Quick and Easy Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free New England Clam Chowder

This post is linked to Slightly Indulgent Tuesdays.

Having a well-stocked pantry is the key to making many meals on the spur of the moment. Have a craving for a certain dish or want to experiment? A well-stocked pantry can allow you to satisfy both needs without a special trip to the grocery store or specialty store. So, not surprisingly, the well-stocked pantry can also save you money and time. By pantry, I mean more than one’s dry storage, but also the freezer and the refrigerator. I try to keep all well stocked with gfe staples. I’m going to address this topic more in 2011 as I revisit the whole gfe approach, but I wanted to show you how my pantry served me well when I suddenly wanted clam chowder the other night.

As all of you gluten-free readers know, clam chowder is not something we can enjoy out very often. Usually a “gluten-full” flour is added to the recipe or a gluten-containing broth is used to make the chowder. I love clam chowder, and really chowders of any kind, so that’s always a disappointment to me. Because of lack of training of servers and cross contamination issues, one has to be very leery of establishments that serve even gluten-free chowder. (Wendy (Celiacs in the House),  Diane (The W.H.O.L.E. Gang), and I watched servers touching the soup ladles to bread bowls as they served chowder at a restaurant at Pike Place Market in Seattle. It only took one such occurrence for the entire bowl of chowder to be contaminated and unsafe for those of us who eat gluten free.) So I decided to make my own New England Clam Chowder, and I came up with a wonderfully easy way to have thick, creamy version in just a few minutes! It didn’t taste like a soup that had been made in a few minutes though; it tasted like it had been cooking and thickening—and frankly, “becoming soup”— for hours. That’s important because I’ve actually made seafood chowder before using popular chef’s recipes and even after cooking the soup for a much longer time, it still had that “new,” “not soup yet” taste without the creamy, thick consistency I desired.

New England Clam Chowder is by definition a potato-based soup. The Baked Potato Soup here at gfe is a favorite of our family and our friends, so I decided to just adapt that recipe to be my New England Clam Chowder. It was incredibly easy to do and the resulting chowder was a hit with us. Like I said, my pantry came through for me. In my dry goods pantry, I had canned clams, russet potatoes, yellow onions, canned coconut milk (full fat), and my all-purpose gluten-free flour mix. In my refrigerator, I had almond milk, butter, minced garlic, and Better Than Bouillon clam base. UPDATE:  Better Than Bouillon Clam Base currently shows whey, a dairy ingredient, in its ingredient listing. See recipe for alternative suggestion to keep this soup dairy free. In my spice cabinet, I had seasoning salt and Old Bay Seasoning.

My photos aren’t great by any means (I have a long way to go before I master taking photos of soup), but in the time I could have taken many more photos to get a good one, my chowder would have been cold and you could have made this chowder to see it and try for yourself. Have at it!

Quick and Easy New England Clam Chowder
(Click here for a printable version of this recipe.)

3 to 4 large russet potatoes

2 6-ounce cans minced clams, drained with liquid reserved

¼ cup butter (dairy or non-dairy)

1 onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic

¼ cup gluten-free flour (or other thickener of your choice)

2 cups of clam liquid and clam broth, combined (see directions)

1 ½ teaspoons gluten-free, dairy-free soup base (e.g., Better Than Bouillon organic  bases, such as chicken and mushroom, and their vegetarian bases, which are vegan certified; added to water—see directions)

6 ounces full-fat coconut milk plus 6 ounces almond milk (or other non-dairy milk of your choice) or if you eat dairy, you can use one 12-ounce can evaporated milk

1 tsp seasoning salt (or more to taste)

¼ tsp Old Bay seasoning (optional)

Microwave the potatoes about 8-9 minutes or until baked through.

While potatoes are baking, drain clams and reserve juice in a 2-cup measuring cup. Set clams aside.

Set aside cooked potatoes to cool slightly. (You can also use leftover baked potatoes in this recipe.)

In large sauce pan, melt butter and add onion over medium to medium-high heat, stirring occasionally until onions are translucent and cooked most of the way through. Cook about 7 to 8 minutes.

While onions are cooking, fill a teapot/saucepan half way full with water and bring to a boil.

