My husband and I have spent hours talking about the nuances of chowder. While many of us associate the word “chowder” with a thick, cream-based soup, I grew up as an avid Campbell’s Chunky Manhattan Clam Chowder fan, which features a lighter tomato-based broth. The differences extend to the mix-ins, too — you’ll find chowders with clams and potatoes, of course, but also fish, meat, and all sorts of vegetables. For today’s lesson, we’re focusing on my favorite addition: fresh summer corn.
This corn chowder recipe doubles down on sweet corn flavor with its homemade corn stock and juicy corn kernels. Trust me when I say the corn flavor is strong! Right before serving, you’ll stir in heavy cream, which gives it a luxe texture without making it too rich. Garnish with finely chopped parsley, sliced scallion greens, ground black pepper, and oyster crackers for a satisfying taste of summer.
Where Did the Word Chowder Originate?
The word “chowder” is thought by some to be rooted in the Latin word “caldaria,” which means warm bath or cooking pot. Caldaria is the root of the French word “chaudiere” (or boiler), as well as the word “cauldron.” Another possible point of origin is the Old English word “jowter,” another word for a fishmonger.
No matter the true etymology, chowder has roots in the fishing villages that dot the English Channel on the English and French sides. When the boats returned home from sea, the fisherman would throw the seafood and vegetables into cauldrons to feed the village in a homecoming celebration.
Early American settlers brought chowder to the Northeast and thickened them with biscuits, broken crackers, or a roux. Ever since, chowders have become regionally specific, with ingredients varying by location. The first corn chowders appeared in the United States in the late 1800s, with some sources claiming Native Americans introduced early colonizers to corn, and the concept of using corn in soup.
How to Make Homemade Corn Stock
Homemade corn stock is fun and easy to make, and you’ll be blown away by how much flavor it lends to the chowder. Begin by removing the kernels from 8 ears of corn (you’ll cook the kernels in butter later on). Next, cook 4 strips of bacon in a heavy bottomed pot or Dutch oven until crisp. Remove the bacon, but keep the rendered fat in the pot. Add the corn cobs, crushed garlic cloves, scallion whites, parsley and thyme sprigs, a bay leaf, and water. Bring to a boil, then simmer for about an hour. Strain the stock and discard the solids.
Just like any homemade stock, corn stock freezes wonderfully. Make a batch now and then pull it out in the winter when you’re craving summer flavors.
How Do You Thicken Corn Chowder?
Starchy potatoes and a few tablespoons of flour help thicken this chowder. After sautéing the aromatics, you’ll add a splash of wine and scrape up any browned bits, then add the cubed potatoes and cook until they start to tenderize. Next, add the flour and stir to coat.
When the corn stock is ready, pour it in and bring to a boil, then simmer and cook until the potatoes are fully tender. Add in the bacon and corn kernels and bring to a simmer, then stir in the cream and season the chowder.
Corn Chowder Variations
Feel free to adjust these ingredients depending on your dietary needs. If you’re dairy-free, use your favorite alternative creamer or coconut milk in place of cream. If you’re vegan, use vegetable oil in place of bacon fat and add a dash of smoked paprika to mimic the smoky flavor of bacon. Meat-eaters can also substitute a ham hock for the bacon.
This corn chowder recipe doubles down on sweet corn flavor with its homemade corn stock and juicy corn kernels throughout.
YieldServes 4 to 6, Makes about 10 cups
Prep time 15 minutes
Cook time 2 hours to 2 hours 30 minutes
For the stock:
- 8 ears
- 2 large cloves
- 4 slices
thick-cut bacon (about 6 ounces)
- 4 sprigs
- 8 cups
- 2 sprigs
- 1 teaspoon
whole black peppercorns
For the chowder:
- 2 large cloves
- 1 pound
- 4 tablespoons
unsalted butter, divided
- 3 1/2 teaspoons
kosher salt, divided, plus more as needed
- 1/4 teaspoon
red pepper flakes
- 1/4 cup
dry white wine
- 2 tablespoons
- 1 1/2 cups
- 1/2 teaspoon
fresh ground black pepper
Oyster crackers, for serving
Shuck the corn. Remove the husks and silk from 8 ears fresh corn and discard.
Prepare the stock ingredients. Cut the kernels from the corn (about 5 1/2 cups) and transfer to a bowl; reserve the cobs. Crush 2 large garlic cloves with the flat side of a chef’s knife. Cut the whites from 4 medium scallions, leaving them whole; reserve the greens for another use. Pick the leaves from 4 fresh parsley sprigs; reserve the stems for the stock and the leaves for garnish. Cut 4 strips thick-cut bacon crosswise into 1/2-inch-wide pieces.
Cook the bacon. Place the bacon in a large heavy-bottomed stockpot or Dutch oven and cook over medium-high heat until fat is rendered out and the bacon is crisp all over, 8 to 10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to a medium bowl.
Make the stock. Add the corn cobs, crushed garlic, scallion whites, parsley stems, 8 cups water, 2 sprigs fresh thyme, 1 bay leaf, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, and 8 whole black peppercorns to the pot. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to maintain a gentle simmer and cook uncovered until broth is fragrant and tastes like corn, 45 to 55 minutes.
Strain the stock. Fit a fine-mesh strainer over a large heatproof bowl. Strain the stock and discard the solids. Wash and dry the pot.
Prepare the chowder ingredients. Finely chop 2 large garlic cloves and 1 large shallot. Thinly slice 4 medium scallions, keeping the whites separate from the greens. Reserve the greens for garnish. Peel and dice 1 pound russet potatoes.
Start the chowder. Melt 2 tablespoons of the unsalted butter in the pot over medium heat. Once it foams, add the reserved corn kernels and 1/2 teaspoon of the kosher salt. Cook until the kernels have softened and begin to stick to the bottom of the pot, about 8 minutes. Transfer the kernels to the bowl with the bacon.
Cook the aromatics and potatoes. Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons unsalted butter in the pot over medium heat. Add the shallots, scallion whites, garlic, 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, and 1/2 teaspoon of the kosher salt. Cook until just tender, about 2 minutes. Add 1/4 cup dry white wine and cook until mostly evaporated, scraping the brown bits from bottom of the pot, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the potatoes and 1/2 teaspoon of the kosher salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the edges of the potatoes begin to turn translucent, about 3 minutes. Add 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour and stir well to coat the vegetables, about 1 minute.
Add the remaining chowder ingredients. Add the reserved stock and scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pot. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to maintain a gentle simmer and cook uncovered until the potatoes are knife-tender, about 10 minutes. Add the bacon and corn mixture and bring to a simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the chowder is slightly thickened, about 10 minutes more. Meanwhile, finely chop the reserved parsley leaves.
Finish the chowder. Add 1 1/2 cups heavy cream to the chowder and stir to combine. Add the remaining 2 teaspoons kosher salt and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. Taste and season with more kosher salt as needed. Serve garnished with the chopped parsley, scallion greens, and more black pepper if desired. Serve with oyster crackers.
Make ahead: The corn stock can be made up to 2 days ahead and refrigerated, or frozen for up to 6 months.
Storage: Refrigerate leftovers in an airtight container for up to 4 days.