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Pesto Zuppa Toscana

This recipe for Vegan Pesto Zuppa Toscana is a hearty and cozy meal that’s totally vegan! Inspired by the Olive Garden favorite, “Tuscan Soup” is a perfect weeknight dinner full of protein and nutrients.

hand with a spoon reaching into a bowl of tuscan soup

Love soup? Check our this roundup of all of my favorite vegan soup recipes!

What is Zuppa Toscana?

Zuppa Toscana is a broad term that translates directly to “Tuscan Soup,” or soup from the Tuscany region of Italy.  Traditional zuppa toscana normally is a soup made from kale, white beans, zucchini, potatoes, toasted bread, and Italian bacon. The American-based restaurant chain Olive Garden has popularized it in the US, but with heavy cream and Italian sausage.

Today’s recipe is inspired by both of these dishes, but with a purely plant-based spin.

Ingredient Details: How They Work Together + Substitutions

There are a number of ingredients in this dish, so I’ll highlight the main ones here and explain their significance!

Cashews, when blended with water, form a “cream” that gives this soup a lot of body and richness. Slivered almonds can be substituted.

Tempeh seasoned with soy sauce takes the place of bacon or sausage, adding a lot of protein (and a dose of probiotics). If you do not have access to tempeh, feel free to skip it or use white beans in its place.

Onion, celery, and carrots form the mirepoix, or main flavor base upon which the soup is built.

Basil pesto is an untraditional addition, but lends a lot of brightness (it’s also just one of my favorite sauces). It’s usually relegated to summer meals, but I like to freeze it to have on hand in winter months. It is also of course available at the store year-round; I like the Cashew Pesto sold by Trader Joes (featured in this roundup of my favorite vegan Trader Joe’s grocery items).

Small red potatoes lend a bit of comforting heft to this dish, and pair perfectly with the basil pesto flavor. These can easily be substituted for cubed Russet potatoes.

Vegetable broth unsurprisingly rounds out this dish. I do not like buying low sodium broth, as I prefer to just water down (by half) its full sodium counterpart. If you have homemade broth, this is of course the best option! I need to work on a recipe for that.

marble table with a plate of zuppa toscana and candle

Other Cozy Soup Recipes to Try Next

Chickpea Orzo Soup

Beet Carrot Ginger Soup

Vegan Pantry Chili

Easy and Creamy Tomato Soup

20-Minute Spicy Peanut Noodle Soup

Sesame Miso Ramen

Vegan Broccoli Cheddar Soup

More Pesto + Potato Recipes

This is one of my all-time favorite flavor combinations! Here are two other recipes that celebrate it.

Creamy Pesto Potato Salad

Crispy Pesto Potato Pizza

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overhead view of a bowl of vegan pesto zuppa toscana

Pesto Zuppa Toscana

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5 from 2 reviews

  • Author: Emily
  • Total Time: 35 minutes
  • Yield: 6 servings 1x
  • Diet: Vegan


This recipe for Vegan Pesto Zuppa Toscana is a hearty and cozy meal that’s totally vegan! Inspired by the Olive Garden favorite, “Tuscan Soup” is a perfect weeknight dinner full of protein and nutrients. 


Units Scale
  • 1/3 cup cashew pieces
  • 3 TBS extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 block of tempeh, crumbled (optional, white beans work well as a substitute)
  • 1 tsp tamari or soy sauce
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 3 ribs celery, sliced into thin pieces
  • Salt and pepper
  • 5 large clove garlic
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 cup pesto, homemade or store bought (I like Trader Joe’s Cashew Pesto)
  • 8 small red potatoes (or 23 medium-size russets), chopped into 1-inch pieces
  • 6 cups low sodium vegetable broth (or 3 cups full sodium broth + 3 cups water)
  • 5 cups kale, chopped
  • 1 tsp lemon juice or apple cider vinegar


  1. Begin by preparing cashew cream. To a high-speed blender, add cashews and 1 cup water. Blend until creamy. If you do not have a high speed blender, let the cashews soak in 1 cup of hot water for a little while until they are slightly softened. Set aside. This is our “cashew cream.”
  2. To a large pot on the stove, add olive oil over medium heat. Add tempeh pieces and let brown for 5-7 minutes, stirring to prevent burning. Add tamari/soy sauce. You want the tempeh to take on some color. Add a splash of water if it begin to stick (this will also help steam out any bitterness from your tempeh).
  3. Add to the pot the chopped onion and celery. Stir to combine and add a pinch of salt and a few twists of pepper. Let cook for 5 more minutes until onion is golden. Add garlic, red pepper, and pesto and cook 1 minute more.
  4. To this pot, toss in your chopped potatoes and vegetable broth. Bring to a boil and let cook for 6-9 minutes, until potatoes are soft enough to be pierced with a fork.
  5. Remove from heat and add in reserved cashew cream, kale, lemon juice. Taste and see if you’d like to add more salt or lemon.


Soup can be stored in a sealed container in the fridge for 5 days.

  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 25 minutes
  • Category: Dinner
  • Method: Soup
  • Cuisine: Italian-American


  • Serving Size: One sixth of recipe
  • Calories: 277.4 calories
  • Sugar: 4.5 grams
  • Sodium: 359.2 milligrams
  • Fat: 17.5 grams
  • Saturated Fat: 3.1 grams
  • Unsaturated Fat: 14.4 grams
  • Trans Fat: 0 grams
  • Carbohydrates: 21.8 grams
  • Fiber: 4.2 grams
  • Protein: 12.1 grams
  • Cholesterol: 0 milligrams
Portrait of Emily Meyers, founder of Garlic Head

About the Author

Emily (Frigon) Meyers is the founder of Garlic Head, a plant-based recipe website for all eaters who want to easily, affordably, and sustainably incorporate more vegetables into their diets while saving time and money. She is a lifelong vegetarian and 10+ year vegan. Garlic Head does not focus on labels - it focuses on creating food that everyone can enjoy.

Emily earned a certificate in Plant-Based Nutrition from Cornell University along with degrees in Economics, Spanish, and Global Sustainability from the University of Pittsburgh. She has been featured on numerous podcasts and websites including The Food Institute, VegNews, Buzzfeed, and the Boston Globe.

Meet Emily here.

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  1. Sue0523 says

    Flavors are spot on – delicious for a chilly evening! I subbed butter beans for the tempeh (because that’s what I had on hand) and it was superb. Thanks, GH!

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