The Super Vegan Protein Source You’re Probably Missing Out On

If I’d have put the name of this food in the title of the post, you probably wouldn’t have kept reading.

But I wanted to first be able to tell you that just a quarter cup of the mystery ingredient has 11 grams of protein in it.  (And that a single serving of soup made from it has 22 grams!)

And that it’s totally soy free, and it’s a whole, unprocessed food.  And that it’s used in a lot of vegan protein powders because it’s such a good source.  Alright, ready?

Split peas.  And it turns out that in this soup, they’re not at all gross.

A long history of hatin’ on peas

She's not much to look at, but there's lots of protein and fresh flavors here.

I despise normal peas.  You could even say I fear peas.

Like a little kid, I eat around them, so that by the time I’m done with a stew or pasta dish made with peas, there’s a little quarantine-zone on my plate where they safely reside.

One of my early memories is of sitting on a stool at my family’s breakfast bar.  I had a pile of peas remaining on my plate, which I was told I had to eat before I could get up.  I clearly remember thinking, “How am I possibly going to get out of this situation?”, since eating them was absolutely not an option, in my mind.  (I don’t remember how the standoff ended, but I’m pretty sure I escaped without choking down too many of them.)

And so I avoided split pea soup, for a long time.  Basically, because it sounded like the worst thing anyone could ever make.

But one day I tried it, and…

I loved it!  To me, it tasted nothing like the peas I grew up so passionately hating.  Turns out that one was made with ham stock, but there are plenty of good vegetarian and vegan versions.  Like this one.

This split-pea soup, from the “Spring” section of Terry Walters’ CLEAN START, has an added spin on it that gives it a truly fresh and unique flavor — Meyer lemon juice and zest.  It’s unlike any ham-free split pea soup I’ve had before, and way better-tasting.

Meyer lemons are like a cross between oranges and lemons.  (They might literally be that; I’m not sure.)  They’re good, but if you don’t have access to them, don’t worry — I just used a large, regular lemon in this soup, and it turned out brilliantly.

One more note: You probably don’t have to cook it for the full 2.5 hours, as specified in this recipe.  Prep time is minimal, so if you just plan ahead it’s no problem, but I usually only let it go for two hours or so, because I don’t mind a little texture to my soup.

So come on, shake off that anti-pea bias.  Give this one a try, and add a new protein source to your diet.  You can always go back to tofu and beans tomorrow.

Creamy Split Pea Soup with Meyer Lemon Zest and Thyme

Reprinted with permission from CLEAN START, by Terry Walters, Sterling Epicure, 2010.

  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 3 stalks celery, diced
  • 1 tablespoon grapeseed oil
  • 3 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
  • 3 tablespoons mirin
  • Sea salt
  • White pepper
  • 3 cups green split peas
  • 10 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 Meyer lemon (zest and juice)

In a soup pop or large Dutch oven over medium heat, saute onion and celery in oil until soft (about 4 minutes).  Add thyme and mirin, season generously with salt and white pepper and saute 2 minutes longer.

Rinse split peas and add to pot with sauteed vegetables. Add stock and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to simmer, cover and cook for 2.5 hours or until peas are soft and soup is thick.  If peas don’t fall apart completely, puree with handheld blender until smooth.  Remove from heat, stir in lemon juice and season to taste with salt and pepper.  Top with lemon zest and serve.




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  1. Yum! Thanks for the recipe! There’s a dal recipe that uses split peas that is DELICIOUS!! It’s in 1000 Vegan Recipes, which I’m pretty sure you have if you want to check it out!

    • I sure do have 1000 Vegan Recipes, it’s one of my go-to’s recently. I’ve scanned the index a few times for lentil recipes, but didn’t think to look under split peas. So thanks! I’m going to make it this weekend.

  2. Hmmm, I might start using them then. They are cheap and maybe I can sneak them into something…haha

  3. banan(n)a says:

    hmm, I’ve always loved peas, but didn’t come across split peas until my first adventures in Indian restaurants.
    There’s this awesome recipe for Curried Split Pea Soup in Vegan With A Vengeance – it’s more like a stew or a curry then a soup (way too thick for me to be considered soup), and it’s just fantastic. I could eat it all day long.

    A quick google search gave two online resources for this recipe:

    You should all try it. Yuuum!

    • Interesting, it seems like a few people considering split peas an Indian food. I’ve never really made that association, even though I eat and cook Indian a fair amount. How I’m curious how curry would be in this recipe. I’ll try the ones you linked to; thanks!

  4. I can definitely relate to the “little quarantine-zone on my plate where (peas) safely reside.” I had a similar experience except I had to sit at the table for another hour until I finally stuffed down 2 bites of canned peas with my nose pinched shut. Blech!

