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Sweet Corn Soup With Herbs and Buttermilk (Chilled)

Chilled sweet corn soup with fresh herbs and buttermilk is a perfect summer appetizer or starter. Made with fresh produce, it’s bursting with sweet, herby flavors and spiked with a little tang. Creamy and refreshing.

It’s best to make this soup the day before or earlier in the day as it needs time to chill and blend the flavors.  

There’s no need to wait for the cozy fall soup season. This fresh chilled summer corn soup is delish!

bowl of sweet corn soup with herbs, garnished.

I found the recipe in an LCBO Food and Drink magazine and subsequently in Bon Appetit and Food.com – all pretty much the same.

I experimented with variations of the sweet corn soup and discovered several ways to jazz it up or simplify it further.

So why use this recipe? Because you can now benefit from my experience and tips on the corn, broth, buttermilk, herbs and serving options.

The soup is gluten-free and can easily be made dairy-free. And it’s a wonderful way to use those fresh herbs on a hot summer day.

What to expect

The finished soup is a bright, flavorful, healthy chilled soup with super fresh flavors and a hint of sweetness and tang. Serve it in small bowls, espresso cups or shot glasses – very pretty!

Although the soup is easy to make in about 30 minutes, you do need a few hours to cool and chill it.

Ingredients – tailored to your taste

corn on the cob, four kinds of fresh herbs, buttermilk, butter, broth, garlic, spinach, salt and pepper.
(missing: lemon)

Corn – The cobs of fresh corn on the cob add a lot of extra flavor to the soup. The corn and cobs act as sweeteners – there is no added sugar. I tried using frozen corn niblets as a shortcut – and they worked – but the soup had a less intense corn flavor.

Herbs – The original recipe calls for 4 different herbs – tarragon, chives, parsley and basil. Use what you love – even if it’s only 1-2 types like chives and basil. I found the tarragon a bit overwhelming, so if you’re not a fan, you might want to omit it or reduce it as it has a distinct licorice-like taste.

Buttermilk: adds creaminess and a bit of tang. If you don’t have any, see substitutes below.

Spinach – Spinach adds a beautiful deeper green tone to the soup and amps up the nutrition.

Broth – Vegetable broth, vegetable stock, chicken broth or chicken stock will all work fine. I love the roasted vegetable or roasted chicken base by Better Than Bouillon. When mixing it with water to make broth, I add a bit of extra base to build a richer soup.

Garnishes – As a minimum, I like to garnish the soup with a swirl of buttermilk, extra corn niblets and some chopped herbs. For delicious and pretty extras, check out ‘how to serve the chilled soup’ below.

Variations and substitutes

Herbs – You can use more of one or two fresh herbs (instead of 4 different types). I suggest using at least some fresh herbs, but you can also use some dried herbs. The rule of thumb is 1 tablespoon fresh = 1 teaspoon dried. Good options are chives, parsley, basil, cilantro, oregano, and thyme. And tarragon if you like it.

Buttermilk

  • If you don’t have buttermilk, there are several good substitutes. Here is a good article on how to make buttermilk. The basic substitution is 1 cup buttermilk = 1 tablespoon lemon juice (or vinegar) + enough milk to measure 1 cup. Stir and let sit for 5 minutes.
  • Substitute the buttermilk with plain yogurt and extra lemon.
  • Or skip the buttermilk and use half-and-half cream and an extra 1/2 tablespoon of lemon juice. The soup will be thinner.
  • For a lower-calorie version, use 1-2% buttermilk.

Dairy-free version – Substitute the buttermilk with a dairy-free version. Or make your own with almond or oat milk and lemon or vinegar.

Baby spinach – instead, use kale leaves, arugula or watercress.

