This is my favorite springtime soup. And I love soup. And I love spring. So all in all I can heartily recommend this full-flavor experience for your senses. Given that there is an element of time involved in gathering the ingredients, the soup ends up being much more than a meal: It’s a zen moment outdoors, a connection to seasons and place, and a happy time chopping a few very simple ingredients in your kitchen.
First, you’ll need to forage for nettles in a trusted spot–one not treated with weed killers, such as Round-Up. For tips and tricks on gathering this stinging plant for your next meal, check out my post with video: Foraging for Nettles.
The ingredient list is quite simple. You will need:
- A shopping bag full of wild nettles.
- An 8-quart soup pot.
- 2 large onions (I love to use a combination of onions for a fullness of flavor, such as white, yellow, and red, but you can use any one with great success).
- 3-8 good-sized cloves of garlic, or to taste.
- 2 medium russet potatoes, or any potato variety will do, peeled and chopped.
- Unsalted butter (best quality you can afford or find–rBST-free, grass-fed, full-fat butter).
- High-heat fat for sauteeing, such as Grapeseed, Sunflower or Avocado oils, or ghee.
- Broth or bouillon. If I don’t have my own homemade broth handy, I have an affinity for using Low-Sodium Organic Roasted Chicken Base from Better Than Bouillon. It has a great flavor for soups. You can also just use fresh water.
- Olive oil.
- Sea salt.
- Fresh ground black pepper.
Add high-heat oil and a knob of butter in the base of a soup pot, and slowly melt on medium heat:
Add chopped onions and garlic. Stir frequently and ensure garlic doesn’t burn and butter doesn’t reach smoke point:
Heat until onions are translucent and aromatic. I use a taste-test standard here: If I’d like to sit down to a bowl of just this onion and garlic mixture by itself, I’ve reached a good level of translucence–onions should be tender, sweet, and totally delish at this point, without any onion-y zip or bite.
Add chopped potatoes:
Coat potatoes with oil, stir until they are warmed through, and then add broth. Fill soup pot about 3/4 full with broth. Add several twists of black pepper, a pinch of salt, and cover, stirring periodically until potatoes are so tender they are beginning to lose form and squish easily when prodded with a wooden spoon.
At this point, turn the soup down to low and add another good knob of butter and a generous drizzle of olive oil to the soup. This adds full-fat butter flavor to the soup, which creates an umami experience for your tongue and helps showcase the naturally delicate, earthy flavor of the nettles.
Salt and pepper to taste.
Using tongs, add your washed nettles to the pot:
Stir until all the leaves and stems are coated in your hot soup base. Without waiting for the nettles to fully wilt, use an immersion blender to blend the soup into a smooth puree.
A perfectly blended nettle soup will have hardly any chunks of nettle visible. It will be a smooth puree with flecks of bright green.
In this preparation, I allowed my nettles to nearly cook because I was busy using my kitchen scissors to snip out the larger nettle stems seen here, which I discarded. Stems of this size are difficult to break down with an immersion blender, but can be pulverized using a good blender, such as a VitaMix. I prefer to make this soup using an immersion blender so that I can maintain a one-pot cooking method without a bunch of back and forth to the blender with a ladle. I’ve had to use a blender a number of times, though, especially in later spring, like this, when nettle stems become tougher and I have not trimmed the nettles prior to cooking them.
Add salt and pepper to taste.
Ladle into a warm soup bowl and serve immediately with a few twists of black pepper. I will also often add a drizzle of olive oil and a few shavings of Parmesan, or a few flakes of red pepper. This is a delightful soup on its own as it has all of the flavor categories covered (bright, fatty, smooth, mildly sweet and sparky) and includes a roundness of carbs, protein, fats, and tons of vitamins. Your tongue will know it and so will your body. And don’t worry, it won’t sting!
This is also an excellent soup served alongside a spring salad. I had a bit of a knock-my-socks off lunch by serving nettle soup alongside Wild Foraged Dandelion Salad. At one point the whole meal was so good I really thought I might die of happiness, but I was able to resuscitate myself enough to go back in for another bowl.