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Barbecue sauce (Recipe: meat-free split pea soup) {vegan, gluten-free}

Originally published in October 2006, this updated ingredient post features new photos, links, and tweaks to the recipe. Just in time for National Soup Swap, this make-ahead-and-freeze soup is vegan on its own, or you can add leftover shredded chicken or cooked sausage for an omnivore's delight.

Meat-free split pea soup, from The Perfect Pantry.

Recently, I spilled the beans about my relationship to Miracle Whip. My friends were aghast, my cooking buddies appalled, my family amused. Now, hold on to your coffee mug, because I've got another shocking pantry revelation: I keep a bottle of barbecue sauce in my refrigerator at all times.

I'm not picky about the brand, as long as it's smoky and sweet. I buy whatever's on sale. I don't read the nutrition label too closely, either. If I did, I might find that the first ingredient listed is high fructose corn syrup. Also on the list: caramel, molasses, corn syrup and sugar. Yup. Five different sweeteners.


Don't get me wrong. I don't have a sweet tooth, and I don't use bottled barbecue sauce on meat or chicken. For that, I make sauce from a prized recipe that my friend Candy got several years ago from Gil Slater, who ran a BBQ operation out of a trailer across the road from a truck stop on Route 102 in Rhode Island. (Gil had built his own rig, and grew his own scotch bonnet peppers for his special sauce. He offered a limited menu: chicken, pork, and the best sweet potato fries anywhere.)

No, bottled barbecue sauce serves a different purpose entirely; it takes the place of ham hocks or smoked meat in my soup recipes. I'm not a vegetarian, but I don't eat pork, and there are some soups, especially legume-based soups, that really benefit from the smoky taste of ham or bacon.

Barbecue sauce has been one of my secret ingredients for years. It adds smoke and sweet, without heat or meat.

Meat-free split pea soup (The Perfect Pantry).

Meat-free split pea soup

From the pantry, you'll need: split peas, onion, vegetable broth, dill weed.

Use gluten-free barbecue sauce for a gluten-free soup. Serves 6-8; can be doubled.


1 cup green or yellow split peas
3 cups vegetable broth or water, or a mix of the two
1/2 small onion, diced
1 small carrot, diced
1/4 cup smoky barbeque sauce (check ingredients for gluten-free)
1/4 tsp dill weed
Lots of kosher salt and fresh black pepper, to taste


Put all ingredients into a stockpot. Bring to a boil, and then reduce to simmer, cover, and cook for at least one hour until the beans "dissolve." You might need to add a bit of water if the peas are cooking too fast.

When the peas are soft, you can use an immersion blender or food processor to puree for an even smoother soup, but it's usually not necessary.

Serve hot. Or cool completely, and refrigerate or freeze.

[Printer-friendly recipe.]

More split pea and lentil soup variations:
Yellow split pea and sausage soup
Split pea, sausage and preserved lemon soup
One-of-everything lentil soup
Lentil noodle soup
Greek lentil soup with red pepper and feta

Other recipes that use these pantry ingredients:
Coconut split pea soup, from Gluten-Free Goddess Recipes
Yellow split-pea soup with sweet potatoes and kale, from FatFree Vegan Kitchen
Spicy yellow split pea soup with Italian sausage and green pepper, from Kalyn's Kitchen
Indian-style split pea soup, from Lisa's Kitchen
Split pea and asparagus soup with parmesan-garlic toast, from $5 Dinners

Disclosure: The Perfect Pantry earns a few pennies on purchases made through the Amazon.com links in this post. Thank you for supporting this site when you start your shopping here.


What a great idea! I have been craving split pea soup, and yours looks delicious. Clearly, now is the time!

Judy, you'll love this. Quick, easy, and has that smoky flavor that works so well with the peas. Perfect for snowy days!

Love the sound of this. I have split pea soup on the list of things to try in my new pressure cooker! And thanks for the link love; always appreciated!

I'm all for split pea soup, but have never tried it with barbecue sauce added. I remember you sharing that tip in a comment on one of Kalyn's posts. Such a great thing to know! :-) Thanks, Lydia!


I've just found you and love this post. I've used Miracle Whip for years and just a few months ago, I discovered Sweet Baby Ray's Barbecue Sauce which goes on most anything! My one and only purposeful purchase of a high fructose corn syrup product. Love, love, love the taste. Will have to give this soup a try and test it on my vegetarian daughter.

I am utterly fascinated! Who would have thought to replace ham with bbq sauce in soups? I adore pea soup but don't really like using a ham hock but how to get that flavor? Just brilliant.

And you are pretty funny... not reading the labels :-)

Kalyn, it's on my list for the new pressure cooker, too!

Shirley, if you're someone who traditionally uses ham in bean soups, do give this a try. I hope it's a good substitute.

Kathleen, welcome! I've given up Miracle Whip now, as the new formulation does contain HFCS, and the withdrawal wasn't as difficult as I thought it might be. There are zillions of BBQ sauces on the market, and almost any of them would be great in this soup.

Jamie, I think you can play around with different sauces to get just the degree of smokiness you like. Sometimes denial is key -- if I don't read the labels....

your "secret" is safe with me!

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