waste not: corn chowder.

May 22, 2018

corn chowder | reading my tea leavesWaste Not is a collaboration with my friend, Carrie King. The premise is simple: Carrie, a food writer and editor, shares a recipe highlighting at least one particular way that we can curb food waste. I make it at home, take a bunch of pictures, and share it with everyone here. 

Growing up, I asked for corn chowder to be made for fully half of my birthday dinners. Didn’t matter how hot the early July weather was, I wanted silky, creamy chowder with sweet bursts of corn. As a kid, and in the original version of Carrie’s recipe below, there were pearly potatoes floating in there too. James is allergic to that particular nightshade and so I omitted them here. Potatoes or no, this chowder is delicious.

I’m always looking for simple ways to make a vegetarian broth and after this trial run, I’ll be putting my spent corn cobs to better use. Simmering the corn cobs in the broth renders the soup creamy without making it overly rich. A splash of cream or coconut milk at the end makes it decadent. Maybe best of all, Carrie finally convinced me to stop subbing in sweet paprika when a recipe calls for smoked. I’ll happily make a little space cabinet for this crimson wonder.
corn chowder | reading my tea leavesFrom Carrie:

Aside from Frosty the Snowman’s pipe, I don’t know of many uses for spent corn cobs. Maybe bird feeders? Bear in mind that I’m saying that with absolutely no authority on whether that would work and based purely on inspo from Erin’s ingenious half-grapefruit bird feeder. Just seems like corn cob bird feeders could be a thing.corn chowder | reading my tea leaves

Practical uses aside, I definitely don’t know any recipe that has you actually ingesting corn cobs. Nor does it seem very enticing—unless you’re looking for some serious ruffage. But still, ears of corn are so much more than just their rows of glistening yellow kernels. There is lots of delicious flavor and corn milk hidden in their nooks and crannies. I think of cobs as the bones of the veggie world. You’d use bones to fortify the flavor of stock or soup, and you can totally do the same with corn. So, before you throw your next batch of naked cobs in the compost pile, here’s a recipe that at least makes sure you milk them for all their worth.

This chowder revolves around the use of the whole ear of corn (minus the husk—although those are also useful in their own right—looking at you tamales). The cobs act as an instant flavor booster for any veggie, or even chicken, soup. Sometimes I even use them to boost the flavor of broth to make corn risotto. If you had enough ears of corn, you could make pure corn stock for sundry uses. Next time you’re looking to use corn kernels-only for dinner one night, save the cobs in an airtight container in the fridge, and throw them into a pot of soup or broth the next day.corn chowder | reading my tea leaves

This recipe also uses one of my current spice crushes—smoked paprika. If you don’t have any in your pantry, I’d say it’s worth grabbing next market run. corn chowder | reading my tea leaves
I think it’s a handy spice to have hanging around because a little pinch makes anything it touches suddenly seem next-level fancy. It adds lots of interesting flavor complexity with zilch effort. Plus, for veggie based soups, stews, and chowders, it kind of fools your taste buds into thinking there might be some bacon swimming in the depths of the pot, but—spoiler alert—there’s not! Magic.corn chowder | reading my tea leaves

Corn Chowder

1 Tbsp olive oil
½ vidalia onion, finely chopped (about 1¼ cups)
1 green bell pepper, finely chopped
3 Tbsp butter
1 tsp smoked paprika
4 ears of corn, kernels removed from cob (about 4 cups kernels, reserve cobs)
4 Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into ½-inch dice (optional)
1 tsp salt
5 Tbsp flour
4 cups veggie stock
¾ cup cream/half & half/coconut milk
3 scallions or a bunch of chivescorn chowder | reading my tea leaves

Heat olive oil, chopped onion, and bell pepper in a large pot over medium. Sauté until onions are translucent and peppers begin to soften, 4-5 minutes. Reduce heat if browning, you’re not looking for color here.

Add the butter, smoked paprika, corn kernels, potatoes (if using), and salt. Stir occasionally until the butter melts.

