Vegan zuppa toscana is a delicious, dairy-free version of an Olive Garden classic! It's SO creamy and it's loaded with meatless Italian sausage, buttery potatoes, kale, and vegan bacon.
Endless soup and salad at Olive Garden with my girlfriends was my jam when I was in high school. There was nothing better than dipping a warm breadstick into a bowl of creamy zuppa toscana soup loaded with sausage and veggies. I've really missed this soup since I've been vegan, so I created a dairy-free zuppa toscana that I think is just as delicious as the original!
This version is made with meatless Italian sausage, Yukon gold potatoes, kale, vegan bacon, and the creamiest broth that's made with sunflower cream! Have you tried using sunflower seeds to make a recipe taste super-rich and creamy (like in this lasagna soup or this wild rice soup) yet? Sunflower seeds are less expensive than cashews and they taste just as delicious!
Ingredients & Substitutions
This zuppa toscana recipe is easy to make for dinner with a combination of vegetables, seeds, meatless meats, and pantry staples. Please see the ingredients below and substitutions if you need them.
- Vegan Sausage - Olive Garden uses spicy Italian sausage in their zuppa toscana, so I used vegan Field Roast Italian sausages + chili pepper flakes for a little kick. If you don't want to use faux meat, you could substitute jackfruit, artichokes, or white beans.
- Yukon Gold Potatoes - These are medium-starch potatoes, so they'll hold their shape better while being cooked. Leaving the skin on also stops them from falling apart + it's extra fiber. You could also use russet potatoes.
- Sunflower Seeds - Raw seeds are boiled and then blended into a creamy sauce. The sunflower cream is what makes this version of zuppa toscana SO creamy! You can substitute cashews 1:1 if necessary.
- Kale - I prefer to use thinly sliced lacinato or "dinosaur kale" because I like the texture better, but you could also use the curly type. Frozen kale works great in this recipe too. If you don't have kale, you could also use spinach or swiss chard.
- Vegan Bacon - This ingredient is optional because it's just a topping, but it does add flavor and texture to this savory zuppa toscana!
First, put the raw sunflower seeds in a medium pot and cover them with water. Boil it for 10 minutes and then drain the water (Photo 1). Put the seeds into a small blender cup with cold water (Photo 2) and blend until creamy (Photo 3). Set aside for later.
In a large 6-quart dutch oven, add the sausages and use a spatula to break them up into crumbles. Saute for a few minutes until it's lightly browned (Photo 4). Transfer it to a bowl for later. In the same pot, saute the onions until translucent, and then add the garlic and dried seasonings (Photo 5).
Next, put the chopped potatoes, broth, and water to the pot and cook until the potatoes are tender (Photo 6). Stir in the sunflower cream, kale, cooked sausage, and lemon juice (Photo 7). Cook for a few minutes to wilt the kale. (Optional) Saute the bacon in a separate pan until crispy to use as a garnish (Photo 8).
Ways to Adapt this Recipe
- Make it WFPB - Omit the vegan meats and substitute (2) 14 oz cans of green jackfruit, white beans, or a package of gnocchi. The rest of the ingredients are WFPB as-is.
- Make it Gluten-Free - The vegan meats that I used are not gluten-free. To make this recipe gluten-free, you need to use gluten-free substitutes or omit them completely and use something else.
- Plant-Based Protein - Great northern beans are so creamy and make a great addition to this dish! It's an easy way to bulk up the soup if you want to make this meal stretch a little bit further.
I like to serve a bowl of zuppa toscana with a big salad and a couple of slices of crusty bread for soaking up the creamy sauce. My husband always wants roasted potatoes with soup, but since this recipe already has potatoes in it I usually make one of the roasted veggies below to go with it.
- Lemon Turmeric Roasted Cauliflower
- Maple Dijon Brussels Sprouts
- Roasted Harissa Cauliflower Steaks
- Lemon Garlic Asparagus
How To Store It
Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for 2-3 days or you can freeze it for 2-3 months. When you're ready to defrost it, put the container in the fridge to thaw for 24 hours. Then you can reheat it in a bowl in the microwave or in a saucepan over medium heat on the stovetop until it's warmed through.
