Slow Cooker Corn Chowder captures the taste of summer whether you use fresh or frozen corn kernels. Top this rich, creamy chowder with bacon, green onions, and cheddar cheese. It's naturally gluten-free.
We're back from vacation and feeling rested and recharged. (As rested and recharged as anyone can reasonably feel in these Covid times.) We spent the first week of our vacation in Breckenridge, Colorado which has become a favorite summer destination for our family (here's a post from when we went back in 2016). It's a small town way up in the mountains, and the July weather is crisp and cool. Perfect for long hikes during the day and cozying up around the fire pit at night. And that's basically all we did. Molly and Clara completely amazed us with their love for hiking. One day we hiked for nearly 2 hours (partly due to some mistaken trail map-reading) and everyone was in good spirits at the end. June was okay with riding in the hiking backpack about 90% of the time, though occasionally got impatient with it (as she was in the photo below).
To be sure, it was a strange year to travel, but it gave us a bit of fresh perspective. We're ready to dive into the fall and whatever this unusual school / work year will bring.
Even in uncertain times, one thing is certain - August is the BEST time for corn! We don’t make a ton of soups in the summer, but soup is a perfect vehicle for summer produce. While this chowder is great with fresh corn, the beauty of a creamy corn chowder is that you don’t need fresh corn to capture all that great, fresh summer flavor. Frozen corn kernels work great as well. And if it’s steamy outside, few tools could be better for making dinner than the slow cooker.
This chowder recipe is rich but still light, using half-and-half instead of heavy cream and blending some of the chowder to naturally thicken it.
My kids fall firmly in the smooth (vs. chunky) soup camp, so I actually use my immersion blender to puree almost all of this chowder into the super smooth, creamy consistency you see above. Whether you blend it all until smooth, leave the vegetables whole, or do a 50/50 split, part of the fun of chowder is the toppings!
Crispy bacon, chopped green onions, cheddar cheese, and sour cream all find their way to the top of Slow Cooker Corn Chowder at our house.
- Corn - If corn is in season, slice corn kernels off the cobs or use frozen corn. Either work great!
- Bacon - Like most chowder recipes, bacon is added to the chowder itself. It gives the chowder a savory, slightly smoky flavor. Be sure to set some of the crispy bacon bits aside for topping the bowls of chowder at the end.
- Baby or New Potatoes - Potatoes are the heart of chowder. Their natural starch
- Onion, Garlic, Fresh Thyme, Bay Leaves - The flavors of this chowder are so simple, you’ll want to add these aromatics and fresh herbs to highlight those flavors.
- Stock and Water - To keep things simple, I use 4 cups of chicken or vegetable stock and supplement the rest of the chowder with water. (This is just personal preference since most store-bought stock comes in containers with 4 cups; I hate to open a second container and just use half.) You can use all stock (you’ll need 6 cups) if you have it on-hand.
- Unsalted Butter, Kosher Salt, White Sugar - Use these staples to add flavor and richness. Be sure to taste the chowder at the end and season with some more salt, if needed. A bit of sugar helps to highlight the natural sweetness of the corn, but you can skip it if you prefer (or if you have very fresh corn that is naturally very sweet).
- Half and Half - Half and half is one part milk and one part heavy cream so it gives the chowder a rich, creamy finish. You can use regular milk (it will be less rich) or heavy / whipping cream (it will be more rich) instead.
- Make it vegetarian - Just skip the bacon and use vegetable stock for a vegetarian version. If you want a little crunch on top, try adding toasted pepita / pumpkin seeds to the finished bowls of chowder!
- Make it dairy-free - Use non-dairy alternatives for the butter and half-and-half (unsweetened almond milk works great). You can also completely skip the step to add half-and-half at the end. Blending a small amount of the chowder will give it a creamy texture without the need for dairy.
- Add Bell Peppers - One of my favorite corn chowders was one that I had in New Mexico years ago. It had diced green and red bell peppers mixed in. Just add these with the onions for some extra color and flavor!
More Slow Cooker Soup Recipes
- Slow Cooker White Chicken Chili
- Slow Cooker Three Bean Taco Soup
- Slow Cooker Butternut Squash Soup
- Slow Cooker Beef and Barley Soup
Slow Cooker Corn Chowder
- 6-quart Slow Cooker
- 6 ears Corn, kernels sliced off (this should make about 4 ½ cups of fresh kernels or use frozen corn; see note)
- 12 oz Bacon, chopped
- 2 tablespoon Unsalted Butter
- 1 cup Diced White or Yellow Onion
- ½ teaspoon Kosher Salt
- ½ teaspoon White Sugar
- 4 cloves Garlic, minced
- 3 sprigs Fresh Thyme
- 2 Bay Leaves
- 1 lb Baby or New Potatoes, chopped (you can leave the skins on; sub Yukon gold potatoes)
- 4 cups Chicken or Vegetable Stock
- 2 cups Water
- 1 cup Half and Half (see note)
- Fresh Corn Kernels and/or Bacon (reserved from steps 1-2)
- Chopped green onions, sliced
- Sour cream
- Shredded cheddar cheese
- Slice kernels from corn cobs. (Note: If you’d like, you can save 2 or 3 of the cobs and add them to the chowder as it cooks - this will help to enrich the stock with even more corn flavor.)
- Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add bacon. Saute bacon until crisp, ~10 minutes. Transfer bacon to a paper towel-lined plate and drain off all but about 1 tablespoon grease from the skillet.
- Return skillet with bacon grease to medium heat and add butter.
- When butter melts, add onion, salt, and sugar and saute until onion is soft, ~4 minutes.
- Add garlic and cook for 2 minutes more.
- Transfer the onions and garlic to the bowl of a slow cooker.
- Optional: If you’d like to garnish the finished chowder with some corn kernels and / or crispy bacon, set about 1 cup of corn kernels and ¼ of the crispy bacon aside before filling the slow cooker.
- To the bowl of the slow cooker, add corn kernels, bacon, thyme sprigs, bay leaves, potatoes, stock, and water.
- If you reserved any corn cobs, nestle those into the chowder.
- Cover and slow cook until potatoes are tender, high for 3 to 4 hours or low for 7 to 8 hours.
- When you’re ready to serve the chowder, remove and discard thyme sprigs, bay leaf, and corn cobs.
- Stir half-and-half into chowder.
- Optional: You can serve the chowder as-is, or blend some of it to create a creamier / thicker base. Use a stick / immersion blender (or transfer a few cups of the chowder to the blender) and blend until smooth.
- Taste the chowder and add some salt and / or black pepper, if needed.
- Serve chowder garnished with reserved corn kernels, bacon, green onions, and / or cheese.
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