Corn Chowder (Lightened Up)

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This lightened up corn chowder recipe is made with corn, milk, veggie broth, and sneaky cauliflower that you won’t even notice. Who knew corn chowder could be this decadent and healthy at the same time? Serve it up with a salad or some crusty bread for an ultra-satisfying meal that works for any occasion!

299 CAL 36g CARBS 14g FAT 12g PROTEIN
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I grew up absolutely loving corn chowder. You know, the kind that came in a can and all you had to do was dump it into a pot on the stove. Unfortunately, the store-bought corn chowder we all grew up on is anything but wholesome. Yes, there was corn. But there was also tons of sodium, fat, and unnecessary additives. I knew I could do better on my own by making corn chowder from scratch.

While traditional corn chowder recipes call for bacon, potatoes, and ungodly amounts of cheese, that tends to make me feel quite weighed down. So, I decided to come up with a lighter, healthier version of the beloved childhood favorite. This recipe has everything you could wish for in corn chowder and then some, while also sneaking in plenty of nutrients. This Slow Cooker Roasted Corn Chowder is also delicious.

You could call this lightened-up corn chowder the ultimate comfort food, I certainly do. It is perfect for summertime cookouts and cozy winter nights alike. Anyone will be impressed once they’ve had a bowl of this creamy and nourishing goodness. Don’t be surprised if your guests keep coming back for seconds or even thirds!

Ingredients for corn chowder including fresh corn, cauliflower, evaporated milk, whole milk, onion, and garlic on a marble board.

Key Ingredients and Easy Swaps

To make this dreamy corn chowder recipe, you’re going to need the following key ingredients:

  • Corn: Considering it’s in the name, I think it’s safe to say corn is the star of today’s show. I prefer to use frozen corn, but fresh or canned corn would both work well too. (Definitely use fresh corn if it’s corn season!)
  • Cauliflower: This is my secret ingredient for getting the best healthy corn chowder! Because cauliflower is so mild in flavor and gets beautifully creamy in soups, it’s the perfect way to get the results we’re looking for without tons of added fat.
  • Vegetable broth: Chicken broth works fine too if you prefer that.
  • Milk: To get the rich, silky consistency that this dish is known for, you’re going to need a combination of whole milk and evaporated milk.

Tips for the Best Corn Chowder (Lightened Up)

Here are some of my top tips and tricks to get the ultimate mouth-watering corn chowder every time you make it:

  • Fresh is best. The key to making the best corn chowder is to use the best corn available to you. If you don’t have access to fresh corn or it’s not in season, frozen works well too. Canned corn would be my last choice, but that also works.
  • Cook your cobs. After separating the corn from their cobs, allow the stripped cobs to simmer with the soup. This draws out the flavor beautifully, making for an even more flavorful dish.
  • Vegan-friendly. To convert this recipe into a vegan-friendly corn chowder, replace whole milk with any plain, unsweetened dairy-free plant milk of your choice. For a richer soup, use coconut milk.
  • Turn up the heat. Throw in a pinch of cayenne or some chopped jalapenos for a hint of spice. For a hint of smoky flavor that isn’t necessarily spicy, try adding a dash of smoked paprika.
  • Salt to taste. Unless you’re using unsalted broth, give your soup a taste after simmering and only add as much salt as you deem necessary. Everyone has their preferences, which is why we say ‘salt to taste.’
  • Use a heavy-bottomed pot. Using a heavy-bottomed pot will ensure that the heat is evenly distributed, making the soup less likely to burn.
  • Add a little tang. A trick I have recently discovered is that adding a spoonful of crème fraiche or sour cream at the end not only makes for an even creamier soup, but it adds a slight tanginess that makes the dish restaurant-worthy.
  • Add potatoes: Traditional corn chowder usually has potatoes as well. If you would like to use potatoes, simply simmer them in the broth until they are cooked through and then add the corn. When I add potatoes, I like to add red potatoes. 