  5. Dude! There are people who don’t like peas? Seriously? Are American peas different from European peas? 😉

    I absolutely love peas, they’re among my favourite green stuff (and yellow stuff – yellow split pea soup is like having a plate full of sun). I keep them in the freezer and throw a handful into just about every rice dish.

    The combination with lemon sounds very interesting. Green split pea soup is a Dutch winter traditional (stuffed with meat, of course, but smoked tofu and meaty mushrooms are an excellent alternative). Yellow pea with lemon could be a nice spring version.

    • I’m not sure if they’re different or not… here, “peas” might mean snap peas or English peas, which are usually fresh and good. But those little frozen or canned peas are what I don’t like. I like the smoked tofu and mushroom idea!

    • I grew up in Tennessee, and all my relatives called green peas “English Peas” to distinguish them from Crowder, Field, Black Eyed Peas and such. Of course, we called white potatoes “Irish Potatoes” as opposed to Sweet Potatoes. Might be a rural Southern thing…

  6. Glad you posted this recipe as I am trying to amp up my protein intake in my last trimester of pregnancy. I’ve always wanted to try split peas but wasn’t sure what to do with them. This recipe looks simple and easy. Thanks!

  7. As a kid, when I was forced to eat frozen green peas, I would swallow them whole to avoid the mushy texture. I still hate them, but I love split pea soup. I’m picking up some split peas on my way home from work and trying this recipe tomorrow.

  8. Split pea soup is one of my very favorite foods, and I was a pea hater too when I was a kid.

  9. I hate peas too, but I’ll give this a shot this weekend.

  10. Perfect timing. I go through phases where I feel “protein deficient” (you know, kind of lagging, dragging, blah) but can only drink so many smoothies. Peas, beans, lentils etc. have been on my “to eat” list, but I hadn’t started to look at any new recipes beyond my staples of hummus and dal. Thanks for making things easy on me Matt!

    • Yeah I know what you mean about feeling protein deficient… I don’t really focus on the numbers, so every once in a while I realize that I’ve been low-protein for a few days and just want something hearty and proteiny. Nothing wrong with hummus and dal though!

  11. Stephen Harding says:

    What vegetable stock do you use? Homemade is so much work, and honestly mine tends to turn out bland. Commercial versions are so much easier, but I’m doubtful of the nutritional quality/value.

    • I use Nature’s Promise, which is the organic brand for Giant, the grocery store where I shop. (Also called Stop and Shop in the north, I think). It’s a great organic brand because it probably only costs 10% more than the store brand, on average. I’m not totally sure of the nutritional value; I’m sure it’s not as good as homemade. But they usually are pretty good about ingredient lists. I’ll have to check this one.

    • Jon Weisblatt says:

      if you add a little Kombu (kelp,seaweed) and some garlic skins, you will get the taste and kick you may be looking for. It has worked for me.

  12. Thanks for this recipe! Would you get us some nutritional stats on the other Indian lentils too? Thank you.

  13. whoa – I never knew how much protein peas had! I thought I was fairly well versed in most plant based protein but as always you are here to inform us Matt. Thanks! I shall use this article to make my boyfriend stop pushing the peas around on his plate. Or maybe I’ll just try the soup recipe 🙂

    • It’s funny, you never really hear about plain old peas being high in protein, but split peas specifically are at the top of a lot of lists. And yet I looked it up and found that split peas are just dried peas… so maybe once they’re dried they’re just more condensed, hence more protein (and more of everything except water).

  14. I used to HATE split pea soup, because my dad cooked it to death. I would have to choke down a bowl of green mush with ham chunks. Now that I’m responsible for cooking it, I leave more texture to the peas and usually cook it vegan (even though it’s not my lifestyle) because it tastes so good! If I’m feeding a crowd, I’ll start with some bacon, but for me? Olive oil, onion, carrot, potato or sweet potato, veggie broth, seasoned salt and sometimes a bit of curry powder. I may have to go make some…

  15. Even though I eat raw most of the time, this is a good recipe to bookmark. I love soups in winter!

  16. Good call, Matt! Split pea soup is awesome!

  17. I’m kind of the opposite. I love peas but am grossed out by split pea soup. Strange eh? But I guess it validates your point – they don’t taste the same at all!

  18. Hit an Ethiopian restaurant for some delicious split pea dishes, scooped up with super healthy injera!

  19. I love peas! Excellent source of fiber and protein. I keep frozen peas around and add them to all sorts of things! Yum! I’m going to try this receipe soon. I bet it freezes well too!

  20. I am going to try to make it soon. Thank you for sharing recepies!I think the hardest part for a new vegetarian is to find good and easy recepies to keep you going on your new path.

  21. some more super vegan protein sources I recently discovered:

    red lentils 13g per quarter cup(dry)
    and hemp seeds 2 TBSPs is 11g

  22. wow what a great post and recipe.

    I should have thought of it considering that pea protein powder is sold but I didn’t!

