Vegan corn chowder is smoky, hearty, and filling. It’s one of those soups that can easily be a meal all on its own – especially with some crusty bread in tow. Use fresh corn right off the cob or frozen for convenience’s sake.
It’s finished with baby spinach and fresh basil for added nutrients and summer flair. Vegan and gluten-free.
Friends came by this week with an armload of sweet corn. (“You know it’s summer when…”) They had more than they could use, and decided to throw several ears our way.
I knew immediately how I’d use a good chunk of that fresh corn.
Chowder can be made many ways and with a variety of ingredients. It can be thick and hearty, or tomato-y and thin. This recipe for vegan corn chowder is definitely the former.
Vegan Bowl Attack
This hearty stew-like soup is from Vegan Bowl Attack, Jackie Sobon’s first cookbook.
As you’d probably guess, Vegan Bowl Attack focuses on meals that can be eaten in bowls.
In the past five years or so, there’s been a bowl trend in the food world. In places like Portland, whole restaurants are based on it. To make a basic bowl, you put in a layer of grains, a protein of some sort (like chickpeas or tofu), a vegetable, and a sauce. Voila, you have a meal.
Jackie has put everything you need to know about bowls into one hardcover book. It includes over 100 recipes.
Because of her handiwork, you can feast on bowls from the morning (breakfast burrito bowls and even mini-cinni rolls!) – all the way through dessert. (Where have you been all my life, doughnut sundae?)
Along the way, there’s also a stop at this summer classic – smoky corn chowder.
Do I have to use fresh corn?
Not at all!
This soup is a great way to use up in-season corn on the cob, because one full recipe uses four to five ears. (Just grab a large mixing bowl or bundt pan, and cut the kernels right off the cob.)
However, if you’re short on time or inclination, or if corn isn’t in season where you are, use frozen instead. Just thaw it first. You’ll definitely save a step by pouring the corn kernels right into the pot from a bag.
What makes this soup so thick & creamy?
This full-bodied chowder gets its volume and creaminess from the corn itself. Corn is naturally starchy, which makes for a thick, hearty soup when broken up with a blender (either immersion or countertop).
There’s also a smidge of nutritional yeast flakes for richness and non-dairy milk.
What makes this soup smoky?
Chowders are often made with rendered bacon fat. Since this is vegan corn chowder, obviously that’s a no go here.
Instead of using smoked meat, this soup gets its smoky flavor two ways – from liquid smoke and smoked paprika.
Liquid smoke is made by burning wood and condensing the smoke into a liquid by running the vapor through a cooling tube to capture it. It is distilled into a concentrate and filtered.
You can usually find liquid smoke near the barbecue sauces & grilling products at the grocery store.
Liquid smoke can vary in intensity, depending on the maker. So I recommend starting small in any recipe, and then and building up to the full amount. You can always add more, but you can’t remove it once it’s there.
I use Wright’s Liquid Smoke, which is on the strong side. For this recipe, I used about ¼ teaspoon instead of the full teaspoon listed in the cookbook.
The other smoky ingredient in this chowder is smoked paprika. It’s similar to sweet Hungarian paprika. However, it’s made with pimiento peppers that have been dried and smoked over an oak fire before being ground into a powder.
Both of these ingredients give the chowder a wonderful richness and even meatiness about them, which makes for a very satisfying meal.
How to make vegan corn chowder
Sauté garlic and shallots in oil. (No shallots on hand? Use yellow onion instead!)
Then add the following to the soup pot:
- Nutritional yeast
- Liquid aminos (or tamari)
- Liquid smoke
- Smoked paprika
- Onion powder
- Vegetable broth
- Non-dairy milk
Use an immersion blender to blend about half of the corn.
(No immersion blender? Carefully ladle about half of the soup into a standard blender to break it up. Then transfer it back to the soup pot.)
Fold in baby spinach and fresh basil. Ladle into bowls and garnish with more fresh basil.
What to serve with corn chowder
Corn chowder can be a full meal all on its own, especially with some crusty bread or crackers.
(Jackie recommends serving the soup in bread bowls. Look for notes on that in the recipe box!)
It’s also a nice complement to other summery foods. Here are some ideas:
- Tomato cucumber salad
- Fried green tomato BLT
- Avocado caprese salad
- Vegan chicken salad sandwich
- Bruschetta appetizer
Can I freeze this soup?
Yes! This vegan corn chowder freezes well.
One thing to note is that light leafy greens like spinach and basil will be quite soft after sitting in liquid and freezing. So if you’re planning on making a big batch just for freezing, consider leaving out the spinach and basil. Then you can add fresh greens when you thaw and warm the soup.
If you already have leftovers with spinach and basil included, it’s not a deal-breaker. The soup will still be good frozen & reheated.
Freeze the soup in freezer-proof containers. Then thaw using the defrost function on the microwave, or by allowing the soup to slowly thaw in the refrigerator. Then reheat in the microwave or in a pot on the stove.
Smoky corn chowder
- 1 teaspoon sunflower oil or other neutral-flavored oil
- 2 shallots diced
- 1 clove garlic minced
- 4 cups fresh corn kernels or thawed frozen corn
- ¼ cup nutritional yeast
- 1 tablespoon liquid aminos or tamari
- 1 teaspoon liquid smoke*
- ¾ teaspoon smoked paprika plus more for garnish
- ½ teaspoon onion powder
- 1½ cups vegetable broth
- 1 cup non-dairy milk unsweetened
- 2 cups baby spinach packed
- 2 tablespoons chiffonade-cut fresh basil plus more for garnish
- ½ teaspoon salt or to taste
- Freshly ground black pepper to taste
- In a large pot over medium heat, heat the sunflower oil. Add the shallots and garlic to the pot and sauté for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the corn kernels, nutritional yeast, liquid aminos, liquid smoke, smoked paprika, and onion powder to the pot and stir until combined.
- Add the vegetable broth and nondairy milk to the corn mixture and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and carefully use an immersion blender to purée about half of the corn kernels (so it remains slightly chunky).
- Cover the pot, bring the soup to a simmer, and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Fold the spinach and basil into the soup and cook for another 5 minutes.
- Season the soup with salt and pepper to taste and divide it among the bowls. Garnish with a sprinkle of smoked paprika and chiffonade-cut basil and serve immediately.
- Shallots can be replaced with 1/4 cup diced yellow onion
- Liquid aminos can be replaced with tamari
Content, recipe, and photos updated August 2020. Originally posted August 2016.