Esquites Shrimp Chowder

This delicious soup combines the flavors of Mexican street corn, spicy, smoky grilled shrimp, and velvety corn chowder. Pair it with a green salad and crusty bread for a veggie-forward meal that tastes like summer.

White soup bowl with Esquites Shrimp Chowder and garnished with corn, Cojita cheese, and cilantro.

Make It A Project Or Make It Simply

You can take a weekend and dig into making each component or take some shortcuts. Both are delicious, but I suggest making each soup part for even more flavor and richness when you have time.

Marinating and grilling fresh shrimp allows you to control the heat level in your chowder. Grilling the shrimp adds a subtle smoky note.

Cooking the corn on the cobs, along with a few aromatics and the shells from the shrimp, deepens the flavors of both the corn and shrimp. It’s a great way to add flavor by utilizing scraps.

Finally, tossing some of the corn kernels with lime, Cojita cheese, cilantro, and spices makes a garnish that’s not only attractive but adds texture and flavor. 

So don’t let the list of ingredients or specified time deter you. You can whip up this chowder in about 30 minutes with a few shortcuts.

White soup bowl with Esquites Shrimp Chowder and garnished with corn, Cojita cheese, and cilantro.

What Is Esquites?

Esquites is a Mexican dish with the flavors of Elote – Mexican grilled street corn on the cob. For esquites, the kernels are off the cob and mixed with mayonnaise or crema, Cojita cheese, lime juice, and spices like chili powder and cumin.

It’s served in paper cups and is eaten with a spoon as you walk the streets. Each region of Mexico has its own take on the recipe – some have cilantro, some diced chiles, and others use broth. In my opinion, they’re all delicious!

White soup bowl with Esquites Shrimp Chowder and garnished with corn, Cojita cheese, and cilantro.

What Shortcuts Can I Take?

  1. Purchase pre-cooked shrimp and toss it with one tablespoon of olive oil and one tablespoon of pre-packaged taco seasoning. Skip steps 1-4 in the recipe and continue with step 5.
  2. Use boxed chicken or vegetable stock instead of making corn/shrimp stock. You can bump up the shrimp flavor by using one shrimp bouillion cube with the chicken stock. Proceed to step 18.
  3. Use frozen corn kernels, which can be sauteed along with the aromatics.
  4. You can usually buy diced onions and bell pepper in the produce aisle or in the freezer section, and a 4-ounce can of diced chile saves having to mince a jalapeno. You can also find cilantro or parsley in a paste form to save having to wash and chop the fresh herbs. The paste tubes can be found in the herb section of the produce aisle.
White soup bowl with Esquites Shrimp Chowder and garnished with corn, Cojita cheese, and cilantro.

Ingredients Needed

  • Shrimp – any size works. I like to get jumbo shrimp for the chowder because they’re easy to grill and slice into thirds. If I have time to make the corn/shrimp stock, I will get ¾ pounds with no head but still have the shell and tails and a ¼ pound of whole shrimp with the head. Using the heads in the stock amps up the shrimp flavor.
  • Olive oil
  • Bacon fat or butter – this is used to saute the corn and vegetables for the soup. I like using the bacon fat for more flavor.
  • Heavy cream – you could also use half and half or whole milk. I’ve used all three with great results.
  • Sour cream – you could also use Mexican crema to keep it authentic or plain, full-fat Greek yogurt in a pinch.
  • Cojita cheese – plain feta is another option. 
  • Chicken broth – you can also use vegetable broth. 
  • Brown sugar – you can also use honey, coconut sugar, or agave syrup. This will help to get a bit of char on the shrimp.
  • Chili powder, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, cumin, Kosher salt, black pepper, and black peppercorns
  • Jalapenos, limes, sweet onions, yellow onions, garlic, and red bell pepper
  • Parsley and cilantro – not a fan of cilantro? Substitute more parsley.
  • Tequila – optional, but adds a nice flavor to the shrimp.

Steps to Making This Recipe (long way)

  1. Marinate the shrimp by blending the marinade ingredients and spooning over the shrimp. Marinate for 2-3 hours.
  2. Make the shrimp/corn stock by cooking the chicken stock, corn, onion, parsley, and peppercorns together for 30 minutes. Remove the corn cobs. Cut the corn from the cobs. Reserve a little over 1 ½ cups of the corn, return the cobs to the stock pot, and continue to simmer for 30 minutes. Discard the solids.
  3. Grill the shrimp and cut each shrimp into thirds. Set aside.
  4. Saute onion, red bell pepper, garlic, jalapenos, and corn in a Dutch oven until the onion is translucent and the corn has begun to char.
  5. Add the chicken/shrimp stock and spices to the pot. Simmer for 20 minutes.
  6. Stir in the heavy cream, sour cream, and cojita cheese. Simmer for five minutes.
  7. Puree the soup with an immersion blender.
  8. Stir in the reserved corn kernels, cooked shrimp, lime juice, and cilantro. Bring back up to temperature.
  9. Make the garnish by tossing all of the garnish ingredients together.
  10. Ladle soup into bowls and top with 2 tablespoons of the garnish.
White soup bowl with Esquites Shrimp Chowder and garnished with corn, Cojita cheese, and cilantro.

