Smoky Corn Chowder

This corn chowder was most definitely a pleasant surprise. I made it to accommodate a chilly weeknight (one in which time was at a premium) and quite honestly, I didn’t have plans to post about it.

But then the extreme yum-factor overwhelmed me/us and I knew you needed to know about it. The beauty? It’s fast, it uses basic refrigerator and pantry ingredients, and it manages to be lighter than a thick, cream-based soup (no cream, just a cup of milk) thanks to blending a portion of the prepared soup until smooth.

The sweetness of the corn with the smoky flavors and crisp bacon is absolutely wonderful. Clearly I’m in love with corn and bacon lately. You should fall in love, too. I’m pretty sure this soup will help you right along in that worthy goal.

Smoky Corn Chowder

What To ServeCornbread Muffins or Cornbread and Fluffy Honey Butter
Broiled or griddled cheese quesadillas (for a fancier quesadilla these Crispy Cheese Wraps)
Fresh, seasonal fruit

One Year Ago: Whole Wheat Blender Pancakes {My New Favorite Breakfast!}
Two Years Ago: Sesame Chicken Stir-Fry
Three Years Ago: Cheesy Au Gratin Potatoes

Smoky Corn Chowder

Yield: Serves 4-6

Smoky Corn Chowder

You can sub regular paprika for the smoked but you'll lose, well, the smoky flavor (and it's delicious, I'm telling you).


  • 4-5 slices bacon, chopped
  • 1/2 cup diced onion or leeks
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 (10-ounce) packages frozen corn
  • 3 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 4 green onions, white parts cut off and discarded and green parts thinly sliced


  1. In a 4 or 5-quart saucepan, cook the chopped bacon over medium heat until golden and crisp. Scoop onto a paper-lined plate and discard all of the bacon grease except a very thin coating (about 1-2 teaspoons).
  2. Add the onion and cook for 5-7 minutes until translucent. Stir in the garlic, paprika and red pepper and cook, stirring, for 1-2 minutes.
  3. Stir in the corn, broth and milk. Bring the soup to a boil and then reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes.
  4. Transfer half of the soup to a blender (very carefully - don't overfill the blender since hot liquids will expand while blending!) and puree until mostly smooth.
  5. Return the blended soup to the pot and add 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Taste and add more if needed.
  6. Serve warm topped with green onions and bacon.

Recipe Source: adapted from Real Simple February 2008

31 Responses to Smoky Corn Chowder

  1. Patricia Mahoney says:

    If using fresh corn, how many do you think? 5 or 6 ears? Thanks

  2. Mel, this is delicious! I just made it for lunch and can’t stop eating it! Thank you!

  3. Matia says:

    This is a fabulous chowder! I added some smoked salmon and took it to the next level! The spice is perfect for us! After serving my guy stated, ‘You can make this for me anyyyytime!’ New staple in our house for sure!

  4. Anna says:

    I’ve made this soup probably 5-6 times since you posted it! It is my favorite dinner now. So delicious and easy! I add a little cumin and chipotle powder to give it a little extra kick, as well as a few drops of liquid smoke because the smokier the better. Amazing recipe Mel! Thank you so much for this gem!

  5. Lisa says:

    I’m hoping to serve this as part of a meal I’m hosting this weekend. If I add potatoes, do you think I should blend some of them in the blending step, or should I cook them separately and add them in at the end? Thanks for the recipe!

    • Mel says:

      Lisa – hmmm, definitely worth a try! I have another soup where I blend the potatoes, so yes, I think you could definitely blend them…just make sure there aren’t so many potatoes that they overwhelm the delicious corn flavor. Good luck!

  6. Shannon H says:

    Hello! I just made this for dinner! We are eating it right now and it is a hit! One of my guests just said, “It’s good! This is good food!” Thanks! I will be making this again. So easy and quick. I must admit we did cook up the entire package of bacon… We just had to have extra on hand!

