Fry

Summer Corn Chowder

by:
May 26, 2022
4.7 Stars
Photo by Rocky Luten
Author Notes

I started making this chowder in 1990 from a recipe I found in Food & Wine. Not being a fan of bell peppers, I modified it by adding poblano peppers instead and I think it tastes much better. I have also roasted the poblanos on occasion for a richer flavor It's a huge crowd pleaser! —Nancy Jo —Nancy Jo

Test Kitchen Notes

This is an understated corn chowder recipe. This is an earthy, moody corn chowder that alternates between sweet and spicy. Two kinds of chile peppers—poblano and jalapeño—are finely chopped and mixed in for heat and a bit of vibrant color against the mellow yellow soup. You can remove the seeds and veins (the white part inside the peppers), which carries most of the heat, or leave them for more kick. A small amount of ground allspice brings warmth, mellowing the heat and allowing it to blend more harmoniously with the other flavors. Chowder recipes can take or leave bacon, but it’s included here for a salty, fatty edge. At one point, we’ll have you remove some of the rendered bacon fat: you could discard it, or you could be smart and save it in the fridge for tomorrow’s hash browns. That said, you can certainly leave it out for a pescatarian-friendly recipe.

The other not-so-New England addition to this chowder recipe is tomatoes—three of them are peeled, seeded, and finely chopped. For the record, you don’t need to go through the process of peeling tomatoes. If you want to skip it, skip it! The texture will just be a little more toothsome.

The quickest and easiest way to peel tomatoes is by cutting an ‘X’ on the bottom of each (to loosen the skin) and boiling them in hot water for just a minute. Immediately transfer the tomatoes to a bowl of ice water, thus stopping the cooking process, preserving their red color, and making them much easier to handle. Peel the skin from where the ‘X’ is.

We were also intrigued by the technique of cooking the vegetables in their own juices before adding milk and cream, which seems to intensify all the flavors. Take advantage of the “milk” from the corn—aka the white, slightly creamy liquid that cascades down the side of the cob as you cut the kernels off. This brings natural creaminess to the soup (with the help of a combination of cream and milk). It also brings the corn flavor to the forefront, which after all, is what corn chowder is all about. —The Editors

Watch This Recipe
Summer Corn Chowder
  • Prep time 30 minutes
  • Cook time 1 hour 15 minutes
  • Serves 6
Ingredients
  • 6 medium ears of corn
  • 6 strips of bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 small yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 medium poblano, finely chopped
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1 small celery rib, finely chopped
  • 3 medium tomatoes, peeled, seeded and finely chopped
  • 2 medium boiling potatoes (about 1 pound), peeled and cubed
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1 pinch granulated sugar
  • 1 dry bay leaf
  • 2 cups half-and-half, at room temperature
  • 1 cup milk
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Chopped flat-leaf parsley, for garnish
In This Recipe
Directions
  1. Working over a bowl, cut the corn kernels from the cobs at about half their depth. Then, using the back of the knife, scrape the cobs over the bowl to release all the corn milk.
  2. In a large saucepan, fry the bacon over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until crisp, about 10 minutes. Transfer the bacon to a paper towel–lined plate or wire rack to drain.
  3. Discard all but 3 tablespoons of the bacon drippings from the pan. Add the onion and cook over medium heat until golden brown, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the poblano, jalapeño, and celery and cook until slightly softened, about 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Now stir in the tomatoes, potatoes, salt, allspice, sugar, bay leaf, and the reserved corn kernels and their milk. Cook over medium heat until the mixture begins to sizzle.
  4. Reduce the heat to low. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes are tender, 35 to 45 minutes. Stir in the cream and milk and bring just to a boil. Remove from heat and season with black pepper to taste. Ladle the chowder into bowls. Crumble the cooled bacon and sprinkle that on top, along with the parsley.
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74 Reviews

whmcdevitt July 27, 2021
In other words you didn’t make this recipe , you can up with one of your own! That’s fantastic!
 
Delise July 27, 2021
As I said, it's heavily edited! For me, recipes are inspiration, the sparks that ignite my creativity.
 
