Chowder refers to a soup or stew of seafood, usually made with milk, salt pork, onions, potatoes and other vegetables. The recipe is thought to have originated from the fish-milk stews that were popular in coastal areas of England and France. Clams replaced fish to become New England Chowder (pronounced “chowdah” by people residing north of Connecticut).
While there are different types of chowder, without a doubt, the clam variety is the most well-known — and author Herman Melville even highlighted this savory stew in his classic novel, Moby Dick.
Each region of New England may prepare clam chowder differently, but the biggest difference is the broth: Some recipes use milk to produce a thick, creamy broth; others use a clear broth made from clam juice; and still others use a red broth made with tomatoes and spices. Every state on the East Coast has its own version of clam chowder — and even people on the West Coast have improvised the recipe to make their own iteration.
While most chowders use clams, cod or other fish to give the chowder its typical briny flavor, our plant-based chowder uses no clams or seafood, and even though it’s a vegan recipe, the resulting stew is rich, hearty and creamy like the New England version. Kelp granules or dulse flakes give it the briny flavor. The recipe is easy to prepare, and takes only 30 minutes from start to finish – and it’s just as delicious and comforting as the popular Boston version.
New England Vegan “Clam” Chowdah
Preparation Time: 30 minutes
1/2 cup raw cashews, pre-soaked in water (see instructions below)
3/4 cup unsweetened soy milk (or any plant-based milk)
1 tablespoon vegan butter (or olive oil)
8 oz white button mushrooms, sliced into half-inch pieces
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon low sodium tamari (substitute liquid aminos or soy sauce)
1 tablespoon vegan butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium yellow onion , diced
2 celery stalks , diced
2 medium carrots , diced or sliced 1/4 inch thick
2-3 med/large cloves garlic , minced
1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme
1/2 cup dry white wine (*See Note)
4 cups vegetable broth , low sodium (*See Note)
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour (gluten-free or regular)
2 medium russet potatoes , peeled and cut into bite-sized pieces
2 bay leaves
2 teaspoons kelp granules (or dulse flakes, dulse granules or small pieces of nori)
1 teaspoon Himalayan salt more to taste
1-2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (*optional)
Fresh cracked pepper , to taste
In a small pot, bring water to a boil, and then remove from heat. Add cashews into the pot of boiled water and cover for 15-20 minutes until softened. Discard soaking water, and blend the soy milk and cashews together until very smooth. Set aside.
In a large sauce pot, over medium heat, put 1 tablespoon butter. When butter has melted, add mushrooms and sauté until the liquid evaporates (about 3 minutes). Then, add 1 clove minced garlic and soy sauce. Sauté until the mushrooms are tender and lightly browned (about 2-4 minutes). Remove mushrooms and set aside.
Heat oil and butter over medium heat in a large sauce pot. Add diced onions and sauté until translucent (about 2-3 minutes). Add celery, carrots, garlic & thyme, and sauté about 5-7 minutes until veggies are tender.
Add wine and turn heat up to medium-high to simmer. Once simmering, reduce the heat to medium. Continue cooking until the wine evaporates and only the flavor remains (about 3-5 minutes). Stir often.
Sprinkle flour over veggies and stir constantly (1-2 minutes).
Stir in broth and add potatoes, bay leaf, kelp granules (or dulse flakes), and salt. Bring to a simmer for about 10-15 minutes, until potatoes are tender. Discard bay leaves.
Turn heat to medium low and slowly stir in cashew cream. Salt or season to taste. Cook for 3-4 minutes and remove from heat. Stir in mushrooms, lemon juice and fresh cracked pepper.
Place the soup in bowls, garnish with fresh parsley, and serve with crackers or crispy bread.