  7. barb says:

    this tasted so fresh, reminded me of summer in the middle of winter

  8. Melissa says:

    Mel, again you have taken me to new heights in my confidence in cooking. I won’t comment on your recipes unless I have actually made them myself…I think that is most helpful when reading reviews. I am eating this chowder in a small cup next to my computer as I type this…I can’t tell you how many recipes I’ve made from your site that I ANXIOUSLY await my husband to get home from work to see the look on his face when he tastes what I’ve made….that, and I’m afraid I will eat it all before he gets here. This chowder is so delicious and has the perfect amount of “kick” to it with the red pepper flakes…A couple of things I did not include: smoky paprika…only had Hungarian. Next time I will grab some at the store. Also the green onions I did not have tonight…but I can only image how delicious they would be in this chowder. Things I added: three tablespoons of butter because, well, I love butter. And a little bit of cornstarch to thicken it up. I wasn’t in a brothy mood is all. I’ve had chowder in great restaurants that didn’t taste this good. Thank you so much for being such a revolutionary influence in my home. I seriously hated cooking before you…now I’m loving it!! xoxo Melissa

  9. Kristina says:

    This was so yummy! I subbed out the milk and used soy milk. I also omitted the garlic due to allergies, but it still packed in the flavor. Bacon and corn, my new favorite combo!

  10. KT says:

    This was so yummy! I loved that it was a bit lighter than most corn chowders – I even subbed our crazy fake milk and it seemed to work just fine. Thanks for another success!

  11. Yummy! Its about time to start making soups again, adding this to the list!

  12. Sally says:

    I make a corn chowder that is very similar to this with two exceptions: I also use potatoes and don’t use the smoked paprika or red pepper flakes. I use fresh corn on the cob and usually only make it when corn is in season, though I’m sure it would be great with frozen corn. This looks like a good variation.

  13. Corn and bacon is a good connection, isn’t it. I made a similar soup few days ago and yes, it’s amazing.

  14. Nancy E says:

    Um, too funny that I was just thinking earlier today that I wanted to send you a recipe I have for Cheesy Corn Chowder. It calls for condensed soups and I wanted to know how to make it without. I could easily add cheese to this. I pretty much add cheese to everything! This soup looks really yummy. Might not even need cheese!

  15. I will basically eat any soup if it’s topped with bacon. But this, I’d eat TWO bowls of 🙂

  16. Amy says:

    We loved your life changing soup. I wonder if the same thing could be done in this soup with yellow squash to replace the milk.

  17. Sheila says:

    A lighter cream soup just before the holidays and all the overindugences this time of year brings into life! I had all the ingredients to make this but had already made jasmine cilantro lime rice and crockpotted the pork to prepare your smothered sweet pork enchiladas for supper tonight. So many of your recipes are our very favorites! This corn chowder will have to wait for the weekend. Thank you for sharing!

  18. Debbie says:

    Corn, bacon & green onion! How can this not be good!

    By the way, I’d been eyeing that Hawaiian Fried Rice since you posted about it last Spring. I finally had a chance to make it last night without my husband around to “tweak things” (ie completely take over ;)). It was my first attempt at stir fry. The kids and I loved it! I didn’t add the hot sauce, only because I couldn’t find it amongst the 100s of jars of Oriental sauces and things crowding my fridge, but will next time. This is definitely going on the favorites list! Thanks!

  19. Amy P says:

    This has been my go-to corn chowder recipe since Real Simple brought it out in 2008! When I saw the recipe title I thought, ‘oh, I already have a recipe like that’ and lo and behold…I have THAT recipe 🙂 You have good taste in food, Mel!

  20. tahnycooks says:

    I’m sitting here checking my emails and looking out the window at the snow; this would be perfect to have in front of me right now! Looks great!

  21. Rebecca says:

    Skim milk ok? What did you use?

    • Mel says:

      Rebecca – I used 1%. I think skim would actually work fine – you might want to puree a bit more than half the soup to help with thickness but should be ok.

  22. Chelsey says:

    I love a good smokey flavor but I don’t have smoked paprika. Do you think liquid smoke would work??

  23. Melynda says:

    Love recipes like this one, basic items turned into a great dish. This might make it to the table this weekend, thanks.

  24. Um…yes, please. I’m all about soups these days. Filling and warming. Fortunately my whole family loves them too. Can’t wait to try this one.

  25. I am really into soups this time of year. This looks delicious!

  26. Jenn A says:

    This looks great! And since the cold weather is here, I’m sure we’ll be having this sometime soon!

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