Pressure Cooker Corn Soup Recipe

Extract more flavor in less time by cooking whole cobs under pressure to make the corniest soup.

Creamy pressure cooker corn soup served in a bowl with soup, garnished with minced chives and tarragon, and extra-virgin olive oil

Serious Eats / J. Kenji López-Alt

Why This Recipe Works

  • Using whole cobs in the pressure cooker draws out extra flavor and starch from them, making your corn soup super corny and rich.
  • The soup comes together in under half an hour.

If it seems like I've been writing a lot about corn lately, it's because I have. Come mid-summer, there's nothing I like more—with perhaps the exception of perfect tomatoes. But perfect tomatoes are fewer and farther between than great ears of corn. My wife, Adri, and I have been eating corn nearly every day for the last few weeks.

There's nothing that beats the simple, sweet pleasure of corn on the cob, but a good corn soup comes in a close second. As an added benefit, it also eliminates the need to pick at your teeth to remove stray corn skins after you're done with it, an act that is as annoying for the picker as it is unsexy for the one who must observe the picker in the act of picking. In other words, corn soup is the corn preparation of choice for date nights.

The real key to a good corn soup lies in extracting as much flavor as possible out of those cobs. Sure, there are plenty of sweet juices and starch in the kernels themselves, but throw away the cobs and you're tossing flavor right into the compost bin. My traditional corn chowder recipe calls for you to scrape excess corn milk out of the cobs with the back of a knife, then also make a quick stock flavored with those spent cobs. It works well, but I wondered if my pressure cooker might make it work even better.

As I discovered a while back, the pressure cooker is the ideal piece of kitchen equipment for making deeply flavorful chicken stock in a fraction of the time. Stock cooked in a pressure cooker extracts flavor from chicken bones in less than 20% of the time it takes on the stovetop, and it gets more flavor out of them to boot. If it works for my chicken, why not for my corn?

A whole corn cob, a chef's knife, and pile of chopped leeks on a cutting board

Serious Eats / J. Kenji López-Alt

I made two batches of corn soup side by side. For the first, I made a quick stock on the stovetop by simmering empty corn cobs in store-bought chicken stock, then used that stock to finish off my soup, which also included sautéed leeks and garlic, corn kernels, bay leaves, and tarragon stems. The second batch I made by throwing the corn cobs into a pressure cooker with chicken stock and the remaining ingredients from the get-go.

There was no doubt about it: The version made in the pressure cooker had a more intense corn aroma and richer texture due to the starch extracted from the cobs. Not only that, but I found that using the pressure cooker completely eliminated the need to scrape out the corn milk from the cobs—plenty of starchy liquid comes out on its own. So much, in fact, that even without a thickener like flour or potato, this corn soup comes out as thick and rich as heavy cream, despite having only a couple of tablespoons of butter in the whole batch.

Removing a shaved corn cob from the pressure cooker with tongs

Serious Eats / J. Kenji López-Alt

After cooking on high pressure for 15 minutes, I discarded the spent cobs, tarragon stems, and bay leaves, then pureed the rest together in a blender, seasoning with a touch of salt and pepper. For extra smoothness, I pushed the entire concoction through a fine mesh strainer.

The resulting golden liquid tasted more like corn than corn itself. It was corn compressed, multiplied, and intensified.

Pressure-cooked corn mixture in a blender pitcher
Serious Eats / J. Kenji López-Alt.

I was blown away by how intense the flavor of this soup was. Even after I'd thinned it out with some additional stock, it was still the corniest corn soup I'd ever had. I served mine with some chopped tarragon, chopped chives, and a drizzle of olive oil, along with a few raw corn kernels for that fresh crunch.

My wife got hers with chunks of crab meat for an extra treat. This is not because I don't also love crab (I do), but because, all corniness aside, I know how powerful a few well-placed and inexpensive bribes can be in the complicated commerce of marital bliss.

August 2015

Recipe Details

Pressure Cooker Corn Soup Recipe

Active 15 mins
Total 30 mins
Serves 4 to 6 servings

Extract more flavor in less time by cooking whole cobs under pressure to make the corniest soup.

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter

  • 2 medium leeks, white and pale green parts only, finely chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)

  • 2 medium cloves garlic, thinly sliced

  • 6 ears of corn, kernels cut off from cobs, cobs split in half and reserved

  • 2 bay leaves

  • 4 sprigs tarragon, leaves minced, stems reserved separately

  • Up to 1 quart homemade or store-bought low-sodium chicken stock

  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh chives

  • Extra-virgin olive oil, for serving

Directions

  1. Melt butter over medium heat in a pressure cooker. Add leeks and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until softened but not browned, about 4 minutes.

    Cooking chopped leeks in butter in pressure cooker

    Serious Eats / J. Kenji López-Alt

  2. Add corn with cobs, bay leaves, tarragon stems, and enough chicken stock to barely cover corn (the cobs might still be sticking out a bit). Stir to combine. Seal pressure cooker and bring to high pressure. Cook for 15 minutes. Release pressure using quick-release method and uncover. Discard corn cobs, bay leaves, and tarragon stems.

    Cut kernels, shaved corn cobs, herbs, and stock in pressure cooker

    Serious Eats/ J. Kenji López-Alt

  3. Working in batches, transfer mixture to the jar of a blender. To prevent the blender lid from exploding off, remove the central lid and cover the space with a folded kitchen towel. Start blender slowly and gradually increase speed to high. Blend until completely smooth, adding more chicken stock or water as necessary. Season to taste with salt and pepper and press through a fine-mesh strainer into a clean pot. Repeat with remaining soup.

    Putting a lid onto a blender pitcher full of corn soup
    Serious Eats / J. Kenji López-Alt.
  4. Serve soup immediately with minced tarragon leaves and chives and a drizzle of olive oil, or chill and serve cold. (Once chilled, you can adjust the texture by whisking in water a tablespoon at a time until desired consistency is reached.)

Special Equipment

Electric or stovetop pressure cooker (get our full review); blender

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Nutrition Facts (per serving)
160 Calories
8g Fat
19g Carbs
5g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4 to 6
Amount per serving
Calories 160
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 8g 11%
Saturated Fat 3g 15%
Cholesterol 10mg 3%
Sodium 530mg 23%
Total Carbohydrate 19g 7%
Dietary Fiber 2g 8%
Total Sugars 4g
Protein 5g
Vitamin C 7mg 33%
Calcium 31mg 2%
Iron 1mg 7%
Potassium 348mg 7%
*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.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)