Step-by-step instructions

slicing kernels off corn cobs onto a bowl.
Slice the raw corn kernels off the cob by standing it on a small inverted bowl set inside a regular bowl.
sauteed green onions and butter in pot.
Sauté the butter and green onions.
corn kernels added to onions in pot.
Add the corn and garlic.
broth and corn cobs added to corn in pot.
Add the broth and corn cobs. Simmer for 15 minutes. Let it COOL.
herbs and buttermilk added to pot.
Add the herbs, buttermilk, lemon and spinach.
blended corn soup with immersion blender in pot.
Purée for a smooth texture.
bowl of sweet corn soup with herbs, garnished.
Garnish with a drizzle of buttermilk, corn kernels and chives on top of the soup.
4 espresso mini cups of sweet corn soup with herbs on wood serving tray.
Serve in espresso cups, bowls or glasses.

Tips for shelling corn

Removing kernels from the cob is easy, but it can be messy. The kernels can fly around. Here’s a quick video with a simple clean way to shell corn. It just takes a minute. Instructions are in the recipe as well.

Recipe FAQs

Can I serve sweet corn soup warm?

I tried the corn soup heated up and it still tastes great but keep in mind that the spinach and herbs have a duller green color when heated.

What is the difference between a corn soup and a corn chowder recipe?

Corn chowder tends to be thicker, richer and heavier than corn soup. And typically contains chunky vegetables and potatoes. This corn soup, however, does have a fair amount of body from the puréed corn.

What to serve with corn soup

For a light lunch, try the chilled soup with a salad and cheddar biscuits, savory scones, warm crusty bread or cornbread muffins.

As a soup and sandwich meal, try serving the soup with:

Of course, as a starter or appetizer, you can serve it before any main dish you like. My favorite is alongside a panzanella salad with grilled chicken or coconut shrimp tacos.

How to serve the cold soup

Jazz up your pretty green cold sweet corn soup with:

  • a swirl of buttermilk on top and a sprinkle of fresh corn niblets (or grilled!) and chopped herbs like chives and parsley
  • a dollop of crème fraîche or sour cream and a handful of fresh microgreens
  • some grilled shrimp on top
  • a drizzle of chili oil
  • sliced radishes or water chestnuts for crunch
  • a colorful edible flower – gorgeous!

For an elegant serving option, transfer the chilled soup to a punch bowl or any glass or ceramic serving bowl.

To serve as appetizers, I like to pour the soup into espresso cups or small glass cups.

Shortcuts

  1. Use frozen corn niblets instead of corn on the cob, This way you don’t have to remove the corn from the cobs – it will save a few minutes. The flavor is milder without the cobs though.
  2. Use frozen garlic cubes or garlic from a tube or jar.
  3. Replace 1-2 fresh herbs with frozen herb cubes (less chopping).

Make ahead

As a cold soup, you need time for the soup to chill and the flavors to bloom – at least 4 hours. So making the soup ahead is important. It will keep in the fridge in an airtight container for 3-4 days.

bowl of sweet corn soup with herbs, garnished.

Love chilled soups? Try our easy fresh gazpacho soup which you can make smooth or chunky.

If you like this recipe, please leave a 5 star rating 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟in the recipe card below. And if you REALLY like it, consider a review in the comments. Thanks very much!

bowl of sweet corn soup with herbs, garnished.
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Sweet Corn Soup With Herbs and Buttermilk (Chilled)

Chilled sweet corn soup with fresh herbs is a perfect summer appetizer or starter. Made with fresh produce, it's bursting with sweet, herby flavors and spiked with a little tang. Creamy and refreshing.
Prep Time15 minutes
Cook Time20 minutes
cool and chill3 hours 25 minutes
Total Time4 hours
Course: Appetizer, soups and starters
Cuisine: American
Diet: Gluten Free, Vegetarian
Servings: 4 small bowls of soup (or 8 mini apps)

Equipment

  • immersion blender (or blender or food processor)

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 green onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt or more to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 3 ears of corn on the cob, husks removed
  • 1 garlic clove, minced (1 teaspoon)
  • 3 cups vegetable stock or broth, Note 1 (or chicken broth/stock)
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk, Note 2 plus more for garnish
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice (or lime juice)

