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Chilli con corn

Thu, 22 October, 2020

Corn chilli with beans aka chilli con corn is my and The Weather Man’s favourite chilli. Not least because he invented it!

chilli con corn

Credit where it’s due – The Weather Man invented this dish. That’s also so I can disclaim ownership if necessary. But since it’s really good, there will be no such need I think.

Anything chilli

For a very long time I’d thought chilli was only of one kind: con carne. I thought the addition was perfunctory at most, a bit like ‘tomato ketchup’ or ‘beef steak’. I have obviously since learned that there are many kinds of steak and indeed ketchup (mushroom ketchup for instance).

Chilli is quite like curry: ingredients vary, only the base of, respectively, chilli peppers and curry paste remains constant. So now I know that it isn’t only minced beef that goes in there with hot peppers: there is chicken chilli, pork chilli, white chilli and green chilli, chilli with ground or chunked meat, with no beans or tomatoes (Texan!) and indeed with just beans and tomatoes.

Technically, I (or TWM) probably shouldn’t call it ‘chilli’. It is a spicy dish of fresh sweetcorn cooked with beans, onions and tomatoes. But hey! something cooked with beans, tomatoes (we’re not in Texas, Toto) and onions is surely chilli! Plus we could not resist the sound of the phrase: ‘chilli con corn’.

vegetarian sweetcorn chilli

Fresh or tinned sweetcorn?

The answer is easy: whenever possible, use fresh corn. Freshly shucked ears (they are called ears of corn) dripping with milk (it’s called milk), kernels (they are called kernels) almost popping out without cooking, silk (it’s called silk) making a mess all over the floor and the husk (it’s called – well, you know already) taking up all the space in your compost caddy.

The difference between that and a tin of Green Giant, even ‘with no sugar added’ is like between a wagyu burger and McDonalds. Except the price because corn on the cob is really cheap in season.

Even those idiotically called ‘cobettes’ that supermarkets sell will do in season. It’s puzzling, a bit like why would you buy cooked beetroot if it’s as easy to bake at home as carrot or potato? They think they are doing you a favour by shucking the corn and cleaning it neatly off all the pesky silk but it’s the opposite. Would you buy peeled apples, unless in a fruit salad? Or skinned bananas? So there you go.

Frozen sweetcorn kernels are the second best because they will have been frozen immediately after being shucked and collected when ripest and most plentiful. I say, save your tins for tuna and mayo.

corn chilli with beans

How do you make chilli con corn?

Very easily. As Mexicans know well and contrary to what we think in the UK, sweetcorn cooks quickly and easily. Boiling ears of corn for hours is unnecessary and wrong; the kernels will cook through even when you sear whole cobs on hot griddle or barbecue.

In this recipe it takes five minutes in a little butter and we’re done – next the chilli stuff comes into the pan. Onions, garlic, chilli, seasoning, beans plus a few secret ingredients that make the chilli divine: a little ketchup, a spoonful of honey and some instant coffee. That’s right, a teaspoon of coffee granules and your chilli is to die for.

chilli with sweetcorn

How to serve chilli con corn?

You can serve it exactly like you would an ordinary chilli: with a jacket potato, a mound of plain rice, baked sweet potato, warm tortillas or nachos. I like it best on a fluffy baked potato, with a sprinkling of sharp cheddar on top and some healthy, no-mayo coleslaw. What’s your preference?

Chilli con corn

Servings: 2-4Time: 30 minutes


  • 2 large ears of corn
  • 1 tbsp. oil
  • 1 tsp butter
  • 1 red onion
  • 3-4 garlic cloves
  • 1 medium red chilli (jalapeno or similar)
  • 1 tin of red kidney beans
  • 250ml (1 cup) tomato passata or a tin of chopped tomatoes
  • ½ tsp smoked chipotle powder
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • ½ tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tbsp. ketchup
  • ½ tbsp. maple syrup
  • 1 tsp. instant coffee granules
  • a bunch of fresh coriander
  • For the cream topping:
  • 120ml (½ cup) soured cream
  • 1 mini cucumber
  • black pepper
  • To serve:
  • sharp grated cheese (mature Cheddar, Pecorino)
  • baked potatoes, nachos or warm tortillas


1. Shuck the corn. Strip the kernels off by sawing them down the length of the cob with a small knife.

corn kernels

2. In a large saucepan with a fitting lid heat up the oil and butter. When the butter is foaming, add the corn kernels. Stir, cover and cook on medium heat for 5 minutes.

3. Finely chop the onion and garlic. Deseed and chop the chilli.

4. Add the onion to the corn, stir and cook for 5 minutes until the onion softens. Add the chilli and garlic.

how to cook corn chilli

5. Drain and rinse the kidney beans. Add them to the pan with the tomatoes or passata. Add the spices, ketchup, maple syrup and coffee; add a little water if it looks too thick. Cover and simmer over lower heat for 5-10 minutes.

6. Finely chop the coriander and stir a third into chilli. Reserve the rest.

how to cook corn chilli

7. For the topping, place the cream in a bowl. Chop the cucumber very finely (if you have a large one, use about 2 tbsp. of chopped cucumber). Add a handful of the remaining chopped coriander, a few grindings of black pepper and stir.

soured cream dip

8. Serve the chilli sprinkled with the rest of the fresh coriander with side dishes of your choice and chopped avocado or guacamole.

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Hello! I'm Anna Gaze, the Cuisine Fiend. Welcome to my recipe collection.

I have lots of recipes for you to choose from: healthy or indulgent, easy or more challenging, quick or involved - but always tasty.


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