Vegan Zuppa Toscana soup recipe in the style of Olive Garden

Vegan Zuppa Toscana soup (in the style of Olive Garden)

Since I’m spilling my guts here, and in the interest of full disclosure, my guts these days don’t contain any animal products (besides my own).  I made the switch to a vegan diet about a year and a half ago after learning that I had some high cholesterol levels.  And now that I’ve made the switch, I don’t think I’ll ever go back.  I’ve had a lot of help from newsletters, blogs, and cook books like The Vegan Coach, The Sexy Vegan, and Chef Chloe.

One of the skills I’m learning is how to transfer specific knowledge from following recipes into general knowledge of how to cook something from scratch without a recipe.  Sassy (the Vegan Coach) has been especially helpful in this area.  I’m at the point now where I can take a few glances at the fridge and pantry, make a mental list of what’s available, and throw something together quickly using basic cooking methods.

I’ve been making a lot of soup recently, as I am wont to do during the cold winter months.  One of my favorite pre-vegan restaurant soups was

Vegan Zuppa Toscana soup

Olive Garden’s Zuppa Toscana.  Creamy, spicy, hearty, incredibly satisfying Italian comfort food.  So, I set out to make my own.  I did a quick google search for a copycat recipe, glanced over the basic ingredients, and quickly adapted the main ingredients to vegan equivalents.  Here’s what I came up with.  This serves about ten people (or one person for five days of lunch and dinner if you hide leftovers in an empty Folger’s coffee container in the back of the fridge).  This soup took me about 35-40 minutes to make, including conceiving the recipe, prep, and cleanup.


  • 1 leek
  • 1 medium yellow onion
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 2 Tb olive oil
  • 8 medium potatoes (I used Yukon golds and russets, but whatever is fine.  Red would be good)
  • 8-10 cups vegetable broth (I use Better Than Bouillon Vegetable Base)
  • 1 can coconut milk (you can use a “lite” version of this which will have less fat, but I don’t recommend it for this recipe)
  • 1 1/2 cups non-dairy milk (soy, rice, almond, etc. OR just add another can of coconut milk.  Permission granted to use a lite coconut milk for this part)
  • 1 1/2 tsp thyme (fresh, if available)
  • 1 tsp rosemary (fresh, if available)
  • 1/4 – 2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes, to taste (I used 1 tsp, which the adults liked just fine, but kids said it was too spicy.)
  • 2 tsp black pepper (or less, to taste)
  • Many handfuls of chopped/stemmed kale (probably around 2 cups worth? I didn’t measure.  Use what’s comfortable for you)VegeUSA vegan sausage chunks
  • 1/2 lb vegan sausage crumbles (I used VegeUSA vegan sausage chunks, as pictured.  You can store these in your pantry, as they come packaged dry.  They expand quite a bit and have flavor and texture remarkably similar to the real thing)


  • Put the broth in a large pot and turn on the burner (pressure cooker NOT recommended for this.  It cooks quickly enough without it, and you don’t want your potatoes or kale to be overcooked)
  • Wash and cut up your potatoes (leave the peels on), throw ’em in the pot
  • While the potatoes come to a boil, dice the leeks and onions, and sauté in olive oil until clear
  • Add garlic, turn off heat, and sauté a few seconds more until aromatic
  • Add onions/leeks/garlic to pot, as well as all other ingredients (except the kale)
  • When potatoes start to feel almost done, add kale – about 5-10 minutes should be fine.  You want it soft, but some texture should remain
  • Turn off the burner when the potatoes are done
  • Eat until your belly can’t take any more, take a breath, then eat two more spoonfuls

4 thoughts on “Vegan Zuppa Toscana soup recipe in the style of Olive Garden

  1. Brittany & Kailey

    LOVE this soup!! Making it for the second time today. 🙂 My sister and I used Tofurky sausage and realized it’s best if you cook it, cut it up and put it in just before serving as all of the “sausage” flavour is gone if you cook it into the soup- still delicious either way(Couldn’t find the sausage crumbles, sadly). Thanks again for sharing!! 🙂

    1. brian Post author

      Thanks! Really glad you liked it. It reminds me – been a while since I made it. Probably time to reintroduce it.


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