Wondering what to do with some leftover ham? One tasty way to use leftover ham is in a warm, rich Ham Chowder. This creamy Ham Chowder is rich and just bursting with flavor!
Struggling to find creative ways to use leftover ham? My favorite way to use leftover ham is in a warm, rich chowder. The recipe uses only a few ingredients so each one has a chance to shine. This Ham Chowder is rich and creamy, and bursting with delicious ham flavor.
I like to model my ham chowder after a Loaded Baked Potato Soup. That means generous amounts of shredded sharp cheddar cheese, butter, a dollop of sour cream, and a sprinkling of sliced green onions or chives. Each of these individual flavors compliments one another so deliciously! When a soup utilizes so few ingredients, each of them has to absolutely taste great on its own.
For the cheese, I prefer a good, strong New York or Wisconsin Sharp Cheddar. I want the flavor of the cheese to really stand out instead of shrinking into the background of the creamy soup base. If your palette does not prefer sharp cheddar cheese, try a mild shredded cheddar or even a Colby jack. If you’d like to add a hint of spice go for a jalapeno jack (pepper jack) cheese. It’s your soup, dress it up how you please!
For this recipe, I typically use Russet but Idaho or Yukon Gold are also very good choices for baking potatoes. You could opt to forgo baking the potatoes and boil them instead – in that case, reach for Yukon Gold, fingerling, or red-skinned potatoes as they hold their shape best when boiling. The ease and quickness of boiling the potatoes is very tempting but baking them in the oven does impart a much richer potato flavor. If you have leftover baked potatoes those are perfect in this soup, too. I just slice them in half and scoop them out of the skins.
Now, add in that delicious, salty, leftover ham and pull all those delicious flavors together into a soul-warming soup. Yum.
Ingredients for Ham Chowder
Each ingredient in ham chowder plays a crucial role in contributing to the overall flavor, texture, and consistency of the dish. In combination, these ingredients work together to create a well-balanced and delicious ham chowder with layers of flavor, creamy texture, and comforting warmth.
** You can find the full recipe ingredients and instructions on the printable recipe card below.
- Potatoes (Idaho, Russet, or Yukon Gold): Potatoes are a staple in chowder recipes, adding substance and a creamy texture when cooked. They absorb the flavors of the broth and ham while also providing a hearty and filling element to the dish.
- Ham: Ham is the main protein source in this chowder. Its savory and slightly smoky flavor infuses the soup with richness. Diced ham adds both texture and a salty contrast to the other ingredients.
- Olive Oil: Olive oil is used to sauté the onion and garlic. It provides a hint of flavor and helps to prevent sticking while cooking the aromatics.
- Onion and Garlic: These aromatics are the base of flavor for many dishes. They are sautéed in olive oil at the beginning of the cooking process to develop a foundation of savory, aromatic goodness in the chowder.
- All-purpose Flour: Flour is used to create a roux, which is a mixture of fat (from the oil) and flour. The roux helps to thicken the chowder, giving it a creamy and velvety consistency.
- Chicken Stock: Chicken stock serves as the primary liquid base of the chowder. It brings its own savory flavor to the dish and forms the foundation of the soup’s broth.
- Half and Half: Half and half is a mixture of equal parts milk and cream. It adds richness and creaminess to the chowder, making it more luxurious and comforting.
- Cheddar Cheese: Grated sharp cheddar cheese is melted into the chowder, providing both flavor and additional creaminess. The cheesy flavor pairs well with the ham and potatoes, creating a harmonious blend of tastes.
- Salt and Ground Black Pepper: These seasonings enhance the overall flavor of the chowder, balancing the richness of the other ingredients and adding depth to the taste profile.
- Green Onions: Chopped green onions are used as a fresh, aromatic garnish. They provide a pop of color and a mild onion flavor that complements the other flavors in the chowder.
Optional Garnishes can include anything from additional cheese and crumbled bacon to a dollop of sour cream or a sprinkle of fresh herbs. These garnishes add visual appeal and extra layers of flavor to the dish.
