Saturday, October 29, 2011

Vegan "Clam" Chowder

It's not the most photogenic thing in the world, but it sure is good. This vegan clam chowder is based on the recipe from the LA Times, and it's something I make on a regular basis. The base is cashew cream and kombu broth, which I think is genius. It adds a subtle sea flavor, which is great for seaweed wimps like me. (Of course, folks who like a stronger seaweed dimension could add some dulse or other seaweed to the broth and/or garnish with dulse flakes.)

The "clams" are smoked king oyster mushrooms; the recipe tells you to smoke them on a stove top smoker like this little set up of wood chips in a foil-covered heavy pan:

Place a bamboo steamer over the top of the chips and it works pretty well as a makeshift smoker.

The stove top smoker is not essential however. I've made this recipe many times just coating the mushrooms in a smoky spice mix (smoked salt, paprika, garlic granules, Old Bay), and then cooking them under the broiler for 3-5 minutes. I actually prefer the taste from the smoked salt rub method better than the smoker method. You could also marinate them in a smoky marinade.

Once they're broiled or smoked, cut them into strips and they're ready for the chowder.

As I mentioned, I make this often and have come up with my own deviations from the original recipe:
  • Added: a generous Tablespoon of white miso and a good few drops of umeboshi vinegar to the cashew cream. I do this more often than not with any creamy base; it makes it richer and nuttier and salty. Do a taste test, but you usually don't need to add extra salt to the recipe.
  • Added: 2 cups of Seitenbacher veggie broth to the finished kombu broth. Seitenbacher broth is unsalted and has nutritional yeast in it; it adds some nice flavor. 
  • I usually only use 2 cups of cashews instead of the 4 the recipe calls for, and I don't soak them overnight as it suggests in the recipe. That's total overkill in my opinion. Soaking them for 45 minutes to an hour is plenty if you ask me; they blend up just fine.
  • Added: a finely diced jalapeno to the celery/onion saute base. 
To top it off, I cook up some smokey tempeh strips, chop them up and sprinkle them over each bowl of chowder. With a generous squeeze of fresh lemon juice and some hot sauce (both essential), this is soo tasty! And, it's so much healthier than the non-vegan variety to boot!

In other family news, meet Molly. She's a foster kitty from the local animal shelter. I help out with cat fosters when the isolation room gets full. She's just about a year old, though she's already had a litter of kittens! She started early. :D Anyway, she's spayed now and is so cute and fun, still full of kittenish play.
These photos don't capture what fun she is...I really should post a video of her at play, because she gets up to the funniest and cutest things.

She loves the sun porch, where as in the photo above,  she hangs out in the plant pots. And, my cat Cheeky, who is a hard sell for new cats in the house will even tolerate her enough to share the sun room with her.  

Cheeky is still not 100% sold on the idea of Molly being around, but our other cat, Lucky, has become a fast friend. They run around the house cat wrestling and playing together and then snuggle up on the bed. Again, I wish I had a vid of them at play, but we'll have to do with pics for now. 

Anyone in the Seattle area who knows someone interested in making Molly part of their loving home and cherish her know where to find her. Here's her petfinder posting
Healthy Clam Chowder Recipe
Rosanne Tobin
Roseann Laponte


  1. As a Maine native, this is amazing. I am totally going to try this out. Super pumped! Totally bad ass!

  2. No wonder it's been so long since you last posted, it would have taken me months to figure out how to rig up that smoker alone. This sounds fabulous, though, and kudos to the LA Times for publishing a vegan chowder recipe! My mom's family is from Massachusetts so we grew up with a fair amount of chowder and I love it!
    I may try one of your annotated versions :) I especially love the jalapeno addition!
    And, you newest little cat seems so sweet! What an inquisitive little face. I hope she finds a a family soon.

  3. I love Molly! <3 I'm so glad you posted photos of her. She does look a lot like Sophie! What a sweetheart & you're so awesome for fostering her.

    We have the clam-less chowder from Vegan Soups & Stews for All Seasons from time to time, which is much different from this one. I really want to try this one now. It looks terrific! I'll have to keep an eye out for that Seitenbacher. That's my kind of broth. :)

  4. I really, really want to make this. I actually bought a stove-top smoker, which I don't use all that much, but when I do it works really well for things like nuts etc. This is just the excuse I need to dust it off!

    Your kitty is adorable--hope she finds a great home.

    I'm a hypocrite (having deleted my own blog at one point bc I felt an inexplicable self-inflicted pressure to post), but I wish you posted more often!! Your recipes are always so inspiring!! But really, no pressure :).

