Chili Fried Corn

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I can’t take complete credit for this recipe as Chili Fried Corn started off as an experimental side dish of Jay’s. He made it one day as a way of sprucing up a can of corn with chili powder and aromatics, but we have loved it ever since and it has evolved into one of our favourite meatless meals over the years.

We much prefer canned corn over frozen, so that is what we suggest for this recipe. In fact, I don’t even bother buying frozen. Frozen corn loses that distinctive crunchy texture and some of the natural sweetness of corn, so for me canned corn is closer to fresh. (On a side note, ask me about peas and I will tell you the opposite). If you can get fresh corn in the summer, absolutely use it for this recipe.

My additions to Jay’s original recipe were the hint of cocoa powder, the peppers and the cilantro and green onion topping. Cocoa powder may sound like a weird addition, but I was inspired by mole sauce. Mole is a traditional Mexican savoury, yet very bold sauce usually served over chicken that contains cocoa powder or dark chocolate in the extensive list of ingredients. In fact, mole sauce usually contains 20-30 ingredients, with chocolate normally being the very last addition. It is a must try at an authentic Mexican restaurant.

Funny little story: we took my parents to a popular authentic Mexican restaurant that we enjoy here in Ottawa (Pancho Villa on Elgin) when they were visiting a few years ago. When my dad ordered a dish with mole sauce, the server asked if he had ever tried mole before. He said that he loved the mole chicken I made for him almost a decade ago when I still lived in Sault Ste. Marie. At the time, I had completely forgotten that I had made this dish and thought it was funny that I hadn’t made it again since it was such a hit. The server said that if you haven’t tried mole they will warn you of it’s boldness and strong flavour punch, so that you aren’t so completely surprised when you taste it. My dad really enjoyed it, but said he remembers mine being slightly better. He may be a bit biased, but I really wish I had saved my recipe!

We have turned Chili Fried Corn into a meal by serving it over rice, but you can always make it as an easy side dish, too. If you want to up the protein, a small can of drained & rinsed black beans works well. Just add them in with the corn to heat them through.

Chili Fried Corn 

For 4

  • 1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 1 small onion, diced small
  • 2 medium carrots, diced small or julienned
  • 1 stalk of celery, diced small
  • 1 green pepper, chopped (or use half a red and half a green)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 tsp. chili powder
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp. cumin
  • 1/4 tsp. cocoa powder
  • 2 tsp. soy sauce (this is an estimate, since we usually just splash a bit in, so you may need to add more if you think it could use the extra saltiness after you check for seasoning)
  • 1 (341 mL) can of corn, drained
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, roughly chopped (optional topping)
  • 2 green onions, thinly sliced (optional topping)

In a large skillet, heat the vegetable oil over medium-high heat.

Add the onion, carrots and celery. Cook until the onion is translucent.

Add the green pepper and cook for a few more minutes to soften.

Stir in the garlic, chili powder, oregano, cumin and cocoa powder and cook for a few more minutes being careful not to over brown the garlic.

Add the soy sauce and corn. Stir until the corn is heated through and check for seasoning.

Top with the cilantro and green onions (optional).

Serve as a side dish or over rice for a main course.

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