There’s something inexplicably comforting about a warm, hearty bowl of soup. But the same old rotation is enough to bore even a soup lover like me. One soup I'll never get tired of eating? Chipotle chicken chowder. It's a little spicy and far from ordinary thanks to the addition of smoky chipotles in adobo sauce. It’s loaded with succulent chicken and tender veggies. The whole thing comes together in one pot and only 30 minutes of hands-on cooking time. Here's to a cozy yet exciting weeknight chowder to spice up your usual rotation.
A Chowder for All Seasons
You can make a batch of this simple chowder in the dead of winter or in the heat of summer. Three key ingredients—corn, poblano peppers, and tomatoes—are available all year round.
I love making a large pot in late summer, when nights are cool and corn is succulent and sweet. Then, I opt for the frozen or canned corn when it’s no longer in season. Similarly, I find that supermarket poblano peppers are delicious all year long, and using canned diced tomatoes means they'll be optimally fresh and available 365 days a year.
Canned Chipotles in Adobo
The undisputed star of this chicken chowder is the ever-humble canned chipotles in adobo sauce. Chipotle peppers are smoked and dried jalapeños. They’re rehydrated in a tangy, garlicky adobo sauce.
When added to whatever you’re cooking, it’s nothing short of magical. Both the peppers and the sauce pack a serious punch. They lend a deep smokiness along with just a hint of sweetness.
Most grocery stores stock chipotles in adobo in 7-ounce cans. Unopened, they’ll keep for many years in your pantry. You won’t use the entire can for this recipe. Transfer the leftovers into a tightly covered container. It’ll stay fresh in your fridge for 1 to 2 weeks.
Chipotles in adobo are one of my favorite condiments to have around—you can use them to make so many delicious meals.
- Blitz them up with mayonnaise and sour cream for a quick chipotle crema, ready to be slathered on tacos, burgers, or just about anything.
- The smokiness of canned chipotles lend themselves beautifully to the grill. Next time you’re having a cookout, brush your protein with a generous coating of adobo sauce as a ready-to-use glaze.
What’s the Best Chicken for Chowder?
Since this chowder is filled to the brim with vibrant, punchy flavors, it deserves a cut of meat that will stand out and not get lost in the background. When making chicken chowder, chicken thighs are the MVP.
Compared to chicken breasts, chicken thighs are virtually impossible to overcook. Since thighs have a higher fat content than chicken breasts, they have that deep chicken flavor we all know and love.
The recipe calls for boneless, skinless thighs. If you use skin-on chicken thighs, I recommend skimming some of the excess fat off the surface of the chowder before adding the half and half for a lighter, more balanced dish.
Here are ideas for substitutions, in case you don’t have all the ingredients on hand:
- If you can’t find chipotles in adobo at your local supermarket, they’re worth ordering online! That said, if you’d rather make this chowder using ingredients you have on hand, feel free to add 1 teaspoon light brown sugar, 1 teaspoon paprika, and a few dashes of your favorite hot sauce.
- Use red bell peppers instead of poblano peppers—you may want to add a pinch of cayenne pepper to make up for the lack of spice.
- Frozen or canned corn will be just as good as farm-fresh corn on the cob.
How to Freeze Chipotle Chicken Chowder
Given the simplicity of this recipe, make a big batch and freeze it for future meals. Whip it out on a night when you can’t bear to cook.
To freeze the chowder: Allow the chowder to cool completely, then carefully ladle it into lidded containers, making sure to leave an inch of air at the top since the chowder will expand as it freezes. It'll keep in the freezer for up to 3 months.
To reheat the chowder: Reheating frozen chowder is as simple as bringing it to a gentle simmer on the stove over low heat or allowing it to thaw completely in the fridge before microwaving individual portions.
More Ways to Use Chipotles in Adobo
Chipotle Chicken Chowder
2 ears sweet corn or 2 cups frozen corn kernels
8 (about 3 pounds) boneless skinless chicken thighs
1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided, plus more to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
1 tablespoon canola oil, plus more as needed
2 poblano peppers, seeded and chopped
1 medium yellow onion, diced
4 chipotle peppers (from one 7-ounce can chipotles in adobo)
2 tablespoons adobo sauce (from one 7-ounce can chipotles in adobo)
2 quarts chicken stock
3 russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
1 (14.5-ounce) can petite diced tomatoes
3/4 cup half and half
Sour cream, for serving (optional)
Cilantro leaves or thinly sliced scallion, for serving (optional)
Prepare the corn:
If using fresh corn, shuck it and remove all the silk. Place an ear of corn vertically on a cutting board. Use a sharp knife to cut off the kernels, carefully rotating the cob until all the kernels are removed. You should have about 2 cups of corn. Reserve the cobs for flavoring the chowder.
Season the chicken:
Place the chicken thighs on a large plate or platter. Use a paper towel to pat them dry and evenly season both sides with the chili powder, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and black pepper.
Sear the chicken:
Set a large Dutch oven or large heavy-bottomed pot over high heat. Add the canola oil. When the oil begins to shimmer, add the chicken thighs in an even layer. Sear them for 3 to 4 minutes on each side, until deeply golden brown. Cook them in batches if they don’t fit without overlapping. They don’t have to cook through. Transfer the seared chicken onto the plate.
Sauté the vegetables:
In the same Dutch oven set over medium heat, add the prepared corn, poblano peppers, and onion. There should be enough oil and rendered fat from searing the chicken thighs, but if the vegetables look dry, drizzle them with more canola oil as needed. Sauté for 7 to 9 minutes, until the vegetables softened and the onion is translucent.
Purée the chipotle:
Meanwhile, use a food processor or immersion blender to blitz the 4 chipotles and adobo sauce for 30 seconds, until completely smooth. You could also finely dice the chipotles with a sharp knife and combine it with the adobo sauce in a small bowl.
Chipotles can vary a lot in heat, so you may end up adding only a little. However, go ahead and puree or finely chop all 4 chipotles (you can always freeze what you don't add to the chowder).
Combine the chowder ingredients:
To the Dutch oven, add 1 tablespoon of the puréed chipotle (you can add more later to taste), plus the chicken stock, potatoes, canned tomatoes, reserved corn cobs, chicken, and 1 teaspoon kosher salt. Stir and bring the chowder to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for about 17 minutes, until the potatoes are tender and the chicken is cooked through.
Remove the corn cobs and add half and half:
Remove the corn cobs from the chowder and discard.
Transfer the chicken onto a cutting board. Chop them into bite-sized chunks, and add them back into the chowder.
Carefully stir in the half and half and simmer for 4 to 5 minutes, until the chowder has thickened slightly. Taste and adjust seasoning to taste with salt—the amount of salt needed will vary depending on the saltiness of your chicken stock and canned tomatoes. If you’d like the chowder to be spicier, add more puréed chipotle.
Freeze any leftover chipotle puree in an ice cube tray, or wrap it tightly in a plastic wrap bundle. It'll keep for about 6 months in the freezer.
Serve the chowder:
Ladle the hot chowder into bowls and top them with a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkling of cilantro or scallion, if using. Finish with more freshly ground black pepper if you’d like.
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|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Servings: 6 to 8|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 22g||28%|
|Saturated Fat 7g||35%|
|Total Carbohydrate 41g||15%|
|Dietary Fiber 5g||18%|
|Total Sugars 10g|
|Vitamin C 25mg||126%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|