Delise July 27, 2021
Delicious. I edited the recipe quite a bit, namely: no poblanos at my grocer, so subbed pasilla peppers, charred under broiler. Instead of "milking" the corn cobs, I broke them in half and threw them in the dutch oven along with the potatoes, corn kernels, etc. I don't remember where I learned that, but it yielded intense corn-y flavor. I used a can of fire roasted Ro-tel toms and chiles instead of fresh tomatoes. I added 2 tsp of Better Than Bouillon and about two cups of hot water and let simmer until potatoes had softened. I only used about a cup of light cream eat the end, no milk at all. I garnished with the bacon, parsley and leftover pickled onions from the heirloom tomato salad w/ yogurt curry sauce from this site. So good.
 
Scritch August 5, 2019
I discovered this probably six or seven years ago and it's one of the few recipes I make EVERY summer. So good! Sometimes I swap out the poblano for a bell pepper, and sometimes I swap out the fresh tomatoes for canned, it's pretty flexible.
 
copywolf November 23, 2018
Okay maybe this sounds crazy, but I used leftover succotash from Thanksgiving to make this chowder and it turned out great. Did everything according to the recipe except that I added the succotash - corn, lima beans and tomatoes substituting for corn, potatoes and tomatoes. It was absolutely delicious. Would definitely make again and it's always great to have a new leftover solution.
 
Alison August 7, 2018
I made this Sunday night, because I had some fresh corn from Saturday that didn't wind up on the table after all. So delicious! I had most of the ingredients (other than jalapeño, so I used red pepper flakes, which worked fine to add a little heat). I used smaller, "baby" red potatoes, unpeeled, and also didn't peel the fresh tomatoes (although I did seed them). The main difference is that I added a cup of chicken stock to the vegetables after they are combined and sizzling in the pan. I don't know if this is because I live in a dry region (Colorado), or because the corn was a day old, but there wasn't a lot of "milk" in the ears, and I felt that the mixture was too dry to cook as directed. This extra did the trick--I did add a few tablespoons of flour to the vegetables before I added the half and half and milk (2%, what I had) in equal proportions (1.5 cup each), to make sure it wasn't going to be too thin--might not have been necessary, but certainly didn't do any harm. the result was fantastic! As someone else suggested in the comments, I served with a garnish of sautéed shrimp (salt, pepper and a little garlic), along with the parsley and bacon. Totally recommend this dish!
 
Pat R. July 6, 2018
I made this tonight for our neighborhood Soup Night, and it was fantastic! My local grocery store didn’t have poblanos, and I had some heat wimps coming anyway, so I substituted Anaheim chiles, added 3 diced bell peppers, and omitted the jalapeño, but served cayenne pepper on the side for those who wanted it. It was easy to do, and head and shoulders better than the corn chowder recipe I’ve been using. Definitely an A+!
 
Marcellene June 26, 2018
This really is a fantastic recipe. The flavor is awesome. I followed the directions exactly. The only change I would make next time is to add grilled shrimp on top!
 
Vivienne October 16, 2016
I have been making this since I first saw it on Food52. So awesome and have shared it with many. I've done a number of variations. Best one is to blister/roast/peel the poblano pepper.....whole new level of flavor. Sometimes I also add a chopped jalepeno. I use a can of diced tomatoes with their juice and frequently use unpeeled red potatoes. If you never cook any other recipe from FOOD52, COOK THIS ONE !!!!
 
caroline0ne July 22, 2016
This was a total treat. I had received a farm basket with 6 ears of corn, along with one ivory bell pepper and one jalapeño, and I had eaten corn on the cob three times from the last one. So this was a perfect way to enjoy them. I used 2 C light cream and an 8-oz can light coconut milk. As I live alone, I am delighted to have a two quarts left in my refrigerator! I wonder if it would be as good with frozen corn niblets?? I will certainly look forward to celebrating summer this way annually.
 
jenny January 16, 2016
I don't like being the only one who didn't have a positive experience...! What did I do wrong?! There wasn't enough liquid in the veg / spice mix to cook the potatoes for 35 mins, after just 2 or 3 it was dry and sizzling, so I added 2 cups stock.... but the overall result (everything else in the recipe was followed) was too rich and sweet and lacking any depth.... Sorry! Maybe it's a cultural thing, chowder isn't in our tradition in the UK
 
Chris V. January 21, 2016
That's a shame that it didn't work out- I love this recipe. Perhaps the heat was still too high when the vegetables were cooking? Every time I've made it the veggies release their juices, so I've never been tempted to add stock, but if the heat isn't turned down the juices would just evaporate. The final product could be described as rich and sweet anyway (thanks, cream), so maybe in the end it's more of a cultural thing after all.
 
