Welcome to an awesome dairy-free New England style clam chowder that's thick and extra creamy. Vegetarians and meat-eaters alike enjoy this indulgent, healthy, gluten-free soup made with hickory salt and chewy vegan clams.
Even though it's made without cream it's so convincing you may imagine yourself sitting on a bench at Fisherman's Wharf in foggy San Fransisco while eating it.
Grab a hunk of sourdough bread or bake up some Easy No-Knead Rolls and you won't want for anything else.
Homemade nut milk is rich and thickens naturally while cooking. Toast your gluten-free flour in vegan butter before adding milk and you'll have a finished chowder that's extra smooth and delicious.
Why the recipe works
- Hearty, rich and satisfying.
- Made without coconut milk or white wine.
- Old Bay Seasoning and hickory salt take the place of seafood and bacon.
- Special homemade blend of nuts and seeds makes the best tasting dairy-free milk.
- Chunky potatoes are cooked separately so they don't fall apart.
- Vegan clams made from meaty king oyster mushrooms make the recipe.
- Can be made ahead and frozen.
- King oyster mushrooms have a unique flavor similar to scallops and toothsome texture that make it possible to create amazing seafood substitutes.
- Vegan Fish Sauce infuses the mushrooms in this recipe to make savory mock clams.
- Vegan butter adds a final richness to creamy homemade nut milk.
- Red and yellow potatoes are more waxy than russets so they don't disentigrate as easily.
- Bay leaves are essential for classic aroma and taste.
- Gluten-free flour - Bob's Red Mill 1 to 1 flour made with with potato and rice makes the soup soft and thick.
- Spices - A robust blend that includes Old Bay Classic Seafood Seasoning, garlic powder, hickory salt, and white pepper.
Step by step
The first step for this warming chowder is making your own homemade plant-based milk. You'll be amazed how the combination of cashews, pumpkin seeds, almonds, and dairy-free butter completely eliminates the need for cow's milk and cream.
Make Rich Nut Milk
- Soak cashews, almonds and pumpkin seeds in boiling water to soften.
- Drain well.
- Blend until smooth.
- Strain through cloth for silky rich plant-based milk.
Cooking potatoes and clams separately and adding them at the end keeps textures and flavors distinct so they can be fully enjoyed. Plus the chowder is finished sooner than cooking it all together waiting for potatoes to soften.
- Boil potatoes.
- Saute mushrooms in savory vegetarian fish sauce.
- Brown onions and celery with spices and gluten-free flour.
- Add homemade nut milk and potatoes, cook to thicken and finish with mushrooms.
New England vs. Manhattan
Traditionally, there are two main types of clam chowder, red and white.
The red version, called Manhattan, is made with a thin tomato broth and can include vegetables like carrots and green pepper or red chili flakes, not seen in New England chowder.
New England chowder, sometimes called Boston, is thick, white, and known for its comfort food qualities. The main components are cream, potatoes, and clams. Seasonings like salt pork or bacon vary by region.
The amazing thing is, we've had dinner guests that didn't realize this luxurious recipe doesn't contain any dairy or seafood until we told them!
King oyster mushrooms
The mushrooms of choice here are pleurotus eryngii. But that's a pretty difficult name to remember, so you can call them trumpet mushrooms.
When searching for them at the store look for king oyster, French horn, king trumpet, or Alii mushrooms in Hawaii, on the label.
Undoubtedly you're probably wondering just how you can turn mushrooms into a seafood substitute. Full directions are in the recipe card below but here's a hint.
Firm king oyster mushrooms are so absorbent that all it takes is the right seasoning. My Vegan Fish Sauce is truly amazing for this task and makes all the difference.
- Soak seeds and nuts ahead of time and the recipe can be made in 30 minutes.
- Extra large men's cotton handkerchiefs and thin tea towels are great for straining nut milk. They don't leave any grainy bits behind and are machine washable.
- If doubling or tripling your recipe, strain milk in batches so you have plenty of cloth to gather at the top and the job is easier.
- Chop your potatoes into chunks just under one inch and boil your potatoes separately until they are tender. That way they won't fall apart when they finish cooking with the rest of the soup.
