August 21, 2012 by Suzanne
I have been wanting to figure out how to make a low-carb version of clam chowder for a while now, and last night I finally did it. I think it’s actually easier to make the low-carb version than it is to make my traditional version, and it tastes amazingly close to the real thing. The mouth feel is the same, the consistency is the same, the creaminess is still there, and it’s very satisfying. The only difference is that instead of hint of starchy potato you get a hint of slightly sweet cauliflower. It even passed the husband test.
This recipe made 5 very large bowls, about two cups each, and the calories per bowl are about 400, which is about the same as regular clam chowder (fewer than Campbell’s), even with all the cream and cheese. That’s a pretty good deal if you ask me.
2 qt or so of water
Cauliflower – Either 1 and a half large heads, two medium, or three small. Cauliflower makes up the bulk of the soup, so when in doubt, add more, not less.
5 Large stalks of celery – Halved lengthwise and chopped. If you use narrow stalks, there is no need to halve them.
Onion – One medium or half of a huge one, chopped.
3 6.5oz cans of minced clams
1/3 to 1/2 C shredded Parmesan cheese – None of that powdered gunk, use actual Parmesan cheese, which is available at Costco at a very reasonable price. You don’t need to spring for Parmigiano-Reggiano; the cheaper non-name-protected stuff is fine. If you don’t have any, you can use another variety of cheese such as cheddar or colby jack.
1 1/3 C Heavy Cream
Salt and white pepper
1-3 tsp Xanthan Gum
In a large pot (at least 4 qt), break up the cauliflower into floret-sized pieces. You can add some of the stem, as most of the cauliflower is going to end up pureed. Add just the juice from all three cans of clams, and then add water until it just covers the cauliflower. Don’t add the clam meat until later.
Bring the cauliflower to a boil over med-high heat and let it boil for 15-18 minutes, until it is soft. Meanwhile, saute the onions, using a little butter or olive oil if needed, and set aside. (If you want, you can skip sauteing fresh onion and put in dehydrated onion at the same time you add the celery. Either way is fine.)
When the cauliflower is softened, remove about 1/3 of it with a slotted spoon and set aside. Puree the rest of the cauliflower with the water. I use a handheld stick blender. Once it is all smooth, add the celery and sauteed onion (or dehydrated) and simmer until the celery is cooked, about another 10-12 minutes. The soup will look very thick at this point, but that is the way it should be. Don’t dilute it.
While the celery is cooking, cut up the rest of the cooked cauliflower into small chunks. The goal with the whole pieces is to replace the pieces of potato in traditional chowder. They don’t need to be minced, but I would avoid big pieces.
Note: If you have any dehydrated cauliflower, it can make this step easier. Cook one large head of cauliflower, puree all of it, and just re-hydrate a few handfuls of dehydrated cauliflower and add it at the end. I added boiling water to my dried cauliflower and let it soak when I did all the other steps.
Once the celery is done, remove the soup from the heat and add the clams, cauliflower pieces, Parmesan cheese, and cream. Add salt and white pepper to taste. Personally, I prefer it pretty peppery.
The last step is to sift in some xanthan gum to add a little thickness and to stabilize the cheese so it doesn’t separate as it cools. Sift it finely just a little at a time, and stir completely before adding more. When it is as thick as you want it, you’re done. How much you use will depend on how thick you want your chowder. I estimate that I used about 1 tsp. Avoid over-thickening, as it is not as appetizing.
If you make one pot into 5 servings, there are 14g of net carbs per serving.