Once melted, sprinkle in the flour and cook, stirring, for 1-2 minutes, making sure it doesn’t singe.

Add vegetable stock (and 1 cup water if you use potatoes), stirring to ensure the flour dissolves into the stock. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium.

Add corn cobs (break or cut in half of too long for pot) and simmer for 15-20 minutes, or until potatoes are tender.

Stir in cream or half & half (or coconut milk!)

Taste for seasoning and add more salt is necessary. Remove and discard corn cobs.

Finely chop scallions or chives and scatter on top of chowder to serve.


You could blend the chowder to make it even more creamy. In this case, you might even get away without adding the cream or half & half, if that’s your preference, because the pureed corn kernels will really amp up the creamy factor. If you blend, you might have to loosen the soup up with a touch more veggie stock or water.

Instead of chives, you could chop up some scallions to scatter on top.

Omit the smoked paprika if you’re not into it/don’t have it on hand.

corn chowder | reading my tea leaves

Thanks to Carrie King for writing this post and developing the recipe. When Carrie’s not encouraging me in tiny-apartment cooking adventures, she’s a food writer and editor. Her cookbook work includes Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner….Life with Missy Robbins and The Chef Next Door with Amanda Freitag. She has contributed to Gather Journal and Life & Thyme and works as recipe editor at Marley Spoon and Dinnerly. Thanks to culinary school and lots of time spent in kitchens, both professional and home, she can cook just about anything, but usually just wants a few couple few slices of pizza.

For the curious:

Our black enameled cast iron is from Crane; I got ours from East Fork Pottery.

Our checked napkin is from Fog Linen.

What about you guys? Corn cob enthusiasts out there?

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  • Reply christina May 22, 2018 at 10:16 am

    Looks delicious. I’m not sure there is corn at the farmers market yet even here in California but when it is I’ll be making this. Is there a print button you could add??

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE May 22, 2018 at 10:27 am

      Not really set up for that right now, but maybe one day!

      • Reply Ashley May 22, 2018 at 7:23 pm

        If this helps anyone… I use chipotle Tabasco when I can’t get my hands on smoked paprika. Put it in with the onions to cook the vinegar out! Adds depth to any vegetable soup.

  • Reply Rachel May 22, 2018 at 10:52 am

    I usually just buy frozen corn for corn chowder and I cook it in a dry skillet to char. I really need to sharpen my kitchen knives, but haven’t found anyone local to do so yet.

    I LOVE smoked paprika. I go through that stuff so quickly. I’ll probably up the amount in this recipe.

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE May 22, 2018 at 10:54 am

      Yum, charring the kernels in the skillet sounds great. When you’re able to cut the kernels off the cob, give this a try! So creamy and delicious!

    • Reply Carrie King May 22, 2018 at 5:40 pm

      Hi Rachel! Not sure where you’re located, but I believe that most Williams-Sonoma stores do knife sharpening. Also, might be worth checking in with a local butcher if you have one. Even if they don’t advertise it, I’ve found that many will sharpen knives for a nominal fee. Hope that helps!

      • Reply Rachel May 23, 2018 at 2:44 pm

        Carrie, thank you so much! I live in Philadelphia, so there are plenty of WS stores in the city and surrounding suburbs. I had no idea that they sharpen knives. I will also check with a butcher too. Thank you so much for informing me.

        • Reply Haley May 24, 2018 at 2:27 pm

          Hi Rachel! I’m in Philly too. You can sharpen your knives in the Italian Market at Fantes and there’s a traveling man that comes to the greensgrow farmers market and a couple other markets around the city. It’s called Neil’s knife sharpening http://www.neilssharpeningservice.com/

  • Reply Ellen Anderman May 22, 2018 at 11:10 am

    If you like this, try calabacitas – usually made with what are called gray or Mexican squash which are firmer and a little dryer than zucchini, but zucchini is fine + equal amounts of corn+sweated onions & garlic (latter to taste, and completely optional if you don’t like it)+good green chile, roasted and peeled. New Mexicans often add a dash of cream or grate cheddar cheese to enrich it. (Like wine, the quality of the chile makes a difference. If you can’t get Hatch chiles frozen, I might go to poblanos which while not spicy enough are tasty.)

