Italian Sausage Bean Soup Recipe photo by Taste of Home
Total Time
Prep: 20 min. Cook: 1-1/2 hours
White bean and sausage soup blends Mediterranean flavors, creamy beans, veggies and fresh herbs for an Italian-style bowl that's nutritious, filling and comforting.

Updated: Jul. 21, 2024

Nothing is quite as comforting as a hearty soup. Savory, steaming and nourishing for both body and soul, there’s no wonder we crave it when we’re feeling lousy. Luckily, homemade soup is the ultimate one-pot meal. Take this white bean and sausage soup, for example. It has kale, barley and a herb-scented tomato broth, it can be scaled up or down, and it freezes well, so you can store it for another day. It’s nutritious, filling and comforting, making a satisfying main dish, especially when paired with a side salad and bread.

Ingredients for White Bean and Sausage Soup

  • Italian sausage: Use a mild or spicy pork sausage, or a combination of both for this Italian sausage and bean soup. This recipe calls for bulk sausage, but if all you have is link sausage, simply remove the casings and add it to the pot, breaking it up with a spoon as it cooks.
  • Onion: Yellow onions are a foundational flavor for many soups, but you can also use white or Vidalia onions if those are the only types of onions you have on hand.
  • Garlic: Slices of fresh garlic will mellow as they cook, and their flavor won’t be overpowering.
  • Reduced-sodium chicken broth: Soup is notoriously high in sodium, so using reduced-sodium broth is an excellent way to help keep those levels in check. Any of the best chicken broth brands or homemade chicken broth will work well in this soup.
  • Canned pinto or cannellini beans: The mild, earthy flavor of these beans is a great partner for salty sausage, and this plant-based protein transforms any soup into a filling meal. Pintos are smaller and darker, while cannellini or white kidney beans are larger. You can substitute other varieties, like Great Northern beans, red kidney beans, black beans, or chickpeas.
  • Canned diced tomatoes: The natural acidity of tomatoes helps balance this soup’s other flavors and meld them together. Don’t drain the can; you want to add the juices to achieve the perfect texture.
  • Medium pearl barley: This grain is a nutritious alternative to rice, adding the perfect amount of chewiness to this hearty soup.
  • Carrot and celery: Along with onion, carrot and celery are essential ingredients in mirepoix, the traditional aromatic base for many soups. Carrot brings a bit of sweetness, while celery adds a fresh vegetal flavor. Cut each to around the same size so they cook simultaneously in the soup.
  • Fresh sage: This herb has a long growing season, so you can usually find the fuzzy leaves well into soup season. It pairs well with other earthy flavors, like root vegetables and pork, so it’s no surprise that it works well in this recipe.
  • Fresh or dried rosemary: This woodsy herb can be potent, so a little goes a long way. The fresh-to-dried herb conversion is a 3-1 ratio, or 3 teaspoons of fresh to every 1 teaspoon of dried.
  • Kale: This robust green is ideal for soup because it maintains its texture even after simmering. You can use the more common curly variety or the dark-green lacinato kale, sometimes called Tuscan or dinosaur kale.

Directions

Step 1: Brown the sausage and aromatics

In a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat, cook and stir the sausage and onion until the meat is no longer pink, six to seven minutes. Add the garlic and cook one minute longer. Drain any excess fat or moisture.

Step 2: Simmer the soup

Stir in the broth, beans, tomatoes and their juices, barley, carrot, celery, sage and rosemary, and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover the pot and simmer the soup for 45 minutes.

Editor’s Note: If you plan to keep some of the soup as leftovers, know that the barley will continue to absorb the broth as it cools. You can prepare the barley separately and add it to individual bowls to avoid that.

Step 4: Add the kale

Stir in the kale and return the soup to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover the pot and simmer the soup for 25 to 30 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.