Fresh Herbs and Spinach, Note 2

  • 1 large handful baby spinach (or kale or arugula or watercress)
  • 2 tablespoons chives, chopped
  • 1 tablespoons basil leaves, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon tarragon, chopped (much reduced from original recipe)
  • 2 tablespoons parsley, chopped

Instructions

  • REMOVE KERNELS FROM COB (video): Place small inverted bowl in another larger owl. Stand up ear of corn on inverted bowl (flat side down). Use sharp knife to slice off kernels on all sides of cob. Repeat with remaining cobs. Break cobs in half and reserve.
  • SAUTÉ ONIONS AND CORN: Melt butter on medium heat in medium pot. Add green onions and cook for 2 minutes until golden. Add corn kernels (reserve a few for garnish) and garlic. Sauté 2 more minutes, stirring.
  • SIMMER CORN SOUP: Add broth and reserved corn cobs to pot. Bring to boil, cover pan, then lower heat to a gentle simmer. Cook for 15 minutes. Discard cobs. Let soup cool to room temperature (20-30 minutes).
  • ADD HERBS, SPINACH & BUTTERMILK: Add herbs buttermilk, lemon juice and spinach. Using an immersion blender (or blender), puree soup until until you get a smooth creamy texture, about 2 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  • GARNISH AND SERVE: Pour cold soup into a large bowl or punch bowl. Or divide soup into shot glasses or espresso cups. Garnish with fresh corn kernels, a drizzle of buttermilk and chives (or other options, Note 4).

Recipe Notes

  1. Broth tip: I love the roasted vegetable or roasted chicken base by Better Than Bouillon. When mixing it with water to make broth, I add a bit of extra base to build a richer soup. You can do this with any powder or cube version as well. 
  2. Buttermilk options:
    • If you don’t have buttermilk, check out how to make buttermilk. The basic substitution is 1 cup buttermilk = 1 tablespoon lemon juice (or vinegar) + enough milk to measure 1 cup. Stir and let sit for 5 minutes. 
    • Substitute the buttermilk with plain or Greek yogurt and extra lemon. 
    • Or skip the buttermilk and use half-and-half cream and an extra 1/2 tablespoon of lemon juice. The soup will be thinner.
    • For a lower-calorie version, use 1-2% buttermilk.
    • Dairy-free version – Substitute the buttermilk with a dairy-free version. Or make your own with almond milk, coconut milk or oat milk plus lemon or vinegar.
  3. Herb options: chives, parsley, basil, cilantro, oregano, and thyme. Tarragon is quite potent and has a licorice taste, so use in sparingly or not at all. You can use more of one or two fresh herbs (instead of 4 different types). I suggest using at least some fresh herbs, but you can also use some dried herbs. The rule of thumb is 1 tablespoon fresh = 1 teaspoon dried. 
  4. Other garnish ideas: grilled shrimp on top, a drizzle of chili oil, sliced radishes or water chestnuts for crunch or finely chopped fresh tomatoes. Another great addition is a colorful edible flower.
  5. Shortcut version: Instead of corn on the cob, use 3 cups/500 grams frozen corn niblets and no cobs. No need to thaw.
  6. Make ahead: As a cold soup, you need time for the soup to chill and the flavors to bloom – at least 3 hours. So making the soup ahead is important. It will keep in the fridge in an airtight container for 3-4 days. 
 
Nutrition values are estimates for a small bowl (about 1 cup/237 ml) of chilled corn soup. If serving smaller appetizers in glasses, values would be lower. 

Nutrition

Calories: 123kcal | Carbohydrates: 16g | Protein: 4g | Fat: 6g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 2g | Trans Fat: 0.2g | Cholesterol: 15mg | Sodium: 374mg | Potassium: 326mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 6g | Vitamin A: 1338IU | Vitamin C: 13mg | Calcium: 64mg | Iron: 1mg
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