Nettle Soup

You never forget your first encounter with stinging nettles. I was about 6 years old on a trail in Griffith Park in Los Angeles with my parents. My hand brushed against a plant alongside the path. OUCH! It felt like a hundred little needles poking the back of my hand. Soon, my skin was covered with little white bumps, proof of the pain.

What I didn’t know then, nor could possibly appreciate at that age, was how nutritious nettles are, and how delicious! Nettles have been used as an herbal remedy for thousands of years, to help treat inflammation and urinary issues. You can buy nettle supplements and nettle tea.

Stinging Nettles on Simply Recipes

The first time I ate nettles, they were baked, on a pizza. Wow! The flavor is something akin to spinach, but even better. The most classic way to serve nettles is in nettle soup, made with potatoes, stock, and a little cream. Luxurious and vibrant green, this soup is a bowl-licker.

Where to get nettles? Given the sting factor, you won’t find them in the grocery story. You either have to forage for them yourself (they grow wild on almost every continent), in which case, wear thick gloves, and pick the tender tops before they flower, or you can sometimes find them at your local farmer’s market in early spring. My friend Hank Shaw brought me these nettles which he foraged from a field near the Sacramento Delta (thanks Hank!).

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Nettle Soup Recipe

  • Prep time: 30 minutes
  • Cook time: 45 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 4.

Fresh, raw stinging nettles sting! Wear protective gloves when handling them, until after they are blanched.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 large shopping bag of fresh nettle tops
  • Salt
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon butter
  • 1/2 cup chopped shallots
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery
  • 1 pound of yukon gold or russet potatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 1 to 2 cups of water
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme (or a couple sprigs of fresh thyme)
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 to 3 Tbsp of heavy whipping cream

Method

nettle-soup-1 nettle-soup-2 nettle-soup-3 nettle-soup-4

1 Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Prepare a large bowl of ice water. Wearing protective gloves, transfer the nettle tops into the boiling water. Blanch for 2 minutes. Use tongs to lift the wilted blanched nettles out of the pot and transfer to the bowl of ice water to shock them. Strain in a colander. Cut away and discard any large stems from the nettles. (This should be easier to do now that the nettle stingers have lost their sting due to the blanching.) You should have 3 to 4 cups of blanched tender nettle tops and leaves for this recipe. Any blanched nettles not used at this point can be frozen for future use.

2 In a 6 quart soup pot, heat the olive oil and butter on medium heat. Add the chopped shallots and celery and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.

nettle-soup-5 nettle-soup-6

3 Add the chopped potatoes, the chicken stock, bay leaf, and thyme. If using unsalted or low sodium stock, add one teaspoon of salt. Bring to a simmer and simmer for 5 minutes.

4 Roughly chop the blanched nettles. Add 3 to 4 cups of the chopped blanched nettles to the pot. Add enough water to just cover the nettles and potatoes, 1 to 2 cups. Return to a simmer and simmer for 15 minutes or until the potatoes are soft and the nettles tender.

nettle-soup-7 nettle-soup-8

5 Remove the bay leaves (and thyme sprigs if using) from the pot. Using an immersion blender or working in batches with a standing blender, purée. Return to the pot and take off the heat.

6 Add salt to taste. Depending on the saltiness of the stock you are using, you may need to add at least a teaspoon or more to the soup. Add 1/2 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper. Add lemon juice. Right before serving, swirl in the cream. Adjust seasonings to taste.

Sprinkle with black pepper and garnish with a sprig of fresh mint to serve.

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Links:

WebMD on uses of stinging nettles

Nettle ravioli on Hunter Angler Gardener Cook

Nettle risotto on Hunter Angler Gardener Cook

Nettle Soup on Simply Recipes

20 Comments

  1. Rachel

    I love the vibrant green of the soup! I had no idea you could eat nettles. Thanks for another great recipe with uncommon ingredients.

  2. Angela

    I love nettle soup, or soupe a l’ortie as its known in France. Makes a great green starter for St Paddy’s Day! And I’m sure its very good for you, just like a pint of Guinness!

    • Elise

      Hi Angela! Guy couldn’t believe it when I made the soup with nettles. He had such bad memories of being stung by them as a child, he was amazed at how good they cooked up into a soup!

  3. Una

    I love nettles! More tasty than spinach and free! I used them in vegetable lasagne recently and it was so tasty. Will definitely have to try soup.

  4. winnifred

    I don’t normally comment even though I love most of the simple recipes on this website but I had to speak up when I saw your amazing recipe for stinging nettle soup. Thank you so much. It brought back fond memories.

  5. Pam

    Hi Elise: I read about this soup in Rumer Godden’s “In This House of Brede,” but had no idea it would have such a gorgeous color. Hmmm. Where to find nettles near Boston?

    In the book, IIRC, the soup was associated with a particular Saint’s Day, and the postulants in the convent were sent out to gather them, with sometimes disastrous consequences to their hands.

  6. Shaheen

    Found this while looking for nettle recipes – I saw a recipe for it used on a pizza in Tartine bread and was curious about how else it could be used. I need to go find some nettle now.

