There is nothing quite as satisfying as a big bowl of this Corn Chowder recipe made with fresh (or frozen) sweet corn and tender potatoes. This version is a perfect blend of seasonings and gets a little extra love from a sprinkling of crispy bacon and green onions on top right before serving.
It doesn't matter whether it's summer or winter, corn chowder is always a winner! Some of our other favorite corn dishes for summer when it's plentiful and fresh are Grilled Mexican Street Corn and Corn Fritters. Or if it's one of the cooler months, we love to cozy up with Corn Casserole or a big slice of the BEST Cornbread!
Table of Contents
I don't know about you, but we eat soup all year round! It's one of my favorite foods and pretty much the original one-pot meal. Serve it up with a nice salad or some crusty bread and everybody's happy. And the leftovers always make the absolute BEST lunch the next day!
Every time I make this corn chowder, my family raves about it. It's thick and creamy, but with plenty of chunks of tender potato and lots of corny flavor from the corn kernels, which also add a wonderful texture.
If I have access to fresh corn on the cob, that's my preference, but if not, frozen works just as well. You can even use the canned kind, if you happen to have some on hand that you want to use up.
Ingredients in Corn Chowder
Don't be daunted by the list of ingredients. They are all staple ingredients and combine to make a really complex, wonderfully rich and flavorful chowder that your family will love!
- Bacon: I like to slice some thick cut bacon before cooking it because it seems so much easier to me. Reserve a little bit of the bacon grease for cooking the veggies in to add more depth of flavor to this chowder base.
- Butter: A little butter only makes sense when making corn chowder. Butter and corn were meant for each other!
- Onion: This classic soup ingredient creates a flavorful base.
- Carrots & celery: These two veggies are optional and you can get away without including them, but again, they help develop a nice flavor to the chowder base without taking the lead.
- Garlic: I probably use fresh garlic cloves in every soup recipe on my site. It's one of my favorite ingredients, although you could get away with ½ teaspoon of garlic powder if you don't have fresh cloves of garlic on hand.
- Flour: A little all-purpose flour is the principle thickening agent in this soup, along with the potatoes. It's a careful balance as I'm very against overly thickened chowder of any type.
- Chicken broth: You can use homemade chicken broth or your favorite canned variety. I always keep a jar of Better-Than-Bouillon Chicken Base in my fridge and usually just mix that up when I have a recipe that calls for chicken broth.
- Corn: While fresh, sweet corn is my personal preference, you can also use frozen or even canned corn in this easy corn chowder recipe. I'll include instructions in the notes on how to use both options. If you are using fresh corn, it helps to have a sharp knife or corn stripper tool to cut the kernels off the cobs.
- Potatoes: While I love Yukon Gold potatoes in soup, I prefer russet potatoes in chowder because they break down a bit more and help thicken the soup slightly without using too much additional flour. But either will work.
- Thyme: A cooking secret of mine is that I often throw in whole sprigs of fresh thyme when making soup or chowder. The leaves will just fall off as they cook and then I remove the woody stems before serving. Dried thyme will also work here if you don't have fresh on hand.
- Salt & pepper: The amounts are really to taste and you may need to adjust depending on the broth you use. Be sure to taste and add more salt if needed before serving!
- Spices: Smoked paprika and red pepper flakes give just a hint of depth and kick to the chowder that you might not notice unless you are looking for them. But trust me, they make a difference and make this the best corn chowder ever!
- Heavy cream: Not only does heavy cream make this chowder wonderfully smooth, rich, and creamy, but it also helps the chowder to thicken slightly. You could substitute with half-and-half or evaporated milk, but I don't think they are as good as the cream and more prone to curdling.
- Green onions: A few chopped green onions sprinkled on the soup as garnish just before serving add a pop of color and freshness.
How to Make
Cook the bacon: Heat a large dutch oven over medium-high heat. Cook the bacon until crispy, then remove to a plate lined with paper towel and set aside. Drain all but 1 tablespoon of the bacon grease.
Cook the veggies: Add the butter to the pot with the bacon grease. Once melted add the onion, carrots, and celery. Cook and stir for 5-7 minutes until the vegetables have softened slightly and the onions begin to turn translucent. Add the garlic in the last 30 seconds or so.
Add the flour: Sprinkle the flour over the softened veggies, then stir well to coat. Cook and stir for 1 minute.
Add remaining ingredients and simmer: Add the chicken broth gradually while stirring. Add the corn kernels, potatoes, thyme, salt, pepper, smoked paprika, and red pepper flakes. Reduce the heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes are fork-tender but still holding their shape, about 15-20 minutes.
Blend, if desired: At this point, you can remove 2-3 cups of the soup and blend in a blender if you prefer a thicker chowder, but this step is optional.
Add creamy & serve! Add the cream and stir to combine. Remove from the heat and serve with the crispy bacon and green onions sprinkled over the top.
