Smoky Vegetarian Split Pea Soup

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Healthy, hearty, and packed with smoky flavor…this vegetarian split pea soup is pure comfort in a bowl!

Do you have a go-to dish that you like to make when you have no idea what to make for dinner? I do! It’s vegetarian split pea soup. I make this stuff all year round (even during the hottest days of summer) and I love it.

Split pea soup is healthy, comforting, and so easy to make. In fact, I have about a million and one versions that I make, and I never actually follow a recipe.

I had a hard time picking a version for this post, but I decided to go with a vegan version of what I consider classic split pea soup — the smoky stuff that’s normally made with ham. It’s full of smoky flavor and super satisfying, so it’s perfect for a meal!

Jump to:
  • Ingredients You’ll Need
  • How It’s Made
  • Instant Pot Split Pea Soup
  • Season the Soup
  • Leftovers & Storage
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • More Hearty Soup Recipes
  • Smoky Vegetarian Split Pea Soup

Ingredients You’ll Need

Tip: The awesome thing about this soup is that it’s easy to keep all of the ingredients on hand, so you can make it any time!

  • Olive oil. Just about any high heat oil can be used in place of this. Canola, coconut, avocado, and corn oil are all fine choices.
  • Onions.
  • Celery.
  • Carrots.
  • Garlic.
  • Ground cumin. This will add some depth of flavor to our soup. For even more flavor, it’s worth it to add a teaspoon or so of whole cumin seeds, though you might need to make a trip to the Indian market for these.
  • Vegetable broth. I used Better Than Bouillon brand in seasoned vegetable flavor.
  • Dried split peas. Look for these near the dried beans and rice at your store. We’re using green split peas, but you can switch things up and use yellow if you’d like. (Or check out my favorite yellow split pea dal recipe!)
  • Hot water. We’re going to use this to thin the soup as it simmers. Making sure the water is hot is important to avoid cooling down the soup and slowing the cooking process.
  • Red wine vinegar. A little acid will enhance the flavor of the soup. White wine vinegar or even plain old white vinegar will do as a substitute in a pinch.
  • Liquid smoke. This is how we’re adding some smoky flavor to our soup.

Tip: This vegetarian split pea soup recipe is really easy to customize and make your own! Switch up the spices or add some veggies. I’ve made this soup with the addition of hot sauce, greens and even a potato, and all variations were delicious..

How It’s Made

The following is a detailed photo tutorial on how to make this dish. Scroll all the way down if you’d like to skip right to the recipe!

First you’ll need to sweat your veggies. Heat some oil in a large pot and add your onion, carrots and celery. You’ll need to cook them for a few minutes before adding everything else, to start softening them up.

Once the veggies are soft, add some garlic and your cumin. Toasting the cumin first brings out the flavor.

The garlic should become really fragrant after about a minute. Now it’s time to add the broth and peas.

Give everything a good stir, crank up the heat and bring the broth to a simmer.

The tough part about cooking split pea soup is the wait. Split peas can take an hour or more to soften up completely. Be patient! Or don’t, and scroll down for the Instant Pot instructions!

You may find that the broth dries up while your soup cooks. Keep a cup of hot water near the stove and add some whenever this happens.

Instant Pot Split Pea Soup

Don’t have time to let your vegan split pea soup simmer for an hour or more? Make it in the Instant Pot!

Simply cook your carrots, celery and onion using the “sauté” function. Add your garlic and spices during the last minute, just like you’d do on the stove.

Hit the “cancel” button, then stir in your broth and split peas. Place the lid on your Instant Pot, set your valve to “sealing,” and set your soup to pressure cook (“manual” button on older models) on high pressure for 15 minutes. When the time is up you can move the valve to “venting” and let the pressure release before opening the lid.

Season the Soup

Add the liquid smoke and a splash of red wine vinegar when your soup is done cooking. Season your soup with salt and pepper to taste, ladle it into bowls and dig in.

Leftovers & Storage

Leftovers of this soup keep great! Store them in a sealed container in the fridge for up to 3 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months. You may find that your soup thickens up quite a bit during storage — if this happens just add some water when you reheat it.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is this soup gluten-free?

It is!

My soup has been cooking for ages and the peas are still hard as rocks. Why?

First off, keep in mind that this stuff does take a long time to cook. Have you given it a full hour and fifteen minutes? If not, be patient.
Another common culprit is old peas. Check the date on the bag and consider how long they’ve been sitting in your pantry. Dated split peas often won’t cook fully.
Finally, did you add any extra seasonings? Acidic ingredients like lemon juice or vinegar can prevent split peas from cooking. This is why the red wine vinegar goes in at the end of this recipe.

Can this vegetarian split pea soup be made in a slow cooker?

I’m sure it can, but I haven’t tried, so I can’t give exact instructions.

What is liquid smoke?

Liquid smoke is a seasoning that’s made by burning wood and condensing the smoke. So liquid smoke is actually smoke, in liquid form! It’s totally vegan and most supermarkets carry it near the barbecue sauces. You can also buy it online.

Do split peas need to be soaked before cooking?

They don’t, although you can certainly soak them overnight if you’d like. It will shorten the cooking time a bit.

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