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Seafood Corn Chowder: Without Shellfish

Seafood Corn Chowder: Without Shellfish
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My favorite thing to do with the end-of-season fresh corn on the cob is to make a seafood corn chowder. Using fresh corn in the broth is a game changer in terms of true corn flavor. T

he milk sugar from the corn cobs is so sweet there is no need for any added sugar. This recipe uses whitefish (cod, bass, etc.) as the fish in the seafood corn chowder, and does not include shellfish. I topped it with bacon to add more robustness to the flavor.

Seafood corn chowder in a large bowl with a side of oyster crackers
Seafood corn chowder without shellfish

Jump to: RECIPE | Chowders vs Seafood Stews | How to Make Corn Stock | Ingredients & Substitutions | Illustrated Step by Step | Common Questions

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Seafood Chowder vs Seafood Stew or Seafood Soup

A “chowder” typically includes some sort of milk, cream, or dairy in the broth and it usually includes the addition of potatoes.

A “corn chowder” adds the flavor of corn through either a corn stock made with the cobs or the corn kernels mashed or whole.

And then the “seafood corn chowder” adds a layer of fish or shellfish. Most often you will see a seafood chowder featuring shrimp, but the recipe below is made with cod.

A “seafood stew (or soup)” on the other hand, is often made with a clear broth instead of a cream-based broth. A San Francisco cioppino or a French bouillibaisse are two popular seafood stews that have distinctive ingredients.

In addition, seafood stews often include tomatoes but may leave the potatoes out.

Bowl of West Coast Cioppino
Bowl of West Coast Cioppino

How to Make the Corn Stock

The best stock is made with fresh cobs, stripped of their kernels. This highlights the corn flavor and helps to thicken the soup at the same time.

The recipe below and the video show you exactly how to make the stock. It is easy, but you have to think ahead a bit as it takes a couple of hours to extract the full flavor and milk sugar from the cobs.

Best Way to Remove Kernels from the Cobs

Typically you stand the corn on end and use a sharp knife to scrape off the fresh kernels from the cob. The only problem with this is that it is very messy….kernels tend to fly all over.

Cutting the kernels off of fresh sweet corn with a knife into a bowl.
Stripping kernels from the cob

Tip: An easy way to keep the kernels in line is to get a very large bowl and then place a small bowl upside down inside of the large bowl. Stand the cob on top of the small bowl when using the knife and the kernels fall neatly inside the large bowl (see video in recipe card for demonstration)

Substitutions for Fresh Corn

Of course, fresh corn on the cob is not always available and you can make corn chowder with frozen or canned corn, but the corn flavor will be a bit more subtle.

Frozen corn is often frozen when at its peak so it does work in a corn chowder. You can add some creamed corn to create texture and flavor differences you would get from not using fresh corn.

You could also use a mixture of canned corn kernels and creamed corn, but I think frozen corn will add more fresh flavor.

Pureeing some of the frozen or canned corn kernels to stir into the simmering soup will also help deepen the corn flavor.

Ingredients and Substitutions

The ingredients of any chowder tend to cover a wide range of variables. Most, however, will include a protein (fish or meat), some sort of dairy or nut milk, and potatoes mixed with other vegetables.

Here are the ingredients I used in the recipe below, followed by substitution ideas:

Ingredients for seafood corn chowder.
Ingredients for seafood corn chowder.

Protein Substitutions

  • Shrimp
  • Crab
  • Salmon
  • Cod or other whitefish
  • Ham
  • Bacon
  • Chicken

Dairy Substitutions

  • Almond milk
  • Whole milk
  • Half and Half
  • Evaporated milk

Vegetable Substitutions

  • Carrots
  • Red bell peppers
  • Potatoes, red, fingerling or Yukon
  • Celery
  • Fennel
  • Onions

Illustrated Step by Step

The details and directions for making both the corn broth and the chowder are in the recipe card below. Here are the steps summarized with photos:

Bowl of corn kernels freshly stripped from the cobs.
Step #1: Strip the corn kernels from 3 ears of corn and set aside.
Stripped corn cobs, onions and parsley simmering to make a corn broth for chowder.
Step #2: Simmer the stripped corn cobs with onion and parsley for 2 hours.
Chopped onions caramelizing in a large dutch oven.
Step #3: Caramelize the chopped onions for 5 minutes in oil.
Red bell peppers cooking with the onions in a dutch oven
Step #4: Add the chopped red peppers to the pot and cook with the onions for another 5 minutes.
Quartered small red potatoes on a white board.
Step #5: Quarter 2 pounds of small red potatoes.
Corn stock cooking in a dutch oven with onions an peppers and potatoes
Step #6: Add the drained corn stock, the potatoes, and 4 cups of water to the pot and cook for 10 minutes.
3 slices bacon and chopped cod on cutting board.
Step #7: Fry 3-5 slices of bacon and cut cod into bite-size pieces. (Bacon is optional)
Corn chowder with cod, peppers and onions and broth.
Step #8: Add the cod to the pot and cook for 3 minutes.
Seafood corn chowder in a large dutch oven.
Step #9: Add the cream and the corn kernels that were stripped earlier to the pot and cook for 5 minutes.
Seafood corn chowder in a large bowl with a side of oyster crackers
Step #10: Crumble the bacon over the chowder and enjoy.