Add garlic to your soup pan. Cook for about 30 seconds, stirring while cooking.

Add flour. Stir to make a roux. (It doesn’t take long at all.) Remove from heat so roux will not burn.

Add boiling water to measuring cup that already contains reserved clam juice, filling to 2-cup level. Stir in 1 ½ tsp clam base. Stir well until clam base is dissolved and becomes clam broth.

Slowly add milk and broth to soup pan and return to heat.

Scoop most of the pulp from one potato, mash it slightly and add to chowder.

Add clams to chowder.

Bring chowder to a boil. Add seasoning salt and Old Bay (if used).

Quickly dice the remaining two potatoes and completely empty skin of the third potato. Add to chowder and heat through for a minute or two. Serve. Enjoy.

Original recipe from Shirley Braden

Adapt this recipe to your liking. For example, some clam chowder recipes call for crumbled bacon to be added at the end. A gluten-free bread on the side would make for a wonderful meal. I ate my chowder without accompaniment, but Mr. GFE enjoyed a breadstick (gluten-full) with his. There are many gfe “bread” options that would go great with this chowder: Popovers, Garlic Cheese Biscuits, Corn Muffins, Marvelous Cheese Muffins, and Flat and Firm Cornbread, to name a few—all of which can be made dairy free when needed by using ingredients like non-dairy butter, non-dairy milk, and Daiya Cheddar Cheese. (Check out gfe Recipes page for more ideas.)

Shirley’s Notes: I used Better than Bouillon clam base to make clam broth. (All Better than Bouillon soup bases are gluten free.) UPDATE:  The Better Than Bouillon clam base currently shows whey as an ingredient. So you MUST use another soup base that’s both gluten free and dairy free to make this chowder. You may use their organic chicken base or one of their vegetarian soup bases (which are certified vegan). Or you may use chicken broth and replace the water in the recipe with clam juice and add gluten-free, dairy-free chicken bouillon. The clam flavor will not be quite as strong, but the chowder will still be very good. I’ve even read about lobster base, which currently is gluten free and dairy free, that I’d like to try. (Perhaps next iteration, this recipe will become a proper seafood chowder.) Even with minced clams, I use my kitchen shears to cut all of the clam pieces very small. (I really hate chunks of super chewy clams.) More potatoes will make this chowder thicker, but note that if there is any chowder leftover, it will thicken consderably upon cooling and additional liquid may need to be added before serving. I leave the skins on the potatoes for the extra nourishment they provide. They cook down most of the way and are pretty tender, so we enjoy them in our soups, but if you prefer, you can discard potato skins.

The 25 Days of Christmas event is winding down (and quickly!), be sure to check out previous posts to make sure you haven’t missed any … especially the current cookbook giveaway!

Day 1 – Gluten-Free Holiday Giveaway Galore x 10—Giveaway of the new book, Mommy, What is Celiac Disease?, plus gluten-free treats and fun stuff. (Although giveaway has ended; you can still order Katie’s new book here. )

Day 2 — Guest Post from Debi Smith (Hunter’s Lyonesse)—My Journey Back to Healthy Living

Day 3 — Corn and Butter Bean (or Lima Bean) Casserole for A Gluten-Free Holiday 

Day 4 — Little Cayman Beach Resort Review

Day 5 — 20 (Plus) Thoughts on International Food Bloggers Conference

Day 6 — Nutiva Products (Coconut, Hemp x 2, & Chia) Review (Giveaway has ended.)

Day 7 — Reindeer Antlers Punch for Share Our Holiday Table (You can still give to feed a child this holiday season or throughout the year; $25 feeds a child three meals a day for one entire month.)

Day 8 – Flourless Pecan Sandies (Gluten Free, Grain Free, Dairy Free)

Day 9 — Volcano Pancake and Other Breakfast Fare Plus Allegro Marinade

Day 10 – The Palate Peacemaker’s Pecan Butter & Pumpkin … Uh Oh … Cake!