Steps To Making This Recipe (using shortcuts)

  1. Remove the tails from the shrimp and cut each shrimp into thirds. Toss pre-cooked shrimp with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and one tablespoon of taco seasoning—set aside.
  2. In a large pot, saute the onion, bell pepper, jalapeno, garlic, and frozen corn in butter or bacon fat until the onion is translucent and the corn has bits of char on them.
  3. Add the chicken stock and spices. Simmer for 20 minutes.
  4. Stir in the heavy cream, sour cream, and cojita cheese. Simmer five minutes.
  5. Puree the soup with an immersion blender.
  6. Stir in the reserved corn kernels, cooked shrimp, lime juice, and cilantro. Bring back up to temperature.
  7. Make the garnish by tossing all of the garnish ingredients together.
  8. Ladle soup into bowls and top with 2 tablespoons of the garnish.

If You Enjoyed This Recipe, Here Are A Few More To Try:

Print

Esquites Shrimp Chowder

This delicious soup combines the flavors of Mexican street corn, spicy, smoky grilled shrimp, and velvety corn chowder. Pair it with a green salad and crusty bread for a veggie-forward meal that tastes like summer.

  • Author: Millie Brinkley
  • Prep Time: 30 minutes
  • Cook Time: 1 hour, 45 minutes
  • Total Time: 2 hours, 15 minutes
  • Yield: 8 servings 1x
  • Category: Main Dish – Seafood
  • Method: Simmer
  • Cuisine: Mexican

Ingredients

Scale

For the shrimp:

  • 1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined (reserve the shells)
  • ⅓ cup olive oil
  • 2 large garlic cloves
  • ½ small jalapeno, seeded and deveined
  • 2 teaspoons brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon lime zest
  • 2 teaspoons tequila (optional)

For the soup:

  • 10 large ears of corn, shucked (or 6 cups of frozen corn)
  • 1 small yellow onion, quartered
  • ½ bunch fresh parsley, including the stems
  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns.
  • 6 cups chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons bacon fat, utter, or olive oil (I used bacon fat)
  • 1 medium sweet onion, finely diced
  • 6 large cloves garlic, finely diced
  • 1 small red bell pepper, finely diced
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, finely diced
  • ½ teaspoon chile powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • ½ cup + 2 tablespoons crumbled Cotija cheese (can also use feta)
  • 5 tablespoons fresh lime juice, divided
  • ¼ cup + 1 tablespoon minced fresh cilantro, divided

Instructions

Make the marinade for the shrimp.

  1. Place the shrimp into a large zip-top bag.
  2. In a blender or bowl of a food processor, combine the olive oil, garlic, jalapeno, brown sugar, paprika, chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder, cumin, salt, and pepper. Process until the mixture is smooth.
  3. Spoon the marinade over the shrimp and sprinkle the lime zest on top.
  4. Massage to coat all of the shrimp with the marinade.
  5. Chill and allow the shrimp to marinate for 2-3 hours.

Meanwhile, make the corn/shrimp stock.

  1. Combine the corn cobs, shrimp shells, yellow onion, parsley, black peppercorns, and chicken broth in a large pot. Bring to a boil.
  2. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer the corn for 30 minutes.
  3. Use tongs to remove the corn to a bowl and cool until you can handle it.
  4. With a sharp knife, cut the kernels from the cobs. Place the corn kernels into a bowl and return the cobs to the pot of simmering broth. 
  5. Set aside 1 ½ cups of the cooked corn kernels.
  6. Allow the corn/shrimp stock to simmer for an additional 30 minutes.
  7. Remove the cobs. Strain the liquid and discard the solids. Set aside.

Grill the shrimp.

  1. Preheat your grill or grill pan to medium-high.
  2. Remove the shrimp from the marinade. Discard the marinade.
  3. Drizzle the shrimp with the tequila.
  4. Place the shrimp on the grill and cook for 3-4 minutes per side or until the shrimp are no longer transparent. DON’T OVERCOOK!
  5. Remove from the grill and allow them to cool enough to handle. Slice each shrimp into thirds.

Make the soup.

  1. Melt the bacon fat, butter, or olive oil in a Dutch oven.
  2. When shimmering, saute the onion, garlic, red pepper, jalapeno, onion, chili powder, cumin, and the larger bowl of corn kernels, stirring often until the onion and peppers have softened, and the corn has begun to char in spots – about 20 minutes.
  3. Pour in the corn/shrimp stock and stir, scraping up any of the browned bits on the bottom of the pot.
  4. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes.
  5. Use an immersion blender or transfer to a blender (work in batches) to puree until smooth.
  6. Stir in the heavy cream, sour cream, and Cojita cheese into the soup. Cook, stirring constantly, for 5 minutes.
  7. Return the soup to the pot if needed.
  8. Stir in 1 cup of the reserved corn kernels, the cooked shrimp, 4 tablespoons of lime juice, salt, pepper, and ¼ cup of cilantro.
  9. Allow the soup to reheat, stirring constantly, until very hot, but NOT boiling.

To serve:

  1. In a small bowl, toss the remaining ½ cup corn kernels, 1 tablespoon lime juice, 1 tablespoon cilantro, 2 tablespoons Cojita cheese, and a pinch of chili powder until the corn is well coated.
  2. Ladle the hot soup into bowls.
  3. Garnish with 2 heaping tablespoons of the corn mixture.

Keywords: esquites shrimp chowder, chowder recipes, esquites, Mexican street corn, shrimp, fresh corn on the cob, Mexican recipes, soup recipes

Pinterest image for Esquites Shrimp Chowder in a white bowl.