Nettle Soup

How to Make Delicious Spring Nettle Soup

Spring is emerging! Is there a more exciting season?

The days are getting longer, the birds are returning and Oh, the plants! The plants are beginning to peek out of their winter resting places. Every day feels like a new adventure in plant sightings.

Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica)

Stinging nettle (Urtica dioica), often simply called nettle, is one of my favorite springtime treats. Although nettle hides its delicious possibility from many people by covering itself in small stinging hairs, herbalists know that, with just a bit of preparation, nettles are an incredible nutrient-dense food.

Many people love nettle, not only for its taste but also because it can help to strengthen bones, teeth and hair. Nettle leaves also strengthen the urinary system and can help to reduce seasonal allergy symptoms. Scientists have also studied nettle and have shown that a fresh extract of nettle leaf may regulate both blood glucose levels and inflammation levels.1 2 3 4

Nettle Soup

How to Identify and Harvest Nettle

Look for nettle in moist soils with full sun to part shade. It likes disturbed ground and protein-rich soils. It often grows around old homesteads or in the woods (if there is enough sunlight).

Nettle grows as single stalks with opposite leaves (similar to the mint family). Its leaves are heart shaped with a toothed edge. Some plants have more elongated leaves.

Nettle can be a dioecious plant, meaning the female and male reproductive organs are on different plants. The flowers are small and hang in long clusters arising from the leaf axils.

Nettle Soup

The whole plant is covered in stinging hairs, which can leave a mild to moderate stinging rash when you brush up against it.

The leaves are best harvested when the plant is young. I like to harvest the young tops at the leaf axil, leaving behind several sets of leaves, which allows the plant to continue growing. You can often harvest from the same patch of nettles several times in one growing season.

To avoid being stung, wear gloves and long sleeves when harvesting nettle. You get the worst nettle stings when you lightly brush up against the plant. I find that pinching them off with a firm grip helps me to avoid most, but not all, of the sting.

Nettles should not be harvested for food after the plant goes to flower, as the leaves of the older plant may be irritating to the kidneys.

Some of you may be wondering… “Why do you want to eat a plant that stings?!”

Cooking nettles by blanching them in boiling water takes away all of the stinging. To do this, I boil water, add the fresh nettles, stir well for about 1 minute, then drain. They can then be used similar to any other cooked green.

Cooking them into a soup also gets rid of the sting. In this nettle soup recipe, we are combining nettles with another seasonal treat: asparagus.

Nettle Soup

Asparagus (Asparagus officinalis)

I look forward to buying freshly harvested bundles of asparagus from my farmer’s market every spring! Like nettle, asparagus is a nutrient-dense spring food. It is high in folate and vitamin K as well as a range of minerals, including calcium, magnesium and potassium.5

Asparagus can grow wild and is a favorite foraging food both in the US and Europe. Studies have shown that wild grown asparagus is higher in antioxidants than cultivated asparagus.6 However, cultivated asparagus also contains many antioxidants. In Eating on the Wild Side by Jo Robinson she writes, “In a nutritional analysis of eighteen vegetables, asparagus was found to have more antioxidants than all but three of those tested — broccoli, green peppers, and burdock.”7

Asparagus quickly loses both its flavor and phytonutrients after harvesting so it’s best to harvest and eat right away. Robinson gives the following guides for assessing whether or not asparagus at the store is fresh:

  • the spears are dark green and shiny
  • when you rub the spears they squeak
  • the spears are straight, not bent
  • the tips of the spears are tightly closed and either green or purple
  • the cut ends of the spears should be closed and moist (not dry and pockmarked)

Nettle Soup

Nettle Soup with Asparagus

Serve a taste of spring with this savory and delicious nettle soup! Perfect for a Sunday brunch or a cozy evening meal, this recipe is the synergistic combination of two favorite spring plants.

What you’ll need…

  • 5 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 7 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon cumin powder
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons curry powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 bunch of asparagus (approximately 300 grams), cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 5 cups broth (bone broth, vegetable broth or even water)
  • 1 (13.5 ounce) can of coconut milk
  • 150 grams of young fresh nettle leaves
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • more salt and pepper to taste (optional)
  • dash of cream (optional)

Optional topping

  • handful of mushrooms (morels, shiitakes, chanterelles, buttons, etc.), minced
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  1. In a large saucepan heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil on medium heat. Once hot, add the onion and sauté until translucent. Add two more tablespoons of olive oil, wait a few moments for it to warm up. Add the garlic, curry powder, cumin powder, black pepper and salt. Sauté for one minute or until aromatic.

  1. Add the asparagus and cook for 3-5 minutes or until it becomes bright green in color.
  2. Add the coconut milk and broth (or water) and bring to a boil.
  3. And add the fresh nettle leaves. Stir well. Cook for 5-7 minutes or until the asparagus is fairly soft.

