Sweet Potato, Kraut and Bacon Chowder Recipe by Vivian Howard

chowder recipe

Photo credit: Nathan Lambrecht

There’s something transportive and transformational about the brand of comfort that clam chowder blankets me in. I’ve never been to the Cape or to Maine or any of the New England places that clam chowder calls to mind, but a bowl of warm and welcoming chowder takes me to a wharf somewhere north of here. I’m wearing an oversize sweater. I’m in a simple restaurant on the second floor. I’m watching the fishing boats come in as I blow on my steaming spoonful of soup.

The kraut here stands in for the clams’ salty edge, and the sweet potatoes answer my long-standing desire to balance the briny notes of chowder with the sweet ones from yams. And the bacon is bacon. It makes sense at the wharf, with kraut, with sweet potatoes or anywhere you place it, really.

See more: Vivian Howard’s Collard Green Chicken Soup

Sweet Potato, Kraut and Bacon Chowder

Makes: 3 quarts


  • 12 ounces bacon, cut into bite-size 1-inch squares
  • 2 leeks, light green and white parts only, sliced into ½-inch rounds
  • 1 cup celery, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons ginger, minced
  • 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • ½ teaspoon red chili flakes
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 6 cups sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 3 cups white potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 3 cups sauerkraut, drained of its juice
  • 8 cups chicken broth
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 2 cups milk


  1. In a 6-quart Dutch oven, render the bacon until crispy or until it’s the way you enjoy it on top of soup. Take the bacon out of the pan but leave the bacon fat.
  2. Add the leeks, celery, ginger, garlic, chili flakes and salt. Sweat that over medium heat for about 5 minutes. Add the sweet potatoes, the white potatoes, kraut, broth, cream and milk. Cover and bring all this up to a hard simmer. Cook for about 30 minutes, or until the potatoes are beginning to fall apart.
  3. Uncover and simmer another 10 minutes. Put a little less than half the soup in a blender or food processor and blend till smooth. Add it back to the pot and stir to incorporate. (An immersion blender will also work. Alternately, if you don’t feel like breaking out your blender or you’re happy with the consistency of the soup as is, you can use a potato masher or a ladle to encourage the potatoes to break up.)
  4. Serve warm topped with lots of bacon.

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