  7. Abi

    This tasted delicious, and its magical green glow was mesmerizing. I put it in a dark earthen bowl (kind of like your photo) and then couldn’t stop ogling it. My husband is a meat and potatoes kind of guy and I worried about serving up green soup when he came home from a hard day’s work, so I paired it with a manly BBQ steak just in case. But there was no need to worry; he ate more of the soup than of the steak. Thank you for this and so many other favorite dishes. My recipe folders are full of Simply Recipe pages, liberally stained, smeared, and crinkled in proof of their great culinary value.

    • Elise

      Hi Abi, I’m absolutely delighted that you made the soup, and even happier that you and your husband liked it!

  8. Amanda

    I know I am late to your site, but I bing’d a banana bread recipe, your site came up, and now I’ve been on here for an hour. :) I clicked on this soup because I thought it was beautiful, but I am curious if it would be ok to swap vegetable broth for the chicken broth? If you get a chance to answer, thank you very much. And even if you don’t, thank you for this amazing site! I am excited to try so many of your recipes.

    • Elise

      Hi Amanda, you could certainly swap out the chicken broth with vegetable broth. My experience though is that commercial vegetable broth doesn’t taste very good. So if I were to use it, I would use homemade vegetable broth.

  9. Todd

    Thanks for posting your recipe Elise! I especially liked the inclusion of the spicing (bay and thyme). This is a great springtime treat- it’s been a long winter and getting out to pick the nettles was a big part of the fun (gloves of course). Keep it up! Any good thoughts on ramps?

  10. Anne

    Elise, I happened upon your website a few weeks ago while searching for a good nettle soup recipe. I found proper Irish wild nettles while walking my dogs and so I made a big pot of your nettle soup … it was so good, in taste, texture and colour that I almost felt that it should be painted! Anyway, I overcame my reluctance to ruin its appearance and dived in. The best nettle soup I have EVER tasted – thank you! Another batch of nettles were bagged again this morning – a few stings to prove it so I had to check back on the recipe. This is set to become one of my all-time favourite soups … and that comment comes from a “soup-aholic” I will be sure to check out many of your other recipes. Thanks! Anne, Dublin, Ireland.

    • Elise

      Hi Anne, I’m so glad you made the soup! I absolutely love it. I wish nettles were easier to find here. They grow wild all over California, but there season is short, and I don’t know of a patch nearby that I can forage.

  11. Lisa

    Hi Elise, this looks SO good and I am dying to make it. However, I live in an area where I cannot get fresh nettles. Do you think using dried nettles would work for this? Thanks! Lisa

    • Elise

      Hi Lisa, no, I don’t think dried nettles will work for this. They’ll make a good tea though!

  12. Sandy

    I just went online to do an inquiry on what I could serve along with nettle soup for company and I came upon your website and a few others also and was fascinated with your recipes for nettle soup. Homemade nettle soup has been a family recipe in my mom’s family for over 87 years and handed down.
    The original recipe was never written down but continued to be pass down through the last 4 generations. Our family recipe is German in origin. The recipe originated from the midwife who was attending my grandmother when
    my mother was born. The midwife was of German origin as was my grandmother. The midwife made her nettle soup for the whole family that day and it has been in our family ever since, although there are some variations of it due to the preferences of different family members. I thought I would share our family recipe that has been passed down to me from my mother. Our version has some similar ingredients to your recipe but also some distinct differences

    German Origin Nettle Soup
    3-4 cups cleaned and chopped nettles
    3cups diced potatoes
    3 cups diced 1/2=3/4″ ham
    Meaty ham bone or 2 meaty ham hocks (plan or smoked)
    7-8 cups water
    1-2 chicken bouillion cubes
    1-2 eggs
    Salt and pepper to taste

    Put meaty ham bone or ham hocks
    in soup stock pot filled with water. Boil
    together until a hearty ham stock is made,
    about 1 hr or slightly longer. Remove bones
    from ham stock. Add cubed ham and potatoes
    to ham stock and boil until potatoes are tender.
    Add nettles and cook until tender. Put egg(s) in to
    small bowl and whisk with fork slightly. Just before serving,
    Add whisked egg mixture to hot soup slowly, whisk soup
    continually while adding egg (will resemble egg drop soup somewhat
    after egg is added). Season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve.

    Serves 4-6 people.

    PS Just a hint for novices who pick their own nettles, clean them, etc. Be
    sure to rinse the nettles well after cleaning them several times, if you’ve found them in somewhat sandy soil, to get the sand out completely. Wen I
    gather nettles, I like to wear garden gloves and kitchen shears to cut them with. I soak them in cold salt water and clean them under cool running water, wear plastic disposable gloves. I rinse them several times in cold water and drain, then cut them into 1-2″ sections.

    • Elise

      Hi Sandy,
      Thank you so much for sharing your family recipe and for the great tips for handling nettles!

  13. lisa

    advise fore stings from nettles, brake stems open and rub on stings, then no more ouch. Yes it works.

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