Can Seafood Corn Chowder be Low Carb?

While seafood is always low carb, corn and potatoes definitely are not. Since corn and potatoes make up a large percentage of this dish it is not really compliant with a low-carb diet. Check out the cioppino or bouillabaisse recipe for low-carb seafood stews.

Low Carb French Bouillabaisse Stew
Low Carb French Bouillabaisse Stew

What to Serve with Seafood Corn Chowder?

For ease and convenience, oyster crackers are a classic accompaniment to chowders. If you want to serve something homemade with it, try these easy, but classy cheese straws. Here are a few other ideas:

Tomato butter on rustic thick bread with scallions as garnish on top.
Tomato butter on rustic bread

Common Questions

Can it be frozen?

Due to the dairy and potatoes in this one, I don’t recommend freezing it as is.  The stock made with fresh corn cobs however can be frozen and when thawed will add a huge burst of fresh flavor to canned corn kernels. Store the stock in the refrigerator for up to 1 week or freeze in small batches and thaw as needed.

Is corn chowder sweet?

Fresh corn on the cob has been hybridized to be very sweet these days. If you make stock out of the cobs it will release the milk sugar and the corn chowder will be quite sweet without the need to add any sugar.

How can I make corn chowder thicker?

Several ways:
1) You can puree the corn kernels in the blender and add to soup instead of whole kernels.
2) You can whisk together a bit of cornstarch and whatever milk you are using and add that to the soup while it cooks.
3) You can add a paste of equal parts softened butter and flour thoroughly mixed and add this to the final stages of cooking the soup.
4) If you use the cobs to make the stock it will often act as a thickener.

Like this recipe? It helps me out greatly if you leave a 5-star 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟rating in the recipe card below and maybe even leave me a quick comment too!

Seafood Corn Chowder

Seafood corn chowder in a large bowl with a side of oyster crackers
Seafood corn chowder using cod instead of shellfish with a corn stock made by simmering fresh corn cobs stripped of kernels and finished with heavy cream.
5 from 2 votes
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Servings 12
Calories 333



Corn Stock

  • 3 corn cobs stripped of kernels
  • 1 onion quartered
  • ¼ cup parsley leaves
  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 8 cups water

Seafood Chowder

  • 2 tablespoons butter or olive oil
  • 1 onion chopped
  • 2 cups red bell peppers chopped
  • 1-2 pounds small potatoes red potatoes or yukon, cut into bite-size pieces
  • 1 teaspoon ground fennel seed or chopped fresh fennel bulb
  • 1 teaspoon Old bay seasoning or a spicy chile powder
  • 1 ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 5 sprigs fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 2 pounds cod or any whitefish
  • 2 cups corn kernels from the stripped cobs
  • cups heavy cream or half and half
  • 3 strips bacon optional


For the Stock

  • Strip the corn cobs of their kernels and set kernels aside. Cut cobs in half so they fit into your pot.
    To the pot add the corn cobs, the onion, parsley, peppercorns, and 8 cups water. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat and simmer 2 hours (add more water if needed – it should cover the cobs for the full 2 hours).
    3 corn cobs, 1 onion, 1/4 cup parsley leaves, 1 teaspoon black peppercorns, 8 cups water

For the Chowder

  • In a dutch oven or heavy pot, melt butter or oil over medium-high heat and then saute the onions for about 5 minutes. Add peppers and cook together with onions another 5 minutes until vegetables are soft and caramelized.
    2 tablespoons butter or olive oil, 1 onion, 2 cups red bell peppers
  • Add potatoes and corn stock to the caramelized vegetables. If you didn’t make the corn stock,, add 8 cups of fish stock, water or vegetable stock. Add all the spices and herbs and stir together.
    Cook over medium-high for 10 minutes.
    1-2 pounds small potatoes, 1 teaspoon ground fennel seed, 1 teaspoon Old bay seasoning, 1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, 5 sprigs fresh thyme
  • Add the cut-up cod to the pot and cook 3 minutes.
    Add the corn kernels you set aside earlier, along with the cream and cook about 5 minutes (covered).
    2 pounds cod, 2 cups corn kernels, 2/3 cups heavy cream
  • Serve with rustic bread or crackers.



Storing and Freezing:
Can be refrigerated for 3 days.
The corn stock and corn kernels can be made ahead and frozen, but the potatoes and cream in the chowder will not freeze well.
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Calories: 333kcalCarbohydrates: 28gProtein: 28gFat: 13gSaturated Fat: 8gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 3gTrans Fat: 0.1gCholesterol: 106mgSodium: 1096mgPotassium: 956mgFiber: 4gSugar: 7gVitamin A: 1535IUVitamin C: 56mgCalcium: 73mgIron: 2mg
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