By Chef Sara
Before going vegan 5 years ago, New England clam chowder was one of my very favorite soups. I just loved the rich, creamy texture and tender chunks of potatoes. And as for the clams – well, it wasn't the taste I loved so much as the slightly chewy texture.
If you were, or still are, a clam chowder fan, we have great news for you! It's possible to make a ridiculously delicious vegan version of this classic soup without sacrificing flavor or texture – and this recipe is the secret. A simple roux and DIY cashew cream stand in for the butter and dairy-based cream, and coarsely-chopped shiitake and oyster mushrooms make a convincing substitute for the typical clams. We keep the seasonings simple, just like traditional clam chowder, so it's a cinch to make and doesn't require a cabinetful of herbs and spices.
Try this delicious Vegan New England Clam Chowder for a rich, comforting soup on a cold winter's night.
Vegan New England Clam Chowder
1/2 cup raw, unsalted cashews
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons olive oil, divided
2 tablespoons vegan butter
1 medium yellow onion, chopped, about 1 cup
4 celery stalks, chopped, about 1 cup
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
4 cups water
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper, plus more to taste
2 bay leaves
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 1/2 pounds gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
12 ounces shiitake and/or oyster mushrooms, stems discarded, coarsely chopped
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Oyster crackers, for serving
Place the cashews in a blender and cover with 1 1/2 cups water. Set aside until later in the recipe.
Heat a Dutch oven or soup pot over medium-high heat and add 2 tablespoons oil and the vegan butter. When hot, add the onions and celery and cook, stirring frequently, until softened and started to brown, about 10 minutes. Sprinkle the flour over the vegetables and mix well, creating a roux. Allow to cook for a couple minutes, stirring frequently.
Add in the water a little at a time, using a whisk to stir the mixture as you go: this will help prevent lumps in the finished soup. When mostly smooth, add in the salt, pepper, bay leaves, thyme, and potatoes. Cover and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer for 20 to 25 minutes, until the potatoes are very tender and almost starting to fall apart.
While the soup simmers, cook the mushrooms. Heat the remaining 2 teaspoons oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, then add the chopped mushrooms, smoked paprika, and a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes, until the liquid from the mushrooms has evaporated and the mushrooms are starting to brown. Set aside while the soup finishes simmering.
By now, the cashews soaking in the blender will be soft enough to make into cashew cream. Blend the cashews and water on high speed until smooth and creamy.
When the potatoes are fully cooked, stir in the cooked mushrooms and cashew cream, and heat until bubbling. Stir in the lemon juice, taste, and adjust seasonings as necessary.
Serve immediately – with oyster crackers, if you like.