Vegan Healthy “Clam” Chowder (Gluten-free)

I’ve been craving clam “chowdah” for weeks. The classic stuff is nowhere close to vegan, nor is it the least bit healthy (it usually involves bacon, butter, and heavy cream). I prefer my arteries UN-clogged, thank you very much.

Fortunately, if you google “vegan clam chowder” you’ll find out that the road has been paved. Many brave souls have experimented and created their best versions of plant-powered clam chowder. I narrowed down my choices and finally decided to test a recipe from Kathy Patalsky’s Healthy Happy Life blog.

Admittedly, it was Kathy’s photos (which included yummy sourdough bread bowls) that reeled me in. And her use of king oyster mushrooms, which I had never tried before.

Vegan Healthy Clam Chowder Gluten-free

This is a really easy recipe to make, especially if you have a high-powered blender, such as a Vitamix. Of course, it doesn’t taste EXACTLY like clam chowder, but it’s pretty dang close.

The creamy texture of the soup is a dead ringer and the chewy texture of the king oyster mushrooms very much resembles that of clams. The flavor of this recipe is sweeter and maybe a little richer than the real thing, but I really liked it a lot. So did Hubs.

If I were to make it again, I would try a few tweaks…

I would boil an extra potato, cut into cubes and add it to the soup (after the blender step).

I would add the juice from one lemon (to balance out the sweet flavor).

I would try using 1 to 1½ cups of cashews instead of 1¾ cups.

I would use ½ cup of soy creamer instead of a full cup.

I would add more water to thin the soup down (it was REALLY thick).

I would experiment with different spices/herbs.

Vegan Healthy Clam Chowder Gluten-free
Vegan Healthy Clam Chowder Gluten-free

Yields 4 servings


Vegan Healthy “Clam” Chowder (Gluten-free)


  • ¾ cup water*
  • 1 cup soy creamer, plain*
  • 1 cup soy milk, plain
  • splash of truffle oil (white or black)*
  • 1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp fine black pepper
  • spices of your choice*
  • &#8531 cup nutritional yeast*
  • 1 medium potato, peeled, boiled and cut into quarters*
  • &#8531 cup white onion, cut into large chunks
  • 1¾ cup raw cashews, soaked overnight in salted water*

Mushroom “Clam” Sauté:

  • 2 tsp safflower oil
  • 3-4 king oyster mushrooms, cubed 1/4″ thick
  • 1 cup celery, chopped
  • ½ cup white onion, diced
  • (I also added a clove of garlic, minced)
  • splash of liquid smoke
  • splash of truffle oil*
  • a few dashes of salt (or seasoned salt)


*These ingredients are listed as they are in Kathy’s original recipe. See my notes above in regards to tweaks I’ll try next time (this may change your ingredients list slightly). Nutritional yeast is a deactivated yeast, which is sold in the form of flakes or as a yellow powder similar in texture to cornmeal.

You can find it at health food stores or you can order it online. It has kind of a cheesy flavor – I wouldn’t skip this ingredient. Truffle oil is really potent stuff. Start with a very tiny little splash – if you add too much, it’s hard to counteract it. (Btw, I’ve seen truffle oil at Costco and T.J.Maxx lately.)

For spices, Kathy used Penzey’s seasoned salt, which I did not have. I used salt, pepper, paprika, oregano, marjoram, and fresh sage. Later I added cayenne (for some heat). The king oyster mushrooms aren’t hard to find – they are typically sold at most grocery stores.

Vegan Healthy Clam Chowder Gluten-free
Vegan Healthy Clam Chowder Gluten-free


If you forgot or don’t have time to soak your cashews overnight, an alternate method is to simmer cashews over medium heat in salted water for 25 minutes. Either way, drain and rinse cashews.

Add all of the ingredients (except the Mushroom “Clam” Sauté ingredients) to a high speed blender, such as a Vitamix. Add liquids first, then spices, then soft ingredients, then firm ingredients. If you don’t have a high-speed, heavy-duty blender, you may want to split the ingredients in half and do two batches.

Start on low and slowly increase speed until the cashews are puréed and the mixture is creamy. You can add more liquid if you prefer a thinner soup. Taste soup and adjust seasonings as needed. Pour soup into a saucepan over low heat.

Vegan Healthy Clam Chowder Gluten-free

Heat safflower oil over medium-high heat. Add celery, onion, and mushrooms (and garlic, if you are using) to pan; sauté over high heat for about 2 minutes. Season lightly with salt. Add a splash of truffle oil and liquid smoke halfway through the cooking process.

Add most of the mushroom mixture to the saucepan with the soup. Reserve some of the mixture for garnish. Stir the soup and continue to heat until warmed through. Serve in soup bowls or in bread bowls, if you like. Garnish with reserved “clam” mixture.

Vegan Healthy Clam Chowder Gluten-free
Vegan Healthy Clam Chowder Gluten-free

Be forewarned, this stuff is FILLING! A little goes a long way.

Time permitting, I’m hoping to test several recipes for you this weekend, including a Walnut Pear Arugula Salad, Portobellos Stuffed with Hash Browns, and Lemony Almond Cake with Almond Maple Sauce.

Oh – and I almost forgot! – I tested the most delicious vegan lasagna recipe yesterday. I was in a hurry so I didn’t have time to photograph it, but I’ll be making it again. So, stay tuned!!

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14 thoughts on “Vegan Healthy “Clam” Chowder (Gluten-free)”

  1. Wow! You, my friend, have just made a vegetarian girl’s day very, very happy, especially after I’d been drooling over pics of SF wharf clam chowder all day today. Thank you so much for sharing this with us!

  2. Hi Livvy! I have been reading your blog for a few months now and love it. Coincidentally, I also made this soup last weekend and thought it was slightly sweeter and thicker than expected. Also, for those with an immersion blender that works too in place of the vitamix. Can’t wait for more recipes from you in 2013!

      • Yes, the finished product was smooth. I think it also helped that the cashews were soaked and blended with the water/soy milk/creamer for it to be easy to blend. I make enough mess as it is without pouring soups back into a blender and love the immersion blender for that reason!

  3. This recipe looks great, and I’m in major soup-making mode this winter! Will definitely try – I also don’t have a vitamix and do have an immersion blender. I’m guessing the immersion blender will do the trick (its power can’t match the vitamix, which I dream of someday owning, but it always surprises me!).

    • Hi Sarah. The king oyster mushrooms are really more for texture than anything – they are kind of chewy like clams. I think it would be fine to leave them out. You could add more celery. Or, you could try using potato instead. I would say probably one medium to large potato, cut into 1/2″ cubes. Boil or nuke the cubes (until cooked through) before adding them at the same point you would add the mushrooms.

        • I just read you are from Michigan and went to GVSU. I grew up just north of Grand Rapids. Small world. Looking forward to seeing more of your blog posts. Thanks for inspiring clean eating.

  4. I just read you are from Michigan and went to GVSU. I grew up just north of Grand Rapids. Small world. Looking forward to seeing more of your blog posts. Thanks for inspiring clean eating.

  5. Just finished making a version of this, though not quite vegan, and found it to be great. I followed your process and only tweaked the spices, used low-fat milk, and homemade stock. Turned out great, and I look forward to checking out more of your recipes in the near future.


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