The Best Potatoes To Use In Copycat Panera Corn Chowder

Panera's Mexican-style street corn chowder may be pretty popular, but it's not something you're always going to find on the sandwich chain's menu. While you may be able to purchase a tub of the stuff in select grocery stores, you can also make it yourself using a copycat recipe such as this one from Mashed developer Kate Shungu. Not only is homemade chowder something you can have year-round but, as Shungu tells us, "I love being able to make a large quantity of soup for a much lower price than I can get at the grocery store or at the restaurant."

Shungu's Panera-esque copycat corn chowder is actually pretty easy to make as she starts with frozen corn – no need to husk, cook, and cut the kernels off the fresh kind or anything labor-intensive like that. You'll be using canned black beans, as well, but you will need a few fresh vegetables including bell and poblano peppers and a few potatoes. The kind Shungu uses here are russets, a variety that isn't best known for its use in soups. But these potatoes work in this recipe because they help to thicken the chowder. Not only do these potatoes, in combination with the other vegetables and seasonings, make for what Shungu calls "a really flavorful soup," but she notes that "the variety of textures is a nice bonus, too."

Russets are better known as baking potatoes

Russet potatoes are commonly used for baking and make great mashed potatoes, too. They're also used for frying as they get crispy on the outside while the inside stays soft and fluffy. The reason russets are so good in all of these applications is that they are high in starch so they absorb a lot of moisture as they cook. Waxy potatoes, on the other hand, differ from starchy ones in that they have plenty of moisture of their own, which allows them to hold their shape when boiled. This tends to make them the go-to potato variety for soups as well as potato salad.

So why isn't Shungu opting to use waxy potatoes in her corn chowder? It's because of what she calls her "special technique" which involves pureeing a portion of the potatoes and corn. This puree, she says, "adds richness to the soup without having to add tons of heavy cream." As russet potatoes puree more smoothly than a waxy variety such as Red Bliss, that's why they make for the best chowder thickener.