Vegetarian Split Pea Soup is naturally thick and plant protein-packed so you don't actually need the traditional ham for flavor nor for protein. Use an umami-rich mushroom broth or vegetable stock and garnish with crisp toasts and crunchy roasted peas for a perfect meal in a bowl. Shall we?
- What is Vegetarian Split Pea Soup?
- What are Split Peas?
- Ingredients You Need for Vegetarian Split Pea Soup
- Ingredients Notes, Resources, and Substitutions
- How to Make Vegetarian Split Pea Soup
- Tools and Equipment
- What Else to Serve with Vegetarian Split Pea Soup
- Vegetarian Split Pea Soup Health Benefits and Dietary Considerations
- More Soup and Stew Recipes for "Bowl Season"
- Vegetarian Split Pea Soup Recipe
What is Vegetarian Split Pea Soup?
Split Pea Soup is a hearty soup made from dried split green peas that are cooked with flavorful liquid or broth for a couple of hours until they break down into a thick soup.
Traditionally, the split peas are cooked with a ham bone or ham hocks which add salt and smoky, savory notes to the final soup. In this Vegetarian Split Pea Soup, we don't miss the salty, fatty ham because mushroom broth or a very rich roasted vegetable stock lends the same umami to the soup, along with a splash of tamari (soy sauce) for salt and another dimension of umami.
What are Split Peas?
Split peas are dried green peas, so yes, they are the same thing as those bright green peas you usually get frozen or fresh in the Spring time. Split peas are peeled of their thin seed coating, "split" naturally into their two halves hence their name, and dried.
Just as a note of definition, split peas and green peas are part of the legume family, which also includes beans and lentils.
You can find Split Peas in the same grocery store section as other dried beans and lentils.
Ingredients You Need for Vegetarian Split Pea Soup
There are a little more than a few ingredients in this list, but the actual cooking is pretty minimal, especially if you use a slow-cooker. Here's what you need:
- avocado or other neutral cooking oil
- green split peas
- mushroom broth or rich vegetable stock
- fresh Italian herbs: basil, oregano, parsley
- ground cumin
- bay leaf
- sea salt and black pepper
- fresh green peas for garnish
- additional suggested garnish: toasted croutons, chopped fresh parsley and chives
Ingredients Notes, Resources, and Substitutions
Avocado oil. Use avocado oil, which is a neutral flavored oil with a high smoke point, making it appropriate for cooking. If you don't have avocado oil, olive oil is fine.
Mushroom broth. I make my own Mushroom Broth with dried mushrooms, and stems and pieces of fresh mushrooms you usually cut off and discard. For store-bought, this is a good, organic one that only has water, mushrooms, garlic and salt as ingredients.
Vegetable Stock. If you can't find Mushroom Broth, a very good, rich, roasted vegetable stock will work in this recipe, too.
Italian Herbs. You can use either fresh or dried herbs, or a combination of both. In the the winter when fresh herbs are a little harder to come by, use 1 tablespoon dried Italian seasoning blend that contains basil, oregano, and parsley, or use 1 teaspoon of each.
If you have access to fresh herbs, tie together 3-4 sprigs of each of basil, oregano, and parsley with kitchen twine into a "bouquet." Add the bay leaf here too. Add the herb bouquet to the pot when you add the liquid and cook along with the soup. The entire bouquet is removed from the soup once cooking in complete.
Tamari. Tamari is a Japanese-style soy sauce that is made without wheat so it is gluten-free. This is the organic brand I use (links to a six-pack!). Most regular soy sauces are brewed with wheat so if you're ok eating wheat, you can use regular soy sauce.
Salt. I use this Kosher salt.
All other vegetables, herbs and produce I get from the the regular grocery store.
How to Make Vegetarian Split Pea Soup
Vegetarian Split Pea Soup is one of the least complicated soups to make. Here is how you make Split Pea Soup:
- Sauté vegetables
- Simmer vegetables, split peas and broth for 1½ hours, or until the peas have broken down.
- Remove and discard the whole herbs and bay leaf.
- Ladle finished soup into bowls, garnish, and enjoy.
My preference is always for a soup with some "chew." However, if you prefer a soup with a smoother texture, puree the cooked split peas with an immersion blender, in a food processor, or in a blender before adding the remaining chopped vegetables.
Tools and Equipment
As I always say, you don't need any special equipment to make Vegetarian Split Pea Soup. You can simply use a knife and cutting board to mince the garlic and chop the vegetables. However, that doesn't mean there are a couple of gadgets and tools that might make Vegetarian Split Pea Soup even easier than it already is.
Stock Pot. I use a very large stock pot by this cookware company. It has a heavy bottom and easy-to-hold handles. Any large pot that fits the ingredients will do. A large Dutch oven is great for this.
Slow Cooker. This is the reliable 6-quart programmable slow cooker that I use. If you are going to use a slow-cooker, I highly recommend getting/using a slow-cooker that has a timer or auto-shut-off so you can truly "set it, and forget it," which is kind of the point of a slow-cooker, imho.