The broth might separate a little bit after a few days in the fridge or after being defrosted. Just stir it a few times until it's all combined again.
Frequently Asked Questions
In Italian, "zuppa Toscana" translates to Tuscan soup.
Nope! The bacon is flavorful, but it's just a topping, so you could omit it. Sausage is used in the Olive Garden version, but you can replace it with jackfruit, white beans, or artichokes. If you omit it, you can add a little bit of ground fennel and smoked paprika to get the flavor.
I don't think that ¼ tsp of chili pepper flakes makes this recipe too spicy, but it does give a lot of flavor! I usually use one additional ¼ tsp (½ tsp total) because I like a little bit of heat. Start with less and add more to your taste.
Keep blending until it's smooth and creamy! Don't pour the sunflower cream into the pot if it's gritty or grainy because that will change the texture overall. It might take longer to blend if you use a food processor. Also, don't skip boiling the seeds because this helps to soften them and make them easier to blend.
- Keep blending the sunflower seeds until the cream is smooth and there are no chunks left. If the seeds are not completely blended, it will give the broth a grainy texture.
- Brown the sausage by itself for a few minutes in the beginning and then take it out of the pan. Add it back in at the end so it doesn't get overcooked and chewy by cooking it for too long with the rest of the ingredients.
- If you choose to omit the sausage, you can add a pinch of smoked paprika and ground fennel to imitate the flavor of sausage.
- If you don't like the texture of kale because it's too tough, remove the stem, and try massaging it with your hands for one minute to make it more tender.
- You can peel the potatoes if you want to, but I usually leave them on because it's easier, you get more fiber, and the skin helps the potato to hold its shape better.
- If you want to add some extra veggies or beans to this zuppa toscana, great northern beans, artichoke hearts, jackfruit, zucchini, and red bell peppers are all good options!
Want More Vegan Soup Recipes?
Vegan Zuppa Toscana
- Medium Saucepan
- Small Blender or Food Processor
- Medium Bowl
- 6-Quart Dutch Oven or Large Soup Pot
- 1 cup raw sunflower seeds
- 3 cups water divided
Vegan Zuppa Toscana
- ¼ cup water or vegetable broth (to saute)
- 1 lb vegan Italian sausage (I used Field Roast Italian sausages)
- 1 medium yellow onion diced
- 6 medium garlic cloves minced
- ¼ tsp chili pepper flakes (add more to taste)
- 1 tsp salt
- ½ tsp black pepper
- 1.5 lbs Yukon gold potatoes chopped
- 4 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
- 2 cups water
- 3 cups lacinato kale stems removed, massaged, and thinly sliced
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- ½ cup vegan bacon crumbled (I used Sweet Earth vegan bacon)
- Put the raw sunflower seeds and 2 cups of water in a medium saucepan and bring it to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-high and let it cook for 10 minutes. Drain any excess water from the pan.
- Transfer the seeds to a small blender cup or food processor. Add 1 cup of cold water and blend on high until the mixture is smooth and creamy. If the texture is grainy, keep blending until it is smooth or it will make the soup have a gritty texture.
Vegan Zuppa Toscana
- In a large Dutch oven over medium heat, add ¼ cup broth or water and the vegan sausage links. Use a spatula to break it up into medium-sized crumbles. Let the crumbles brown for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Transfer it to a separate bowl.
- Add the diced onion to the pot and cook for 10 minutes. Add the minced garlic, chili flakes, salt, and pepper. Cook for 1 minute.
- Add potatoes, 4 cups vegetable broth, and 2 cups of water to the pot. Bring it to a simmer, cover it, and reduce the heat to medium. Cook for 20 minutes or until the potatoes are tender.
- Stir in the sunflower cream, kale, lemon juice, and cooked sausage. Let it cook until the kale starts to wilt a little bit. Taste and add more seasonings to your preference. (I usually put an extra ¼ tsp chili pepper flakes.)
- Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for 2-3 days.
- Store leftover zuppa toscana soup in an airtight container in the fridge for 2-3 days.
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