How to Make Ham Chowder
Remember, these steps are simplified, and it’s important to monitor the chowder as it cooks to ensure the potatoes are fully cooked and the flavors meld together. You can also customize the recipe by adding or omitting ingredients to suit your preferences.
** You can find the full recipe ingredients and instructions on the printable recipe card below.
- Prepare Potatoes: Peel and dice the potatoes into bite-sized pieces. Set them aside.
- Sauté Aromatics: In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the diced onion and minced garlic. Sauté until they’re soft and fragrant.
- Create Roux: Sprinkle the all-purpose flour over the sautéed onions and garlic. Stir constantly for a couple of minutes to cook out the raw flour taste and create a roux.
- Add Liquids: Gradually pour in the chicken stock while stirring to combine. Then, add the diced ham and the diced potatoes to the pot.
- Simmer: Allow the mixture to simmer gently until the potatoes are cooked and tender. This usually takes around 15-20 minutes.
- Add Half and Half: Pour in the half and half to the pot, stirring to combine. Let the chowder simmer for a few more minutes to heat through.
- Melt Cheese: Reduce the heat to low. Gradually add the grated sharp cheddar cheese, stirring until it’s completely melted and incorporated into the chowder.
- Season: Stir in the salt and ground black pepper to taste. Adjust the seasoning as needed.
- Finish and Serve: Ladle the ham chowder into bowls. Top each bowl with chopped green onions and any optional garnishes you prefer.
- Enjoy: Serve the ham chowder hot and enjoy its comforting flavors!
Why this Recipe Works
This recipe for ham chowder works for several reasons, as it combines specific techniques and ingredient choices to create a flavorful and satisfying dish:
- Layered Flavors: The combination of diced ham, sautéed onions, and garlic forms a flavorful base. The ham contributes its savory and slightly smoky taste, while the sautéed aromatics add depth and complexity.
- Creamy Texture: The use of both diced potatoes and half and half creates a rich and creamy texture in the chowder. The potatoes break down slightly as they cook, naturally thickening the soup, and the half-and-half adds a luscious creaminess.
- Roux Technique: Creating a roux with all-purpose flour and sautéed aromatics helps to thicken the chowder. This technique ensures a smooth consistency without lumps and adds a subtle nutty flavor to the base.
- Balanced Broth: The chicken stock serves as a flavorful base for the soup, infusing it with a savory essence. Using low-sodium stock allows you to control the overall saltiness of the dish.
- Melting Cheese: The addition of grated sharp cheddar cheese contributes to the chowder’s creamy texture while providing a rich and tangy flavor. Melting the cheese into the soup adds a velvety consistency and a comforting cheesiness.
- Seasoning: The balance of salt and ground black pepper is important to enhance the flavors without overpowering them. Proper seasoning brings out the best in each ingredient.
- Fresh Garnish: Chopped green onions add a pop of color, freshness, and a mild onion flavor to the chowder. This contrast complements the heartiness of the other ingredients.
- Customizable Garnishes: The option to add various garnishes like extra cheese, bacon, sour cream, or herbs allows you to personalize the chowder to your liking, enhancing both its visual appeal and taste.
- Simple Preparation: The step-by-step approach and clear instructions make the recipe accessible to a wide range of cooks, from beginners to experienced home cooks.
- Comforting and Satisfying: The combination of hearty ingredients, creamy texture, and well-balanced flavors makes this ham chowder a comfort food that satisfies both the palate and the soul.
Recipe Tips and Kitchen Tricks
- Cook Slowly: Let the chowder cook on low heat to allow the flavors to meld. This slow cooking helps develop a more harmonious taste.
- Storing Half and Half: If you’re concerned about curdling when adding half and half, you can temper it first by adding a small amount of the hot chowder to the half and half, stirring well, and then gradually incorporating it into the pot.
- Taste as You Go: Regularly taste and adjust the seasoning throughout the cooking process. It’s easier to correct flavors as you cook rather than at the end.
Feel free to get creative and combine elements from different variations to suit your taste preferences. These variations offer just a glimpse of the countless ways you can personalize and experiment with ham chowder to make it uniquely your own.