How to thicken corn chowder
I'll admit that I have a strong preference for chowder that isn't too thick. As written, this is what I think of as a medium thickness achieved by adding a small amount of flour, as well as the breaking down of the potatoes and the addition of heavy cream to the soup base.
If you make this and find that it isn't thick enough for how you like your chowder, here are my suggestions to make it even thicker and creamier:
- Be sure to blend some of the cooked potatoes, corn, and broth in step 5 Blending more of the soup will make it creamier.
- You could also add 2 to 4 ounces of cream cheese before blending and let that melt into the soup for a creamy, rich texture.
- Whisk 2 tablespoons of flour or cornstarch with ¼ cup of milk and stir this into the soup before adding the heavy cream. This should help the soup thicken a bit more.
Can corn chowder be frozen?
Yes, you can freeze this soup. It doesn't reheat quite as beautifully as other soups because the cream has a tendency to separate, but honestly, it still tastes pretty darn good.
If you are planning ahead and making a big batch to intentionally freeze some, you might consider leaving out the cream and just adding it after thawing and reheating, right before serving.
Can this recipe be made in the slow cooker?
Yes! This is a great recipe to make in the slow cooker because you can just throw almost all of the ingredients in early in the day and have it ready for dinner when you need it.
Add all of the ingredients except for the flour, bacon and cream to large slow cooker. Cook on LOW for 6-8 hours. About an hour before serving, whisk ½ cup of the broth with the flour, then stir it into the soup. Let it finish cooking while you cook the bacon in a separate pan. Add the cream right before serving.
Corn Chowder Variations
- Cheese: Other optional add-ins include 1 cup of freshly grated white cheddar, monterey jack, or Pepper Jack cheese for a cheesy version. Just stir it in right at the end with the cream until it is melted.
- Veggies: Add even more veggies like diced red, poblano, anaheim, or even jalapeno peppers (with stems and seeds removed). If choosing to use peppers, add them along with the onions, carrots, and celery in step 2.
- Protein: Add shredded, cooked chicken, leftover ham, or even a diced kielbasa sausage for some protein to make this an even more filling dinner. It's a great way to use up a partial rotisserie chicken or leftover Easter or Christmas ham.
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- 8 slices bacon, chopped
- 2 Tablespoons butter,
- 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
- 1 cup diced carrots
- 1 cup diced celery
- 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
- ¼ cup all-purpose flour
- 5 cups chicken broth
- 8 ears yellow sweet corn, husks and silks removed
- 1 lb. russet potatoes, peeled and diced into ½ inch pieces
- 3 sprigs fresh thyme or ½ teaspoon dried
- 1 teaspoon salt, or more to taste
- ½ teaspoon black pepper, or more to taste
- ¼ teaspoon smoked paprika
- ⅛ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 2 green onions chopped
- Heat a large dutch oven over medium-high heat. Cook the bacon until crispy, then remove to a plate lined with paper towel and set aside. Drain all but 1 tablespoon of the bacon grease.
- Add the butter to the pot with the bacon grease. Once melted add the onion, carrots, and celery. Cook and stir for 5-7 minutes until the vegetables have softened slightly and the onions begin to turn translucent. Add the garlic in the last 30 seconds or so.
- Sprinkle the flour over the softened veggies, then stir well to coat. Cook and stir for 1 minute.
- Add the chicken broth gradually while stirring. Add the corn kernels, potatoes, thyme, salt, pepper, smoked paprika, and red pepper flakes. Reduce the heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes are fork-tender but still holding their shape, about 15-20 minutes.
- At this point, you can remove 2-3 cups of the soup and blend in a blender if you prefer a thicker chowder, but this step is optional.
- Add the cream and stir to combine. Remove from the heat and serve with the crispy bacon and green onions sprinkled over the top.
- Corn: If fresh corn is unavailable, you can also use about 4 cups (or 30-ounces) of frozen or canned corn kernels. If using frozen, there is no need to thaw. If using canned corn, drain first. You could also use roasted or grilled corn if you have some leftover during grilling season or want to take the extra step ahead of time. It adds fantastic flavor, but isn't something I typically do when making this easy version of corn chowder.
- Potatoes: Russet potatoes break down a bit more and help to thicken the chowder a bit, but yukon gold or baby red potatoes can also be used. There is no need to peel them first.
- Variations: If you want an even creamier chowder, be sure to blend some of the cooked potatoes, corn, and broth in step 5. You could also add 2 to 4 ounces of cream cheese before blending and let that melt into the soup for a creamy, rich texture. Other optional add ins include 1 cup of freshly grated white cheddar cheese for a cheesy version, or additional veggies like diced red, poblano, anaheim, or even jalapeno peppers (with stems and seeds removed). If choosing to use peppers, add them along with the onions, carrots, and celery in step 2.
- Slow Cooker Version: Add all of the ingredients except for the bacon and cream to a slow cooker. Cook on LOW for 6-8 hours. Cook the bacon in a separate pan and add the cream right before serving.