Vegan split pea soup is a hearty, satiating meal in a single pot. It’s filled with carrots, onions, celery, garlic, and barley. (For a gluten-free option, make it with rice instead.)
When the weather gets cooler, I crave hearty meals-in-a-bowl like homestyle vegan split pea soup. It’s a full-bodied soup that delivers a lot of flavor and makes your insides feel cozy and soothed.
I started making this dish way back in 2010 when I wanted a split pea option that was like my favorite canned split pea of yore but without having any pigs harmed in the process.
Making split pea soup from scratch takes more time and forethought than cracking open a can. But you can’t beat the balanced warmth of homemade.
This filling soup is thick and dense with carrots, celery, garlic, barley, and broken down split peas. (For a gluten-free option, replace the barley with rice.)
You can use either yellow or green split peas, but my preference is green. It has a more robust flavor than the milder yellow variety.
Use smoked salt or liquid smoke
While many non-vegan recipes include smoked meat, this split pea soup recipe gets its smokiness by way of smoked salt. Or if you’d rather, you can use liquid smoke.
My favorite liquid smoke is the hickory variety from Wright’s. You can find it near the other ingredients for the grill like barbecue sauce.
I go for equal portions of either one in the recipe below for a hint of smokiness without overpowering. If you really love smoky flavors, use both liquid smoke & smoked salt.
How to make this soup
Rinse and sort dried green or yellow split peas and pearl barley. Remove any bits of debris that may be in the bags.
- Sauté onions, garlic, carrots, and celery in a large pot.
- Add water, a vegetable bouillon cube, dried split peas, pearl barley, coriander, basil, and thyme.
- Bring to a simmer. Then lower heat, stir, and cover with lid. Cook for 45 to 60 minutes.
- Finish with smoked salt or liquid smoke, and salt and pepper to taste.
- Eat the soup on its own. Or garnish it with sliced green onions, chives, and/or browned seitan bacon.
Depending on the age of your split peas, the seal of your pot, and the heat of the low setting on the stove, the soup may be done anywhere between 45 to 60 minutes or more. For me, it usually takes about 45 minutes.
You’ll know it is done when the split peas are soft, mushy, and falling apart.
If it looks like you’ll run out of liquid before the split peas are totally softened, add more water as necessary and adjust spices accordingly.
Can I make it in a slow cooker?
This soup works great with a Crock-Pot or other slow cooker. It’s really convenient, because you can just throw all of the ingredients into it, cover with a lid, set it, and go.
(You won’t need oil in the crock-pot, so you can leave it out.)
Cook on high for about 4 hours or on low for about 6 hours, until the split peas are completely soft. (Times will vary a little depending on your slow cooker.)
If the soup is too thick, add more water to thin it and stir.
Can I freeze it?
Split pea soup stores & freezes beautifully. Just put it into a freezer-proof container.
When you’re ready to eat it, let it thaw in the refrigerator, or use the microwave defrost function. Reheat in the microwave or on the stove.
Keep in mind that split soup will continue to thicken in the refrigerator. So you may want to add a splash of water when reheating for a soupier soup.
I have given containers of this comforting meal many times over to expecting parents and bereaved friends. It’s a quick & comforting dish that they can easily freeze or keep on hand for times when they just don’t feel like cooking.
Vegan split pea soup
- 1 teaspoon organic canola oil or other neutral cooking oil
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 2 carrots chopped
- 2 stalks celery chopped
- 1 small yellow onion chopped (Or half of a large onion)
- 4 ½ cups water
- 1 vegan vegetable bouillon cube
- 1 ½ cups split peas green or yellow, rinsed and sorted
- ¼ cup pearl barley rinsed and sorted (Brown rice also works, but the soup will be a bit more watery since it doesn’t absorb as much water)
- ½ teaspoon coriander
- ½ teaspoon dried basil
- ½ teaspoon dried thyme
- ¼ teaspoon smoked salt or liquid smoke
- Salt to taste
- Pepper to taste
- In a large soup pot, add organic canola oil and bring to a medium heat. Sauté garlic, carrots, celery and onion for about five minutes, until the onion is soft and translucent.
- Add the water, bouillon cube, split peas, barley, coriander, basil, and thyme to the pot. Bring to a simmer. Once it is simmering, reduce the heat to low, stir, and cover with lid.
- Keep the soup covered and cooking for 45 to 60 minutes. Depending on the age of your split peas, the seal of your pot, and the heat of the low setting on the stove, the soup may be done anywhere between 45 to 60 minutes or more. (For me, it usually takes about 45 minutes.) The soup is done when the split peas are soft, mushy, and falling apart. If it looks like you'll run out of liquid before the split peas are totally softened, add more water as necessary and adjust spices accordingly.
- When finished, add smoked salt or liquid smoke, and salt and pepper to taste. (If you really love smoky flavors, add BOTH smoked salt & liquid smoke.)
Content, photos, and slow cooker instructions updated/added on June 8, 2021. Originally posted October 2013.