With sweet, fresh corn, still available at the local farmers market, we just couldn't resist trying our hands at some fresh corn chowder.
The recipe is adapted from one by Mitchell Davis in Kitchen Sense and is full of flavor. The original recipe calls for a strip of bacon, but you can add a little bacon fat instead, if you have some on hand, or just add a little more butter.
Video: How to Make Corn Cowder
What's the Best Corn for Corn Chowder?
Fresh sweet corn on the cob is the ideal corn to use here. It's best if it's in season, but you can use off-season corn from the grocery store and get good results.
Can You Make Corn Chowder With Frozen Corn?
Yes, you can use frozen corn, but you won't have the same intensity of corn flavor because you won't simmering the stripped cobs in the milk. To compensate, you could add about a cup of extra frozen corn, first whizzing it in a food processor.
For Great Corn Chowder, Cook the Corn Cobs
The step of simmering the corn cobs in the milk may seem surprising, but it adds a ton of flavor. You're essentially making a corn broth. After cutting the kernels off the cobs, you can extract more corn essence by "milking" the cobs: run the back side of your knife down the cob to extract the remaining sweet, milky liquid and add this to the chowder along with the cobs in Step 3.
Ways to Adapt Corn Chowder
To make it vegetarian, omit the bacon and use 2 tablespoons of butter.
To make it vegan, omit the bacon. Use 2 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil, and replace the milk with the plain, unsweetened non-dairy milk of your choice. For a richer soup, use canned coconut milk for part of the non-dairy milk.
To vary the flavors:
- Add a minced jalapeno to make it spicy.
- Use more bacon, and instead of simmering the rendered bacon in the chowder, reserve it and add the crumbles just before serving.
- Add a teaspoon or two of smoked paprika.
- Use 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme instead of the fresh thyme.
- Add peeled shrimp during the last few minutes of cooking; simmer until firm and pink.
- Replace some of the milk with half and half or heavy cream to make a richer chowder.
- Swap the potatoes for sweet potatoes, omit the thyme, add a minced canned chipotle pepper, and garnish with chopped fresh cilantro.
How to Make a Thicker Corn Chowder
For a heartier soup, add an extra potato.
Or, before serving the chowder, mash it with a potato masher to give it a thick-but-chunky texture. You could also pulse it with an immersion blender.
For a smoother texture, puree about a third of the chowder in a bender or food processor.
What to Serve With Corn Chowder
You can't go wrong with crusty bread and a simple green salad. For something more substantial, grill a few chicken breasts, or try our Bay Shrimp and Avocado Salad.
How to Store and Freeze Corn Chowder
Leftover chowder will keep in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
You may freeze the chowder for up to 6 months, but it will change the texture and not be quite as creamy. To remedy that, consider pureeing the thawed soup.
Have Loads of Summer Corn? Make These Recipes!
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 strip bacon, or 1 teaspoon bacon fat
- 1/2 large yellow onion, chopped (about 3/4 cup)
- 1/3 cup diced red bell pepper
- 1/2 cup small diced carrot
- 1/2 cup small diced celery
- 4-5 ears of sweet corn, kernels removed from the cobs (about 3 cups), cobs reserved (see steps for taking corn off the cob)
- 1 bay leaf
- 4 1/2 cups milk, whole or low fat
- 2 medium Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and large (1-inch) diced (about 3 cups)
- 3 teaspoons of Kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
Cook the bacon:
Place butter and bacon into a large, heavy-bottomed soup pot. Heat on medium heat until the bacon renders its fat, 3-4 minutes.
Cook the vegetables (except the corn and potatoes):
Add the chopped onions, red bell pepper, carrot, and celery, lower the heat to medium low and cook until vegetables soften, about 5 minutes.
Add corn cobs and bring to a simmer:
Break the corn cobs in half (after you've stripped off the corn) and add the cobs to the pot. Add the milk and the bay leaf. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to a bare simmer. Cover the pot and cook for 20 minutes.
Make sure the heat is as low as can be and still maintain a gentle simmer (on our stove we had to use the "warm" setting) to prevent scalding the milk on the bottom of the pan.
After 20 minutes, add the potatoes, salt, and thyme to the pot. Increase the heat to return the soup to a simmer, then lower the heat to maintain the simmer and cook for another 10 minutes.
Finish the soup:
Discard the cobs, the bacon strip, and the bay leaf. Add the corn kernels and black pepper. Again raise the heat to bring the soup to a simmer, then lower the heat and cook for another 5 minutes, until the potatoes are fork tender.
Add more salt and pepper to taste.