Recipe: Gluten-Free and Vegan “Clam” Chowder

Awhile back, Prevention magazine did a profile on Kris Carr.  If you’ve never heard that name before, you’d be inspired by this woman.  She is a best-selling author, a wellness activist, and a cancer thriver.  Yes…thriver.  You see, on Valentine’s Day in 2003, Carr was diagnosed with a rare and incurable stage 4 cancer.  This diagnosis made her want to feel better, love harder, and enjoy life more fully.  She wanted to live life to the fullest…and live it like she meant it.

Part of that journey was changing the way she ate.  She went to a complete lifestyle makeover.  She switched to a nutrient dense, plant-based diet, began exercising, and found joy and fun in everything.

Really…this woman is amazing and her story was one I remembered from the plethora of magazines I receive each month.  I appreciate Prevention for profiling her…because it led me to her book: Crazy Sexy Kitchen.

This book just happened to be on the shelf of my local library.  And after flipping through it briefly…I went ahead and borrowed it.  Immediately I had recipes I wanted to try…but the one that interested me most is the one I made for dinner tonight…and, believe me when I say, it’s worth the effort to make.  I had to make modifications with the ingredients at times, but in the end…it turned into a beautiful dish.

The recipe is below.

Recipe: Gluten-Free and Vegan “Clam” Chowder

Gluten-Free and Vegan
Gluten-Free and Vegan “Clam” Chowder

Serves: 12
Time: Prep 60 minutes; Cook 15 minutes

Ingredients for Cashew Cream:

4 cups whole raw cashews, rinsed under cold water

Ingredients for Kombu Broth:

4 pieces kombu seaweed (I didn’t pick this up, so I used sheets of nori)
2 quarts water

Ingredients for Smoked Mushrooms*:

1 tablespoon small hickory chips
1 heaping cup diced king trumpet mushrooms

*(NOTE: I had 10 ounces of crimini mushrooms on hand and no stovetop smoker, so I improvised…)

Ingredients for Chowder Assembly:

1 tablespoon canola oil
1 cup diced white onion
1/2 cup diced celery (I used diced carrot because I didn’t have celery, but I did have plenty of carrots)
1 cup peeled and diced baking potato
2-1/2 to 3 cups water
1 teaspoon lemon juice, more to taste
1/2 teaspoon Tobasco or other hot sauce, more to taste (I used Sriracha)
2 teaspoons kosher salt, more to taste
1 teaspoon black pepper, more to taste


Prepare Cashew Cream:  Put the cashews in a bowl and cover with water.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate to soak overnight.

Drain the cashews and rinse under cold water.  Place the cashews in a high-speed blender (this will need to be done in a couple of batches) and add enough water to cover by an inch.

Purée until completely smooth.  If needed, pass the cashew purée through a fine strainer to remove any course bits; the final “cream” should have a smooth, thick consistency of heavy dairy cream.  This will make about 3 cups cream (consistency will depend on the amount of water added while blending, and can vary from just over 2 cups to about 3-1/2 cups; thin as desired)

Prepare Kombu Broth*: Combine the combu and water in a medium pot and bring to a simmer.  Reduce the heat to a gentle simmer and cook 40 minutes, then strain.  This makes about 5 cups kombu broth, more than is needed for the remainder of the recipe.  The broth will keep, covered and refrigerated, up to 10 days.

*(Note: I didn’t have kombu on hand, so I used nori sheets, and followed the instructions as if they were kombu.  The flavor was probably milder than it would have been…but this worked.  I did, however, have to press on the nori to wring out the rest of the broth)

Prepare Smoked Mushrooms*: Prepare a stovetop smoker: Spread the chips in the base of the smoker, directly over the burner.  Place the drip pan (if using) over the chips and a rack on top of the drip pan.  Place the diced mushrooms on the rack (be sure to use a rack fine enough so the mushrooms don’t fall through) indirectly over the chips (do not place the mushrooms directly over the chips, as this can cause them to oversmoke and turn bitter).  Partially cover the smoker with a lid, leaving it open a cuple of inches.  (If you do not have a commercial stovetop smoker, you can substitute by using a heavy roasting pan, a cake rack, and heavy duty foil to cover the pan as a lid.)

Heat the smoker over medium heat just until you see smoke escaping through the opening.  Close the smoker entirely and gently smoke just to infuse the mushrooms with smoke flavor, not to cook, 3 to 5 minutes.  Be careful not to oversmoke, or the mushrooms will become bitter.

*(Note: I don’t have a stovetop smoker or anything I could have used to do the makeshift one…so instead I went about this a little differently.  After rinsing my mushrooms and cutting the stems even to the caps, I put them in a bowl with 1/4 cup olive oil, 2 teaspoons of Liquid Smoke (make sure it is a gluten-free brand), a touch of salt, and some kelp granules.  I mixed this until everything was coated then placed them on a baking pan and roasted in a 350°F oven for 45 minutes.  I then diced them as the recipe called for. It yielded perfect results.)

Assemble Chowder: Heat the oil in a medium-size soup pot over medium-high heat.  Add the onion, celery (in my case, carrots), and potato.  Sweat the ingredients, stirring frequently, until softened, 8-10 minutes.

Add 1-1/2 cups each of the Kombu Broth, Cashew Cream, and all the smoked mushrooms.  Reduce the heat, and cook over low heat, stirring frequently, for 10 to 15 minutes to develop and marry the flavors.  The Cashew Cream will thicken as it cooks, and you will need to add water from time to time to thin and adjust the consistency.  We added about 3 cups of water as the soup cooked.

Season with lemon juice, Tobasco (or hot sauce of choice), salt, and pepper.  Taste and adjust the seasonings as desired.  This makes a generous 2 quarts of soup.


This recipe looks labor intensive at first glance, but I soaked the cashews overnight and making the cashew cream was a synch.  As for the broth, I made that ahead as well and let it chill in the fridge.  Then, when I needed it, I poured out the amount for this recipe and it was all set to go.  All I really needed to do was chop the vegetables and get everything cooking.

And what emerged was a flavorful, creamy, delicious vegan clam chowder.  The flavors were awesome.  And the texture of the mushrooms after roasting in the oven for that long was just like a clam tasted (back before my vegetarian days and when chowder was safe to eat).  I wasn’t sure what to think about this as I started to cook everything together in my big pot on the stove, but the end result was awesome.

I can’t wait to heat up more and enjoy it all over again.

As a side note, this soup is freezer-friendly.  So go ahead and freeze the extra if needed and allow it to thaw when you’re ready to have more.  Otherwise, the soup does keep for about 1 week in the fridge.

This is TOTALLY going to be made over and over again.  Shockingly delicious.  But, then again, Kris Carr enlisted the help of Chef Tal Ronnen for this one…so it’s no surprise this soup is packed with awesomeness.

Make it.  Go ahead.  I dare you!

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