A New Take on Potato Chowder Recipe

A chunky, satisfying, winter-time riff on potato chowder - winking at the Japanese pantry with a finishing swirl of miso, and a touch of sake in the base.

A New Take on Potato Chowder

This isn't your typical potato chowder. That said, I'll argue that it still checks all the boxes - hearty, chunky, warming, satisfying. It's the sort of bowl you want to enjoy on the coldest of days, or when you're trying to shake off a chill after a day outdoors. The chowder itself is quite simple, and winks at the Japanese pantry with a finishing swirl of miso, and a touch of sake in the base. You can make it with whole dairy milk, or organic soy milk, and I can imagine a coconut milk version being great as well, but haven't worked out the ratio. To the potato chowder base I add some cooked green lentils (or mung beans) and blanched broccoli, as a protein boost and then to work in some vibrant green - making this a true one-bowl meal. You can enjoy the chowder on it's own, or finished with a spicy chile sauce (I've included a special recipe for that below as well)....

Potato Chowder Recipe

This inspiration for this came in a round-about fashion. Wayne and I went to a friend's house for New Years Eve. Malinda made a beautiful meal inspired by this book. One of my resolutions for 2016 was to cook more in clay, and having that meal kick off the year seemed wonderfully serendipitous. Malinda's meal was cooked in various Japanese clay vessels and donabe (hot pots). My thoughts on donabe cooking warrants a post of it's own, but there are so many things I love about it - the way cooking vessels are used as communal serving vessels, the sensory theatre that happens as you lift the lid from a pot, passing shared plates...

There are just so many nuanced differences about cooking and serving in clay. And as far as technique goes, cooking in covered clay (for example in this sort of rice pot, or with this sort of smoker), is...different. Because you aren't supposed to be checking on your progress constantly - you often cover and commit. It requires you to get to know your pots and stove (or heat source) in a more intimate way. Trust builds over time, because you can no longer rely on your eyes to tell you how things are progressing. It's like shooting with an old film camera. Malinda sent me home with her copy of Naoko Takei Moore & Kyle Connaughton's book - Donabe: Classic and Modern Japanese Clay Pot Cooking, and I used one of their chowder recipes (Salmon Chowder with Miso Soy-Milk Broth) as a jumping off point for this vegetarian version. For this recipe a donabe is not required, but you can use one if you have one. I'll also include their Chunky La-Yu recipe below, a spicy toasted sesame and chile oil - you can make it ahead of time, and it's good on everything, especially this chowder.

Potato Chowder Recipe

I posted a photo of the chowder to Instagram a couple of weeks back. Leftovers served over rice, with chile oil, and lots of broccoli. Enjoy! -h

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Potato Chowder with Miso Broth

HS: A couple of tips. Whether you're using green lentils or mung beans, cook them through, but not to the point where they're falling apart. Also, the chile oil (Chunky La-Yu) really pulls everything together - highly recommend that component!

1 small head of broccoli florets
sea salt, to taste

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 small yellow onion, minced
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sake
2 1/4 cups water
3 medium new potatoes, cut in sixths

2 tablespoons miso or sweet white miso
1 3/4 cups whole milk or soy milk
1 1/4 cups cooked green lentils

to serve: sliced green onions, lots of lemon (Meyer) peel, chile oil (or Chunky La-Yu*), brown rice

Bring a small saucepan of water to a boil. Salt well, and blanch the broccoli florets until bright green, about thirty seconds or so. Drain, run under cold water to stop the cooking, shake off excess water, and set aside.

In a medium-large pot melt the butter over medium heat. Stir in the onion, and cook, stirring occasionally until the onion are soft, about 8 minutes. You want to avoid browning. Stir in the flour, and allow to cook for another minute or so before stirring in the sake. Gradually add the water, a bit at a time, to avoid clumping. Add the potatoes, and bring the mixture to a simmer. Cook until the potatoes are cooked completely through.

Put the miso in a medium bowl, add a splash of milk, and whisk to thin out the miso. Add the rest of the milk and continue to stir to incorporate the miso. Add this to the pot, stir in the lentils, and heat just shy of a simmer. Taste, and add more salt - there is a wide range of saltiness when it comes to miso, so I err on the conservative side here, you'll likely need more salt to bring the flavors into focus. Stir in the broccoli.

Serve with a load of sliced green onions on top, and any other toppings. The photos show the chowder served with brown rice, and the Chunky La-Yu chile sauce from the Donabe book - recipe below.

Serves 4.

Chunky La-Yu

HS note: I've made this a few times now, and in a pinch you can certainly use almond butter or even peanut butter if you don't have almonds on hand.

2 cloves garlic
1 1/2 teaspoons ginger
1 medium shallot, quartered
1 green onion
1 generous tablespoon of almonds

1 1/2 teaspoons coarse ground chiles (such as Korean gochugaru, or I had arbol chiles on hand, and ground them with a mortar and pestle)

1 teaspoon raw brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon sansho pepper, optional
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon white sesame seeds
1/2 teaspoon dried red chile flakes
1/4 cup toasted sesame oil
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon shoyu or soy sauce

Combine the garlic, ginger, shallot, white part of the green onion, and almonds in a food processor. Pulse until very finely minced, but not pureed.

Combine those ingredients with the rest of the ingredients, minus the shoyu, in a saucepan and set over medium-low heat. As soon as it comes to a gentle simmer, turn down the heat to low until tiny bubbles appear on the surface and you hear a subtle sound. Slowly cook to infuse, not fry, the ingredients for 8 to 10 minutes or until the mixture is aromatic, stirring a few times along the way. Turn off the heat, and stir in the shoyu or soy sauce and let the mixture cool completely (or if you're impatient, you can serve it warm).

