Dairy-free Zuppa Toscana Soup

I am loving this cooler weather; cooler weather means soup, and I love soup! It has been in the 70’s here during the day, so that means it’s been in the 60’s in the evening. That counts as cooler weather, right? Here in Southern California, it does! (I know all you Northerners and Easterners are shaking your head at me).

Zuppa Toscana has got to be one of my very favorite soups! This soup is made and served at Olive Garden, so that right there tells you it’s gotta be good. You can never go wrong with a good, Italian soup!

The problem with the traditional Zuppa Toscana soup is that it is made with heavy cream. For someone with a dairy allergy, that is very problematic. My stomach is not happy with me when I indulge in dairy. You would never guess that by a lot of the other recipes I post-I believe that once in a while, it’s okay to splurge. But when I am being good and staying focused on being healthy, I eliminate dairy whenever I can.

There are lots of copycat recipes for Zuppa Toscana on the web, so I’ve played around with some of them and adapted it to a dairy-free version. I found the secret to making a good dairy-free soup without knowing that the cream/milk has been replaced with an imposter. My husband is sometimes like the kids when it comes to replacements; he doesn’t like it when I mess with his milk. But when I made my dairy-free version of this soup, he had no idea!

Just to note-you don’t have to make this recipe dairy free. If you have no problem with milk, then have at it! Simply substitute heavy cream in place of the coconut milk in the recipe.

Back to dairy-free land: the big secret to making a delicious, creamy, dairy-free soup is using canned coconut milk. I have found that canned coconut milk is very creamy (make sure you get the full fat, not reduced fat!) In fact, if you stick the can in the fridge for a few hours, it thickens up and you can use it as a replacement for whipped cream. Definitely not the same taste, but it works when you have a diet to stick to. Believe it or not, you don’t taste the coconut at all in the soup. It gives it a creamy texture but with no coconut cream flavor. Any brand will work. This is the brand I usually buy, but I have used others and they all work fine.

So, here’s what you need to get started:

Most recipes call for hot Italian sausage. I have found that it turns out just a tad too spicy for my kids when I use the hot sausage, but I like the extra spice. So I’ve compromised; I use half hot and half mild Italian sausage. Of course the recipe only calls for 1 pound and the sausage is sold in 1 pound increments, so I use half of each and freeze the other halves for next time. Because there will be a next time.

Okay, now that all of the housekeeping is out of the way, let’s get cooking.

First, prep all of your ingredient. You will need to chop your onion, potatoes and kale so that it’s ready to go when you need it.

You also need to chop your bacon. Once it’s chopped, cook it in a large skillet or pot until it starts to brown.

Now, skin your sausage. Remember, use only 1/2 pound of each (mild and hot). Unless you want to do it all hot or mild. You can buy ground sausage rather than the links which would be a lot easier; I like to make things complicated for myself (not really; they were out of the ground sausage this time around). If you buy the links, remove the casing. Cook the sausage in the pan with the browning bacon, breaking up the sausage as you go.

Drain the grease from the pan, leaving 1-2 tablespoons to saute your onion. Toss in your chopped onion and saute it in the sausage grease.

Add in your garlic and saute it until it is fragrant. Then, mix it all together with your meat.

Stir in broth and potatoes. Season it with salt and pepper (to taste) and then simmer your soup for about 20 minutes, or until your potatoes are tender.

When the potatoes are done, add your kale and coconut cream. To get the creamiest part of the coconut milk, scrape from the top (rather than just pouring it straight in; if you pour straight in the oil from the bottom will come out first). Bring to a simmer.

Now you are ready to devour! You can sprinkle a little parmesan cheese on the top if you’d like, but that really defeats the purpose of dairy-free now, doesn’t it? My husband likes to top his with cheese. And it does make for a prettier picture to put it on.

Try it out and tell me what you think!

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Print Recipe
Dairy-free Zuppa Toscana Soup
Course Soup
Cuisine Italian
Prep Time 15-20 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Course Soup
Cuisine Italian
Prep Time 15-20 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
  1. First, prep your ingredients by finely chopping the onion and chopping the potatoes and kale into bite-sized pieces. Set aside.
  2. Cut your bacon into small pieces. Cook it in a large pot or skillet until it starts to brown.
  3. Add sausage to the pan with bacon, breaking it apart as it cooks.
  4. Drain the grease from the meat, reserving 1-2 tablespoons to saute your onion. Push the meat to the back of the pan.
  5. Add back your reserved grease and toss in your chopped onion. Saute until translucent. Add garlic and saute until fragrant.
  6. Mix the onion and meat together. Stir in broth and potatoes. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Simmer for about 20 minutes or until the potatoes are tender.
  7. Add kale and coconut cream (or heavy cream if you're not doing dairy-free). Bring to a simmer and then turn off the heat.
  8. Serve. You can top with parmesan cheese if you are not doing dairy-free; serve without to be completely dairy free.
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