With sweet cobs of corn still available at the farmers market and less than optimal late summer weather, I simply couldn’t resist moving on from salads over to soups. Corn chowder is one of those traditional North American recipes that stand the test of time, just like chili and chicken soup. Good old comfort food in a bowl!
A traditional corn chowder varies
Every family has their own favourite way to make corn chowder, from decadently rich and creamy, to versions with bacon, chicken or salmon OR as a vegetarian option to another American favourite: clam chowder. My version is vegetarian and lightened up, instead of an immense amount of cream, I like to add just a dollop of crème fraîche to give it a little bit of a creamy note with a touch of tanginess. The addition of potatoes, also aid its creamy texture while also giving it an umami flavor boost.
Corn chowder ingredients and tips
This vegetarian corn chowder recipe relies on fresh corn on the cob, spices and other vegetables to get its deliciously creamy texture and flavor. Here’s what’s in it:
- Both olive oil and butter, as butter lends extra creamy flavor to the corn and potatoes.
Onion and garlic make up its aromatic base. If you have some celery stalk on hand chop them up and add them to the pot. They are always a welcome addition to soups.
- Sweet corn on the cob is the star of the show here! If you can’t get your hands on these deliciously sweet kernels, then substitute frozen corn.
- Potatoes are help thicken the soup’s base and just like red pepper, are a dream team together with corn. As are chilies, cilantro and lime. Another great match for corn is cheddar cheese, adding a sprinkling over the soup with elevate to another level. If you want to up the veggies, then add some diced zucchini to the mix as well.
- Crème fraîche adds the creaminess expected from a traditional corn chowder. Sour cream or even Greek yoghurt can used in its place. Or try coconut milk.
Tips for buying fresh corn
When buying fresh corn at the farmers market or grocery store look for husks that are bright green and tightly wrapped around the cob. This is good sign that it is nice and fresh. In addition, also take a look at the silk (the threads sticking out at the top), they should be brown and sticky to the touch. If they are completely dry or even black, then it’s a sign that its an old ear of corn.
Using corn and keeping it fresh
It’s best to use your corn the same day, or within a day of buying it . The most freshly picked, cooked, and eaten corn tastes the best! This is also due to the fact that corn is high in sugar and low in starch. What happens as it ages, is that the sugars converts to starch which in turn means it loses some of that sweet flavor and the texture changes when it is cooked. However, you can keep it fresh longer by storing it, unwashed and unpeeled, in a sealed plastic bag in the drawer of your fridge.
Dutch Oven is the perfect pot for soup and much more
When I make a large portion of the soup, I prefer to use a Dutch oven (cast iron casserole) because it is deep and stores the heat perfectly while the soup is simmering. What I love about a Dutch oven (also called Cocotte) is that you can use it for baking bread, braising or roasting. Another advantage is that it can be put straight from the stove into the oven. And most Dutch ovens are suitable for every type of stove (including induction). But above all, it stores the heat as soon as it gets hot. It is also very popular with campers, because it can be used on an open fire (such as a campfire). And if you now think that it is very expensive, I can reassure you. It costs as much as a pair jeans and you will enjoy it for a lifetime. But if you want, you can also get a branded Dutch oven from Le Creuset for 300 euros.
More Favorite Soup Recipes
If you love this vegetarian corn chowder, try one of these delicious soup recipes:
- Cauliflower Soup with Ras el Hanout & Coconut Milk
- Curried Split Pea Soup
- Minestrone Soup with Rice and White Beans
- Savoy Cabbage Soup with Grünkern
Corn Chowder (vegetarian)
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 2 small yellow onions, chopped
- 6 ears of fresh sweet corn, husked and silks removed and kernels cut from cob (750 g or 6 cups fresh or frozen corn kernels)
- 500 g firm potatoes, peeled and cubed
- 1 fresh red chili, seeds and ribs removed, chopped
- 1 pointed red pepper, chopped
- sea salt, to taste
- 1 teaspoon chili powder (see notes)
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 4 cups vegetable broth
- 2 cups water
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 small bunch cilantro, chopped
- 2 tablespoons crème fraîche (or more)
- Freshly squeezed juice from 1/2 lime (about 1 tablespoon)
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Options as garnish:
- Grated cheddar cheese (this is a must as tastes terrifc!)
- Chopped chives or green onion
- Chopped tomato
In a Dutch oven or large soup pot, heat the olive oil and butter over medium to medium-high heat. Add the onion, corn kernels, potatoes, fresh chili, red pepper, chili powder, cumin and season with salt (½ teaspoon). Stir to combine. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions start to become tender, about 10 minutes.
Add the garlic and cook, stirring for 30 seconds, until fragrant. Add the broth, water and bay leaf; stir to combine.
Bring the mixture to a boil over high-heat, then reduce the heat to medium, or as needed to maintain a gentle simmer. Simmer for 20 to 25 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes are tender when pierced with a fork.
Remove the bay leaf and using a hand-led immersion blender, blend until the mixture if partially creamy; leaving some corn kernels and potatoes chunks.
Alternatively, transfer about half the mixture to a blender, and carefully blend until smooth, then pour the mixture back into the pot.
Stir in the cilantro, crème fraîche and lime juice. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste. Taste and adjust seasoning and amount of crème fraîche, if desired.
Divide the chowder into bowls and top with garnishes of your choice. I highly recommend topping with cheddar cheese, it makes this soup!
- I use a texmex chili spice for this recipe. Depending on the brand and spice mix, flavors can vary. so if preferred start with 1/2 a teaspoon and adjust seasoning at the end to desired taste (I like to use 1 teaspoon).
- You can use 2-4 tablespoons crème fraîche, depending on how creamy you like the soup.
- Leftover corn chowder will keep well, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or in the freezer for three months.
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