are less “tough” than yellow corn so they cook up in a chowder very nicely. Last night, Bobby grilled some yellow sweet corn and some white sweet corn and that was pretty much the only difference that we could tell. Both were sweet and delicious! An yes – bacon on top of this chowder is awesome! 🙂

  27. Nisa Homey July 22, 2013 at 9:28 am #

    Wow! this really sounds good…love your pics too 🙂

    • mj July 22, 2013 at 9:53 am #

      Thanks you so much Nisa!

  28. Angie@Angie's Recipes July 22, 2013 at 6:28 am #

    A fantastic summer squash chowder! I bet this would taste great served cold.

    • mj July 22, 2013 at 9:27 am #

      Thanks Angie! Actually I tried it cold and didn’t like it as much. With the half and half it was a little too thick and solidified. I’m not sure if that would be the right word, but I wasn’t too crazy about the texture. It doesn’t have to be really hot, room temperature was great.

  29. Giulietta | Alterkitchen July 22, 2013 at 3:50 am #

    This chowder looks amazing… and I was amazed looking at those yellow zucchini O__O
    What are they?

  30. Sanjeeta kk July 21, 2013 at 9:52 pm #

    How beautifully you explain those Kitchen Notes, MJ! Just love the way you pour your heart in every recipe that you present here. Coming back to the recipe, being a corn lover myself..this one is on my must-make-list. Hugs.

    • mj July 22, 2013 at 12:10 am #

      Thank you so much Sanjeeta for your nice comments! I hope you get a chance to make this. I think you and your family would love it.

  31. Ramona July 21, 2013 at 5:39 pm #

    Chili, leeks, squash… what’s not to love about this chowder. I would need a big spoon to enjoy this one…with a big smile on my face. 🙂

  32. sally July 21, 2013 at 5:15 pm #

    I loved those Calabacitas Enchiladas, so I’m sure I would love this chowder! Yum!

    • mj July 22, 2013 at 12:09 am #

      I remember how much you liked the enchiladas. In fact, I thought of you as I wasn’t making this chowder. I think you’ll love it. 🙂 Thanks Sally and hope things are going well.

  33. Jen @JuanitasCocina July 21, 2013 at 12:49 pm #

    Gorgeous! And I can’t wait for the new crop of chile!

    • mj July 22, 2013 at 12:08 am #

      “Can’t wait for the new crop of chile!” – You and me both! 🙂 Thanks!

  34. Lori Lynn July 21, 2013 at 11:13 am #

    Hi MJ – I adore this chowder! I have yellow squash and green chiles in the freezer too. Might just this this a whirl on this easy Sunday afternoon.

    • mj July 22, 2013 at 12:07 am #

      Thanks Lori Lynn! I do hope you get a chance to make this. Let me know and hope you had a great Sunday!

  35. john@kitchenriffs July 21, 2013 at 10:27 am #

    Wow, this looks so good! Corn and chiles really combine so well, and they also work well with squash. This is so nice – flavorful and simple. Thanks.

    • mj July 22, 2013 at 12:07 am #

      Thanks John! Yes – it is hard to beat corn and green chile!

  36. Minnie@thelady8home July 21, 2013 at 9:28 am #

    I love yellow squash, and the spice blend is just right that it makes me want to lick it off the bowl. Mnnnn!

  37. Judy @Savoring Today July 21, 2013 at 8:30 am #

    Great sounding recipe, MJ, pinning it right now to save for later (hard to get my hubby to eat soup in the summer). Also, I like the photos, exchanging the focus and background, well done. 🙂

    • mj July 22, 2013 at 12:05 am #

      Thanks Judy! Bobby doesn’t usually like hot soups in the summer either, but I made this on an unusually cool day, so it worked out. Thanks for the comments on the photos!

  38. Debra July 21, 2013 at 8:21 am #

    You know we are all over this! Anything with green chiles (and summer corn and fresh squash) is a keeper. Having to pin this. Did I tell you that I planted cushaw this year in the garden because of you? I have three plants going. Have a great weekend!

    • mj July 22, 2013 at 12:04 am #

      I totally agree Debra! Green chiles with anything is a keeper! That is so cool that you’ve planted cushaw. I’ll have to tell my sister since she’s the cushaw lady. 🙂 Hope you get a nice bounty from your plants. Have a wonderful week.

  39. Vicki Bensinger July 21, 2013 at 8:00 am #

    This sounds like a very hearty soup and full of flavor. I’ve never tried this veggie before or not that I recall. I will have to see if I can find it at our farmers market.

    • mj July 22, 2013 at 12:02 am #

      Thanks Vicki! Calabacitas is actually a combination of vegetables – summer squash, corn, and green chile. All are probably available at your market, except maybe the chile.

  40. Maureen | Orgasmic Chef July 21, 2013 at 7:54 am #

    Wow this sounds so good. I doubt I could eat it as hot as you enjoy it but I’d still love it. I can’t even take a hot shower so my lips would melt off if I ate your bowl of chowder. 🙂

    • mj July 22, 2013 at 12:01 am #

      Thanks Maureen! I certainly want your lips to melt off so I would suggest a mild to medium chile. 🙂


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