- Loaded Potato Ham Chowder:
- Add crumbled cooked bacon to the chowder for extra smokiness and crunch.
- Top with a dollop of sour cream, chives, and more shredded cheese.
- Corn and Ham Chowder:
- Add sweet corn kernels (fresh, frozen, or canned) to the chowder for a burst of sweetness and color.
- Consider adding a touch of paprika or cayenne for a hint of spice.
- Potato Leek and Ham Chowder:
- Replace the onion with leeks for a milder onion flavor.
- Garnish with fresh chopped dill or parsley for a herbaceous twist.
- Ham and Broccoli Chowder:
- Add bite-sized broccoli florets to the chowder for added nutrition and a vibrant green color.
- Consider using a mix of white cheddar and sharp cheddar cheese for a more complex cheese flavor.
- Spicy Ham Chowder:
- Add diced jalapeños or a pinch of red pepper flakes to give the chowder a spicy kick.
- Top with diced avocado and a squeeze of lime for a fresh contrast.
- Ham and Potato Chowder with Beer:
- Substitute a portion of the chicken stock with your favorite beer for a unique flavor profile.
- Top with crumbled pretzels or homemade beer-infused croutons.
- Ham and Sweet Potato Chowder:
- Replace regular potatoes with diced sweet potatoes for a slightly sweeter and earthier flavor.
- Garnish with toasted pecans and a drizzle of maple syrup for a delightful twist.
- Creamy Ham and Mushroom Chowder:
- Add sautéed mushrooms to the chowder for an umami-rich addition.
- Incorporate fresh thyme leaves for an earthy, herbaceous aroma.
- Ham and Cheese Chowder with Broccoli:
- Mix in cooked broccoli florets for added nutrition and color contrast.
- Consider using a combination of cheeses like Gouda and Swiss for a complex cheesy flavor.
- Ham and Potato Chowder with Fresh Herbs:
- Stir in chopped fresh herbs like parsley, dill, or tarragon for a burst of freshness.
- Top with herb-infused croutons or crispy fried herbs for extra flavor.
Remember, the key is to balance flavors, textures, and variety to create a well-rounded meal that complements the ham chowder and suits your preferences.
- Crusty Bread: Serve slices of warm crusty bread or rolls alongside the chowder. They’re perfect for dipping and soaking up the delicious broth.
- Salad: A fresh and crisp salad can provide a nice contrast to the creamy and hearty chowder. A simple green salad with a tangy vinaigrette or a Caesar salad could work well.
- Oyster Crackers or Saltines: These small crackers are a classic accompaniment to chowders. They add a pleasant crunch and a bit of saltiness.
Storing, freezing, and reheating instructions
Remember that while freezing and reheating are convenient methods for preserving and enjoying leftover chowder, the texture and flavor might not be exactly the same as when freshly made. However, properly stored and reheated chowder can still be a delicious and comforting meal.
- Allow the chowder to cool down to room temperature before storing it.
- Transfer the chowder to an airtight container. Make sure the container is the appropriate size to prevent excess air exposure, which can lead to freezer burn.
- Store the chowder in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days. If you’re not planning to consume it within that time, consider freezing it for longer storage.
- If you intend to freeze the chowder, it’s best to do so without the dairy (half and half and cheese). Dairy-based soups can sometimes change in texture when frozen and thawed.
- Portion the chowder into individual serving-sized containers or freezer-safe bags. Leave some space at the top to allow for expansion during freezing.
- If you’re freezing the chowder with the dairy components, be aware that the texture might change slightly upon thawing. However, this is often not a significant issue for chowders.
- To reheat the chowder, first transfer it from the freezer to the refrigerator to thaw overnight.
- For dairy-based chowders, reheat gently over low to medium-low heat to prevent curdling. Stir occasionally to ensure even heating.
- If you prefer to reheat individual portions, consider using a microwave. Heat in 30-second intervals, stirring in between, until heated through.
- If the chowder has thickened upon reheating, you can adjust the consistency by adding a bit of chicken stock or milk as needed.