Nettle Soup

  1. Optional mushroom topping: While the soup is cooking you can make the optional mushroom topping. Heat the butter in a small saucepan. Add the garlic and sauté for 30 seconds or until fragrant. Add the minced mushrooms and cook until thoroughly done and tender. Set aside.
  2. Once the asparagus is soft, turn off the heat on the soup. Add the lemon juice.
  3. Using an immersion blender (or an upright blender) blend on high until thoroughly creamed. (If using an upright blender be sure to allow steam to escape while blending to avoid a big hot mess.)

Nettle Soup

  1. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve asparagus and nettle soup in bowls with a dash of cream (optional) and a couple spoonfuls of mushrooms (optional).

Yield: Approximately 3 quarts, which serves 6-8 people

Nettle Soup

How to Make Delicious Spring Nettle Soup

Now I’d love to hear from you!

Are nettles ready for harvest where you live?

Have you ever made nettle soup?

Let me know in the comments below.

Show 7 footnotes

  1. Helms, Steve, and A. Miller. “Natural Treatment of Chronic Rhinosinusitis.” Alternative Medicine Review: A Journal of Clinical Therapeutics 11, no. 3 (2006): 196–207.
  2. Roschek, Bill, et al. “Nettle Extract (Urtica Dioica) Affects Key Receptors and Enzymes Associated with Allergic Rhinitis.” Phytotherapy Research 23, no. 7 (July 2009): 920–26. doi:10.1002/ptr.2763.
  3. Kianbakht, Saeed, Farahnaz Khalighi-Sigaroodi, and Fataneh Hashem Dabaghian. “Improved Glycemic Control in Patients with Advanced Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus Taking Urtica Dioica Leaf Extract: A Randomized Double-blind Placebo-controlled Clinical Trial.” Clinical laboratory 59, no. 9-10 (2013): 1071-6.
  4. Namazi, N, A T Esfanjani, J Heshmati, and A Bahrami. “The Effect of Hydro Alcoholic Nettle (Urtica Dioica) Extracts on Insulin Sensitivity and Some Inflammatory Indicators in Patients with Type 2 Diabetes: A Randomized Double-blind Control Trial.” Pakistan journal of biological sciences : PJBS 14, no. 15 (2011): 775-9.
  5. Kraft, Diane, and Ara DerMarderosian. The A-Z guide to food as medicine. Boca Raton: CRC Press, Taylor & Francis Group, 2016.
  6. Robinson, Jo. Eating on the wild side: the missing link to optimum health. New York: Little Brown & Co, 2014.
  7. Ibid.
  1. Have you made nettle soup before? If not, will you?

    • May I use dried nettles if fresh aren’t available?

      • Hi Linda, the texture and mouth feel will be different with dried nettles. I’d try fresh dark leafy greens if you don’t have access to fresh nettles. Let us know what you think!

    • Made nettle soup twice but was too scared to drink it. I did taste it but
      thought I would have a bad reaction so threw it out both times.

      • That’s too bad! I actually eat nettles in my garden (I love them and cultivate them) and I roll up the leaves, then chew them. I’ve never been stung in my mouth – it must be true that the nettle juice is the antidote to the sting. They are delicious and filling – and inspire awe in those that watch ;-)

      • I make a nettle infusion almost every night and drink it in the morning. Once blanched, the stingers are gone. Maybe they dissolve, I don’t know. Nettles are hard to find fresh around here, though.

    • Yes, made this nettle soup on the first day of spring. Loved it. I’ve made other versions of nettle soup, but this one is unique and delicious with the addition of asparagus and coconut milk. Thanks!

      • I agree, Jane! This is flavorfully unique!

    • I have not seen any nettles growing in my area. Not sure I really know what the plant looks like in a natural setting. Does anyone sell nettle seeds or starts? I have a small container garden.

    • this great recipe came to my email on the very day I gathered Nettles. The weather was cool – perfect for the end of the day – and this Soup ‘Super-Charged’ my soul!

    • I am currently working my way thru a kettle of nettle soup. I used the last of my dried nettles, didn’t have curry, mushrooms or asparagus. The way I see it, recipes are guidelines, subject to tweaking. Therefore I used what was on hand, last summer’s frozen beans, dried red pepper flakes, smoked paprika, add greek yogurt after it’s heated, and it’s a lovely filling nutritious meal.

  2. I love the benefits of nettle, but was told in a local herb class that I may want to stay away from it since I have major swelling reactions to bee stings. What is your opinion on that?

    • That’s interesting. I’m curious if there was more to the story. In any case, you can use any fresh dark leafy greens in place of the fresh nettles (equal amount).

      • Chard would be really nice!

  3. Is it true that stinging nettles are found growing near poison ivy? Can you use deadnetyles for this soup? Thanks for sharing the recipe.

    • Poison ivy doesn’t even grow where I live, but stinging nettles do. It may be different where you live. You can use fresh dark leafy greens in place of the fresh stinging nettles. I’ve never used deadnettles.

