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April 11, 2011

Recipe for smoky corn chowder

Smoky corn chowder

All New Englanders are predisposed to love chowder. It's in our DNA. But not all New Englanders like the same chowder. Bostonians will argue that the only true chowder is white clam chowder, rich with potatoes and cream. Rhode Island folks lobby for their local "clear" quahog chowder. And some eschew clams altogether, in favor of sweet kernels of corn. Our season for fresh corn lasts only from early July to early September; during the rest of the year, we rely on good-quality frozen organic corn, which doesn't need to be defrosted before you add it to the soup pot.

Smoky corn chowder

Adapted from a recipe in Real Simple: Easy, Delicious Meals (2009). Serves 6.


8 oz sliced bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 large leek, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 tsp smoked paprika (sweet or hot)
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
15 oz frozen corn
3 cups low-sodium homemade or store-bought chicken broth
1/2 cup half-and-half
1/2 cup skim (nonfat) milk
Kosher salt and fresh black pepper, to taste
4 scallions, thinly sliced on the diagonal, for garnish


In a Dutch oven or large sauce pan, cook the bacon over low heat until it's crisp, but not burned. Transfer to a paper-towel lined plate. Pour off all but 2 tablespoons of the bacon drippings. Add the leek and cook, stirring frequently, until soft but not yet brown.

Add the garlic, paprika and cayenne, and cook for 2 minutes. Stir in the corn, broth, half-and-half and milk. Raise heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, until the soup is just beginning to boil. Remove from heat.

If you like your chowder thicker, use an immersion blender to puree half of the soup. Add the bacon back into the pot. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve hot, garnished with scallions.

Print recipe only.


Posted by: Kalynskitchen | April 11, 2011 at 11:20 AM

My mother used to make a very simple version of this, without the leeks and definitely not "smoky" but it's a soup I remember well from childhood!

Posted by: Maris (In Good Taste) | April 11, 2011 at 12:03 PM

This is a winner for me! I love corn chowder and this looks awesome. I wonder if I could use fat free half and half?

Posted by: Lydia | April 11, 2011 at 02:09 PM

Kalyn, I can't imagine many soups more comforting than chowder. I don't think my mother ever made it, but she surely bought it.

Maris, fat-free half and half has sugar in it, so a better substitute would be whole milk, or even 1% milk. If you use milk instead of half and half, you'll probably want to puree part of the soup to give it some bulk.

Posted by: Susan H | April 12, 2011 at 08:21 AM

As a Texan that lived in Rhode Island, I was not a fan of "chowder." My father, when he came to visit, had quahog chowder for the first time in his life. He is still talking about it 40 years later. I would have been a chowder fan back in the day if someone had introduced me to a steaming bowl of your Smoky Corn Chowder.

Posted by: Joyce West | April 12, 2011 at 04:12 PM

I am a New Yorker and to me Corn Chowder IS
yellow corn all the way...not that I wouldn't eat any kind of corn chowder... I sure would

Posted by: susan g | April 12, 2011 at 10:44 PM

I would guess that getting an enticing photo of soup is a challenge. This one makes me want to pick up that spoon and dip in!

Posted by: Lydia | April 13, 2011 at 12:46 AM

Susan H, I hope this recipe encourages you to give chowder another try. No shellfish in this one.

Joyce, how nice to find you here! All corn chowder is good chowder to me, too.

Susan G, I find soup one of the hardest things to photograph, so I really appreciate your comment. My goal is to make the food look as good as it tastes, though I often fall short.

Posted by: vincent | April 15, 2011 at 04:05 PM

We bumped into your blog and we really liked it - great recipes YUM YUM.

Posted by: Dr-vandervogel | May 13, 2011 at 09:08 PM

What happens to the bacon? I assume it goes back in?

Posted by: Lydia | May 13, 2011 at 09:10 PM

Dr., oh my goodness! Yes, it goes back in -- and is going back into the recipe, too! Thanks for the catch.

Posted by: Vanessa Elyse Spatz-Benitez | May 31, 2011 at 08:40 PM

I love love love soup! Always have and always will. I could eat soup 3 meals a day for the rest of my life and be a happy woman. I still happily remember showing up and my grandmothers home as a little girl. She always prepared a huge stockpot of her delcious sopita de pollo con fideos for my arrival. I was small but I would eat bowl after steaming bowl and usually finish off at least 1/2 of the pot. After, content and my belly protruding I would plop onto her bed and let the sound of her window a/c unit and loose ceiling fan lull me to sleep. :) Heaven! For an extra treat she used to fish out the chicken and separately fry it and serve it in a big bowl alongside the soup- tossed in fresh squeezed lime juice and some thinly sliced white onion. Now with two girls of my own, I continue the tradition. Thank you for a wonderful blog dedicated to my all time favorite food. <3

Posted by: Michelle | September 23, 2011 at 04:36 PM

I have your blog bookmarked, and return to it many times for inspiration - I am a soup fan, Celiac, and adventurous.

This corn chowder is simply the best! I will never grow tired of it, partnered with a slice of homemade gluten free bread - dinner awaits.

Thank you!

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  • I'm Lydia Walshin, a longtime food writer who lives and cooks in a real log house. If I could, I'd eat Chinese noodles, grapes, ice cream and soup every day.
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