Vegetarian Split Pea Soup

This vegetarian split pea soup is made with a touch of liquid smoke in place of the traditional ham. It’s a filling, easy plant based meal!

Vegetarian split pea soup

There’s nothing quite like a comforting bowl of soup. And how about split pea soup? It’s the cozy equivalent of blueberry pancakes or mac and cheese, right? This soup is one of our favorite healthy dinner recipes! It’s not only hearty and delicious, but it’s also incredibly easy to make. Here we’ve used a trick to substitute for the traditional ham hock, leaving a smoky nuance to this vegetarian split pea soup. Alex’s mom often makes this meal for family, so it gives us all the cozy familial vibes. It’s a filling, easy whole food plant based (WFPB) meal that everyone will love!

Got a pressure cooker? Go to Instant Pot Split Pea Soup.

Vegetarian split pea soup

How to make vegetarian split pea soup

Of course, the easiest way to make vegetarian split pea soup is to buy a bag of split peas with a flavoring packet and just add water. But when experimenting with our own recipe, we found that simply adding some sautéed onions and garlic to a vegetable broth base gives great flavor. We also added some liquid smoke to mimic the ham that normally gives the soup flavor.

Cooking down the split peas in this soup causes them to disintegrate into a thick, stew-like texture. We used an immersion blender to blend our vegetarian split pea soup a bit after cooking, but not too much – we like to keep it fairly chunky.

If you don’t have any liquid smoke, feel free to omit it or try adding a pinch of chipotle powder instead. Chipotle powder is spicy yet smoky; you won’t need much of it, but if you’re craving that ham-like, smoky flavor it’ll do the trick. If you’d like, you can garnish with smoked paprika, which also adds a subtle smokiness to this dish.

Split peas

What are split peas?

So, what are split peas? Split peas are a type of legume (like lentils). They’re a field pea, a pea grown for drying, It’s a special type of dried pea that is split in half, making it break down easily into a thick, soup like consistency when cooked. Split peas are available at most grocery stores, or you can buy split peas online. With a shelf life of 2 to 3 years, they’re a fantastic healthy ingredient to stock up on!

Want to eat more peas? Go to our Best Peas Recipes.

Want to use up that liquid smoke?

If you’ve just bought liquid smoke for this recipe, we have a few others that use it! Here are a few ways to use it up:

Vegetarian split pea soup

How to serve vegetarian split pea soup

Serve this vegan and vegetarian split pea soup with some crusty bread, biscuits (or vegan biscuits), or a simple side salad for a full meal. It keeps well in the fridge for up to five days, and it actually tastes better the longer it sits! If you don’t want to fuss with making sides, enjoy this soup by itself and crush up some crackers to stir in. This recipe makes enough for four good-sized servings, so you should have plenty to eat.

Saving leftovers

To freeze this soup for later, let it cool completely to room temperature before pouring it into a freezer-safe container. Glass jars and freezer bags would both work well, but really anything will work. We like to freeze soups in individual portions so we can thaw out exactly the amount we need for a single serving. This vegetarian split pea soup will last for a few months in the freezer, and it reheats beautifully.

This vegetarian split pea soup recipe is…

Vegetarian, gluten-free, plant-based, vegan, and dairy-free.

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Instant pot split pea soup

Vegetarian Split Pea Soup

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (27 votes, average: 4.11 out of 5)

  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 50 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour
  • Yield: 4 to 6 1x


This vegetarian split pea soup is made with a touch of liquid smoke in place of the traditional ham. It’s a filling, easy plant based meal!



  • 1 yellow onion
  • 4 carrots
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 pound split peas
  • 8 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 teaspoon liquid smoke
  • Kosher salt
  • Fresh ground pepper


  1. Chop the onion and carrots. Mince the garlic. (If you’ve got a pressure cooker, head to Instant Pot Split Pea Soup for the next step.)
  2. In a large soup pot or Dutch oven over medium high heat, heat the olive oil. Add the onion and carrots and saute for 2 minutes. Add garlic and split peas and saute for 1 minute.
  3. Add the vegetable broth. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 45 to 55 minutes, until the split peas fall apart and the soup becomes thickened. If you’d like, with a hand-held immersion blender, pulse a few times to yield a smoother yet still chunky texture. 
  4. Stir in the liquid smoke, kosher salt, and fresh ground pepper. Garnish with smoked paprika if desired.

  • Category: Soup
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: American

Keywords: Vegetarian split pea soup, Vegan split pea soup

Looking for more vegan and vegetarian soup recipes?

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About the Authors

Sonja Overhiser

Cookbook Author and writer

Sonja Overhiser is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best healthy cookbooks of 2018. She’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the food blog A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Sonja seeks to inspire adventurous eating to make the world a better place one bite at a time.

Alex Overhiser

Cookbook Author and photographer

Alex Overhiser is an acclaimed food photographer and author based in Indianapolis. He’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the recipe website A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Alex is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best vegetarian cookbooks by Epicurious.


  • Reply
    [email protected]
    January 7, 2011 at 12:20 pm

    Split pea soup is one of my families favorites too! I add barley and lean pastrami to mine…

  • Reply
    January 7, 2011 at 1:16 pm

    Yumm….I would never have thought to add liquid smoke, thanks for the tip!

  • Reply
    January 7, 2011 at 3:22 pm

    Love split pea soup and love how easy it is to make!

  • Reply
    Kulsum at JourneyKitchen
    January 8, 2011 at 12:23 pm

    I felt like a total dumb right now as I didn’t even know what liquid smoke was!

  • Reply
    Medifast Coupon
    January 8, 2011 at 3:06 pm

    This is hearty, warm and full of flavour! Great vegetarian recipe, looks delicious!

  • Reply
    January 8, 2011 at 6:20 pm

    I’ve never cooked with split peas before, but I love them! I think soup is always a good place to start when using something for the first time.

  • Reply
    January 9, 2011 at 4:10 pm

    Great Recipe! I saved it immediately to my online cookbook. Smoked Paprika is one of my all-time favorite spices. I esp love the addition of liquid smoke here.

  • Reply
    January 15, 2011 at 5:56 pm

    Pretty spoon! I bet it makes the soup taste better…

  • Reply
    March 6, 2011 at 5:54 pm

    I love split pea soup. I think it’s just what I need to combat this dumb cold I got from my sweetly sharing husband.

    you may want to append your directions to include when to add the carrots though :)

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