  4. Any chance you have suggestions for substitutes instead of dairy and coconut milk?

    • Hi Pam, do you have a favorite dairy substitute? I’d try that. The coconut milk in this case adds a nice richness to the feel of the soup, in my opinion. Any dairy substitute could do that. If you can eat ghee or butter, I’d add a bit of that with your dairy substitute. Try it and let us know!

    • Soaked and blended cashew nuts are the best dairy substitute!

    • Sorrel-Nettle soup is my favorite!

  5. Grest recipe!
    I like to use nettles in place if spinach in spanakopita.
    I make it in a casserole dish and instead of layering the phylo I shred some, toss it with melted butter and place on top of the wet ingredients in the casserole dish. I also sprinkle fennel seeds on top before baking. A family favorite. 😻

    • Sounds delicious, Janett!

    • Spanokopita sounds wonderful with Nettles. I have plenty that grow here its been spreading and welcome. I make Nesto. A pesto with the nettles. It is not cooked so running it through the food processor keeps the nutrients and takes out the sting. It can be frozen also in this form, and it is great!

  6. Nettle is not yet seen in my area. I did enjoy taste-testing nettle soup at Lincoln University’s Native Plant program in Jefferson City, Missouri, but that soup did not have asparagus. It tasted subtlely similar to spinach! Almost everyone finished our samples and volunteered to finish off what was left. There wasn’t any left.

  7. I had a reaction after eating nettles and I have had reactions to bee stings . I wasn’t sure if it was the nettles but don’t have any other ideas what it could have been. The patch was mature but I had found some plants that had not flowered. I woke up he next morning ..My whole face swelled up I am very leary of trying again ..was thinking about trying with very young plants but maybe best not to

    • That doesn’t sound fun, Bonnie. The recipe is great with fresh dark leafy greens in place of fresh stinging nettles!

  8. Never tried nettles before this past year not till I discovered we have access to fresh nettles at the farmers market by local foragers. Now dried nettle is a major component to my tea blends. Just love them though I have yet to try a soup I certainly will now. What I have made though with fresh – is Gruit ale – love that too!

  9. I use a lot of nettles in green smoothie drink: I fill the Vita Mix with fresh green nettle, add 2 cups Kombucha, a lemon sliced (skin included), a banana, and another fruit (peach, pear, apple, or cup of berries – cranberries, blue berries, aronia berries…) All measurements are approximate. The first time I just sipped to see whether it would sting and it did not. It’s very refreshing. I freeze dry (or freeze) a bunch in the summer to have for drinks in the winter and always have some dry for tea and/or to cook with my morning oatmeal.

  10. I have nettles next to us growing wild we also grow asparagus. When asparagus is ready I will pick both & give it a try. How do I transplant some of the nettle to get established in another location?

    • Good luck transplanting! I have tried several years. My space is just too dry and hot for nettles. I tried seeds from a local friend’s nettles and I tried some actual plants. The small plants lasted long than the seedlings I got to come up. Both methods are viable, I just didn’t have good growing conditions for it.

    • Hi Lisa, where do you live? When I lived in New England, we dug up nettles and just replanted in another location and they took super easily. They were garden nettles, not the wild wood nettles though….

  11. I don’t think nettles grow in my area (Sierra Foothills outside of Sacramento, CA) – but it sounds like they would be easy to grow. Can I buy seeds? Friends think I’m nuts to grow a ‘stinging, prickly’ plant, but it sounds like it has many, many positive things going for you – medicinally AND nutritionally! (Happy to substitute other greens though — afterall, it’s gotta taste great with coconut milk!)

    • I don’t think I’ve seen seeds for sale commercially. A seed exchange could work!

    • Hi Penny! I grow stinging nettles in the foothills outside of Sacramento. I grow them in an almost totally shady place and make sure I keep them moist. I got my seeds from Richo Cech at Strictly Medicinals — though I planted them last year – 2017 – in early Spring (March sometime)– I think it may be too late to plant now in our climate…

  12. Tried this last night—-DELICIOUS!!!

    • I’m so glad you enjoyed it, too! 😀

  13. I had a histamine reaction when I drank nettle tea a year ago. Do you think fresh nettles in the soup
    would do the same?
    Even though it will be a few more months before they will be up here, the recipe looks yummy and I’ll try it with chard.

    • I have allergies. I wouldn’t risk it, personally. Other dark leafy greens taste great in the soup!

  14. I am surrounded by hundreds of acres of cattle fields near the Great Basin Desert at 4100′ in NE Calif and spring is not here yet. My nettles that grow in a barrel are just trying to say hello.

  15. Sigh….I’m drooling. There is still two feet of snow in spots around here. It won’t be long, though!

  16. We made this soup tonight with fresh nettles from our property and it is absolutely delicious. Thank you!

    • I’m so glad you enjoyed it, too! Yum!

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