Last corn? Time for a classic corn chowder

In New England, we measure the seasons by the crops, and this is one of the best!

When Corn Season is upon us, we can’t wait to taste that wonderful sweet first bite. Often, the best flavor is usually not found at the beginning of the season, but a few weeks in. But this year, from the first bite, it was Corn Heaven! Corn in September is usually really sweet, and precious because we know it is going fast. Farmers often grow more than one variety as well, so you just have to taste, and taste again. Not a difficult task.

corn at farmstand

Our first corn meal is most likely simple – thrown on the grill, husks and all, no soaking. Once done and the outsides nicely singed, before letting them cool, impatiently we peel back the husks to use as a handle, add a little butter and munch away, napkins at hand. That first corn meal includes nothing but corn, and we couldn’t be happier.

The last corn meal of the year?

The last corn meal, and we’re never really quite sure when that will be, is also simple, often a chowder paired with our local potatoes and onions or leeks. With a nip in the air and the temperature dropping, a farmer told me today at the farmers market that there might be one more week, weather permitting, so I took no chances and decided on that chowder, but of course I made it my way, which is to say traditional with a twist!

Fresh is best!

This chowder recipe is best with all fresh vegetables from the corn to the chives. However, if these are not available, you can substitute with what you have on hand. In winter, use not-quite-so-new red potatoes, frozen local corn, and freeze-dried chives. At the end of the year, I tuck a package of whole ears in the freezer to make at least one batch during the winter.

My big swap from the way my mother made her chowder (in addition to not using bacon) is to use leeks rather than onions, but if they are not available, a really sweet onion works nicely.

The right consistency

A good chowder has a milky base, not the thick consistency you get from a heavy flour roux. Let your vegetables be the star, don’t cover them up with a flour paste! That’s how my mom did it, and it’s good enough for me as well. She often used the New England standby of canned evaporated milk, and occasionally I use this as well (an organic skimmed variety). It brings me back home.

Not quite my mother’s technique

However, times change, and one of my favorite ways to make this is with lite coconut milk, different can, same creamy consistency! If you don’t tell anyone they will never guess it is dairy free. Don’t use the full fat variety unless you want “Coconut Corn Soup” the flavor is more pronounced. You can also substitute any other white milk substitute, or any % milk you like. Yes, you can even use half-and-half if you like!

For even more corn flavor, cook the potatoes and corn directly in dairy or plant milk and omit the water. Don’t use the canned coconut for this as it might split.

Now, if there’s time, I think I’d love some corn bread…

New England Corn Chowder (with a twist or two)

Corn Chowder is comfort food at its best. Fresh, sweet corn, new potatoes, leeks and onions, chives from the garden. Add whatever “cream” you like. Light cream is superb, but you can use anything from light coconut milk to evaporated skimmed milk to achieve a creamy base.
  • 1 tbsp. organic corn or olive oil
  • 3 cups diced leeks or sweet onion
  • 2 lbs. new potatoes, diced, not peeled 
    • OR, 1 head cauliflower, cut into little ½ -inch chunks
  • 6 ears fresh sweet corn, lightly roasted or grilled
  • The cobs from those ears
  • Smoked paprika to taste, optional
  • 1 tsp. each salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 can light coconut milk, evaporated milk, or half-and-half
  • 1 cup water, or so, just to cover potatoes, or use milk or substitute
  • A little more pepper
  • A little butter or vegan butter

Lightly roast or grill the (locally grown, extremely fresh) sweet corn for about 8 minutes, it will finish cooking in the soup. Roast or grill them with most of the husks on, and then peel them off. This keeps the corn moist. Cut the corn from the cobs, and cut the cobs in half and reserve. The pre-roasting is not essential, but adds lovely flavor. If you like, just proceed without this step.

Plan-ahead shortcut: Alternately, I’ve roasted the corn one day for a meal, made extra, and saved the rest (cobs and all) for the next day’s soup.

In a large stockpot, over medium high, heat the oil and add the diced leeks or onion. Sauté until tender, but not brown, and sprinkle with a little smoked paprika if desired. Let this mingle for a few minutes and add salt, pepper, and the potatoes.

ingredients cooking
Adding the corn cobs to the chowder base while the potatoes are cooking adds and immense amount of flavor!

Add half the corn, and just enough cold water to nearly cover the potatoes. Add the cobs; it’s all right if a few stick out of the water. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat, and simmer on very low heat for one half hour. Check the potatoes to make sure they are done.

Remove from heat and set aside for 10 minutes, tightly covered, while warming the coconut milk or cream in a little pan. Once warmed, fish out the cobs. This is a little messy, but the cobs add tremendous flavor to the soup. Add the remaining corn kernels, and stir coconut milk into the soup. Add butter to top and let melt, sprinkle with the chives and, if you like, more paprika. Serve hot. Makes 10 one-cup servings!

Variations:

Bacon? It’s a New England classic to include bacon, my mom always did, but in our family, there is a bacon debate. Some, like me, prefer corn chowder without bacon; the smoke flavor from the paprika is quite a good substitute. A compromise is to offer some local, nitrite- and cruelty-free bacon, crisp and chopped up, for folks who eat meat to sprinkle on top. Everyone is happy. If you all eat bacon, sauté a few cut up slices along with the onions.

A little lower carbSubstitute diced cauliflower for the potatoes to cut down on the carbs a little, but there is no substitution for the corn. It is, after all, corn chowder!

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64 Comments Add yours

  1. Sheree says:

    That looks fabulous

    1. I’ll save you a bowl Sheree!

      1. Sheree says:

        Thanks

  2. Jovina Coughlin says:

    One of my favorite soups and your recipe looks delicious.

