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Healthy Classic: New England Clam Chowder (dairy-free, Paleo, SCD, AIP option)

Updated: Apr 12

New England Clam Chowder is the ultimate comfort food, especially in the winter, and especially here, in New England. A well-made chowder is so creamy, filling, and satisfying, it warms your body and soul. But it can hard be to find even at the best restaurants of the soup's birthplace. Traditional recipe calls for a lot of milk and cream and sometimes for wheat flour which can be quite problematic for some folks with dairy and gluten intolerances. Commercial versions tend to be very heavy and have a long list of questionable additives that I find unhealthy.

It is best to make your own in the comfort of your kitchen. For a long time, I avoided making this soup until I decided to give it a try during the Nativity fast this year. This is a lenten version of the soup, so it has no cream or bacon or meat of any kind. You can make it with bacon, in fact, the original recipe calls for salted pork as a base. See the modification section below. To replace bacon, I added a cup of wild Oregon pink shrimp for additional protein. Regular shrimp can be used instead, best if wild-caught and chemical-free.

I was determined to create a recipe that is equally creamy and silky smooth as " the real deal". The results have surpassed my expectations. The soup came out so creamy and delicious there were no leftovers I was hoping for when I made it for dinner one night for my family of five. Cashews are a secret to its creaminess, which truly shines in this recipe. You would not believe the soup has no milk or cream whatsoever! The texture is silky smooth and does not separate like it can when you mix milk and lemon juice together. I like this recipe better than any other that I tried before.

And the best part? I did not spend hours in the kitchen to make it. In fact, this was the easiest and the fastest dinner I have ever made!

So, pull out your favorite soup pot and get ready to cozy up with a bowl of this perfectly delicious clam chowder. You will not be disappointed!

Special dietary considerations:

  • If you follow a strict Paleo diet, Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD), or need avoid nightshades, use white sweet potatoes instead of yellow potatoes.

  • AIP modification. If you are on Paleo Autoimmune Diet, use white sweet potatoes instead of yellow potatoes, and use one can of full-fat coconut milk instead of cashews. You will likely need to thicken it with a little bit of arrowroot starch, about 3 tablespoons.

  • Adding bacon. If making with bacon, you will need about three strips, finely diced. Add it first thing in the pot before the onions and saute gently until it starts to render its fat, then add the vegetables. Your kitchen will fill with mouthwatering aroma and it will likley add to the out-of-this-world-expericence with this soup. And yes, bacon from healthy animals is a perfectly healthy addition!

Let's Talk Nutrition.

Clams are a nutritional powerhouse with an impressive array of nutrients. They offer B vitamins such as niacin, and minerals including magnesium as well as bioavailable iron — over the daily recommended value. Clams also contain high levels of zinc and selenium, minerals that can be difficult to get in our diets. A 6-oz portion provides approximately 23.8 mg of iron, or 132% of RDI. Iron is extremely important especially for the health of children, young girls and women who are at an increased risk of anemia. Additionally, clams are a great source of Omega-3 fatty acids without the risk of mercury contamination.

Clams are exceptionally high in vitamin B12. 100 grams of clams contain 49.4 mcg or 824% RDI of vitamin B12. Vitamin B12 is crucial for the neurological function, protecting and building DNA and the formation of red blood cells.

Clams are also a rare source of non-plant vitamin C, with a 6-oz serving providing about 36% RDI. Lastly, clams are an excellent source of lean protein, with 100 grams providing 12.8 grams and only 74 calories. Clams are a nutrient-dense superfood!

Healthy New England Clam Chowder (dairy-free)


  • 1 lb of fresh/frozen clams OR 3 cans of canned clams (like Bar Harbor Whole Gourmet Ocean Clams) cooked, drained, finely chopped, and the juice reserved.

  • 8 oz (1 cup) Wild Oregon pink shrimp (optional but adds more protein), fully cooked. I get mine from Vital Choice.

  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped

  • 2 carrots, peeled and diced

  • 2-3 celery stalks, chopped

  • 4-5 medium-sized yellow potatoes OR

3 white sweet potatoes (for the nightshade free version), peeled and diced.

  • 1 tablespoon ghee or avocado oil

  • 1 cup cashews (soaked in hot water for a few hours)

  • 5 cups vegetable stock or filtered water

  • 1 Tablespoon nutritional yeast

  • 1 tsp garlic powder

  • 1/2 bunch fresh parsley

  • 1 tsp fresh or dried lemon thyme

  • 1 lemon, juiced

  • 2 tsp sea salt

  • 2 Bay leaves

  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste


  1. In a large pot, heat ghee or avocado oil and add onion, celery and carrots. Reduce the heat and sauté until the vegetables are just tender. Add potatoes and garlic powder, stir, and cook for about 5-7 minutes. Add stock or water, clam juice, Bay leaves, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and cook until the potatoes are soft.

  2. In the meantime, drain the cashews, and place them in the high-power blender. Add 1.5 cups of warm water and blend on high until the mixture is smooth and creamy, add more water if necessary. The liquid should resemble the consistency of heavy cream. When the potatoes are fully cooked, add the cashew cream to the soup. Add nutritional yeast, salt, pepper, and thyme. Simmer on low for 5-7 minutes.

  3. Add clams and shrimp without cooking (if using canned clams or cooked shrimp) otherwise the clams will become rubbery. With fresh clams, cook for 7 minutes until just tender. Stir in lemon juice, cover with a lid, and let stand for a few minutes before serving. Garnish with fresh chopped parsley. Enjoy!

Serves 6-8


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