Tarragon Corn Chowder

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.

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


  • 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.

tarragon-corn-chowder-method-1 tarragon-corn-chowder-method-2

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.

tarragon-corn-chowder-method-3 tarragon-corn-chowder-method-4

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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  • Anita

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


  • jen

    WOW! i made this and gave a couple of jars to the neighbors, they were chasing me down to tell me how good it was. i was super surprised myself! i didn’t actually expect to like it, but it was INCREDIBLE! love it! i think will skip cooking the corn next time. i started it before the recipe was adjusted. amazing.


  • Suzanne Prael

    I always make corn chowder in summer, but WOW, I think this version is fabulous with Tarragon and grilled corn! A keeper for sure!


  • Nicki Green

    Made this last night. You were right about the salt. It was very savory. Topped with chopped bacon to increase the salt some. Delicious. Thanks!

  • Colleen Walsh Fong

    What a refreshing dish! The depth of flavor fills you up, but it is light enough for hot summer days. I loved it, and plan to experiment by using some grilled ears of corn next time I make it. Thanks!


  • katalia

    I made this tonight, DELICIOUS! Our grill is out of gas so I just stripped the farmers’ market corn and added it at the end. I didn’t use any fennel, but upped the amount of onion. The broth made with corn cobs was amazing — so rich and flavorful — and the tarragon added the perfect finish. I loved this recipe, amd will make it again for sure … may try it with olive oil next time for a vegan option :)


  • Jackie

    I made this soup last night and it was delicious! I used farm fresh corn and didn’t pre-cook it. I skipped the tarragon and minced the tiny fresh green leaves on the fennel instead. The recipe came together quite easily. Thanks Elise!


  • bigmike

    Would it be appropriate to add leeks to this dish? If so, when would you add them? My mind says this would work with leeks, but am unsure.

    Hi Mike, I think it would be fine with leeks. ~Elise

  • 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 ~

  • Redd H from Salted Spoon

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


  • 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

  • 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.

  • Liane

    I love how the fennel ramps up the buttery flavor (tastes like you used way more butter), but the soup is still light and healthy. Making the stock with the corn cobs is brilliant. Thanks for the great recipe.


  • Anita

    I know the taste wouldn’t be the same, but I have dried tarragon I would like to use up. Any idea about how much?

    I would start with just a teaspoon or two. ~Elise

  • Michelle/Mickle in NZ

    I also use the cobs that remain after “kernal-removal” for veggie stock. The flavour is always so fresh yet “full”. I will save your recipe ready for fresh corn next February as it is winter here just now (I can still “taste-bud-dream” of mid to late summer which = fresh corn cobs).

    Happy corn cooking and eating!!!

  • Dave

    I love chicken-corn chowder and I see no reason why a cup or so of cooked chicken wouldn’t go just great in this recipe. I’ll let you know how it turns out!

    An excellent idea, love it! ~Elise

  • Elizabeth

    Made this tonight with thyme and fresh organic butter and sugar corn. Made dumplings for it, too. Delicious! Thank you.

  • roman

    why bother cooking the corn first? why not just add raw kernels to the soup at the end and let them cook in the soup?

    You are absolutely right. We grilled the corn first to get the extra flavor you get from grilling anything. But you wouldn’t need to cook the corn first, if you just put the kernels in the soup about halfway through the cooking of the potatoes to get enough time to cook. I’ve adjusted the recipe, thank you. ~Elise

  • Nancy from Michigan

    Why not make it a whole lot easier and microwave the corn (on the cob and still in the husk) for 2-3 minutes per ear, then shake the cob out of the husks. Voila! No shucking, no de-silking, perfectly cooked, and ready to use.

  • Astheart

    Do you mean Mexican or French tarragon? They are two different herbs…..

    French. I’ll clarify that in the ingredient list, thank you. ~Elise