Creamy corn chowder is my guilty pleasure. It’s right up there with binging on reality TV while eating ice cream straight out of the container. What’s more delicious than sweet summer corn at its peak that’s been simmered in a warm bath of heavy cream, aromatics and cheese? Serve it in a sourdough bread bowl with a cold glass of rosé and you have yourself the perfect warm-weather dinner.
Unfortunately, that beautiful, velvety soup comes with a hefty caloric price tag that doesn’t really go with summer’s uniform of teeny bikinis and denim cut-offs. But more important than looking your best is feeling your best, and a dish laden with cream can leave you feeling bloated, weighed down and sluggish.
As more and more Americans eliminate dairy from their diets, they turn to milk alternatives to make their favorite recipes. Personally, I’m not a fan of using these substitutes when it’s not necessary. And for this soup, it’s not necessary. You can make it creamy with two simple tricks.
The first is an unlikely source ― corn cobs. Naturally, you might regard these as trash that’s destined for the compost bin, but that’s a big mistake. They are actually flavor bombs waiting for their day to shine.
Once the kernels have been removed, look at your knife and you’ll see a milky residue lurking behind. That, my friends, is corn milk and the secret to a delicious dairy-free corn chowder. Corn milk has a high starch content and will naturally thicken the soup without having to use cream. After the cobs have been milked I like to simmer them in the soup to add even more corn flavor.
The second trick is a high powdered blender. I take a little bit of the soup and puree it until it’s smooth and then add it back into the pot. It gives the dish that creamy texture without adding extra calories.
The next time you’re in the mood for this summer staple, ditch the carton of heavy cream and enjoy it guilt-free with this super simple recipe.
Dairy Free Corn Chowder
1 tablespoon olive oil
8 ounces thick-cut bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 onion, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 red bell pepper, diced
4 ears corn, husked
4 cups chicken stock
4 sprigs thyme, leaves only
1 dried bay leaf
1 russet potato, peeled and diced into ½-inch cubes (about 2 cups)
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
Minced chives, for garnish (optional)
1. Heat olive oil in large pot over medium heat.
2. Add bacon and cook until crispy, about 10 minutes. Use slotted spoon to remove bacon to paper-towel lined plate. Set aside.
3. Add onion, celery, garlic and bell pepper to bacon drippings. Season with salt. Cook for 5 minutes, until onion is softened.
4. Meanwhile, cut corn kernels off the cob. Pro tip: Do this on a rimmed baking sheet so the kernels don’t go flying everywhere. Use the back of a knife to scrape along the cobs to extract the corn milk. Add remaining kernels, corn milk and whole corn cobs to the pot.
5. Add chicken stock, thyme, bay leaf, potatoes and 1 teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cover. Cook for 15 to 20 minutes, or until potatoes are tender.
6. Remove corn cobs and bay leaves; discard.
7. Transfer 2 cups of the soup to a blender and blend until very smooth, about 1 minute. Return puree to pot and stir to combine. You can also use an immersion blender to blend directly in the pot until desired consistency is reached.
8. Stir in sherry vinegar then serve immediately. Garnish with reserved cooked bacon and minced chives.