Day 11 — Kitchen Table Bakers Crisps Review

Day 12 — Guest Post: Linda Etherton (The Gluten-Free Homemaker)

Day 13 — The Spunky Coconut Grain-Free Baked Goods & Desserts Cookbook Review

Day 14 — Sweet and Crunchy Snack Mix and Classic Spicy Snack Mix (Make Great Gifts … Even Last Minute)

Day 15 — Winners, Gluten-Free Holiday, and Super Short Roundup  

Day 16 — Review: Bakery on Main Granola and Granola Bars

Day 17 — Review of Ricki Heller’s Desserts Without Compromise 

Day 18 — An Unexpected Christmas Blessing

Day 19 — Food for Christmas At My House This Year

Day 20 — Review: Oskri Organic Bars

Day 21 –  Giveaway of Stephanie O’Dea’s More Make It Fast, Cook It Slow Cookbook

Not just gf, but gfe!

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38 Responses to “Quick and Easy Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free New England Clam Chowder”

  1. Kristina @ spabettie on December 30th, 2010 2:02 pm

    I can’t wait to read more about the well stocked pantry! Yesterday evening, as I was waiting for dinner, I wanted to make muffins for this morning. I looked in my pantry and made up a recipe from what I found – the coconut muffins! :D

    I love clam chowder, but I cannot handle the texture of clams… I wonder… I could probably make your recipe, and somehow PUREE the clams? I know, that sounds gross, but… :D

    • Shirley on January 2nd, 2011 11:31 pm

      Hey Kristina–I actually have a gfe tip sheet (in PDF) on my sidebar on my pantry. The contents have changed quite a bit since I created this file though, as my tastes and “want to avoid” list has grown. ;-) Hopefully, I’ll get that post up soon. Mapping out a month or so ahead on gfe. :-)

      I loved those coconut muffins you made! The well-stocked pantry really widens one’s horizons, doesn’t it?

      Oh, I totally get what you are saying on the texture of the clams. I actually tried blending mine once … not a pretty picture … they all stuck to the blade! LOL, but no kidding. Using my kitchen shears worked much better. Another option would be just to put the clams in cheesecloth and get the flavor and then discard the clams after cooking. Why not? Whatever works, right?


  2. Jenn on December 30th, 2010 2:54 pm

    Lovely soup! Yes, I imagine it is rather quick if one can use canned clams – I am only able to get fresh ones and so the cleaning, steaming, and shelling of the clams is definitely a little bit of added work/time!

    • Shirley on January 2nd, 2011 11:49 pm

      Hi Jenn!–Thanks! :-) Sounds like it’s time for a massive clam bake and then chopping up a bunch of clams into individual containers for soup later. Not unlike what we do when we steam a bushel of crabs and pick out the crab meat from the crabs we don’t get to eat. It sure tastes good later and all the work has been done. ;-)


  3. Zoe on December 31st, 2010 2:48 am

    This looks lovely, Shirley! I’m kind of crazy about clam chowder now since having it down in the States. I seriously want to make my own, too. Maybe I’ll start with yours! :)

    • Shirley on January 2nd, 2011 11:51 pm

      Hey Zoe–Thanks so much! You can whip up clam chowder easily … bet you’ll love having your own simmering. ;-) I’ll look forward to your variation, dear.


      p.s. made a Starbucks stop today … you know what I ordered, right? :-)

  4. Kim - Cook It Allergy Free on December 31st, 2010 9:10 pm

    Shirley, coming from San Francisco, I am a clam chowder addict! I love your recipe!! I have not had chowder in ages because we are always so leery to eat it at a restaurant and I have yet to attempt my own version. Now I just may try it out!!! And I am all about a well-stocked pantry. You should have seen my mother’s while growing up. She always taught me that a well-stocked pantry lent to inspiration and motivation. Now I see how true that is!

    • Shirley on January 2nd, 2011 11:59 pm

      Hey Kim–Now that’s an addiction I can understand! Thanks so much. :-) I think clam chowder seems complicated, but it doesn’t have to be. I can’t wait to make this recipe again, and even tweak it a bit. Perhaps a tiny amount of finely diced celery would be good in this chowder, too. A friend just told me she adds a turnip to her recipe. I’m not sure that Mr. GFE will go for that, but I’d like to try it. ;-)

      I really, really want to meet your mom! I just know I’d love her. :-) Looking in a full pantry is like opening up the big box of Crayola crayons … so many possibilities! And, when the pantry gets low on supplies, even that can be fun. Some of my most creative and fun recipes come from when I’m down to very little. I like a challenge, and usually I find it’s not even that much of a challenge. Always a delightful surprise either way!