    1. Thank you Jovina! We really love this one.

  3. Perfect weather for ‘chowdah.’ 🙂

    1. Absolutely! That nip in the air says simmer something good tonight!

  4. Suzassippi says:

    I have never eaten much corn chowder, but this looks and sounds wonderful. And as always, you have the perfect dish to showcase the colors in the chowder!

    1. Thanks for your lovely words! A good chowder deserves a pretty bowl!

  5. c.a. says:

    Second only to New England style clam chowder! 😋

    1. Absolutely! Love a good clam chowder. Or a seafood chowder. Or a lobster chowder…

  6. Chef Mimi says:

    That is some beautiful corn!!! And a great looking chowder.

    1. Thanks Mimi! It has been a wonderful corn year, and I’m keeping my fingers crossed we’ll have some next week as well.

  7. NativeNM says:

    I’ve been eating a lot of fresh corn the last few weeks, courtesy of our local farmers market. It’s been a good crop this year and tastes so good! I love your corn chowder recipe, it’s like the comforts of late summer in a bowl. I guess it’s officially fall now but still feels like summer to me.

    1. It finally turned chilly here the last couple of nights, but we had 80-degree weather last week, so it has been a bit of a strange early fall!

  8. Love the last of the corn. So sweet!

    1. September corn is always sweet and delicious! Bittersweet in a way because it is not going to last!

  9. Lovely recipe! Looking forward to making it

    1. Thank you! I hope you enjoy it as much as I do! This dish always reminds me of early fall, and the weather here is definitely turning.

  10. I’m a huge fan of corn chowder and this looks like a worthy recipe! Thank you Dorothy, it a perfect compliment to the fall weather, and family gatherings. Hugs, C

    1. It’s always been one of my favorites too Cheryl. Love those flavors together!

  11. Kempy says:

    Thanks, had our first corn of the season 🇬🇧 last week, a tasty treat and so sweet, was looking out for different ways to cook it will give this a try soon 👍

    1. Thank you Kempy! I hope you love it as much as we do!

  12. CarolCooks2 says:

    I have only eaten seafood chowder neither of which I made but both as delicious as this looks and maybe I will make my first chowder now…Thank you for sharing this recipe 🙂

    1. i hope you enjoy it as much as we do, and I love just about any chowder. The corn and potatoes make such good partners!

  13. Perfect for the colder weather we have in London now!

    1. It really does warm the bones!

  14. Bernadette says:

    Dorothy, I could eat a chowder every day if my lipids didn’t protest. So, thank you for the healthier options.

    1. Thanks Bernie! Me too! I love it with half-and-half, but by being careful this year, I’ve lowered my bad cholesterol by 30 points! And that includes the occasional brie treat…

  15. Nancy says:

    I love a good corn chowder! Your recipe sounds heavenly! And such a lovely presentation my friend.

    1. Thank you Nancy! Corn chowder has always been one of my favorites, reminds me of my childhood.

  16. Jenna says:

    there is nothing better than a comforting corn chowder, one of my very favorite soups! Thank you for sharing your tips and substitution ideas Dorothy, sounds wonderful!

    1. Thank you Jenna! It’s such a lovely soup, and warms the body and soul!

  17. Frost, please stay away for at least another week!

  18. Carla says:

    Looks delicious!

    1. Thank you Carla! We really love this one, with all the twists and turns!

  19. Ronit says:

    Delicious looking chowder! The corn season is already over here, so I’ll keep it in mind for next year.

    1. It’s going fast….😢

  20. nancyc says:

    I’ve never had or made corn chowder, but I love corn…sounds like I need to be making some! 🙂

    1. You’ll be in for a treat Nancy! One of our favorites!

  21. I miss having the seasonal delights! What a beautiful way to enjoy this wonderful corn! Looks absolutely mouthwatering!

    1. Thank you Ribana! I always look forward to the changing of the seasons. Especially if it has been a hot, humid summer, we love the relief of the coming of fall.

  22. Ally Bean says:

    I like smokey-flavored paprika. Save the bacon for breakfast.

    1. I agree! Smoked paprika is an amazing ingredient!

  23. Hi Dorothy, I must say that this recipe really looks very nice. I shall have to try it out.

    1. Thank you! I hope you like it as much as we do! Happy cooking!

  24. Christy B says:

    Wow, is there anything you can’t make, Dorothy?!! Well done with this one! You have so many great recipes here.

    1. Ah, thanks Christy! I’ve been working at it a lot of years (well, decades), so I guess I’ve learned a bit along the way!

  25. terrie gura says:

    That right there. Your bowl of chowder and a slab of crusty bread is all I need to get into the mood for fall! Thanks for pointing out the benefit of the lite coconut milk. Many people don’t realize that it doesn’t all taste tropical!

    1. No, it doesn’t, and I use it for creaming many soups and other dishes. It’s pretty much a staple on my pantry shelf!

  26. I love that you make use of the corn cobs. What a great idea!

    1. Thank you! They add a tremendous amount of flavor to the soup.

    2. Thank you! It really is amazing how much flavor is added to the soup when you toss in the cobs.

  27. Aoc says:

    Your great recipes can save the world from famine. What a nice tip on adding corn cobs to the chowder. 👍👍👍

    1. It’s a great way to start off Stone Soup!

  28. brwbmm says:

    I love corn chowder and also try to keep it low-fat. I use an immersion blender to puree half the corn kernels in a separate bowl and thin it out with chicken broth before adding it to the soup pot.

    1. That’s a great technique too! It adds so much body to the soup. Thanks for stopping by!

  29. sunisanthosh says:

    That looks great.

    1. Thank you so much!

  30. Oh WOW! I would never have thought to cook the cobs in the soup for more flavor, brilliant Dorothy!

    1. Always trying to squeeze as much flavor out as possible!

  31. Rehoboth says:

    Lovely post
    Thanks

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