Vegetable Peeler. Current favorite all-purpose vegetable peeler to use for the carrots.
Chef's Knife. This is my workhorse chef's knife, slightly more pricey than others, but definitely worth it. I have had it for more than 10 years and use it every day.
Immersion Blender. Great for pureed soups with a little more texture.
Food Processor. I have been using an older model of this mini food processor for 15, maybe 20, years.
Blender. You don't need a high-power blender, but this one works well for soup because of it's large pitcher.
Stainless steel tongs to fish out a bouquet garni or transfer larger ingredients between pots and bowls.
Stainless steel ladle.
What Else to Serve with Vegetarian Split Pea Soup
I am an executive member of the "Soup is a Meal" club, so I generally would serve the soup perfect as-is, with nothing more than the suggested garnishes. However, if Split Pea Soup is a starter at your table, here are a few additional dishes that work particularly well with Split Pea Soup:
- Caesar-ish tri-colore salad with an Anchovy Vinaigrette
- Roasted broccoli, or steamed if you want to keep all your cooking on the stovetop
- Stay on all-green theme with Crispy Shredded Brussels Sprouts
- Baked Salmon as a main protein, and just leave the shredded ham garnish off the soup
Vegetarian Split Pea Soup Health Benefits and Dietary Considerations
Depending on your health and dietary needs, Vegetarian Split Pea Soup is healthy. Split peas themselves, like all legumes, are rich in fiber and packed with protein. The soup is made with all vegetables, and has a nutrient-pop from mushrooms in the broth.
One serving of split peas, which is about ¼ cup dried, or ½ cup cooked, has:
- a whopping 8.3 grams fiber
- 8.3 grams of protein
As published, this recipe for Vegetarian Split Pea Soup is:
- vegetarian and vegan
- gluten-free adaptable when you make sure to use tamari which is gluten-free, not soy sauce which is brewed with wheat and therefore not gluten-free, and serve with gluten-free garnishes
- refined sugar-free
Peas, and all legumes in fact, are high in natural carbohydrates so this recipe is not appropriate for keto, paleo, or Whole30.
No, you do not have to soak split peas before cooking like you have to do for dried beans. Split peas will cook until soft and broken down in about two hours.
Yes! Split Pea Soup can support health, specifically because it is both fiber- and protein-rich. One cup of dried split peas has 8-10 grams of fiber and 8 grams of protein. Split peas are also a good source of vitamins B and K and the mineral magnesium. This soup also skips the salty, fatty ham of traditional Split Pea Soup, so it can have less salt, and very little fat..
You can store leftover Split Pea Soup in an airtight container in the refrigerator for three days, or in the freezer for two months.
Yes! You can freeze Split Pea Soup in an airtight container or plastic zipper bags for two months.
Yes, green split peas and regular green peas are the same things, the seed of the Pisum Sativum plant. Split peas are peeled of their thin seed coating, "split" hence their name, and dried. Both split peas and green peas have the same nutritional content, though their taste and texture differ when cooked.
Both split peas and lentils are part of the Legume family, but they are different species of plants. Split peas are the dried version of regular green peas. Lentils, on the other hand, are the seed of a lentil plant, a different species. Lentils are usually smaller than split peas, and slightly flattened in shape.
More Soup and Stew Recipes for "Bowl Season"
Are you an executive member of the "Soup Absolutely is a Meal" Club like I am? Is every season soup season? Are spoons your weapon of choice? If so, try these additional recipes for rich, hearty soups, stews, and chilis:
- Lentil Soup
- Vegetarian French Onion Soup
- Carrot Ginger Soup
- Ginger Miso Soup with Soba Noodles
- Whole Chicken Pho with Quinoa
Vegetarian Split Pea Soup Recipe
- 2 tablespoons avocado oil
- 2 cups finely diced yellow onion ~2 medium onions
- 1½ cups finely diced carrot ~4 carrots
- 1½ cups finely diced celery ~4 stalks
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic ~4 cloves
- 2 cups green split peas
- 8 cups rich vegetable stock
- 1 tablespoon dried Italian seasoning: basil, oregano, parsley
- 1½ teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 tablespoon tamari
- sea salt and black pepper to taste
- ¼ cup fresh or roasted green peas as garnish
- optional suggested garnishes: toasted croutons, chopped fresh parsley and chives
- Sauté diced carrots, diced celery, diced onions, and minced garlic in avocado oil over medium heat in a very large soup pot.
- Add split peas, broth, dried herbs, spices, and tamari to pot. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer for 1½ hours or until split peas are soft and broken down.
- Remove pot from heat and fish out the bay leaf. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.
- Optional: Blend half the cooked split peas to make a smoother soup. Pour the blended part back into the pot and stir to combine.
- Ladle soup into bowls. Garnish with roasted or fresh peas, soup croutons, or fresh chopped herbs if using.