stinging nettle soup in white bowl with fresh nettle, coconut cream, olive oil, and nettle dukkah

Creamy Stinging Nettle Soup (vegan & gluten-free)

Stinging nettle soup is by far one of the easiest ways to use this incredibly nutritious spring green. If you don’t throw your stinging nettles into a soup, pesto is another absolutely delicious way to go. They’re both dishes that you can throw practically anything in, especially green things in abundance. In making soup, you can quickly turn an overwhelming pile of garden goodness into something tasty and nourishing.

Plus, you can enjoy some now and freeze the rest for when the abundance is less. Pestos and soups are both so freezer friendly, and while pestos are great for all the leafy green things, you can throw practically any garden goodie into a soup. In fact, whenever in doubt, just throw it in a soup.

READY TO MAKE SOUP?! HERE YOU’LL FIND:

Life Lessons in Searching for Nettle
The Difference Between Common Stinging Nettle & Wood Nettle
Do You Need to Blanch Stinging Nettles?
How to Make Creamy Stinging Nettle Soup (recipe)

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Life Lessons in Searching for Nettle

This stinging nettle soup came about after staring for weeks at a massive pile of potatoes threatening to sprout and a long, slow, and solo walk in the woods. Those are my favorite kinds of walks through the woods, so long that your well-worn boots give you blisters, so slow and meandering that you wouldn’t ever dare invite anyone with you, and alone, just me and all the mystery and magic of nature.

Short walks are good too. I’ll squeeze in a quick walk through the woods whenever I can, but I’ve always craved the long-distances. Generally, the longer the distance and the tougher the challenge, the more I’m compelled.

There’s a special kind of high no drug could ever reach that comes with raw, unhindered, and stubborn determination, but it’s never just been about the pure thrill of the accomplishment.

Does it ever unnerve you that all life pursuits, challenges, lessons, and once-in-a-lifetime journeys of the utmost awesomeness can usually be summed up by some ancient proverb? And it’s usually a proverb that’s not more than 8-10 words long. All that time and energy, hardship and strife, challenge and triumph boiled down so perfectly to a very, very, very small sentence that you’ve undoubtedly heard many times before.

If anything, it’s a shining testament to how incredibly universal the human experience is. So please pardon me while I skip to the end of this (un)necessary life lesson in the middle of a story about unexpectedly discovering stinging nettle on a walk through the woods. Instead, I’ll just tell you that reaching the destination is never really the point anyhow.

Here I was, walking along the trail and about to step over a sweet little mountain stream when a single wood nettle plant, glowing under a single beam of sun shining down through the canopy, caught my eye. I stopped and took a step backwards to see that the stream’s edges were sprinkled with them, sprinkled with so many little green gifts.

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The Difference Between Common Stinging Nettle & Wood Nettle

I’m really fortunate to have common (or European) stinging nettles (Urtica dioica) growing in my backyard. That’s a win in life in my book. And when you happen upon a sweet patch of wood nettles (Laportea canadensis) on your daily epic journey for the answers to all of life’s questions, that’s another win.

Both common nettle (U. dioica) and wood nettle (L. canadensis) are in the same plant family (Urticaceae). And while there is so much information about the nutrition & medicine of common nettle, wood nettle is a bit more mysterious.

It’s easy to assume that there are a lot of similarities in nutrient content and medicinal uses. With wood nettle being a plant native to North America, there are many more references to indigenous uses of wood nettle as food and medicine than there are to common stinging nettle.

The immediate difference in their appearance is subtle. Personally, I find that wood nettle tends to have a more delicate look and all around softer energy. Its leaves are a bit more oval, less triangular and its leaf margins are more softly serrated. Even its sting seems a little softer. (Some heartily disagree though!)

The most noticeable difference is the leaf arrangement. While common stinging nettle (U. dioica) has opposite leaves, wood nettle (L. canadensis) has leaves that alternate long the stem.

Common Stinging Nettle
Urtica dioica
Wood Nettle
Laportea canadensis
Native to Europe
Opposite leaves
Native to North America
Alternate leaves
The differences between common (or European) stinging nettle (U. dioica) and wood nettle (L. canadensis) are few.

