Vegetarian Split Pea Soup

Split Pea Soup

It’s hard to make the drab color of split pea soup look beautiful, but just use your imagination.

For quick lunches lately I have resorted to canned soups. Sacrilege for a foodie. I know. But it’s real food, easy, and nutritious since I buy soups from a wonderful local company, Amy’s Kitchen. I was eating their split pea the other day and thought, not only had I never made it myself, but I don’t think I’ve ever tasted it freshly made. Why had it strangely remained absent from my repertoire? My mom never made it when I was growing up, maybe because pork and I were not on speaking terms.

Then I realized, I only had two associations with split pea soup. One was that my grandmother (Doe), had bought herself a piping hot cup to eat on the road between northern California (where she lived) and Santa Barbara (where I lived at the time) and promptly spilled it all over her lap while driving. The other association I had was that a friend of mine hated it.

It’s also not a soup that is generally offered in a vegetarian version in restaurants. So it was with these notions banging around in my head, that I found myself in the bulk section scooping green split peas into a bag. Not totally knowing what to expect, I checked out a couple recipes on the Internet and came up with a plan (I rarely use an actual recipe, word-for-word when I cook).

Pile of Split Peas

Little pile of split peas

The result was delicious, hearty, cheap and quick. Seriously, all the ingredients (except the bay leaves) were organic and the total cost was under $5. Chopping to belly, the soup took about an hour. One of my favorite time saving tricks, is to fill the kettle with water, get it boiling while I prep and sauté the aromatics (veg), and then add the hot water I need to the pot. It saves at least 5 or 10 minutes since the water doesn’t lower the temp of the soup pot, and gets to a rolling boil again almost immediately.

This could easily be a weeknight, worked-late, gimme-food-now kind of satisfying fast meal. I think dried beans and legumes have gotten a bad rap for taking an eon, but they really are good wholesome foods that don’t have to take forever. The recipes that call for a hamhock take three hours or something, but this vegetarian alternative is a great quick way to go.

Vegetarian Split Pea Soup (serves 6 as long as you don’t burn the bottom, then it serves 4)
2 C. split peas (picked through for stones, then rinsed)
2 med. carrots, diced
3 celery stalks, diced
1 onion, diced
2 small to medium potatoes, diced
8 C. water
2 bay leaves
salt/pepper to taste
2 bay leaves
small handful of fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped (oregano would work great here too)

Boil water in kettle. Sauté carrots, celery and onion with a little salt and pepper.

Add water and split peas, cook 15 minutes, covered.

Add potatoes and cook another 20-30 minutes at a simmer (not a high boil, since the starch can settle and burn before you know it). Taste for seasoning and adjust as necessary.
Be sure to check on it often in those last 15 minutes or so. I gave mine a good stir at about 35 minutes, and then Marc stirred it 5 minutes later and found that it had begun to burn. We lost about 1-2 cups of soup to the fire god at the bottom of the pan, but had caught it in time to enjoy a very tasty soup. I didn’t know that it really is best to cook it a little longer at a lower temperature, rather than boiling for a shorter time. Live and learn.

When the peas are soft and have fallen apart, turn off the heat, remove the bay leaves and add the fresh herbs. The soup is very tasty garnished with plain yogurt, sour cream or freshly grated Parmesan cheese. For a tasty vegetarian alternative to garnishing with bacon, smoked paprika works wonders. Enjoy!

23 thoughts on “Vegetarian Split Pea Soup”

  1. Oh this makes me so hungry!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! and I hvae just had dinner. My mum is Dutch and I loveeeeeeeeee pea soup!

  2. January is National Soup Month you know! Yours sounds delicious…btw that looks like one of those Dr. Kracker crackers along side of the bowl—yum!

  3. hi bri,

    okay i will be honest and say that pea soup freaks me out because of the exorcist. there, i got it out.

    now I will attempt to overcome my fear with this delicious sounding recipe. i like the idea of adding carrots to add color, and sour cream always helps too! 🙂

  4. The texture looks perfect, and I always think these kinds of soup are better just warm, not piping hot.

    Great choice of garnish too, I’d have all 3, lol.

