Raw sweet corn and cashew chowder (sort of)

raw corn and cashew chowder

[Direct link to recipe]

First of all, let me just say that since I'm not a dedicated follower of the raw foods diet, I've never heard of Ani Phyo until seeing her mentioned in The Kitchn a few weeks ago. But if you had been paying attention (unlike me), you'd already know about her from all the coverage. She got my attention this time, though. Corn and cashew make an unusual pairing for ingredients—does she develop her recipes by alliteration? Anyway, the instructions can hardly be simpler: the steps basically boil (can I use that word here?) down to "toss stuff in a blender and go." Problem is, it's nowhere near the season for fresh corn. What to do?

Well, not being a raw foodist came in handy at this point to save me from having to violate my own dietary rules. The only corn I had at hand were frozen kernels, meaning that they were blanched before being packaged. In other words: not raw. Being the experimental sort, I also wanted to find out if roasting the cashews would make any difference, so I halved the recipe and made two batches.

As you can see from the comparison image below, the bowl made with plain (that is, not roasted) cashews is just a bit less intense in color than the one with roasted cashews. If I had used raw corn, then I'd imagine the color would've been even paler. Flavor-wise, the roasted cashews contributed a bit of extra depth and, well, nuttiness, to the second batch. As the recipe contained only a small amount of cashews relative to the corn, though, the differences were subtle and probably not discernible unless the two versions were compared side by side. It's probably not worth the extra effort to roast the cashews.

comparison of chowders with raw and roasted cashews

Another factor that made the taste-testing somewhat inconclusive was that I thought the first batch was too oily and salty and so used less of each for the second batch. While kosher salt and extra virgin olive oil make for a great combination, the quantity used in the original recipe overwhelmed the corn flavor. Now, this isn't a knock against Ani Phyo specifically, since I find that just in general many recipes specify too much oil and salt, and I've come to expect having to reduce their quantities as a standard modification.

As for texture, I did not find it as heavy as the guys over at The Bitten Word, although I did have similar pureeing issues. Commenters both there and on The Kitchn advised soaking the cashews overnight to ensure smooth pureeing. They are right. With un-soaked cashews, chunks up to half-piece in size remained after my blender ran for 30 seconds on its highest speed; this did not happen with soaked cashews. Also, in both batches the corn did not puree completely, and bits of the hull were dispersed throughout the soup. Extending blending time by 30 more seconds (for a total time of one minute) made no appreciable difference, and I think the puree needs to be passed through a strainer to achieve smoothness. Technically, the rough texture may not be an issue because this is a chowder instead of a bisque, although I have a feeling that this soup was really meant to be liquefied with one of those King Kong blenders favored by the raw foods community instead of the weaklings the rest of us own.


Makes 4 servings. Adapted from Ani Phyo's original, with less oil and salt.


Note: This recipe uses 450 g (1 lb, or 3-1/4 cups) of yellow corn kernels in total, either fresh or frozen. If using fresh kernels, this is equivalent to 4 large ears. If you're a raw foodist, please keep in mind that frozen corn is blanched, not raw.

For the chowder
Quantity Alternate Measures Item
68 g 2-3/8 oz  (1/2 cup) Cashews, preferably raw, plus
water for soaking (soaking is optional)
312 g 11 oz  (2-1/4 cups) Yellow corn kernels
473 g 16-3/4 oz  (2 cups) Water
60 ml 4 tbsp Extra virgin olive oil
1 small 1 small Garlic clove
5 ml 1 tsp Kosher salt

For garnish
138 g 5 oz  (1 cup) Yellow corn kernels
To taste To taste Cilantro leaves
To taste To taste Freshly-ground black pepper


  • Weighing scale and/or measuring cups
  • Measuring spoons
  • Small bowl, for soaking cashews
  • Knife and cutting board
  • Blender
  • Pepper mill
  • Strainer (optional)


  1. If you don't own a high-powered blender, it's recommended that you place the cashews in a small bowl, cover them with water, and let them soak overnight.
  2. If you're using fresh corn, take off their husks, remove the silk, then use a knife to cut the kernels off the cob. If you're using frozen corn kernels, let them thaw before putting them in the blender.
  3. To prepare the cilantro for garnish, pull or slice the leaves off the stems, then chop roughly with a knife (video).
  4. If you've soaked the cashews, take them out of the bowl and put them into the blender.
  5. Peel the skin off the garlic clove, then place it and the remaining ingredients from under the chowder heading (corn, water, oil, and salt) into the blender.
  6. Turn on the blender and puree this mixture until smooth. For an even smoother texture, you may want to pour the puree through a strainer.
  7. Divide the puree into four bowls.
  8. Divide each of the garnish ingredients into four portions.
  9. Into each bowl, place one portion of the garnish corn and then sprinkle with cilantro leaves and ground peppers.


  • Parsley, either the curly- or flat-leafed variety, can be used instead of cilantro.
  • If you're not a strict raw foodist, this recipe will likely work well with grilled corn.


Aside from the frozen corn, the reason that I attached the "sort of" qualifier to my post title is because my cashews came from a regular supermarket. Why is this a problem? Well, while the general public classifies unroasted nuts as being raw, cashews from non-specialist suppliers are likely to have been heat processed before reaching market and are thus unacceptable or at least suspect to raw-foods purists.

So why are cashews heat processed? This is because freshly-harvested cashews are encased in an urushiol-containing double shell. Urushiol is the active irritant in poison ivy, so it's critical that the nuts are extracted from their shells without contamination. As this irritant is destroyed by high temperatures (PDF, p. 2), traditional extraction methods all use heat—either drum roasting, oil roasting, or steam roasting—to decontaminate the nuts as well as to separate them from their shells. For the raw foods market, special tools must be used for safe low-temperature extraction.

What are the risks that raw (or semi-raw) cashews are dangerous to eat, then? For that, I have no answer. I've had no problems from eating semi-raw supermarket cashews, but as shown by the current peanut problems or last year's Chinese milk scandal (you're being way too optimistic if you think something similar can't happen in the US), contamination of our food—whether from bacteria and viruses, artificial impurities, or a plant or animal's own natural toxins—is an always-present possibility.


  1. Great info! I'm not a raw foodist either, but I love experimenting with it--definitely good practice for patience :)

  2. Wow this is so unique. I wouldn't have thought of it, but I can imagine that the flavor go well together.


  3. That looks so rich. We did soups as some of our first recipes (I'm a culinary school student) and never went near anything like this. I certainly wish we had.


  4. This corn chowder sounds good!

  5. Now I'm going to have to think of a dish that can be made only with ingredients beginning with T. or M. Alliteration is my favorite:)

    I'm not a raw foodist, and I've never heard of Ani Phyo. This does sound interesting, though. And you're probably right, the Hard Core raw folk are probably using a VitaPrep or something similar. Most home blenders do a fine job on foods that have already been softened by cooking. I bet your blender didn't know what hit it!

  6. Wow, what great info! Sounds like an interesting soup! Did you like the taste of it?

  7. Yes, it's good! Especially considering that it takes no time to make. Just cut down on the oil and salt a bit, as I did. (Then again, maybe you'd like more of the EVOO and salt flavor than I do.)

  8. Very interesting soup!

    Thanks for the suggestion about hummus - yes I do like hummus. Dips like that make it a lot easier to eat beans! ;)


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