When I think of foods that I grew up with, one of the first that comes to mind is chowder. I lived the first 23 years of my life in New England and summer was never complete without many bowls of New England clam chowder, despite the heat. So many days spent on the beach followed by chowing on seafood. And I also greatly enjoyed the vegetarian variety, corn chowder.
Chowder is most frequently characterized as a chunky soup with a thick, creamy broth accompanied by crackers. New England clam chowder is usually made with clams, onions, potatoes, and milk or cream. Corn chowder replaces clams with corn and potatoes. Of course, there are now many varieties in between that all have the name “chowder”.
There’s conflicting information on whether the origins of today’s chowder lie with Europeans, particularly the French and English that live along the English channel, or with the Native Americans (read this article, which highlights many foods in the US that have Native origins). The word “chowder” is likely to be European, originating from the French word for cauldron, chaudiere. And there is documentation that Europeans who lived along the English Channel boiled fish and vegetables in one-pot soups with crackers, including aboard ships. However, the main ingredients of today’s chowder, such as clams, corn, and potatoes, are native to the Americas, so there’s no way the dish as we know it could have originated in Europe…and there’s evidence that the earliest European settlers didn’t even like clams. There’s documentation that Natives also boiled fish and vegetables in one-pot soups, but it does appear that the addition of milk or cream probably came from the European settlers since Natives didn’t have access to dairy. Could it be that today’s New England clam chowder is a true fusion food, combining a creamy milk broth and crackers from Europe with fish and vegetables of the Americas? If this is the case, we can do a better job of advertising the dish’s Native origins.
As we’re approaching the Fourth of July, my vegan corn chowder is a great way to celebrate the holiday! I’ve adapted my mom’s corn chowder recipe to be vegan, but trust me that you won’t miss the milk or cream. This soup is sweet, creamy, cheesy, and comforting. Also, it’s easy to make requiring one one pot and only 30 minutes.
Start with your prep – peel and chop some Yukon gold potatoes, yellow onion, celery, garlic, and parsley. The soup is better with fresh corn, so I’d recommend roasting a few ears of corn before you get started (canned corn is fine in a pinch).
Start by sautéing the onion, celery, and garlic in a butter substitute (I like Earth Balance for its buttery flavor). After 5 minutes, add the flour. This creates a roux, when flour and fat are combined to thicken a soup.
Then add the corn, potatoes, parlsey, broth, and spices. Bring it to a boil and cook until potatoes are tender. I test this by sticking them with a fork – if they slide off easily, or break apart when you’re trying to fork them, the potatoes are cooked.
Add in your favorite vegan milk (I use almond) and nutritional yeast for that cheesy flavor, bringing it back to a boil and then letting it simmer for a few more minutes until all combined.
Garnish with some leftover fresh corn, chopped parsley, and saltines or oyster crackers. Enjoyed best in a small bowl! How do you like your chowder? Let me know in the comments.
Vegan Corn Chowder
30 minutes, makes 6 cups soup
- 1 tablespoon Earth Balance buttery spread
- 1/2 yellow onion, diced
- 2 stalks of celery, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 2 ears worth of corn, cooked and removed from the cob
- 2 cups Yukon gold potatoes, peeled chopped into 1/2-inch cubes
- 2 cups vegetable broth
- 2 tablespoons parsley
- 1 teaspoon sweet paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 ground black pepper
- 1 cup almond milk
- 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
- Garnish with fresh corn, chopped parsley, and crackers
- Large pot
- Corn zipper (optional, but so helpful for getting corn kernels off the cob. A knife works fine too!)
- Heat the Earth Balance in a large pot. Add onion, celery, and garlic. Sauté for 4 minutes, until onions are slightly transparent. Add flour, stir, and cook for 1 minute.
- Add the corn, potatoes, vegetable broth, parsley, paprika, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil. Lower heat slightly and simmer for 15 minutes or until potatoes are tender.
- Add almond milk and nutritional yeast, stirring to combine. Bring to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Garnish your soup with corn, parsley, and crackers.