- Taste and adjust the seasoning after reheating, as flavors can sometimes intensify during freezing.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Q: Can I use different types of ham in the chowder? A: Yes, you can use various types of ham, such as smoked ham, honey-glazed ham, or even leftover holiday ham. Different hams will bring slightly different flavors to the chowder.
Q: Can I make this chowder vegetarian? A: Absolutely! You can omit the ham and use vegetable broth instead of chicken stock. Add extra vegetables like carrots, celery, and corn for a flavorful vegetarian version.
Q: Can I use other cheeses besides cheddar? A: Yes, you can experiment with other cheeses like Gouda, Swiss, or Monterey Jack. Each cheese will bring a unique flavor to the chowder.
Q: How can I thicken the chowder if I prefer a thicker consistency? A: You can make a slurry by mixing a tablespoon of cornstarch with a bit of cold milk or broth. Add the slurry to the chowder and stir until it thickens.
Wine & Cocktail Pairings
Remember that wine and cocktail preferences can vary widely, so feel free to explore and find the combinations that best suit your taste and the occasion.
- Chardonnay: A rich, oaked Chardonnay with buttery notes can complement the creamy texture of the chowder. The wine’s hints of citrus and tropical fruit can balance the savory flavors of the ham and cheese.
- Sauvignon Blanc: A crisp and herbaceous Sauvignon Blanc can provide a refreshing contrast to the richness of the chowder. Its acidity and citrusy flavors can cleanse the palate between bites.
- Pinot Noir: If you’re looking for a red wine pairing, consider a light to medium-bodied Pinot Noir. Its red fruit flavors and soft tannins can harmonize with the ham and potatoes.
- Bloody Mary: A Bloody Mary’s bold and savory profile, with tomato juice, vodka, and a mix of spices, can be an intriguing contrast to the chowder’s flavors. Consider adding a bacon-wrapped pickle or celery as a garnish.
- White Russian: The creamy and coffee-flavored White Russian can complement the chowder’s richness. It’s a delightful after-dinner drink that can create a comforting combination.
- Classic Martini: A classic gin or vodka martini with its clean and crisp character can provide a palate-cleansing break between bites of the chowder. Opt for a twist of lemon or olive garnish.
Creamy Ham Chowder
- Dutch oven
- Cheese grater
- Sharp Knife
- 4 Potatoes Idaho, Russet, or Yukon Gold [See Note 1]
- 16 oz Ham diced
- 1 tablespoon Olive oil
- ½ Onion , diced fine
- ½ tsp Garlic , minced
- ½ cup All-purpose flour
- 4 cups Chicken stock low sodium [See Note 2]
- 2 cups Half and half [See Note 2]
- 8 ounces Cheddar Cheese sharp, grated [See Note 3]
- 1 tsp Salt
- 1/2 tsp Ground black pepper
- 3 Green onions chopped, green part only [see note 4]
- Grated cheese
- Green onions
- Sour cream
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- Place the potatoes on a sheet tray or directly onto the oven rack and bake for 45 minutes – or until done. The potatoes are done when a fork or tip of a knife inserted into the potato goes into the center of the potato easily.
- Into the bottom of your stock pot, add 1 tbsp of olive oil and the diced onion. Sauté until softened and translucent, about 2-3 minutes. Then add the minced garlic and cook for another minute.
- meanwhile, slice the ham into small cubes, removing any excess fat; set aside.
- Now, add the flour to the onions and garlic and stir to combine. Continue cooking for another minute or two – but do not brown.
- Pour in the chicken stock and milk while you stir well to incorporate. Cook over medium heat until the soup has thickened, stirring quite frequently, about 10-15 minutes.
- While the soup is thickening, slice the potatoes in half lengthwise and then scoop the potatoes out away from the skins and then add them to the soup. With a fork or the back of your spoon, break up the potatoes a bit.
- Add the 3/4 of the ham pieces (reserving ¼ for garnish) and half of the grated cheese to the soup. Stir until the cheese has melted. Taste and adjust the seasonings well with salt and pepper. Remove from the heat and ladle into bowls. Garnish with extra ham, grated cheese and green onions.