Dairy-Free Chicken Corn Chowder – Whether you’re sensitive to allergens or just trying to cut back, this delicious fall chowder cuts the dairy, but still remains creamy and satisfying!
This summer my husband and I received some shocking news: he has an autoimmune disease. He’s only 37 years old, so needless to say I’m pretty pissed off by this news. I’m not sure who or what I’m angry at… Genetics, a virus, harmful chemicals in our environment, unfair stress placed on him by his family… The truth is that the expression of an autoimmune disease is so complex, it’s impossible to pinpoint any one thing to be mad at. It just sucks.
It all started last winter when he began complaining of joint pain in his knee every few weeks. We poo-pooed the problem, thinking that he may have just strained himself exercising. In the spring the pain increased in frequency and intensity, as well as moving to his hands and shoulder. Being a nurse, I was finally like, “okay… I don’t think this is a sports injury.” Initially my thoughts went to lyme disease, as it’s fairly prevalent in southeastern Pennsylvania. In the back of my mind I had considered other possible causes, but I thought, “Nah! Not possible… Not us!” When my husband’s blood work came back early this summer, we were shocked to see results indicative of an autoimmune connective tissue disease.
Since we received that bad news, Dan has been working with a rheumatologist, but we haven’t received a definitive diagnosis as to what specific autoimmune disease he has. It could be rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, or another less common connective tissue autoimmune disease, for example. So, for now it’s doctor’s appointments and diagnostic tests, one after another, and lots of patience and waiting. The good news – the reason it’s been hard for the doctor to pin down is because we caught it super-early in the disease process, which will mean better outcomes for my husband over the course of the disease – and really his whole life. I’ll be sure to let our readers know once we have his final diagnosis!
When an individual or a loved one is diagnosed with an autoimmune disease, it’s impossible to know where to direct your feelings of anger. It’s also arguably not healthy to stay angry. On the other hand, in my experience as a visiting nurse I’ve found that gaining a sense of control over the situation is extremely helpful. For example, for now, if Dan takes ibuprofen as soon as the pain begins to flare up, it never becomes severe and he ends up using lower doses of medication for less days. This takes away the fear of extreme pain and the fear of causing kidney damage from ibuprofen overuse.
A connection has also been found between certain dietary triggers and connective tissue autoimmune diseases in some people. The obvious one is that there is a higher incidence in people who eat processed foods and a lower incidence in those with a high intake of fruits and vegetables. We already eat a whole foods diet, but other known triggers are dairy and dairy-derived products as well as vegetables found in the nightshade family (potatoes, peppers, tomatoes, eggplant). We figured we’d be crazy not to experiment with these foods to see if either one is a trigger. This is done by way of a 12-week challenge. A food, or group of foods, is completely eliminated from a person’s diet for 12 weeks. During that time, you wait and see if there is an improvement of symptoms. Do they stay the same? Do they get worse? After 12 weeks, a person then eats large amounts of the potential trigger for a couple of days to see if there is a response.
In my husband’s case, we’re experimenting with dairy this fall. He has been reporting a decrease in his symptoms, but time will tell if this is coincidental. This winter we’ll then experiment with the nightshade family of vegetables. All this to say that Simple Seasonal will be going dairy-free for the next 12 weeks – and who knows – perhaps indefinitely. To not eat dairy wouldn’t be the worst thing in exchange for better control over my husband’s disease!
My family loves homemade corn chowder during the early days of fall, but my traditional recipe involves heavy cream. Since that’s a big “no no” for us at the moment, I decided to get creative and developed this recipe for Dairy-Free Chicken Corn Chowder. After I served this, it was unanimous in my household that no one really missed the “with-dairy” version. This recipe calls for chicken and bacon, which adds a savory flavor to the soup, but the secret is adding a little corn starch and puréeing the corn to give a very dairy-free, yet creamy texture. It’s SOOO good! You’ll have to try it for yourself!
- 4 slices uncured bacon
- 2 bone-in skinless chicken breasts (about 1 pound)
- 1½ C chopped sweet yellow onion
- 2 cloves minced garlic
- ½ tsp paprika
- 1½ tsp salt
- ½ tsp black pepper
- 8 C reserved chicken broth
- 4 C sweet yellow corn (fresh or frozen)
- 1½ Tbsp corn starch
- ¾ lb. chopped yukon gold potatoes
- 1 C chopped red pepper
- 4 Tbsp chopped green onions for garnish
- In a stock pot, bring 2 bone-in chicken breasts in three quarts (12 C) of water to a boil, and then reduce to a simmer. Simmer for 1 hour and remove from the heat. Remove the chicken and set aside to cool, reserving the broth for your soup. Once the chicken is cool, chop it into small pieces.
- In a large pot, cook 4 slices of uncured bacon over medium heat until it's crispy. Remove from the pot, cool on paper towels, and set aside for later as garnish for your soup.
- Add 1½ C of chopped sweet yellow onion to the pot with the bacon fat. Cook over medium heat for 3-5 minutes, or until the onions are translucent. Add the spices, including the paprika, black pepper, minced garlic, and salt to the pot and cook 1 more minute.
- Measure 8 C of the reserved chicken broth, the sweet yellow corn, and the corn starch to the pot. If the broth is warm, dilute the corn starch in about ¼ C of cold water before adding it to the pot so that it doesn’t clump. Bring the soup to a boil and then reduce to a hard simmer and cover. Simmer for 10 minutes.
- Turn off the heat and then, using an immersion blender, purée the soup until the corn is in fine pieces and the soup appears creamy.
- Add the chicken, potatoes, and red pepper to the pot and bring the soup to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cover. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. The soup is done when the potatoes are fork-tender.
- Serve hot and garnish with crumbled bacon and freshly chopped green onions.
Hungry for some more hot soup?! Check out these other dairy-free soups…
I am so sorry to read about your husband, I wish him all the best and hopefully the change in diet will bring the desired results. This chowder looks amazing, I would not miss the dairy either, I think milk is overrated anyway.
Thanks Adina! My husband has said that it hasn’t been as hard as he thought it would be to give-up dairy. The only time it’s difficult is when we go out to eat and we have to try and guess which dishes are dairy-free.
Does anyone know if this soup freezes well?
I haven’t given it a try yet, but it should do pretty well since there’s no pasta. The potato might fall apart a little bit after it’s defrosted, but I think it should still be pretty darn tasty!