Wrap your arms around a piping hot bowl of a savory, creamy, smoky vegan split pea soup and indulge in a healthy (and tastier) version of a classic.
Dear split pea soup, how has it been this long? And now that I’ve dipped my spoon in the bowl, my only regret is our time apart.
There is no excuse for not making a lot more batches of one of my top 10 soups. The ingredients are simple enough: onions, celery, carrots, garlic, rosemary, bay leaves, and of course, split peas. The prep is super easy. You don’t even need to dice everything perfectly because you can puree the soup for the ultimate in creaminess. Once you sauté the veggies for a few minutes, everything goes on the back burner for a slow simmer for a few hours. That’s the kind of 'inactive' cooking I love.
And the smell? Pure comfort. The sweet aroma of the sweet peas along with the vegetables and rosemary fills the house with anticipation.
Are split peas healthy?
As a general rule, we can depend that all dried legumes are sound nutritional choices. They are one of the foundations of a plant-based diet. And if you, like us, eat for nutrition, no doubt you've eaten a legume or two in your time (or just today).
Separating the legume herd for a moment, let’s talk split peas. They are so often overlooked among the lentils and chickpeas, but they shouldn’t be. Like their contemporaries, split peas have powerful nutritional benefits. They are high in protein, fiber, and vitamins. That means you’ll leave the table satisfied with ‘groceries’ to keep you going. They are low in fat, so you get a lot of nutritional bang for your calorie bucks.
Do split peas need to be soaked?
Here’s the skinny on split peas. They don’t necessarily need to be soaked. Unlike beans, which benefit your digestion when they are soaked (see my notes on cooking black beans for more info), split peas don’t have that effect. This leaves you with the only reason to soak them at all – reduced cooking time.
Unsoaked split peas will take 1 ½ to 2 hours (closer to 2) to cook to the point of starting to break down. That’s how we like it for our soup. If you soak split peas for at least 6 hours or overnight, you can reduce the cooking time by about half.
I’ll leave the decision to soak or not-to-soak up to you. However, be sure to rinse the split peas before adding them to the pot. This is best practice for any legume and a step not to be overlooked. Rinsing gets rid of dust or bits of debris and reminds you to take a quick look to ensure there aren’t any actors in the mix. Anything that looks discolored, extra hard, or just generally ‘weird’ should go into the trash, not the soup pot.
Once you get the veggies prepped and the peas picked, this soup is a breeze to make. You’ll need about 10 minutes to get it simmering. Let’s get on with it because now, I've got soup on my mind. I'm ready to transform good memories into the present tense.
There is no hard and fast protocol for pureeing the soup. If you like it smooth and creamy, blend away. Someplace in the middle? Try scooping out half or a third of the soup and blend it smooth. Add it back to the pot. Like it chunky? Don’t bother to blend at all. If you go that latter route, be sure that you dice the onions, carrots, and celery small.
I used to make this soup with added plant-based bacon; however, to keep it basic, you can start by adding ½ - 1 teaspoon of liquid smoke. Of course, if you want it super smoky, with a bit of interesting texture, bacon bits are a tasty addition.
After adding the liquid smoke, I decided to garnish this soup with a bit of chopped parsley and then, wait for it – I went for bacon. Not the tofu this time (although you can't go wrong with plant-based bacon). I enlisted that easy coconut bacon I use for my favorite vegan Caesar salad. It was so, so good. You can make this in minutes at any point while the soup. The only trick is maintaining the necessary willpower to not snack on it before the soup is done. Yes, I made extra in anticipation of my total failure to resist.
If you aren’t into smoky stuff, you can also add a pinch of crushed chili peppers or a few turns of black pepper. Primo! If you have fresh rosemary or thyme on hand, this is also a great place to use it up.
I don’t know how it happens, something so satisfying, so simple, and so utterly delicious. How do I not think about split peas? Another of life’s enduring mysteries. Perhaps the answer lies in pushing the bag of dry peas to the front or more being more intentional about returning to those plant-based soup recipes we so love. I’m determined to make this more often because the embrace of soup like this is one that lasts long after the bowl is empty. Peace.Print