  5. Annie D. on January 12th, 2011 1:23 pm

    Delicious!! I made this last night! My hubby and I loved it. We’re from outside Baltimore and think the base would be an awesome GFCF version of Cream of Crab Soup. :) Thank you so much!! I haven’t had a creamy chowder in over two years, since I was diagnosed to allergies to wheat (avoiding all gluten) and dairy. Please… keep up the great work!!!

    • Shirley on January 13th, 2011 3:00 pm

      Hi Annie–It looks like you are new here at gfe–welcome! :-) Oh, your comment thrilled me … thank you! It’s so helpful when someone else gives a recipe a try and comes up with the same assessment. ;-) Creamy chowders are my fave, too. And, now I must make Cream of Crab soup! Why didn’t I think of that? She Crab Soup is one of our all-time favorite indulgences, too. I haven’t had that in 7 1/2 years, but it’s going on the menu as soon as we return from vacation! :-)


      • Annie D. on January 13th, 2011 3:33 pm

        Thanks, Shirley! Enjoy your soup (which is sure to be heavenly)! :)

  6. Alisa Fleming on January 28th, 2011 2:18 pm

    LOve it Shirley! I am working on this recipe (different version) for my next book. I think dairy-free clam chowder surprises people – it really is good!

    • Shirley on January 29th, 2011 12:58 pm

      Hey Alisa–Thanks so much! I actually posted this recipe at New Year’s when everyone was so busy and I updated the title the other night so that folks looking for gf/df clam chowder could find it and because of the update it went back out in the feed. I can never figure out why or why not that it happens. Doesn’t always. Anyway, yes, this gf/df chowder is just lovely. It’s sort of like we’ve always said about gluten, the recipe just doesn’t need it. One clever reader, Annie, suggested replacing the clams with crab and I can’t wait to try that next! She already tried the chowder recipe and loved it. So happy that you’ll have a version in your next book. Can’t wait for that!


  7. Alta on January 28th, 2011 3:09 pm

    Shirley, this looks so very easy! My husband loves clam chowder. Definitely going to have to make this!

    • Shirley on January 30th, 2011 11:17 am

      Hey Alta–Somehow I missed replying to your comment before … rats. We found this to be a great and super easy clam chowder. :-) Hope you enjoy if if you give it a try!


  8. Diane-thewholegang on January 28th, 2011 3:21 pm

    This just showed up in my inbox. Even my emails arriving are behind. This looks like something Scott would slurp up with joy. I’ll have to get cracking on this one. I’m sorry to say I can’t serve it on Super Bowl Sunday as my Pats are not playing. But we’ll give it a try on any of these stupid cold snowy days. Thanks for figuring this out!

    • Shirley on January 29th, 2011 1:01 pm

      Hey dear Diane!–As I was just saying to Alisa, I updated the title to contain gf/df so folks could easily find the recipe and the post went back out in the feed again. Probably a good thing since folks were pretty busy at New Year’s and might have missed this one. I think you all will love it and as reader, Annie, suggested, you can even replace the clams with crab and have another heavenly soup!

      Hmmm, Steelers vs Packers … wondering what you are cooking for that? I know it’s not cheese, but maybe something using Daiya? ;-)


      • Diane-thewholegang on January 29th, 2011 1:12 pm

        You know you bring up a good point about people being so busy during the holidays. I think I’ll do a post in case people missed those. You’re so smart! I love the idea of crab in here too!

        Oh and I’m working on that menu already. Need to get some more folks to come over and eat all the food I’ll be making. Rule is they have to love football. I’m not chit chatting in the kitchen while the game is on, I’m watching every second. It’s the last game until next year.

        We’ll have some type of cheese dish (Daiya) and bratwurst as we’ll be cheering on the Packers then some food that’s actually good for you. :-)

        • Shirley on January 29th, 2011 2:07 pm

          Diane–Always happy to give you ideas to implement! :-) I knew you’d like the idea of a crab version, too.

