Grain, Gluten & Dairy Free Clam Chowder

September 8, 2019

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Chowders are typically creamy soups thickened with corn starch or flour. Rhode Island Clam Chowder is not thickened, doesn’t include cream, and is a great option for those who may love clam chowder but can’t eat grains. And though it traditionally calls for butter, it can easily be made dairy free as well by subbing out for other fats.

Grain & Dairy Free Clam Chowder

This clam chowder is somewhere in the middle of those two. It’s dairy and grain free, but every bit as delicious as classic New England or Rhode Island clam chowder. The smoked sausage is a nice additional, as well.

Chris Cooks: Grain & Dairy Free Clam Chowder

TIPS ON PREPPING THE CLAMS: I use live, whole clams in addition to canned whole baby clams. To cut down on the grit in your clams, wash and rewash the canned clams in a strainer, agitating with your hands to loosen things up. The strainer wholes need to be big enough to allow sand through, but not so big your baby clams fall through.

Chris Cooks: Grain & Dairy Free Clam Chowder

For the live clams, cover them in cold water that has been salted so it tastes like the ocean. The clams will open up and you can swish the bowl around to allow them to release some of the sand in their shells. When you do that, they’ll close up again, so toss them around gently and let them sit until they open their shells again, then swish them around etc. Repeat 3 or 4 times, remove the clams and discard the salt water (you will likely see a fair amount of sand in the bowl after you do this).

Grain, Gluten & Dairy Free Clam Chowder

This clam chowder is rustic and full of richness. It's one of those dishes you can serve to people with certain food restrictions and people without any restrictions, and everyone will love it the same.
Prep Time30 minutes
Cook Time30 minutes
Course: Soup
Keyword: chowder, clam, clams, dairy free, gluten free, grain free, soup
Servings: 8


  • 2 lbs live clams cleaned (see online post notes)
  • 4 links smoked sausage Andouille, Polish, Chorizo etc
  • 5 strips bacon thick, cut into 1/2in pieces
  • 1 1/2 tbsp coconut oil
  • 2 lbs baby potatoes diced
  • 3 leafy stalks celery chopped
  • 2 leeks trimmed, washed, thinly sliced
  • 3 sprigs thyme fresh
  • 2 tsp tarragon fresh, chopped
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 15oz can full fat coconut milk
  • 1 qt chicken stock or broth
  • 2 cups clam juice
  • 4 cups kale washed, chopped
  • 3 cups clam water leftover from steaming clams
  • 6 cloves garlic chopped
  • red pepper flakes optional
  • 2 pinches nutmeg fresh ground if you can
  • 1/3 cup pasley fresh, roughly chopped
  • 15oz can whole baby clams


  • Fill the bottom of a pasta pot (a pot with a basket in it) with 2-3 inches of water. Put your cleaned, live clams into the basket, the basket in the pot, and the pot onto medium high heat. Steam the clams for 5-10 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside, reserving the liquid.
  • In a 6qt cast iron dutch oven over medium heat, cook the bacon until the edges begin to brown. Then add the celery, leeks, potato, bay leaves, thyme, smoked sausage, and coconut oil. Sweat for about 5 minutes then add the garlic and saute for another 3-5 minutes.
  • Add the chicken stock, coconut milk, clam juice, and 1 1/2 cups of water. Bring to a boil, reduce to simmer and add nutmeg. Simmer for 20 minutes
  • Add 3 cups of the clam water from cooking the clams and bring back to a simmer for another 10 minutes.
  • Remove the bay leaves and thyme sprigs from the soup. Add the kale, tarragon, parsley, and the clams (the ones you steamed and the canned clams). Simmer for 5 minutes and serve.

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What do you think?

  1. Wendy says:

    I just made this soup today and it was amazing. I was a little leary of using coconut milk but I have Hashimoto’s as well and need to eat a gluten free, dairy free diet but you don’t even taste it. The soup is very creamy. I’m glad I came across this recipe. Thank you.

  2. Ariana says:

    Where do you typically buy fresh clams?

  3. Mekenzie says:

    The ingredients list includes coconut oil twice, but I’m confused about where it would be necessary (and the recipe doesn’t mention using it). Seems like if you start by rendering bacon, that grease would suffice? Thanks for clarifying. Can’t wait to try it!

    • Chris says:

      Good catch! I had it in there twice. I adjusted the recipe to explain – the video also helps. If you feel like you get enough fat from the rendered bacon, you can definitely omit the coconut oil.

  4. Irina says:

    Looks delicious! We are dairy free in our family but haven’t tried coconut milk in savory dishes because I’m afraid of coconut taste ruining it. Can you taste coconut milk in this soup?

  5. SPruitt says:

    What a great recipe for cooler weather! Have you ever tried to make it without the fresh clams? I was thinking of subbing in another seafood, like scallops or fish. Do you think that would work?

    • Chris says:

      Sure! The clam broth is pretty distinct in flavor so subbing out the clams would definitely change that, but not necessarily in a bad way. Lobster would work really well in a soup like this, as would any deboned white fish, like halibut.

  6. Cathy says:

    Yum, sounds delish! I love these recipes with dairy substitutes because my daughter is allergic and I hate buying heavy cream or putting sticks of butter into a recipe – makes it so unappetizing to me. Likely why I don’t bake…???? Anyway, looking forward to trying this as clam chowder is one of my faves!

  7. Clarissa says:

    How do you eat the shells? Are they soft after boiling?

  8. Jordan says:

    This sounds amazing! Thanks for posting recipes… I enjoy them so much!

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