What to Serve With Corn Chowder

Since corn chowder makes for quite a hearty meal on its own, you don’t really need much with it. I like to serve it as the main dish, accompanied by side dishes that don’t outshine its brilliance. Some suggestions are:

  • Fresh bread. You can never go wrong with a little soup and bread action! I love dipping a baguette or some homemade breadsticks into this creamy soup.
  • Roasted vegetables. For a quick snack or light meal, pair your soup with roasted veggies on the side like this Roasted Garlic Broccoli or some sauteed zucchini.
  • Salads. Let’s pretend we’re at Panera and enjoy a nice soup and salad combo, shall we? This soup basically makes you feel like you’re at Panera already, so just add in your favorite soup for a classic combination you can feel good about.
  • Sandwiches. A loaded grilled cheese sandwich with mozzarella, sharp cheddar, and gruyere would make the ultimate pairing for creamy corn chowder. A classic turkey and cheese sandwich would also do the trick!
  • Quesadillas and tacos. Since corn is a staple in Mexican cuisine, why not serve your corn chowder as a side dish alongside some classic Mexican dishes? Try these Portobello Mushroom Quesadillas or Cajun Shrimp Tacos.

Lightened up corn chowder with cauliflower being scooped out of a soup pot.

How to Store Leftover Chowder

Let’s get one thing straight. I don’t have a whole lot of experience in this department, because my family devours this soup from the moment I shout “dinner!” However, I do know that you can easily store your soup in the fridge if you wind up with leftovers.

Make sure to let the soup cool to room temperature, then transfer it to an airtight container and store in the fridge for up to 3-5 days. Because this soup is dairy-based, I wouldn’t recommend storing it in the freezer. Dairy tends to separate when thawed and you would likely end up with a clumpy, not-so-great chowder.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about this lightened up corn chowder recipe:

If you find that your soup isn’t thick enough for you, try adding a cornstarch slurry or a bit of flour mixed with water. This is my favorite easy way to thicken soup and it never fails! Just make sure you don’t add the flour or cornstarch directly to the soup by itself, as it will likely clump up.

Absolutely! Cooking low and slow in the crockpot helps to develop deep, rich flavors and spares you the drudgery of standing by the stove in anticipation.

Personally, I find that the easiest way is to lay the corn down on the cutting board, then use a sharp knife to slice off a strip of kernels lengthwise. Rotate the cob so that the flat side is against the cutting board and repeat the process until all of the corn has been removed from the cob.

To achieve the smoothest consistency, it is essential to remove the silk threads after the corn is shucked. The easiest way to do this is to brush the corn with a firm bristled brush (you can even use a clean toothbrush).

Corn and cauliflower chowder  in a bowl with wheat bread and bay leaves on the side.
The Recipe
Corn chowder made with fresh corn, cauliflower, onions, milk, and spices in two bowls with bread on the side.

Corn Chowder (Lightened Up)

299 CAL 36g CARBS 14g FAT 12g PROTEIN
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  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups cauliflower florets
  • 4 cups vegetable broth (or chicken broth)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt (more to taste)
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg
  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 12 oz canned evaporated milk (skim, low fat, or whole)
  • 4 cups corn (fresh, frozen, or canned corn)

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Add the olive oil, butter, onion, and garlic to a soup pot over medium heat. Saute for 10 minutes or until onion is tender.

Onions, garlic, and butter cooking in a heavy soup pot.

Add the broth, cauliflower, bay leaf, salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Cook until the cauliflower is soft. Remove the bay leaf.

Cauliflower, vegetable broth, and spices being added to a soup pot for corn chowder.

Using an immersion blender, blend the soup until smooth. Alternatively, you could transfer the contents of the pot to a stand blender, blend, and then pour back into the pot.

Cauliflower being blended into soup with an immersion blender.

Add the corn, whole milk, and evaporated milk. Bring to a simmer and cook for 5-10 minutes. If using fresh corn, cook until the corn is tender. Season well with salt and pepper.

Corn chowder with fresh corn in a large soup pot with a wooden spoon.
Nutritional Facts
Serving Size: 1.25 cup
Amount Per Serving
Calories 299
Calories from Fat 125
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 14g
Saturated Fat 7g
Monounsaturated Fat 1g
Polyunsaturated Fat 0g
Cholesterol 34mg
Sodium 963mg
Total Carbohydrate 36g
Dietary Fiber 3g
Sugars 21g
Protein 12g

* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

The Nutritional Values provided are estimates only and may vary based on the preparation method.


If using fresh corn, add the cobs directly to the broth while simmering the cauliflower. This will add lots of extra corn flavor to the broth.
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About the author Meet Kristen McCaffrey
Hi, I’m the cookbook author, recipe developer, and food enthusiast behind Slender Kitchen. I am obsessed with making healthy food that is easy to prepare and absolutely delicious. Meal planning is my secret weapon and I hope I can make meal time easier for you with our tried and tested recipes and foolproof meal plans. Learn More
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