          While I’d love to eat your Super Bowl food, I could never follow your rules. Oh, we watch pretty intently, but we’re also a bit irreverent towards the game and really enjoy our small in-house wagers, commercials, and food the best. Well, most years anyway, unless our Skins are playing and then we’re very serioius, but you know how many million years ago that happened!! LOL


  9. Lexie on January 28th, 2011 4:59 pm

    Shirley … good spying out at Pike Place! Who’d thunk, ladel to bread bowl. You, Wendy and Diane are the official Gluten Secret Super Spies! Very nice recipe. Looks perfectly creamy : )


    • Shirley on January 29th, 2011 1:04 pm

      Hey Lexie–One has to be on one’s toes for the old cross-contamination whammy. Diane was the first one to spot this issue and then we all observed it and sadly moved on. Unfortunately, we went to a place where Diane took one bite of her dish and realized there was soy sauce in it. Sometimes it’s a gluten mine field out there. This is a lovely, creamy chowder. Can’t wait to try it as crab chowder/she-crab soup! :-)

      Loving you Hawaii posts, Lexie! Oh my gosh, I don’t know how you keep from visiting there super often. Your family’s property is just so beautiful! Stunning, actually.


  10. InTolerantChef on January 28th, 2011 7:01 pm

    Clam Chowder is not something I’ve ever seen on a menu over here before, and I don’t think we could get clam stock! We do have lots of Asian style seafood soups, and they’re delicous.

    • Shirley on January 29th, 2011 2:02 pm

      Hi InTolerantChef–Bummer on no clam stock or chowder, but you could make your own somehow. Like I said in the post, even chicken stock could be used if you have clams. Might need to add more clams to get adequate clam flavor though. And, those Asian-style seafood soups sound divine to me. :-)


  11. monika bradley on September 6th, 2012 8:59 pm

    great recipe. But the clam base has dairy in it so I need to find an alternative, or just leave it out

    • Shirley on September 7th, 2012 4:22 pm

      Hi Monika–Welcome to gfe! :-) I was shocked to visit Better than Bouillon’s site and see “whey” in the ingredients for the clam base. I don’t know if the formulation has changed since I’ve made it or what the deal is. :-( But yes, you could leave it out or substitute organic chicken base and add some more of the canned clams to ensure you get a rich flavor. I’m so sorry about this misinformation. I greatly appreciate the heads up and will modify the recipe accordingly!

      Thank you so much!

  12. Tazmin on November 1st, 2012 1:25 am


    I love chowders !! So thrilled to find a df recipe that doesn’t use soy milk as I can’t tolerate the latter. This may taste a little like those thai seafood soups I love!!! Thanks for using coconut milk!! How many servings does this make? Can it be frozen? How long can it stay in the fridge ?

    • Shirley on November 1st, 2012 5:24 pm

      Hi Tazmin–It looks like you are new here at gfe–welcome! :-) No, I can’t do the soy milk either. I wince when I see it in products or recipes. Seriously. I do hope this chowder meets your expectations. ;-) I’m guessing 6 servings. I’m also guessing that it would freeze okay, but would need some stirring due to separation when heating and before serving. But that’s a guess as I haven’t frozen it yet. In the fridge, I’d keep it 3 to 4 days. You might find that you don’t have to worry about that though as you’ll want to eat it for every meal until it’s gone. I did.


  13. Tazmin on November 2nd, 2012 5:30 pm


  14. NJmom on August 10th, 2013 10:08 am

    Just made this for the second time using a homemade vegetarian seafood broth (when I boil shrimp for salad, I retain the broth and add veggie scraps). It is delicious. I add minced celery and make my own “Old Bay.” My husband, who is a “real regular guy,” also can’t tell there is no milk or cream in it. Thank you for a wonderful meal!

    • Shirley on August 10th, 2013 10:27 am

      Hi NJmom–First, welcome to gfe! :-) Second, I’m so glad you have modified this recipe to work using your own ingredients/additions. :-) I keep meaning to make my own broth using shrimp shells and keep forgetting. And minced celery is a great addition. I’m married to a “real regular guy,” too, and he loves this chowder as well. Btw, you might also be interested in my Seafood Chowder recipe. ;-)

      Thanks so much for taking the time to leave such a lovely and helpful comment! And, of course, you are welcome for the recipe. :-)

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