Makes ~ 1 cup.

Adapted from Donabe: Classic and Modern Clay Japanese Clay Pot Cooking by Naoko Takei Moore and Kyle Connaughton. (Ten Speed Press)

Prep time: 10 minutes - Cook time: 20 minutes

If you make this recipe, I'd love to see it - tag it #101cookbooks on Instagram!

Post Your Comment


I made it with some already cooked left over potatoes and I add some big shanks of Mushrooms in it , total deliciousness ....

Catherine Hellman

I just love, love, love this recipe for Chunky Ya Lu sauce. I eat the leftover sauce on beans, soup, veggies, etc Yummy.


What a beautiful description of cooking process. I am anticipating hearing that subtle simmering sound as much as tasting what will surely be another delicious recipe from you! :) Thank you for sharing your creativity.


I made this tonight and absolutely love it. Such a flavorful, warming soup, and a welcome spin on chowder! I used coconut milk instead of soy and used a cup and a quarter, then thinned out the last quarter with water. You could certainly do the whole cup and 3/4 and it would work just fine. The La-Yu is divine...I will be layering it into everything! Thanks again for another fun recipe that brings simple ingredients together in such a unique way.


This is probably one of the most amazing soups I've ever had (and I had a lot). I normally never post these, but the esquisiteness of this soup totally warrants breaking the habit and posting a comment. Well done!


On a whim I made the La-Yu sauce, and it is SO close to a japanese condiment that's been discontinued that I've been searching everywhere for!! sweet salty spicy crunchy - next time I'll halve the oil to replicate the consistence more but I'm so happy to find this! Btw, I made this when you first posted and it's been in a glass jar in the fridge ever since, with no sign whatsoever of going bad.


I cherish the way you pull a feast together in a dish. They are just so excellent! I needed to let you know that I made your lentil burgers the previous evening. They are so great! Much obliged to you for your formulas and flawless photography!

Anu Rai

Okay! I made the la yu sauce yesterday....and not only was it fun to put together, it was very very good. I smothered my whipped up hummus with it, and then drizzled it over a simple stir fry. Amazing result! The chowder comes next. Way to go Heidi...thanks for sharing recipes.


Hi Heidi! I'm working through your Near and Far cookbook and I'm so impressed. I love reading your blog, and have made many recipes I've found here. However, every recipe I've made from this new cookbook of yours Is nourishing, healthy, and replenishing. I especially love the ricotta breakfast bowl and the spring rolls with brown sugar mushrooms. As a fan, this book has really changed my normal adventures in cooking and I'm so pleased! Thank you!

HS: Thanks for the nice note Britain! Those are two of my favorites as well. xo

Britain Lenz

This bowl of goodness is EXACTLY the kind of thing I love to eat! Especially intrigued by the La-lu sauce. Thanks for sharing Heidi xx

HS: xo Emma! You'll love the La-lu sauce - its good on so many things. Always love seeing your name pop up here :)

Emma Galloway

I am getting the ingredients for this delicious looking bowl food TODAY so I can cook it tomorrow. I will post my results. Cant wait to put together the chile sauce.....I make the 101 cookbooks quinoa patties ALL THE TIME, and this chile sauce sounds like a great drizzle.mmmmmm. Thankyou Heidi for your amazing recipes and ideas. You are the best!


I love the way you pull a meal together in a bowl. They are just so beautiful! I wanted to tell you that I made your lentil burgers last night. They are so so good! Thank you for your recipes and lovely photography!


hi heidi, wonderful post! i am very inspired by japanese cooking (& life overall), flavor profiles as well as super healthy cooking/ living. this post very much inspires me! i'd love more info on donabe cooking as this really intrigues me. also, the idea of family style meals, the warmth of many cooking vessels, the aesthetic of clay and everything you have so beautifully & poetically written about in your post. thanks again and i look forward to more on this subject soon. happy new year! // linda

linda jaseck

What an inspired idea. I would think this would be perfect to make and have during the week when I'm cold and hungry. Looks wonderful!


I made this (or close to it) last night, with coconut milk, as you suggested might work. Used sweet potato and Japanese sweet potato and it was so delicious and hearty and unusual. Thank you!

Eat Here 2

What a beautiful winter bowl Heidi, thank you! Question, how long will the Chunky La-Yu keep in the fridge?

HS: Hi Leah, I've been using mine for over a week now.


Wow, I love how you talk about using clay cooking vessels and getting to know your pots and heating source in a more intimate way. I've said this before but if you wrote a book about your life and perspectives in the kitchen and all that encompasses (like a modern, chic version of An Everlasting Meal), it would be a treasured coffee table book for life in my house. I didn't think I was a chowder person but this version actually look amazing to me.

Katie @ Whole Nourishment

I made this for dinner last night and it was delicious! A new fave - thanks!


I love the idea of serving leftovers with chile oil. Yum.


I've never seen anything like this before. The chowder looks so colorful. Very creative!


what do you suggest as a substitution for the Sake? Alsoi, would it taste ok to sub the milk with broth or more water?


I've never cooked in clay before but now I'm fascinated. This chowder looks light and fresh and vibrant- the sort of chowder I've never encountered but have always wished existed. Lovely!


I would love to see a post on donabe cooking! I just received one as a wedding gift and haven't quite figured out how to incorporate into my kitchen arsenal.


I'm not usually a chowder gal but I love your spin on potato chowder!

genevieve @ gratitude & greens

This looks beautiful. One of the many reasons I love your site is that it is such a nice change to see a potato chowder that isn't covered in cheese and bacon.

Maureen @Raising The Capable Student

The miso broth in this sounds really wonderful! I love the flavour!


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