I harvested a bowlful of the wood nettles, said goodbye to the stream, and so happily carried them home with me. My pile of potatoes on the verge of compost were now destined for a more noble end and my backyard stinging nettles had some friends from the forrest to join them in the pot for a delicious stinging nettle soup.

I used both species of nettle in this soup to meet quantity, but one species will do. They are so similar and have no real discernible difference in taste.

stinging nettle soup in white bowl with fresh nettle, coconut cream, olive oil, and nettle dukkah

Do You Need to Blanch Stinging Nettles?

One of the most common questions about stinging nettle is how to properly handle it. Blanching nettles is a common practice, but is it really necessary?

It depends! The purpose of blanching stinging nettles is two-fold:

  1. Boiling water deactivates the sting, making them much easier to handle.
  2. The post-blanch ice bath plunge helps to retain their vibrant green color.

Blanching is a great way to prepare nettles for freezing for later use, or if a recipe calls for stinging nettle puree. But for most recipes, like soups, pestos, quiches, stir-fries, and such, I find it to be an unnecessary step. Cooking them twice contributes to increased nutrient loss.

If you choose not to blanch, you can wear gloves and a long-sleeve shirt to prevent uncomfortable stings.

Creamy Stinging Nettle & Potato Soup

Course: SoupsCuisine: Vegan, Gluten-FreeDifficulty: Easy
Servings

6-8

servings
Prep time

20

minutes
Cooking time

40

minutes

Stinging nettles are such a springtime treat! Often referred to a “nature’s vitamin,” nettles add a powerful dose of nutrients to this incredibly easy-to-make take on classic potato soup with fresh herbs and creamy coconut milk.

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons oil (avocado, olive, or coconut work well)

  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced

  • 4 cloves garlic, minced

  • 4 medium Russet potatoes, chopped

  • 8 cups stock

  • 8 cups lightly packed stinging nettles

  • 2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves (or 1 teaspoon dried)

  • 2 teaspoons fresh dill leaves, chopped

  • 1 cup full-fat coconut milk

  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice

  • Salt to taste

Directions

  • Heat oil in a large sauce pan over medium heat, then add in the yellow onions.
  • Sauté onions until lightly translucent and then add in the garlic. Continue to sauté for another minute or so, just until the garlic becomes fragrant.
  • Add in potatoes and stock and bring to a simmer. Conintue to simmer until potatoes are soft (about 20 minutes).
  • Once potatoes are soft, use tongs to add fresh nettles, thyme, and dill to the pot. Continue to cook for another 2-3 minutes and then remove from the heat.
  • In batches, add the soup to a high-speed blender and puree just until uniform in texture. Once pureed, return the soup to the pot. Stir in the lemon juice and coconut milk. Add salt to taste.

Notes

  • Is there a substitute for nettles? You can always substitute an equal amount a spinach if you’re unable to find nettles. Nettles you foraged yourself are always great, but I know we don’t all have that privilege. Local foragers and farmers will oftentimes sell them at farmer’s markets during season. Sometime natural food grocers will have them too. But spinach will work just as well.
  • Don’t I have to blanch the nettles first? No! It’s up to you. I’ve found that in this particular recipe, it makes little difference.

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I hope you enjoy this too-delicious-to-be-that-simple stinging nettle soup. Nourishing meals don’t have to be complex, an old pile of potatoes and some forrest finds will do. Even if your journey is long and hard, you end up right back where you started from, and the only thing to show for it is a small bowlful of wood nettles, I’d consider yourself blessed.

Some endpoints weren’t meant to be rushed towards. Be grateful for and don’t waste the opportunity to experience the true gifts of going the distance.

IF YOU’RE INTERESTED IN MORE STINGING NETTLE RECIPES, CHECK THESE OUT:

Stinging Nettle Dukkah – a versatile, delicious, & easy-to-make nut & spice blend
Stinging Nettle Cake – a sweet way to use fresh nettles

OF IF YOU’RE NOT QUITE READY TO VENTURE TO THE WOODS, CHECK THIS OUT: 3 Common Edible Weeds in Your Backyard

Bowl of Stinging Nettle Soup with coconut cream and nettle dukkah (vegan & gluten-free)
Find Organic Herbs & Spices at Mountain Rose Herbs

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