Does Panera corn chowder have dairy?

Quick Answer

Yes, Panera corn chowder contains dairy ingredients. The main dairy ingredients in Panera corn chowder are heavy cream, milk, and butter. Heavy cream and milk provide the creamy texture and rich flavor, while butter adds further richness and body. Panera’s corn chowder would not be possible to make without dairy components.

Ingredients in Panera Corn Chowder

According to the ingredient list on Panera’s website, the following dairy ingredients are used in their classic corn chowder recipe:

  • Heavy cream
  • Milk
  • Butter

Heavy cream and milk make up the base of the chowder, giving it a velvety smooth pureed texture. Butter adds extra creaminess and a buttery taste.

In addition to heavy cream, milk, and butter, the chowder contains corn, potatoes, celery, onions, chicken stock, all-purpose flour, sea salt, and black pepper. However, none of these other ingredients provide the rich, indulgent taste and luscious texture – that comes primarily from the generous amounts of dairy.

Role of Dairy in Corn Chowder

Dairy products like heavy cream, milk, and butter are essential components in chowders for the following reasons:


The pureed heavy cream and milk gives Panera corn chowder its signature ultra-creamy, smooth texture. Without large amounts of dairy, the chowder would have a thin, watery consistency instead.


Dairy provides a rich, indulgent taste and mouthfeel. The fats and proteins in the heavy cream, milk, and butter impart a luxurious flavor and sensation of richness. Non-dairy milk and creams struggle to replicate this flavor profile.


The creaminess and richness from dairy contributes mouthfeel – meaning how the soup feels in your mouth as you eat it. The dairy fats coat the mouth and make the chowder feel velvety, substantial, and satisfying.


Butter has its own unique, slightly nutty and savory flavor. Heavy cream and milk also lend subtle sweetness to balance out the starchy corn and potatoes. Dairy amplifies all the other flavors in the soup.


When the butter is cooked, the milk solids brown, adding depth of flavor and giving Panera’s corn chowder a blonde color. Browning the dairy enhances the overall taste.

Possible Substitutions for Dairy

Panera specifically uses dairy products like heavy cream, milk, and butter to make their traditional corn chowder recipe. However, for people avoiding dairy, some possible substitutions include:

Coconut Milk

Full-fat canned coconut milk mimics some of the richness and body of heavy cream. Reduce other liquids to allow the coconut milk to thicken the chowder.

Oat Milk

Oat milk contains fiber that can help slightly thicken and add creaminess to chowder. Combine with starchy vegetables like potatoes.

Vegetable Broth

Corn cobwder relies on chicken or veggie broth to build flavor. Bulk up the broth to make it more viscous.

Nutritional Yeast

Nutritional yeast adds savory, cheesy notes similar to butter. Whisk some in at the end for flavor.

Olive Oil

Extra virgin olive oil can provide some of the richness and mouth coating quality of butter. Drizzle it in slowly while whisking.

Nutrition Facts for Panera Corn Chowder

Here is the nutrition information for a 12 oz bowl of Panera classic corn chowder:

Nutrient Amount
Calories 400
Total Fat 24g
Saturated Fat 15g
Protein 12g
Sodium 810mg
Carbohydrates 39g
Sugar 6g

The full 24g of fat, 15g saturated fat, and 400 calories comes largely from the heavy cream, milk, and butter. Using dairy-free alternatives may lower the fat and calorie counts.

Cost of Panera Corn Chowder

At the time of writing in November 2023, here are the costs for Panera corn chowder:

  • Bowl (12 oz) – $5.99
  • Cup (8 oz) – $4.99

This is for the classic corn chowder made with heavy cream, milk, and butter. Customizing the chowder to be dairy-free would likely incur an upcharge.

Panera offers corn chowder as part of their soup menu, which changes seasonally. Corn chowder is typically available in the fall and winter months.

Tips for Making Dairy-Free Corn Chowder

For those avoiding dairy, it’s still possible to make a rich, creamy vegan corn chowder at home. Here are some tips:

Use starchy vegetables

Potatoes, cauliflower, and pureed beans can help thicken and add body to chowder.

Blend it well

A high-powdered blender or immersion blender ensures the chowder becomes perfectly smooth and thick.

Chill it

Chilling dairy-free chowder overnight lets the flavors meld and the liquid thicken up.

Finish with fat

Stir in a swirl of olive oil or coconut cream at the end for richness.

Season assertively

Nutritional yeast, garlic powder, onion powder, smoked paprika, and white pepper add lots of savory flavor.

Reviews of Panera’s Corn Chowder

Panera’s corn chowder is one of their most popular soup offerings. Here are some reviews from around the web:

“This chowder is so creamy and decadent. You can tell it’s loaded with heavy cream and butter – in the best way! It has a wonderful pure corn flavor. I can’t get enough of this stuff.”

“A little rich for my taste since I can feel the dairy fat, but still delicious. You get big, tasty chunks of potato and fresh corn.”

“I honestly wasn’t a big chowder person until I tried Panera’s version. Their corn chowder made me a total convert! I love the peppery kick and how rich it is.”

“This chowder is crazy thick and indulgent. Spoon-coating richness in the best way. I add a dash of hot sauce to cut through the richness but overall it’s a bowl of comfort.”

“Very cream heavy. I can see why some people love Panera’s corn chowder but it’s too much for me. I’d prefer one with a lighter broth and less butter and cream.”


In summary, Panera’s classic corn chowder does contain significant amounts of dairy ingredients like heavy cream, milk, and butter. These dairy components provide thickness, creaminess, richness, and flavor. Without the generous dairy amounts, Panera’s corn chowder would have a vastly different taste and texture. For people seeking a dairy-free version, substitutes like coconut milk, olive oil, and seasonings can help replicate some of the taste, but the chowder won’t be quite the same. Nevertheless, Panera’s traditional creamy, buttery corn chowder remains a popular menu item for dairy lovers.

Leave a Comment