  • Reply April May 22, 2018 at 11:24 am

    We give our corn cobs to our backyard chickens who manage to find lots of goodness left on them. They are a big hit. This chowder looks delish!

  • Reply ivana split May 22, 2018 at 12:05 pm

    This recipe looks yummy. I need to give it a try.

  • Reply Jenna May 22, 2018 at 12:36 pm

    This looks so delicious! I love the idea of this series; such a great way to reduce food waste! 🙂
    -Jenna <3

  • Reply Heather May 22, 2018 at 1:38 pm

    I love making stock from corn cobs! Pro tip: adding some of the husks to the pot when making stock adds even more depth of flavor!

    • Reply Celia May 22, 2018 at 4:11 pm

      Didn’t know you could do that! (Re: the husks). Good to learn!

  • Reply Jen May 22, 2018 at 1:58 pm

    Martha Stewart/MarleySpoon has a version of this that became an instant hit in our house. Corn cut from the cob, the cob, water, salt, and that’s it. You blend it all up at the end and it’s so insanely creamy. Top it with roasted pepitas, sauteed cremini mushrooms, crumbled feta, scallions. Delicious. You’ll lick your bowl.

  • Reply Abby May 22, 2018 at 6:52 pm

    Looks so delicious! We go through smoked paprika like it’s our job – it’s a favorite on crispy chickpeas for an easy dinner. And I’ve come across simmering corn cobs before; one of my favorite ice cream makers (Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams) calls for simmering corn cobs in the milky cream mixture before straining them out to make a delicious sweet corn ice cream at home. So good.

  • Reply Genevieve May 22, 2018 at 8:47 pm

    This looks fantastic, thank you. Can’t wait for corn season.

  • Reply joanna May 22, 2018 at 10:17 pm

    This looks and sounds delicious, Erin.
    I love this Waste not idea. so great.
    I also now want to plant chives in my garden.
    Had them when I was a kid- definitely adding them to my garden.

  • Reply Adrienne Michelle May 24, 2018 at 3:37 pm

    I’m really loving this series! I’m planning to take a crack at this soup today. Corn has just hit the market in CA, and well, it’s ALWAYS soup weather in San Francisco. Thanks for sharing! <3

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE May 24, 2018 at 3:48 pm

      So glad! Hope you love it!

  • Reply Kim May 27, 2018 at 10:37 pm

    Made this tonight and it was delicious. I didn’t have smoked paprika but regular paprika worked. So creamy and hearty!

  • Reply Katie June 1, 2018 at 1:07 pm

    I visited my family in Rockland, Maine over the Memorial Day weekend and as we’ve grown accustomed in these parts the temperatures were not summer-like. However, it made for perfect chowder weather and this one is a keeper! We used coconut milk and it was especially delicious. Thank you for sharing, Erin!

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE June 1, 2018 at 3:00 pm

      So glad!

  • Reply Amy June 4, 2018 at 12:01 pm

    I made this last week, and it was a hit. I tweaked it a little to our tastes and diets, which I think is reflective of a great recipe. Thanks for sharing. Amy

  • Reply Ksenia October 6, 2019 at 11:48 am

    Hi, Erin. I am cooking this delicious soup right now. Looks fantastic and creamy that especially great for autumn. Thank you for sharing recipes, I am going to try white beat soup too

  • Reply Lenni August 11, 2021 at 7:05 pm

    I know this recipe is a few years old now, but I made this soup for dinner tonight with fresh Ontario corn and it was AMAZING. I added the coconut milk as suggested…and then decided to add red curry paste. I served the soup over rice stick noodles with a splash of nam pla. Truly so delicious. Thank you for this yumminess!

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