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Lightened Up Corn Chowder

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Lightened Up Corn Chowder

Normally if I want to give visitors a taste of New England, I like to take them to Atlantic Fish Company for some clam chowder, but my sister has never been a fan. She generally doesn’t like dairy products in her soups and sauces, which is her loss. But when I found out that she actually really likes corn chowder, I knew I had to make it for her. I’ve been wanting to make this recipe from Cook’s Illustrated since my July/August edition arrived and the corn at the farmer’s market looked amazing, so this was all perfect timing.

Corn Husks

Corn and Corn Husks

This corn chowder recipe has less dairy than many recipes, which allows the corn flavor to shine through better, while the bacon adds a salty, sweet smokiness. The red potatoes give the soup a little more substance and then part of the chowder is pureed, so you still get a nice creamy bowl of chowder even without heavy cream. The fresh thyme and basil round out the chowder into one tasty bowl of late summery goodness.

Corn on the Cob

Corn Kernels off the Cob

The soup does take a little longer to make than I’d like, but it’s well worth the time and effort. Grab a friend or sweetie to help you shuck the corn, prep the cobs, and dice the potatoes, and you’ll be digging into the chowder in no time. A fancy handy dandy corn stripper will make the process go even faster. If you’re using a knife to take the corn off the cob, just be careful that you only remove the part of the corn kernel sticking out of the cob – you don’t want the fibrous stuff at the base.

Bowl of corn chowder with sliced bread

Corn Chowder

Recipe from Cook’s Illustrated

Depending on the sweetness of your corn, you may want to add some sugar. Corn in New England is so sweet now that we didn’t need to add any.


  • 8 ears corn, husks and silk removed
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 onion, chopped fine
  • 4 slices bacon, halved lengthwise then cut into 1/4 inch pieces
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 5 cups water
  • 3/4 pound red potatoes, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1 cup half-and-half
  • Sugar (see note)
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil


  1. Using a chef’s knife or corn stripper, cut the kernels from corn; transfer to bowl and set aside (you should have 5 to 6 cups kernels). Holding the cobs over a second bowl, use the back of a butter knife to firmly scrape any remaining pulp on cobs into bowl (you should have 2 to 2 1/2 cups pulp). Transfer the pulp to the center of clean kitchen towel set it in a medium bowl. Wrap the towel tightly around the pulp and squeeze tightly until dry. Discard the pulp in towel and set the corn juice aside (you should have about 2/3 cup juice).
  2. Melt butter in Dutch oven over medium heat; add onion, bacon, thyme, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper; cook, stirring frequently, until onion is softened and edges are beginning to brown, 8 to 10 minutes. Stir in flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Whisking constantly, gradually add water and bring to boil. Add corn kernels and potatoes. Return to simmer; reduce heat to medium-low and cook until potatoes have softened, 15 to 18 minutes.
  3. Process 2 cups chowder in blender until smooth, 1 to 2 minutes. Return puree to chowder; add half-and-half and return to simmer. Remove pot from heat and stir in reserved corn juice. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and up to 1 tablespoon sugar. Serve, sprinkling with basil.