- I like to leave skins on the potatoes for the taste, attractive color and the way it holds them together, but you can peel them or not as you like.
- Dice king oyster mushrooms into ¼ to ½ inch pieces before sauteing in vegan fish sauce.
- Add cooked mushrooms to chowder just before serving and hold a couple aside to sprinkle on top of each bowl of soup.
- Finish each serving with freshly cracked black pepper.
King oyster, French horn, and king trumpet are all names used for the largest variety of oyster mushrooms. They are thick-stemmed and have an exceptional meaty texture that makes them easy to slice into slabs or dice into firm bits.
Yes. Here's a link from McCormick company, the manufacturer of this classic spice with some helpful information on all their labeling practices.
No. This is one recipe where it's essential to make your own plant milk from scratch. Store-bought milk won't have the same thick and creamy consistency and will alter the flavor of the chowder.
Typically milk and cooked potatoes are two ingredients that don't freeze well at all. However, the thickened homemade dairy-free milk in this recipe freezes just fine. If you want to make the recipe in advance, cook everything except the potatoes. The day you plan to serve the soup, boil potatoes until tender but not falling apart and heat them with the rest of the soup for 5 minutes before serving.
Yes, but I haven't tested any to make a recommendation on a brand. If you want to buy your sauce at the store, just make sure it has a very intense flavor, is savory, briny, evocative of the ocean, and irresistibly delicious.
More Soup Recipes
Dairy Free Clam Chowder
Nut and Seed Milk
- ⅓ cup pumpkin seeds
- ⅓ cup almonds
- ⅓ cup cashews
- 3 ½ cups water
- 1 tsp. cooking oil
- 1 ½ cups diced king oyster mushrooms
- 2 TB vegan fish sauce
- 1 ½ cups diced potato
- 3 TB plant-based butter
- ½ cup chopped yellow onion
- ⅓ cup chopped celery with leaves
- 2-3 small bay leaves
- 3 TB gluten-free flour
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- ⅛ teaspoon hickory smoked salt
- ¼ teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/16 teaspoon white pepper
Make Nut and Seed Milk
- Do ahead of making chowder: Soak seeds and nuts overnight, or cover with boiling water and soak 1 hour.
- Rinse and drain the seeds and nuts. Place in a high-powered blender with 3 ½ cups of water. Blend on high for 2 minutes.
- Bring a pot of water to boil. Add diced potato and boil until fork tender but not falling apart, about 6-8 minutes. Drain cooked potatoes in a colander.
- While potatoes cook, heat oil in a skillet and briefly saute mushrooms over medium-high heat. They will shrink and release some moisture after about 3-4 minutes.
- Add vegan fish sauce and cook for 5 minutes or until most of the liquid is evaporated. You can turn up the heat if neccessary. Remove from heat and set aside.
- If desired place 2 tablespoons of cooked mushrooms in a small dish to use as a garnish over top of chowder when serving.
- Heat butter in a 6-cup saucepan. Saute onion, celery and bay leaves in butter until onion starts to brown.
- When the onion has started to brown, stir in gluten-free flour. Add sea salt, smoked salt, Old Bay seasoning, garlic powder, and white pepper. Cook while stirring until the flour begins to brown as well.
- Pour 1 cup of prepared nut milk into saucepan and stir constantly while cooking until mixture is very thick. Pour in remaining nut milk and stir. Add potatoes. Bring soup just to a boil taking care not to burn the bottom.
- Pour in remaining nut milk and stir. Add cooked potatoes. Bring soup just to a boil taking care not to burn the bottom.
- Once the soup has thickened, add the seasoned mushrooms. Heat just a minute or two until all the chowder ingredients are piping hot.
- Ladle into soup bowls and serve with a generous grate of fresh cracked black pepper and a few vegan clams if desired.
- Keep leftover chowder covered in the refrigerator for up to three days.
- Chowder doesn't freeze well with cooked potatoes. However, you can find instructions in the recipe card notes on how to freeze chowder by cooking and adding potatoes just before serving.