  5. Brie – Thanks! So simple to make, and just so satisfying.

    JEP – I didn’t know that January was National Soup Month. I’ve been so addicted to soup lately, I’m making it two or three times a week. Actually the crackers are sesame seed corn and wheat crackers from Trader Joe’s. Delish!

    Chris – Great! I’ll have to check yours out. Thanks for stopping by.

    Gigi – Hmmm…I can see the problem there. Thankfully by the time I saw the Exorcist, it was more campy than scary, but I can see how it could potentially ruin your for split pea. My father in law saw Jaws when it first came out, and hasn’t been in the ocean since. Having said that, this simple tasty soup could be just what you need to meet that fear head on 😉 And of course all fears can be conquered by sour cream right?

    Graeme – Thanks! Yes, warm is good. I burnt my tongue when it was till hot, and wished it wasn’t. Yum…garnish…

  6. I love your pea pile pic and description of temperature and cooking time. I might add a dollop of sour cream or skordalia/tzatsiki to adorn and flavor it when finished. Bragg’s Liquid Aminos also is a tasty replacement for sea salt. This is an inexpensive, healthy meal..

  7. PNUT ~ Let us know what you think, if you give the soup a go.

    Julie ~ Thanks for your ideas. May have to get around to making this soup before the cold weather’s gone…

  8. You might like to try making a large egg pancake with chopped parsley and grated Italian cheese, salt and pepper to taste. Turn it out on a flat surface after it is cooked; roll it up and cut into approximately 1/4 in strips for noodles and garnish the split pea soup with them.

  9. Thank you for the recipe and instructions. Am using the recipe for a soup/muffin-making class I’m teaching!


  10. Just found this site while looking for split pea soup guidance (I have leftover cornbread and wanted soup to eat with it). The recipe is simple and just what I needed. The site is beautiful–it is a lovely tribute to Bri that you are maintaining it.

  11. Christina ~ Glad you found us. Cornbread, Yum! Have a super recipe I’ll have to make and post one of these days. Hope you like the Split Pea Soup!

  12. I used to make a spectacular meat version of Split Pea Soup…. Now that I am meatless, I am wanting to give this a try! I will add a little bit thyme and some mustard seeds. I also might try a little smoked paprika…

  13. Theresa ~ It’s a bit of a transition going from meat flavored to vegetarian versions of your stand0by favs. Almost takes a different way of considering a dish….hearty mushroom stock, caramelized garlic & onions, smokey paprika or roasted chipotle powders add a lot of depth and nuance. Let us know how yours comes out!

  14. Well I did make it and it came out great!! I made baked beans this weekend and used the smoked paprika since I didn’t use the salt pork. They also came out great!! I use chipotle powder often in dishes that have a little spicy hot to them.

  15. I tried this and it was a disaster. I learned beans will not cook if salt is in the water. I added salt and pepper to the onion mixture and more salt with the water. I cooked it for an hour and half then put it in the blender and tried to cook some more. The beans are still hard.
    So for any other first timers to cooking beans do not add salt until the end.

  16. Oh! Jessica ~ I’m sorry to hear it didn’t work for you. We get so many RAV comments on this soup. BUT…

    I, too, had trouble cooking some red lentils awhile back. No matter how long they were cooked, never softened up to the point I like them. What we decided is that the lentils were too ‘old.’ Is it possible your split peas weren’t super fresh either?

    Appreciate the salt tip! Will keep it in mind next time, I cook legumes.

  17. I bought my slit peas hours before I tried to make the soup so they were fresh. I later looked up what could have gone wrong and read not to salt until cooked.
    I’ll try again and hope it comes out like the picture!

  18. Jessica.
    Even though you just bought the peas/beans they could have been on the store shelf for a LONG time! I’ve had it happened to me numerous times! It is quite a disappointment when it does though!! It is just one of those things that I hold my breath about every time I buy them!

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