  23. ~Thanks for the recipe~ My 13 month old is allergic to soy, nuts/tree nuts, dairy and gluten so that pretty much makes her vegan…because this mama isn’t giving her meat…the dietitian (yes, she’s got one of those because of all her allergies and other health issues) wants me to push “protein” and she isn’t satisfied with her getting it from beans/lentils and veggies. (Her #1 choice is peanut butter, eggs and fish…um NO)

  24. I like you, have hated regular peas my entire life. I shiver at the thought of them, just like lima beans. yuck. but now that you’ve written about split peas…i’ll have to give it a try! maybe I’ll be able to tolerate it!

  25. Peas never sounded appealing to me. I’m always open to try something again and I think I might have to try this recipe and give peas a second chance.

  26. Jon Weisblatt says:

    Does this include Laseur Peas? Ya know, the gray ones in the metal can?

  27. Cool, i love split pea soup! Who knew it had so much protein?! Do you think it’s necessary to use grapeseed oil, or can I substitute olive oil or canola oil? I’ve never used it before, so I’m just wondering.

    • Jon Weisblatt says:

      Hi Sarah,
      from what I’ve read and heard, grapeseed oil is one of the best to cook with under most circumstances. That is what I primarily use. Camola oil is actually a pretty processed product and should be avoided when possible.

  28. No one has mentioned my favorite, and a traditional Swedish, split pea soup additive. Mustard. I have tried all kinds of mustard in split pea soup, and all are delicious. BTW pea soup is a national dish in Sweden.

  29. Yuuum!

  30. awesome!!! i am in the middle of a 15 day cleanse, but as soon as I am done I am making this soup. 22g of protein!!! who knew? thanks a ton

  31. I totally here ya on the peas! I used to HATE, LOATHE, and DISPISE them. The split ones are great though! I’m definately going to be making this soup sans oil!

  32. Matt: I love split pea soup. LOVE it. My mother used to make it when I was a kid, and I’d go hog wild for it. When I moved out in my 20s, I decided I needed to master it myself, as I was tired of eating that Campbell’s crap from the can. One of the things I love about it is that I can continually screw with the recipe, yet it’s always delicious. Today I made it with split peas, 32 oz. vegetable broth, 32 oz. water, 3 cups chopped broccoli, two large chopped carrots, 1 cup chopped onion, 5 or 6 garlic cloves, salt and pepper and one roasted green chile. I simmer that for roughly 90 minutes, then puree in the blender (I’ve not got a hand held mixer). The chile adds a fantastic kick, without being obnoxious.

  33. This recipe has become a firm favourite of our family as well as my highly carnivorous brother and his family.

    Thank you so much for sharing a recipe that has brought split peas back into our lives. It’s divine.

  34. Peas fresh out of the pod are nature’s candy. Sweet and delicious. But I’ll eat my peas any way. Might try this recipe for my christmas eve get together. Sounds yummy.

  35. My mom used to make a well in the middle of my mashed potatoes and fill it with English peas. YUM! I still do this, even in front of proper company. 🙂

  36. Split pea soup has always been a favorite of mine. Recently I’ve been trying to use protein shakes less and real food more. Shakes are super convenient, but at least once a week, I heat up leftover split pea soup in the morning and take it to work in a thermos. In fact, I’m enjoying some right now :).

  37. Had a bag of spit peas languishing in my cupboard for AGES. Made this today, and its so fab. I think its the mirin…!

  38. says:

    OMG…I Love peas! I love organic frozen peas. I put them in a strainer and run warm water over them to thaw. Then I put them in a bowl and salt them a bit and eat them with brown rice. I also eat raw snap peas. Love them. The only thing I do not like are canned peas.
    I hear you on detesting something so bad, however. Mine…brussel sprouts. OMG…I hate them with a passion! Lol. I hate the way the look, taste snd most of all SMELL. They are disgusting. YUCK! Cauliflower is a close second. God it’s gross!

  39. Marianne says:

    Soak ’em (over night or longer/ shorter) for blitz cooking (+/- 20 min). Minimalist Pea- puree: Boil in soaking water, add salt when ready.

  40. Most people grew up being forced to eat those gray green, mushy things from a can. They bear zero resemblance to fresh, vibrant green, plump peas that pop when you eat then, and even less to delicious split peas in a yummy, hearty soup. We’re not little kids anymore. We get to give ourselves the good stuff. There’s always a new way to prepare something and give up the childhood “icks”. Just need to be a grown up and give it a try!

  41. I eat them every day! It’s my breakfast. I boil a couple carrots, throw in some pre-cooked split peas (I like the yellow kind), some beans, some grains, some greens, ground flax seed, hot sauce (Marie Sharps!), nutritional yeast, and some aminos. I call it “My Slurry” because the split peas are really soft. An Instant Pot comes in handy for keeping the peas, beans, and grains on hand.

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