Corn chowder is definitely making a comeback! Not that it ever really left your average home, but it is becoming more and more popular.
There are tons of different corn chowder recipes out there today, but no matter how delicious, it does really help to have a little something on the side.
So, what can you serve with corn chowder? Our favorite side dishes to serve with corn chowder include a fresh crispy salad, steamed veggies, beer-battered onion rings, a variety of cured meats and bread, cornbread, and a melty grilled cheese sandwich.
In this article, we will have a look at corn chowder and give you some basic flavor pairing rules so you can easily pair dishes at home. We will of course also discuss our favorite accompaniments and garnishes for corn chowder and why they work.
Corn Chowder Ingredients
If you are unfamiliar with corn chowder, it is basically a textured soup or chowder. The primary ingredient is corn and can either be fresh (raw from the cob), kernels in brine liquid (canned), or creamed corn.
The type of corn needed depends entirely on the recipe, however, they are all interchangeable for corn chowder.
Chowder gets its creaminess either from the can of creamed corn or from the addition of fresh cream.
Other ingredients that are very often used are onions, celery, and butter in addition to a blend of seasonings.
Additional and optional ingredients to create more interesting versions of a classic corn chowder include potatoes, bacon or other cured meats, chicken, and sometimes even seafood.
Corn chowder isn’t as versatile as something more neutral like bread, so it is important to make sure that the additional ingredients match and/or complement the flavor of creamy corn.
How To Pair Flavors With Corn Chowder
Learning to pair food can be learned through experience, and no cheat-sheet will ever be able to substitute it. However, it doesn’t hurt to have one as a guideline!
The number one rule for beginners when pairing dishes with accompaniments or garnishes is to look for similar ingredients.
For example, if the corn chowder contains bacon, then crispy bacon pieces will make a great garnish. If the corn chowder contains cheese, then you can have a cheesy bread as a side dish.
The second rule is to use subtle ingredients in the accompanying dish. The accompaniment or side dish shouldn’t distract from the main dish (in this case, the corn chowder).
Because corn chowder is usually very mild tasting, stay away from pungent ingredients (like truffles, for example).
Go for starch! Starch is always a good choice as an accompaniment to any dish as it has a very neutral flavor that is always able to elevate the flavors of the main dish.
You can use a vegetable starch like potatoes (made in many different ways), a grain starch like rice, or a type of bread like flatbread.
The last rule, which is more of a suggestion, is to stick with classic flavor combinations if you are unsure or very new to pairing food. There are many different articles available that will help you with basic flavor pairing.
The 7 Best Corn Chowder Accompaniments
Now that we have covered the basics of flavor pairings, here are our favorite accompaniments and garnishes for corn chowder.
You will see that some are way out there while others are more traditional. Make sure to try them all. You might find a new favorite meal!
Let’s start with an easy accompaniment: salad. A refreshing salad is a great healthy side dish with corn chowder.
You can make virtually any kind of salad you like. However, we recommend staying away from overly-sweet ingredients that might clash with the sweetness of your corn chowder.
Ingredients that will counter and compliment that sweetness are olives, feta, avocado, and an acidic salad dressing like a vinaigrette.
Opposite flavors to sweetness, like saltiness or even acidity, work great together – that is why sea salt chocolate is a thing!
A salad is easy to make and just as diverse as the chowder itself! It will also give amazing contrast in texture which creates an interesting and balanced plate.
2. Steamed Vegetables
Steamed vegetables are another great accompaniment to corn chowder. Other than the fact that they are very healthy, they can also be a way to add color and texture to a basic chowder.
One of our favorite vegetables to add to corn chowder is steamed broccoli stems. If cooked for the correct amount of time, the broccoli stems will be cooked but still crunchy, which is perfect for a more interesting basic corn chowder.
If you don’t know which veggies to choose, look at what your corn chowder already contains. If there are, for example, carrots inside, steam some carrots and make a salty-sweet carrot mix.
3. Beer-Battered Onion Rings
Is there anything better than freshly made, crispy beer-battered onion rings? The answer: only when you serve them with some corn chowder.
Beer-battered onion rings are the perfect way to elevate your corn chowder. Besides being crispy, thus adding texture, you can easily change the flavor of the whole meal depending on the type of beer you use.
The flavor is very complex yet fit almost any meal, including corn chowder. Have we mentioned that they are also great for dipping into the chowder?
4. Sausage And Cured Meats
You can use a very wide variety of cured and smoked meats inside, on top, or on the side of your corn chowder.
The possibilities are endless, and the reason these meats work so great is that they add a whole new savory dimension to your corn chowder.
For example, use chorizo (a spicy Italian sausage) inside or on top of your corn chowder works wonderfully to make a spicy version.
You can also make a whole side dish with sausage. For example, make a hot dog with smoked viennas or a cheese griller pie.
These might seem like corn chowder is taking the back seat, but where is the rule written that you cannot have two mains? Nowhere! That is also why corn chowder is such a great dish because it easily fits into any type of meal.
5. Grilled Cheese
Yes, we said it: a grilled cheese sandwich is the perfect accompaniment to a creamy corn chowder, especially one that already contains cheese.
Because of the creaminess of the corn chowder and the melty-goodness of grilled cheese, they make the perfect texture and flavor pairings, neither overpowering the other.
Not to mention that the sandwich itself can be used to dip into the chowder…fantastic, isn’t it?
6. Crusty Bread
What did we say in the rules above? Starch, starch, and more starch!
Bread is one of the best types of starches you can serve as a side dish. Bread comes in a huge variety of flavors, from tangy sourdough to sweet enriched brioche.
Whatever your choice might be, they will all work incredibly well. Bread also has a dual function as a side dish as it is often used as a serving vessel, and corn chowder is no exception.
Bread (the starch) helps elevate the flavors present in the corn chowder and also provides additional texture that might be lacking.
A crusty bread like ciabatta, sourdough, or baguette will be able to soak up flavors and still provide a crunchy bite.
7. Cornbread or Johnny Cake
Yes, we know, corn on corn sounds like too much corn, but this combination works surprisingly well, which is probably why it is still around.
The reason cornbread and corn chowder works together so well is that they have opposing flavor profiles.
While corn chowder is creamy and sweet, cornbread is usually salty and dry, making them the perfect pairing.
The difference in texture and flavor is like pairing any other two dishes together.
The Best Garnishes For Corn Chowder
Now that you know our favorite accompaniments, it’s time to look at some of our favorite garnishes.
You can use these if you only want to serve the chowder on its own, or if you simply want to add something extra.
- Sliced chilies make an interesting and flavor-packed garnish. You can use any type of chili you like. Our favorite is red birds eye chilis as they give a nice color contrast.
- Crumbled bacon is another great garnish, especially if you already have it in the recipe (if it’s not included in the recipe, add some; no seriously, add some now). The saltiness of smoked bacon is a great way to break through the sweetness and creaminess of the chowder.
- Croutons are a nice way of adding crunch and using your old stale bread. You can of course also buy premade flavored croutons, but it is so easy to make and is a great way to use old bread.
- Instead of croutons, you can also use crushed tortilla chips, pretzels, breadsticks, crackers or nacho chips. To that, we only have one word: innovative!
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