whmcdevitt August 8, 2015
i just made this again and i repeat "best corn chowder ever!!!!!!)
 
mawhorts July 27, 2015
This was stellar with some frozen roasted Hatch chiles I brought back from New Mexico (substituted for both the jalapeno and poblano). Like a few others, I used canned tomatoes for convenience. I also couldn't resist adding some peas at the end. Thank you for the delicious (and flexible) recipe.
 
galsmu July 22, 2015
Made this last week - big hit! Substituted canned green chilies for the fresh poblano and jalapeño because it's what I had. The fresh corn had a great sweetness. Great idea to up the heat with some cayenne. Love this recipe and will definitely make it again.
 
chop C. July 6, 2015
I have been meaning to make this dish for quite some time. Tonight I did. Best corn chowder I have ever had. Love the bit of heat this dish has. Going to a friend's "stay cation" at her home in the country in a few weeks and will make dinner for about 10 folks. This will be part of it. Kudos.
 
mary A. June 8, 2015
Unbelievably good. I'm certain it needed no substitutions but to appeal to some dinner guests and to make it more of a main dish I made the following changes: eliminated the tomatoes and jalapeno, added 1/2 orange bell pepper, cayenne pepper, char roasted the poblano, used half and half in lieu of light cream, and finished with a dollop of fresh crab and smokey Spanish paprika.
 
molly R. September 7, 2014
My super market was out of poblanos so I charred a green bell pepper instead. To balance things out, I toasted a dried, seeded Guajillo chile and blended that with a cup or two of the soup, then stirred that back into the pot. I also neglected to skin the tomatoes before it was time to chop them up, so I used half a can of crushed tomatoes instead. Tasted wonderful!
 
whmcdevitt September 1, 2014
best corn chowder ever!
 
courtney C. August 22, 2014
I made this recently for a family lunch and it was delicious. We were on vacation without a stocked pantry so I skipped the bay leaf and allspice and used red pepper flakes and a regular orange pepper- but stuck to the recipe otherwise. It was fresh and delicious. Our corn was so sweet that there was no need to add sugar. I will absolutely make this again. I also made the whole-wheat pull-apart biscuit recipes on this site (by Lucas Volger) and they were a perfect pair.
 
Yazoolulu August 15, 2014
I made this last week and it was fantastic. I used thick-cut bacon and did not use the bacon drippings to fry the onions - it was still quite bacon-y. Since we had folks that couldn't eat spicy peppers, I used several garden red and yellow peppers which added lovely color and taste. Great recipe!
 
Audrey July 16, 2014
This was sensational. Thank you so much, Nancy Jo! This is going to become a summer staple!

On to my substitutions/cooking notes for future would-be cooks: I used 2c half-and-half and 1c lowfat milk which worked beautifully-- great body and the dairy taste didn't overwhelm the corn flavor to the chowder. (Though I don't imagine that's ever a problem with the original recipe-- however, I have had some too-dairy-heavy corn chowders in my life!)

Sadly, there were no poblanos at the market when I did my shopping, so I swapped that for a red bell pepper-- which worked great! I stil want to try it with a poblano next time, though. I blistered and peeled my red pepper but don't think it was necessary.

Also soaked my corn cobs in the dairy while everything else was cooking, to extract some extra corn flavor. No idea if this really ultimately contributed to the dish but it seemed like good corn chowder protocol!
 
Audrey July 11, 2021
Updating my review almost exactly seven (!!) years later to note I still make this, still love it, and now make the following tweaks to the recipe:

- Always, always double the recipe (or 1.5x it) because you will inevitably want more
- Skip the poblano in favor of blistered/peeled red peppers
- Add a tinge of cayenne to the soup (to make up for skipping the poblano)
- Use slightly less potato than the recipe calls for, and a little more corn
- Dairy-soaking the cobs before milking them is oddly easier than trying to milk the cobs on their own
- Use half-and-half instead of cream, and nonfat milk instead of whole milk
- Double the amount of celery called for
- Add a few dashes of paprika
 
Audrey July 27, 2022
Me again. Future me, and all y'all comment readers, please note I've decided against bothering with milking the cobs. It's just as good that way.