  5. PS when you make this, do you actually strain the cashews? I refuse to strain things.

  6. Vic,

    I'm sure you know your chowders much better than I. Let us know how you think it adds up if you do try it.


    It did take me ages to finally go for the smoker thing; I thought is was going to be tricky, but it was pretty straight forward. If you do try the recipe, let us know...I'll interested to see whether it meets the New England chowder experts expectations.


    The Seitenbacher broth is great, it doesn't have any fats added either, so a double bonus. I'm interested to check out the Vegan Soups and Stews version to see how the recipes compare; there are so many genius vegan recipes out there. Vegan resourcefulness never ends! :)


    This sounds like a perfect project for your smoker. I really like the idea of smoking nuts; I'll have to try that. And, talking about nuts;
    I do not strain the cashews, I'm with you on that score. The recipe is total overkill on the cashew prep in my opinion. I just blend them adding a bit of liquid until they're smooth.

    Thanks for your encouragement! I know I've been a blog slouch, but hey, sometimes it just feels better that way.

  7. Oh, and thanks to everyone for your well wishes regarding Molly the cat!!

  8. I bet those mushrooms are the perfect consistency for clams! I never knew you could make a vegan clam chowder!

    I love the foster kitty! Cheeky will eventually get used to having fosters around. I've put my cats through sooo many foster animals, so I know. Unfortunately, since my cat Nano was diagnosed with Feline Aids, I can't have any more cat fosters because I don't want to risk them getting infected.

    It looks like the cats love that sun room!

  9. Wow, what a creative recipe! It sounds delicious and it is totally photogenic :) And Molly is such a sweetiepie! I wish I still lived in Seattle I would take her in a heartbeat.

  10. Okay, so I made this tonight (with a few liberties + MUCH white wine) and it was AWESOME, but the pic I took looks really awful. I don't know if you'd want me to associate you with it!

  11. Carissa,

    Yeah, vegan clam chowder...who knew? The mushrooms do sub nicely for clams I think.

    Poor Nano...I know cats can live long lives with Feline Aids, so hope he stays well! :)


    I thought it was pretty creative too! :) I wish you still lived here too...I'd love for her to get adopted by someone I knew would provide an awesome home.


    So cool you made it! White wine is inspired, what a great addition! I definitely want to see it and hear about your version. You'll simply have to post it!! :)

  12. Oh wow! This sure does look tasty! I love the smoking setup! Great idea! I'm going to try this recipe but I'll have to use some other milk as I'm allergic to all nuts...
    Thanks for commenting at my blog btw. :)

  13. Mmm, your additions to the chowder sound perfect! At first I thought I would be hesitant to try this because we don't have wood chips or a bamboo steamer, but I could definitely do a rub and broil. Tempeh bits on top - perfect! Sounds so good. The last thing I gave up as a meat eater was shellfish - I really liked them. So, I'm excited to try a cruelty-free version of one of my old faves.

    As far as Molly - how cute is she?! Would you ever consider keeping her? What a doll.

  14. Gorgeous Chowder. Love the Dill scattered on top. I could try smoking, soaking, dicing, sauteing and blending...or I could watch 'Dancing With The Stars'..What to do? What to do?

    HINT: Can't you just make a huge batch and sell it online for us lazy vegans?

    Molly looks so incredibly content and 'at home'.

  15. The only chowder that I've ever had is corn...this sounds amazing though! I love the whole smoking thing that you did, however I'm way to impatient to do that. I'm with Shen, Can you just make a huge batch and sell it to us? :o)
    Molly is so cute! She looks just like a cat that I used to have...his name was I think you should keep Molly. ;)

  16. Lovlie,

    Thanks, I'm sure it'll be good with some other type of non-nut milk.


    The salt rub mushrooms turn out better than the smoker ones in my opinion...I agree the whole smoker thing is a hassle, but I had to try it at least once.

    And yes, we have been so tempted to adopt Molly ourselves...we'll see what happens. If the right person comes along, it'll be great, but I feel very protective of her at this point, and I won't let her go unless I have a really good feeling about it.


    Selling chowder online sounds like a logistical challenge...I would if I could though! :)


    Ooo corn chowder is yummy too. Buckwheat is a really cute name!

  17. This is so interesting...I can't even imagine what it would taste like. I think I'll have to make it to find out ;-) As I ran out of white miso just yesterday, I'm off to the oriental market tomorrow and will pick up some oyster mushrooms while I'm there...

  18. Zoa:
    It doesn't taste exactly like clams or anything, but it's smoky and creamy and savory...I"m sure you'll get it to taste awesome. I think the lemon juice and hot sauce added on top are essential to the taste sensation.

