A few months ago, I ordered a Mexican corn soup from a local cafe and I was surprised to see that the corn came as large, white, chewy kernels instead of the small, crunchy yellow corn I was used to. I later learned that the corn used in my soup was actually hominy, also known as white corn posole, made by removing the outer layers of corn kernels and drying them. Then when I visited Zambia in July, I noticed the same type of corn appearing in many of the dishes, where it was called maize.
After tasting hominy in a few different ways, I really came to love its hearty, firm texture and I wanted to cook with it myself. You can find cans of hominy in the grocery store, but rather than starting off with the canned variety, I decided to use the dried kernels.
The first recipe I made with my new ingredient was this soup called posole. Mexican posole is traditionally made with hominy and meat, but I made a vegan version inspired by the soup I had at the cafe, and adapted from a recipe for tortilla soup that I found in Appetite for Reduction. The cookbook recipe called for fresh corn and pinto beans, but I replaced both with an extra portion of hominy instead.
Along with the hominy, the soup is filled with onions, peppers and tomatoes, and flavoured with lime juice, cilantro, garlic and jalapeno. I also added some cubed avocado at the end to bulk up the soup a bit more with a healthy fat. Finally, both the soup I had eaten at the cafe and the recipe in my cookbook included pieces of tortilla chips as a garnish. Since I didn't want to buy a whole bag of tortilla chips just for this recipe, I used broken up taco shells as a substitute.
As you can see,my tortillas/taco shells started to get soggy immediately after adding them to the hot soup, so I would suggest only adding them right when you want to eat, or leaving them out (personally I enjoyed my soup just as much without the tortillas, although I might have had a different opinion if I used actual tortilla chips, so I'll leave the option up to you!)
The big chewy kernels of corn were my favourite part of the soup, and I loved how hearty it was between the hominy and the avocado. Even without the crisp tortilla strips that I was hoping for, there were still lots of textures going on that made this more like a chunky stew than just a soup.
For a non-vegan version, you could also try adding shredded cheese and sour cream as a garnish to make this more like a taco soup, but I liked it just fine without!
The only difficult part about this recipe is having to soak the hominy ahead of time, but as long as you plan ahead, the rest of the dish is pretty easy and doesn't take too long to put together. Or you could even skip the soaking step and just used canned hominy - although I haven't tried that myself, so I can't vouch for the results!
Adapted from Appetite for Reduction
1 cup dry white corn posole (or 2 cups cooked hominy) - I used this brand
1 tsp olive oil
1 small yellow onion, thinly sliced
2 jalapenos, seeded and minced
1 poblano or Cuban pepper, seeded and diced
4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1/4 to 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (to taste)
1 tsp kosher salt
28 oz can of whole tomatoes
28 oz vegetable stock
1 tbsp cumin
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro, plus more for topping
Juice of 1 lime
1 avocado, diced
hot sauce to taste (optional)
About 1 cup broken up corn tortilla chips (I used broken hard taco shells instead)
Soak the dry posole/hominy in water for at least 6 hours or overnight. Drain and add to a pot filled about two-thirds full with water. Bring to a boil with a couple pinches of salt, reduce heat and simmer for 1.5-2 hours, until softened (if the water runs out partway through, add some more so the hominy doesn’t dry up).
Heat the oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion, jalapeno and poblano pepper and sauté for 4-5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic, red pepper flakes and salt and sauté one more minute.
Add the tomatoes to the pot, breaking them up with your hands as you put them in (I also cut some up further with a knife). Fill the empty tomato can with vegetable stock and add to the pot. Stir in the cumin. Cover and bring to a boil. Add the cooked hominy and cilantro and simmer, uncovered, for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the lime juice.
To serve, ladle portions of soup into bowls and divide the avocado pieces among the bowls. Add a dash or two of hot sauce if you want more heat. Garnish each bowl with a handful of tortilla pieces and top with more cilantro.
Makes 4-6 servings.