It Doesn't Take Much To Thicken A Classic Corn Chowder

corn chowder in bowl with corn and bread
corn chowder in bowl with corn and bread - New Africa/Shutterstock

Corn chowder is a perfect transition meal from summer to fall. This warming, delicious comfort food uses the end of summer's bounty to make a dish ideal for cool September nights and changing weather. However, chowder can also get a bad reputation due to the large amounts of butter, bacon, and heavy cream that are often used to thicken it and add flavor. As a result, it can be a super-rich dish. For those avoiding dairy or wanting to watch their fat intake, chowder might get passed up in favor of lighter soups.

What if we told you it's possible to thicken corn chowder without dumping in tons of dairy and sacrificing flavor? Several means can help you achieve this goal, but one of the easiest (and cheapest) ways to do so is with a simple roux of all-purpose flour, oil or butter, and broth (sometimes with a touch of milk). Simmer it all together, and your soup will thicken as it cooks; the starches in the flour expand as they take in liquid. This method leaves you with a silky-smooth finished product without all that heavy cream.

Read more: The 14 Ways To Fix Your Runny Soup

What You Need To Know About Roux

close up of roux in pot
close up of roux in pot - Jan Mach/Getty Images

Using roux to thicken up dishes like soups and stews is nothing new. This technique has long been used in kitchens to add body to gravy, sauce, and other traditionally liquid dishes and accompaniments, as far back as the 17th century.

While a roux is originally a French invention, similar techniques are used in many other cuisines, notably Cajun cooking, which has plenty of French influence. At its base, roux is simply fat and flour cooked together. However, how long you cook the roux down determines its color and, thus, the flavor it will impart. For instance, a white roux is cooked for a short amount of time and has the lightest flavor. Blond, brown, and dark brown roux are cooked for longer, respectively, and impart more of a nutty, toasted flavor. It's important to note that the thickening powers of a roux diminish as it darkens. A dark roux is used for dishes like jambalaya; white or blond roux is fine for chowders and soups.

Before you use a roux to thicken corn chowder, start by cooking a mix of celery, garlic, and onion in oil or butter or bacon fat if you're using bacon. Then, sprinkle a few tablespoons of flour and cook briefly until the fat is absorbed and no traces of flour are left. Add your liquids, usually broth or a mixture of broth and milk. Veggies go in next, and everything gets simmered until cooked through, thick, and delicious.

Other Methods For Thickening A Chowder

person using immersion blender in pot
person using immersion blender in pot - Fermate/Getty Images

If a roux isn't your preferred method of thickening, there's another way to make a chowder smooth and silky. With a blender, you can use the corn -- plus potatoes and other veggies -- as a natural thickener by blending a small amount and adding it back into the soup. The starchiness from the corn and potatoes will lend you the same silky texture as heavy cream.

Immersion blenders are fantastic kitchen tools that make blending soups as easy as pressing a button. These elongated blenders can be submerged into any liquid for blending. You can do this right in the pot if you want to, which saves time and reduces the number of dishes to wash in the process. We recommend using an immersion blender for thickening corn chowder because it's simple and effective. However, regular blenders will also work fine. For this method, scoop out a few ladlefuls of soup liquid after the vegetables have softened and pour it into the blender, then process until smooth.

When blending hot foods straight from the pot, always be careful not to overfill your blender. 1 or 2 cups of corn and potatoes should suffice. Keep the lid closed tightly, start slowly, and hold it down with a hand protected by a kitchen towel or pot holder. To be extra safe, let the liquid cool first before blending.

Read the original article on Daily Meal.