Tarragon Corn Chowder


A light corn chowder with fresh corn, yukon gold potatoes, chopped fennel and onion, and fresh tarragon. No cream!

Photography Credit: Elise Bauer

This is a soup made for summer! Fresh and bright. Compared to many corn chowders that can be a bit on the heavy side with cream and bacon, this chowder is rather light. It gets its body from Yukon gold potatoes and fresh corn.

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Use corn cobs to make stock for corn chowder

The cool thing about this soup is the way the soup base is made—after you strip the kernels from the cobs, you just simmer the cobs for half an hour. You could use this method for any corn or vegetable soup for which you wanted a stronger corn flavor.

simmering corn cobs

Tarragon and Corn

I love the way tarragon pairs with corn, to me it’s a perfect taste complement. But if tarragon isn’t your thing, you might try it with basil or thyme. In that case just swap out the fennel for more onions and potatoes.

Tarragon Corn Chowder

Great use for leftover corn

Here’s another idea. Have leftover cooked corn from a weekend barbecue? Just use them for this recipe, or one like it. Cut off the kernels and simmer the cobs.

Tarragon Corn Chowder Recipe

  • Prep time: 10 minutes
  • Cook time: 1 hour
  • Yield: Serves 6-8

This recipe uses whole corn-on-the-cob. The cobs are used to make a richly corn flavored broth.

You can make the chowder with with frozen corn, if you want. If you use frozen corn, you'll skip the cooking of the corn, as frozen corn is already cooked, and you'll need to add some sort of stock, either vegetable stock or chicken stock.

If you want to skip the wine, you can, though if you do you may want to squeeze a little lemon juice into the soup to help balance the sweetness from the corn.


  • 4 ears corn, in the husk (resulting in about 3 cups corn kernels)
  • 3 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 cup chopped white or yellow onion
  • 1 cup chopped fennel bulb
  • 2 minced garlic cloves
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 4 small waxy potatoes, such as Yukon Gold, peeled and cut into chunks
  • Salt
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1-2 Tbsp fresh chopped tarragon (French)


Prep the onions, fennel and potatoes while you are cooking the corn or making the corn broth.

1 Cook the corn (or not): If you are starting with fresh corn-on-the-cob (versus frozen), you can either cook the corn first, or not. We grill the corn first to get the extra flavor from the corn. You can make this soup with leftover whole cooked corn, or you can use raw corn corn on the cob.

To grill, keep the corn-on-the-cobs in their husks, and grill them directly over high heat until the outer husks are nicely charred, about 10-15 minutes. Then remove from the grill, let cool a little, then remove the husks and silk.

2 Cut the corn kernels away from the cobs. (See our tip for removing corn from the cob using a bundt pan to stabilize the cobs.) Set aside the corn kernels. Do not discard the cobs.

3 Simmer the cobs: Break the corn cobs in half, and put them in a pot with 6 cups water and the bay leaves. Bring to a boil and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes. If you skip this step, use a quart of vegetable or chicken stock, plus 2 cups water in place of the corn broth in 5.

4 Cook onion and fennel, garlic: Heat the butter in a Dutch oven or separate large, thick-bottomed pot set over medium-high heat. Add the chopped onion and fennel and cook until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes.

Add the garlic and sauté for another minute.

5 Add the white wine to the onions and boil it down by half.

6 Add potatoes, corn broth, bay leaves: While the wine is boiling, remove the corn cobs from the corn broth and discard. Add the potatoes to the pot with the onions and fennel, then pour in the corn broth, along with the bay leaves.

7 Simmer until potatoes are tender, add corn: Stir well and add salt to taste (you'll need to add more salt than you expect, as the corn broth is unsalted). Simmer gently until the potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes.

If you are using raw corn on the cob or frozen corn, you'll want to add the corn to the soup about halfway into the cooking. If you are using grilled or cooked corn, add at the end of cooking and heat for a few minutes.

8 Add tarragon:  To finish, add the fresh chopped tarragon to the pot.

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Corn Chowder with Chiles - from The Pioneer Woman

Corn Soup - from 101 Cookbooks

Corn chowder here on Simply Recipes

Elise Bauer

Elise Bauer is the founder of Simply Recipes. Elise launched Simply Recipes in 2003 as a way to keep track of her family's recipes, and along the way grew it into one of the most popular cooking websites in the world. Elise is dedicated to helping home cooks be successful in the kitchen. Elise is a graduate of Stanford University, and lives in Sacramento, California.

More from Elise

20 Comments / Reviews

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Did you make it? Rate it!

  1. Stephanie

    Currently making and will have to wing it, but I have tiny Yukons–four is likely not enough. Any guess as to weight for your potatoes?

    Oh, I would say about a pound. ~Elise ~

  2. Anita

    This was incredibly tasty and a great addition to my recipe collection! I added turkey and also thickened it with a little cornstarch.


  3. Redd H from Salted Spoon

    This recipe is in my weekly roundup of the most inspiring recipes!


  4. Emily

    I tried boiling the corn cobs in the water first as you suggested, and by the end of the time, the water was all gone…there went my stock. I ended up making my own version with several changes (still using the cobs but boiling them along with the potatoes and uncooked corn all together-which was faster and still got the result). Loved the tarragon idea so I kept that as part of my soup. Check it out at onlysoups.blogspot.com

    If you simmered the cobs in a covered pot, the water should not have all evaporated. I would lower the heat to a simmer and make sure the cover you are using fits the pot tightly. ~Elise

  5. carmen

    I made this and substitued the fenel with diced red pepper (added at the end with corn) and cilantro instead of tarragon for more of a tex mex flavour. Also I don’t know if it was just a good bottle of wine but I added about an extra cup of it to the broth it just went so well!!!

    Very delicious and goes well served chilled on a hot summer day.

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