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Chacales are roasted, dried and cracked corn typically cooked in soups. Also called chichales or chuales, it makes a great meatless soup for Lent. You’ll need to mail order chacales, but I’ll give you some easier options below.

A bowl of chacales soup with all the accompaniments.

New Mexico has lots of recipes for this type of corn, but in northern Mexico you will typically see it served as a soup during Lent. I’ve eaten it in Mexico, and recreated the soup below.

It’s really simple, and really good! The stewed corn stays chewy and almost meaty — it definitely tricks your mouth into thinking you’re eating meat — and the accompaniments are perfect for late winter or early spring.

Obtaining Chacales

Making chacales is time consuming, so most people buy it. If you happen to live around Native Americans, many groups make something like this, and you might be able to buy from them. New Mexico calls chacales chicos, and I’ve seen them in regular supermarkets there, as well as in Arizona.

But you can easily buy chacales online, as well as chicos, which are close enough.

You want starchy corn here, so don’t use fresh or frozen sweet corn. You could get away with pozole corn, but that has been nixtamalized, and chacales generally aren’t, so it would be different, but still good. And if you happen to have access to regular starchy corn, have at it!

If you want to make your own chacales, it’s not terribly difficult: You roast, steam or smoke ears of corn, in the husks, until they are nicely cooked, strip the husks off and then dry the ears in the sun or a dehydrator. Once completely dry, which takes days or weeks depending on your climate, you strip the kernels off.

This process typically cracks a lot of the kernels, which is good, because that opens the starch up in them to thicken soups or stews. Once made, chacales keep for years if kept dry.

Uncooked chacales in a bowl.

Making Chacales Soup

Chacales as a Lenten soup has a loose structure, but as with many Mexican recipes, there is plenty of room for your own sazon, your own flair.

It’s almost always a mix of the corn, onions and garlic, something red — chiles or tomatoes — cilantro and cheese. I’ve seen both roasted, peeled, seeded and chopped green chiles as well as chiles pasados, which are the same green chiles that are then dried and rehydrated.

The red thing is usually tomatoes of some sort, usually hand crushed whole and peeled, or, alternatively, I’ve seen what is essentially a red enchilada sauce poured into the chacales soup at the end, which gives it a vivid red color.

Either way, the main chore in cooking chacales is getting the corn tender enough to eat. You can soak it overnight or just boil it for an hour or so before you start the rest of the soup. You want the kernels to be chewy, but pleasantly so.

Beyond that, it’s simple: Fry some onions and garlic in lard (which is acceptable during Lent), or oil, add to the corn, crush some tomatoes into it, or add the salsa, or both, garnish with cilantro and add shredded melty cheese in at the end.

A bowl of chacales soup on a wooden table.

Serving and Storing

The soup keeps a week in the fridge, and it freezes well. You could also pressure can it, using standard guidelines for soups.

In Mexico, you usually see chacales served with corn or flour tortillas. Bread is another good option. I’ve served leftover soup with freshly made rice, too.

Oh, and you absolutely can add meat to your soup if you want.

If you’re looking for other recipes that use chicos or chacales, try my green chile stew, or my New Mexican turkey leg stew.

If you liked this recipe, please leave a ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ rating and a comment below; I’d love to hear how everything went. If you’re on Instagram, share a picture and tag me at huntgathercook.

A bowl of chacales soup with all the accompaniments.
5 from 4 votes

Chacales Corn Soup

Once you get your hands on the dried, cracked corn, this soup is easy to make. See the headnotes above for ways to get chacales, and for alternatives.
Course: Appetizer, lunch, Main Course, Soup
Cuisine: Mexican
Servings: 6 servings
Author: Hank Shaw
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 2 hours
Total Time: 2 hours 15 minutes


  • 8 ounces chacales, or other cracked corn
  • salt
  • 3 tablespoons lard, bacon fat or vegetable oil1
  • 1 white onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon Mexican oregano
  • 1 28- ounce can, whole, peeled tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1/2 pound grated melty cheese (asadero, chihuahua, mozzarella, "Mexican blend")
  • 2 limes, cut in wedges


  • Boil the corn in plenty of water until it's chewy, but pleasantly so, about 1 hour. Add salt late in the cooking process, about 30 to 45 minutes in.
  • When the corn is mostly ready, fry the onions in the lard or bacon fat over medium heat until transparent, and just a little brown on the edges. Add the garlic and cook another minute more.
  • Usually the water level in the boiling corn has reduced enough to be a nice soup consistency. You want it milky looking and covering the corn by about 1 inch. If there's too much water, drain some. If not enough, add some. Scrape the onions and garlic into this pot and continue to simmer.
  • Hand crush the peeled tomatoes into the pot. Add the tomato juice from the can if you'd like. Stir in the oregano. Let all this cook for 10 minutes, and add salt if needed.
  • Stir in the cilantro, and bring the soup to a rolling boil. Ladle it out very hot into bowls and add the grated cheese on top, for everyone to stir in. Serve with lime wedges and hot sauce on the side.


You can buy chicos from New Mexico online, which are very close to Mexican chacales. 

Alternate Salsa

If you want to go the red salsa route for the soup instead of, or in addition to, the tomatoes, use the red sauce from my enchiladas rojas recipe


Calories: 262kcal | Carbohydrates: 13g | Protein: 12g | Fat: 19g | Saturated Fat: 10g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 7g | Cholesterol: 40mg | Sodium: 512mg | Potassium: 380mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 6g | Vitamin A: 564IU | Vitamin C: 15mg | Calcium: 338mg | Iron: 2mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe? Tag me today!Mention @huntgathercook or tag #hankshaw!

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About Hank Shaw

Hey there. Welcome to Hunter Angler Gardener Cook, the internet’s largest source of recipes and know-how for wild foods. I am a chef, author, and yes, hunter, angler, gardener, forager and cook. Follow me on Instagram and on Facebook.

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  1. Hi! Another delicious looking recipe that I am struggling to find the ingredients for here in Sweden. But, that just means that I have to follow your instructions and make my own chicales and my wife racking up another one on my crazy food projects list. Just finding fresh corn will be a struggle. There are some products available on-line here such as Coexito crushed yellow corn and Mazzamorra dried white corn. Would they be similar products?

  2. Hank, from your link above I see chicos, and also chicos del horno. Are those interchangable? Is one sweeter than the other? Seems like one is oven dried, vs. dried, but wasn’t sure if there was more to it.

  3. Hi, chef. Your photos have been excellent, lately.
    Thanks for your dedication.
    chef Porter