Make this Southwestern corn chowder for a cozy dinner at home! This vegetarian corn chowder recipe is fresh, wholesome and delicious. It’s perfect for cool late summer or fall evenings when fresh corn is at its peak. Or, you can make it any time with frozen corn.
I wanted the corn flavor to shine and balanced its sweetness with some Southwestern spice. You’ll find bell pepper, poblano and chili powder in this atypical chowder. I promise you will not miss the bacon.
I purposefully avoided using the heavy cream that you’ll find in most chowder recipes. Heavy cream has a tendency to dull flavors and also makes me feel weighed down. Instead, I blended a bit of butter into the soup (one of my favorite soup tricks) and stirred in some crème fraîche or sour cream at the end. These dairy ingredients offer some creaminess, of course, plus some tanginess that you won’t get from plain cream.
You can easily make this soup dairy free or vegan, if desired. You’ll love the end results either way!
Corn Selection & Preparation Tips
Because great corn is key to making great corn chowder!
Buy fresh corn and use it promptly. Freshly harvested corn has the sweetest, most delicious flavor, and it loses that flavor as time goes on.
How to cut corn off the cob: I find it easiest to just lay the corn down on the cutting board. Slice off a strip of kernels lengthwise with a sharp knife, rotate so the flat side is against the cutting board, and repeat as necessary.
If you can’t find fresh corn or want to save a few minutes: Use frozen corn, which tastes much nicer than canned corn. Rinse off any frost on the kernels first, then add them to the pot as directed.
Corn Chowder Serving Suggestions
You could count a big bowl of chowder as a light meal. Or serve smaller portions on the side. This chowder goes well with green salads, sandwiches and quesadillas, and simple vegetable sides. Here are a few nice options:
- 10-Minute Quesadillas
- Arugula and Wild Rice Salad with Zippy Lemon Dressing
- Erin’s Peach and Avocado Green Salad
- Favorite Green Salad with Apples, Cranberries and Pepitas
- Favorite Grilled Cheese Sandwich
- Perfect Roasted Green Beans
- Quick Collard Greens
More Fresh Corn Recipes to Enjoy
- The Best Grilled Corn on the Cob
- Elote (Mexican Street Corn)
- Fresh Corn Salsa
- Garden-Fresh Corn Salad
More Cozy Fall Soups & Stews
- Best Lentil Soup
- Classic Tomato Soup (Lightened Up!)
- Broccoli Cheese Soup
- Homemade Vegetarian Chili
- Spicy Black Bean Soup
Please let me know how your chowder turns out in the comments! I love hearing from you.
Southwestern Corn Chowder
- Prep Time: 20 minutes
- Cook Time: 30 minutes
- Total Time: 50 minutes
- Yield: 8 cups 1x
- Category: Soup or stew
- Method: Stovetop
- Cuisine: American
- Diet: Vegetarian
Make this Southwestern corn chowder for a cozy dinner at home! This vegetarian corn chowder recipe is fresh, wholesome and delicious. Recipe yields 8 cups or 4 generous bowls.
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 8 ears of fresh sweet corn, shucked (or 6 cups frozen corn kernels)
- 1 pound red potatoes, cut into ¾” cubes (about 3 cups)
- 1 large red onion, chopped
- 1 poblano pepper (optional)*, seeds and ribs removed, chopped
- 1 red bell pepper, chopped
- 2 celery ribs, chopped
- ¾ teaspoon salt, divided, to taste
- ½ teaspoon chili powder
- 2 medium cloves garlic, pressed or minced
- 4 cups (32 ounces) vegetable broth
- 2 cups water
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
- ¼ cup chopped cilantro
- ¼ cup crème fraîche or sour cream or Greek yogurt**
- 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- Suggested garnishes: Grated sharp cheddar cheese, thinly sliced green onion, additional cilantro leaves and/or a tiny pinch of chili powder
- In a medium/large Dutch oven or soup pot, warm the olive oil over medium heat until shimmering. Add the corn, potatoes, onion, poblano, bell pepper, celery, ½ teaspoon of the salt, and ½ teaspoon chili powder. Stir to combine. Cook until the onions are tender and translucent, about 7 to 10 minutes, stirring every couple of minutes.
- Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds to 1 minute, while stirring constantly. Add the broth and water and stir to combine. Drop in the bay leaf.
- Bring the mixture to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat as necessary to maintain a gentle simmer. Simmer for 20 to 25 minutes, stirring occasionally. It’s not done until the potatoes are fully cooked through and very easily pierced through with a fork.
- Remove the pot from the heat. Using kitchen tongs, remove the bay leaf. Carefully transfer about 3 cups of the soup (about half liquid, half solids) to a blender. Securely fasten the lid and be careful to avoid the hot steam as you blend until completely smooth. Add the butter and blend again.
- Pour the mixture back into the pot. Add the cilantro, crème fraîche (see note if using sour cream or Greek yogurt) and lime juice. Stir to combine. Season with the remaining ¼ teaspoon salt and be generous with the black pepper, to taste. If you’d like more spice, add up to ½ teaspoon more chili powder, to taste.
- Divide the chowder into bowls and top with garnishes of your choice. Leftover chowder will keep well in the refrigerator, covered, for up to 5 days or for several months frozen.
*Spice level note: Some poblanos are more spicy than others. If you’re sensitive to spice, you can omit the poblano to be on the safe side, and also go easy on the chili powder. If you love spice, you can stir in additional chili powder to taste, or you could even add a chopped jalapeño to the pot with the other peppers.
**Crème fraîche or sour cream: I like crème fraîche because it does not curdle when stirred into hot soup. I use the Vermont Creamery brand and typically find it near the goat cheese. If you prefer to use sour cream or Greek yogurt, you can “temper” it to prevent it from curdling. Simply place the sour cream or yogurt in a heat-safe bowl. Add a few splashes of the warm soup liquid, stirring after each, until the mixture is warmed through. Then stir the mixture into the soup.
Make it dairy free/vegan: Omit the butter. I’ve heard from some commenters who love it without any additional creaminess. Or for results closest to the soup as shown, use my vegan sour cream in place of the crème fraîche—it works great! You might enjoy garnishing individual servings with an additional dollop of vegan sour cream on top.