Chileatole con Calabaza – Corn Porridge with Acorn Squash and Chile

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Atoles are likely not for everyone. There is something strange about drinking corn dough, flavored with chocolate, coffee or fruits, and sweetened with piloncillo or brown sugar. Even having grown up with them, the strong corn flavor can be an acquired taste.

Though they are mostly sweet in nature, the chileatole is the savory, and spicy, member of the atole family. The corn-dough thickened soup (or beverage, depending on how you think of it), is flavored with dried or fresh green chiles, and can contain meats, seafood, vegetables or cheese. Like everything else in Mexican food, it varies by region. In the coastal state of Veracruz, red chileatole with shrimp and crab is more typical. The state of Puebla prefers a green atole, given its color by epazote and serrano chiles.

Is it a strange soup? Absolutely. But it is warm, comforting, and a perfect vehicle for the puree of gently roasted fall squash. While the recipe calls for acorn squash, any variety of hard cold weather squash will do, or even sweet potatoes, if they are more readily available. The chile is cooked separately from the soup to allow for each bowl to be seasoned to taste. The heat of chiles can never be trusted.

Corn Porridge with Acorn Squash and Chile (Chileatole)

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: Medium
  • Print

  • For the soup:
  • 1 acorn squash, approximately 3 pounds
  • 6 cups chicken stock
  • 2 cups corn kernels
  • 1/2 cup instant corn masa flour (maseca)
  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • 8 ounces queso fresco or oaxaca cheese, large diced
  • For the chile:
  • 4-6 ancho chiles, stems and seeds removed
  • 1 small white onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 tsp Mexican oregano
  • 1/2 tsp dry thyme
  • 1/2 tsp coriander seed
  • 1 cup chicken stock or water

Cut the acorn squash in half and remove seeds. Roast, cut side up, at 350°F for approximately 40 minutes, or until easily penetrated with the tip of a knife. Scoop out the flesh once cool enough to handle, yielding approximately 2 cups. Place the pureed squash in a blender, add four cups chicken stock, and puree till smooth. Pour into a saucepan, add the corn kernels, and bring to a simmer.

Whisk the instant corn flour into the remaining two cups of chicken stock until completely smooth. Allow the mixture to rest for at least 10 minutes, so it may fully hydrate. Add to the saucepan, whisking continuously. Season with kosher salt to taste. Simmer until the soup has thickened considerably, enough so it may hold a floating spoon in it.

While the soup cooks, place the ingredients for the chile in a small pot and bring to a simmer. Gently cook until the chiles and onion are soft. Puree in a blender until completely smooth. Pass through a fine mesh strainer if desired for a smoother chile, though this is not necessary.

Serve very hot, with cheese and chile added to taste. For an even more satisfying meal, sauté pulled chicken till golden brown in olive oil and butter and add to the soup.

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