White Bean and Sausage Soup Variations

  • Switch up the grains: No barley on hand? No problem. You can use other whole grains in its place, like wild rice, farro or quinoa.
  • Make it meatless: To make this soup vegetarian-friendly, skip the sausage or swap it for plant-based meat and use vegetable stock.
  • Get creative with greens: If you’re not a fan of kale, other hearty leafy greens like Swiss chard, bok choy, or spinach work well in this soup.
  • Try different herbs and spices: Use thyme or marjoram instead of rosemary, or pop in a few red pepper flakes to make it spicy.
  • Thicken the soup: If you like a thicker soup, try transferring a few cups of the vegetables and broth to a food processor or blender, pureeing, and then adding it back to the stock pot. After removing the soup from the heat, stir in some heavy cream or coconut milk for a creamy consistency and flavor.

How to Store White Bean and Sausage Soup

If you plan to enjoy this soup within a few days, transfer it to airtight storage containers (preferably shallow ones), and let it cool on the counter before covering the containers with lids and placing them in the refrigerator.

How long does white bean and sausage soup last?

If you don’t eat all the white bean and sausage soup immediately, it can be refrigerated for up to four days.

Can you freeze white bean and sausage soup?

Yes, white bean and sausage soup freezes quite well. Allow it to cool to room temperature, then transfer it to airtight, freezer-safe containers or zip-top bags. Do not overfill, as the soup will expand slightly when frozen. Squeeze as much air out as possible when closing the container or bag, then store the soup in the freezer for up to three months.

How do you reheat white bean and sausage soup?

If your soup is refrigerated, you can reheat it in the microwave or on the stovetop. If frozen, thaw it in the refrigerator overnight or use the defrost setting on your microwave before reheating it at full power. As the soup reheats, you may need to add more broth; barley tends to soak up liquid.

White Bean and Sausage Soup Tips

Can I make white bean and sausage soup in a slow cooker or pressure cooker?

Yes, you can make this soup in a slow cooker or Instant Pot. If using a slow cooker, brown the meat and saute the onion and garlic, then add them with the other ingredients (except the kale) to the slow cooker. Add the kale for the last 20 minutes, and you’re good to go!

If using an Instant Pot, use the saute setting to brown the meat and saute the onion and garlic before adding the other ingredients, including the kale. Lock the lid and close the pressure-release valve. Adjust the pot to pressure-cook on high for 10 minutes. Allow the pressure to release naturally for five minutes, then quickly release any remaining pressure, like you would with pressure-cooker Italian sausage and kale soup.

Can you use dried beans for this soup?

Sure, you can use dried beans for white bean and sausage soup if you prep them properly. Pre-soak the beans overnight (or do a quick soak) and cook them before adding to the soup. You’ll use the same amount of cooked dried beans as canned ones.

What can you serve with white bean and sausage soup?

This soup is hearty enough to make a full meal with some crusty homemade bread, but it also pairs nicely with green salads. Since this is an Italian bean soup, some focaccia isn’t out of the question, while tiramisu makes a delightful dessert.

Watch how to Make Italian Sausage Bean Soup

White Bean and Sausage Soup

Prep Time 20 min
Yield 8 servings (3 quarts)

Ingredients

  • 1 pound bulk Italian sausage
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 4 cans (14-1/2 ounces each) reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 cans (15 ounces each) pinto or cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can (14-1/2 ounces) diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 cup medium pearl barley
  • 1 large carrot, sliced
  • 1 celery rib, sliced
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh sage
  • 1/2 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary or 1/8 teaspoon dried rosemary, crushed
  • 6 cups chopped fresh kale

Directions

  1. In a Dutch oven, cook and stir sausage and onion over medium heat until meat is no longer pink, 6-7 minutes. Add garlic; cook 1 minute longer. Drain.
  2. Stir in the broth, beans, tomatoes, barley, carrot, celery, sage and rosemary. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 45 minutes.
  3. Stir in kale; return to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 25-30 minutes or until vegetables are tender.

Nutrition Facts

1-1/2 cups: 339 calories, 9g fat (3g saturated fat), 23mg cholesterol, 1100mg sodium, 48g carbohydrate (7g sugars, 11g fiber), 19g protein.

In the cold months, I like to put on a big pot of this comforting soup. It cooks away while I do other things, such as baking bread, crafting or even cleaning the house. —Glenna Reimer, Gig Harbor, Washington
Recipe Creator