Hearty (Vegan) Split Pea Soup
A Nod to My Cuban Roots
Vegan split pea soup is a new favorite in my home. Growing up, I loved split pea soup, but the Cuban version with lots of meat. While it is not a typical childhood favorite, it was one of the very few things my parents could cook that had flavor and wouldn’t end up burnt. The classic Cuban version includes ham hock, which is an essential part of the flavor. This means I am often very disappointed by vegan and vegetarian versions I have tried, until now!
This vegan split pea soup recipe takes the cake with its hearty ham flavor. It is also packed with fiber, veggies, and protein, making it a healthy option for lunch or dinner.
Why I Am Skipping the Ham and Making Vegan Split Pea Soup
Why go vegan and not just use ham, you ask? Well first, I was raised by a Buddhist vegetarian who wouldn’t kill a lady bug. This had a lasting effect on my ability to kill anything. But more importantly, avoiding meat is one significant way we can reduce our carbon footprint.
A study in Climactic Change shows that a vegan diet requires 2.74 kg of CO2 less than an average meat diet. A vegetarian diet requires 1.82 kg of CO2 less than their meat lover alternatives. Cutting back on meat (especially red meat) is a key way to lower our impact on climate change. (For other tips on lowering you carbon footprint, check out my posts on Sustainable Living Part 1 and Part 2).
Enter this recipe. It uses smoked vegan bacon to lend the soup that hearty ham flavor found in the classic version. (I deeply apologize to you who find the phrase “vegan bacon” upsetting.) We don’t eat a lot of meat substitutes, but this is one place I find it necessary and totally worth it.
One last hint before I get on with the recipe. Cubans have the firm belief that soups are better the next day. If you have the time to plan ahead, let the soup sit overnight in the fridge. Then all the flavors have time to blend.
Hearty (Vegan) Split Pea Soup
A vegan twist on the classic Cuban version. Hearty with a touch of smokey flavor, this is a split pea soup able to stand up with pride to its meat based inspiration.
Prep Time: 30 mins| Cook Time: 2 hrs 10 mins | Total Time: 2 hrs 40 mins
Servings: 8- 1 cup servings (depends on the amount of water you add during cooking)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
4 medium cloves garlic, minced
8 slices vegan bacon (I used “Sweet Earth Hickory & Sage Benevolent Bacon”)
2 bay leaves
1 lb dried split peas, rinsed
2- 2.5 teaspoons salt
8 cups water (and more to add as needed while cooking)
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 tbsp minced fresh rosemary
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
4 cup diced potatoes, diced
5 carrots, cut into ¼ in coins
Croutons for garnish (If desired)
Heat oil over medium heat until hot in a large pot.
Add onion, garlic and bacon together to the oil. Stirring frequently, cook over medium heat for 10 minutes or until the onions begin to caramelize and turn brown on the edges.
Add split peas, bay leaves, water, salt, rosemary, thyme and pepper. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Cover and simmer over medium-low heat for 45 minutes to 1 hour.
Be sure to stir every 10 minutes or so to prevent sticking. Add water as needed to ensure the soup doesn’t get too thick and burn.
Add the diced potatoes and carrots to the soup. Cover again and cook 40 minutes more or until the veggies are tender.
Again, be sure to stir every ten minutes or so to prevent sticking and add water as needed.
When the potatoes and carrots are tender, taste the soup. Add lemon juice if desired and adjust seasoning to taste.
Garnish with croutons if desired.
This soup is best served the next day. If you have time, chill and refrigerate overnight, warm and serve the next day.