  19. Oh yum! Thank you so much for sharing. I love the idea of broiling the spiced mushrooms - I had forgotten about this recipe because of the whole stove top smoker thing.

  20. I'm glad you're back with a post. You've been such a sweet, faithful commenter to us all. I've never eaten anything like this before; sounds really good! You've done a great job as a foster Momma with this post alone. Makes ME want to take her home, and I'm not a cat momma.

  21. Trina,

    I hear you on the stove top smoker thing...I think it's more trouble than it's worth. The broiled shrooms are just as good...even better in my opinion.


    The chowder was sort a new type of thing for me too when I first tried it. I think I like reading and commenting more than I like posting! Sometimes I really feel like it, and sometimes not. :D

  22. How did I miss this? Too much snoozing after mofo? The chowder looks so creamy and delicious. It'd been years since I tasted anything resembling clam chowder and I think it's time to remedy that.

    Your foster kitty looks very worthy of a forever home. Will you be able to give her up? Such a sweetie.

  23. Andrea,

    You definitely need a break after MoFo!! I hear ya! :)

    You ask a very insightful question: We're getting more and more attached to Molly every day, and the fact that she gets on reasonably well with our other's going to be soo difficult to say good-bye. I'm not an ideal foster parent in that sense. :)

  24. My hubby would adore this. He always talks about the Chowder Fest in Boston.......

  25. I'm so glad you posted this recipe! My son used to love clam chowder back in the day and I always told myself I'd make a vegan version....long forgotten and now found again thanks to you. I can't wait to make this! Kombu totatlly makes sense to use for the sea taste. awesome!

  26. Get Skinny:

    I think it's a pretty good chowder analogue, not the same, but provides the same sort of richness, texture, along with lots of flavor.


    Definitely give it a try, and give it your own tweaks. This is a real keeper around here, and I was never even much of a chowder lover. :)

  27. Since I always loved New England Clam Chowder (not a Maine native, but a former Mainiac and resident of two other New England states!), it always makes me happy as a clam to see vegan versions of this soup! We love my own, which uses marinaded tofu and dulse flakes, but think using mushrooms is brilliant, and I really want to try your LA Times version.

    That stove-top smoker idea is quite something! And I must say, lemon juice and hot sauce in clam chowder is nothing I've ever tried. Hmmm....

    I noticed that Molly (I can only imagine how much that tickles our human friend of the same name!) still has an active Petfinder ad. Does that mean she's still living with you? She's very pretty and looks so sweet. I agree with Human-Molly that you're awesome to foster all these critters. We fostered two dogs once, and ended up getting so attached we adopted them both. Thus ended our fostering days. LOL

  28. Laurie,

    I think this is the first I've ever made chowder in my life! I'm curious to try some other variations too. I remember you posting about chowder last year sometime I think? I definitely want to check that recipe out too.

    Lemon juice and hot sauce probably aren't traditional huh? But, with this, they really bring the flavors out and make it something super tasty.

    I think Molly looks a lot like human-Molly's cat friend Sophie. :)

    Molly the cat is still at our place. Her petfinder posting is the only way people have of finding out about her...if they're interested, they contact the shelter and then are given my phone number in order to arrange a meet and greet.

    I'm a bad foster parent too! I want to adopt Molly soo bad. I'm taking her to an adoption event this Saturday...if she doesn't get adopted there, I may just have to do it myself! :)

  29. I think you're remembering when Jennifer featured my clamless chowder recipe on Gilding Lilies as a guest blogger ~ that was last year. I just pulled up my original post to give you and was horrified to see that I posted it nearly two years ago! Where does the time go?!

    I'm betting your soup is thicker than mine because of the cashew base. I'd like that! And I like the mushrooms idea. I'll bet we end up mixing and matching stuff from both our recipes! :-) I can remember looking for a vegan clam chowder recipe years ago and only finding a couple. Bet there are a lot more out there now! :-)

    Since I'm certain that getting a better home than yours is unlikely, I'm hoping no one adopts Molly on Saturday! (I'm wicked, aren't I? I'm always wishing you end up adopting everybody - including me! LOL!)

  30. Yes, I remember it was a guest post now that you mention it. Mixing and matching sounds like a plan!

    I would adopt everyone including you if I would only become magically wealthy and with a large house for everyone!! :)

    We'll see what happens Sat. I'm kind of hoping she doesn't get adopted, but if someone who seems really awesome comes along, then I think I'll feel ok about it after the initial blues wear off.

  31. So what news of Molly? DId you make it to the adoption event, or did you decide to just adopt her? I've been thinking about you all day!

  32. Looks pretty photogenic to me! I've been thinking about clam chowder lately! Thanks!


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