Vegetarian French-Canadian Pea Soup

Every February, many Manitobans bundle up in their parkas, mittens and touques, don a ceinture fléchée and brave the cold to celebrate a 10 day event called Festival du Voyageur. The Festival is a province wide party celebrating the French-Canadian heritage + culture that so many Manitobans share. The festival is based upon the time of voyageurs and the fur trade here on the Canadian prairies. 

A lot of the festivities take place in an old fort called Fort Gibraltar in St.Boniface, Manitoba. During the day, you can enjoy a variety of activities such as snow shoeing, sledding, sleigh rides, building a quinzee, and sampling some frozen maple syrup at the Cabane à sucre. Mmm! You can do some shopping in the souvenirs tent, watch a variety of re-enactments of the voyageur lifestyle (fur trading, black smithing etc), and view the many incredible snow sculptures inside the festival grounds.  Actually, sculptors from around the globe come to Festival to compete! Some of them are quite amazing. You can even check out the ice bar where they serve Caribou (a delicious wine with whiskey) in ice glasses. Be careful though and drink it slowly. Last time I got a little tipsy unintentionally! *hah* 

In the evening, the different heated tents on the festival grounds are filled with people enjoying fantastic, live, local music. There’s something about French-Canadian music that gets everyone dancing. Perhaps it’s the fiddle? Or a little too much Caribou? *hehe* Such a fun energy! After a whole day of excitement, you can enjoy a delicious French-Canadian meal of pea soup, bannock, tourtière, tarte à sucre (sugar pie) and maple fudge.
As a kid, I loved having dinner at Festival du Voyageur. But, since I became a vegetarian 16 years ago, I’ve been out of luck, as most of the food contains meat. So, in honour of Festival du Voyageur this year, I decided to re-create the traditional French-Canadian dishes found at the Festival, but make them vegetarian (and vegan!)

First up, a delicious split pea soup which normally is slow-cooked with an entire ham hock. In order to retain the smokey flavour of a traditional split pea soup, I fried some vegetarian bacon (maple smoked bacon) with some onion and garlic. These flavours created the perfect base for this soup – so much so, that it tasted exactly like the traditional split pea soup I loved as a kid. It was love at first bite.
  • 4 large slices of vegetarian bacon*
  • 2 tablespoons of canola oil
  • 1 small onion chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 3 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 4 stalks of celery, diced
  • 1 and 3/4 cups of yellow split peas
  • 1 teaspoon of dried thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 8 cups of reduced sodium vegetable stock
  • salt and pepper to taste

Note: I used maple smoked tempeh bacon and it worked great


1. In a large saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons of canola oil over medium-high heat. Add the vegetarian bacon and onion. Sauté until the onion is translucent and the bacon is crisp (about 5 minutes). Add the garlic, chopped carrot and celery and sauté another 5 minutes.

2. Stir in the split peas, bay leaves, thyme, salt and pepper. Add 8 cups of reduced sodium vegetable stock. Bring soup to a boil, cover, then reduce heat and simmer for 1 and 1/2 hours (or until the split peas are very soft and soup has thickened). Note: Stir the soup every so often to prevent burning.

3. Remove the bay leaves. Break up the split peas with the back of a wooden spoon. For a smooth soup, purée with a hand immersion blender. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Serve with a crusty piece of bread or a slice of bannock.

Yield: 6 servings

Source: adapted from Canadian Living Magazine


  1. says

    what a lovely story about a festival you grew up with. i love that you were able to take one of its classic dishes and make it vegan so that you could enjoy it now, too. it looks so creamy and delicious and i love the color.

    • says

      As a kid, I loved pea soup. My mom used to buy me cans of it to take to school. *haha* I was a weird child. Explains why I’m a weird adult! lol :) But having this pea soup brought back so many memories! I love when a recipe can do that.

  2. says

    So cool that you made your own version of this soup! We used to celebrate Quebec winter carnival in elementary school but I completely forgot about it until now! All I remember is the mascot Bonhomme and singing French songs about him.. I wish we’d had this food.. Frozen maple syrup sounds delicious!

    • says

      The frozen maple is soooo yummy! :) My favourite part of Festival! I love how this recipe brought back so many memories for me. It’s so cool when a recipe can do that!

  3. says

    What an amazing festival! I LOVE Split Pea Soup, I never thought to add celery, I am going to have to try some in my next batch :) Aren’t the yellow split peas so pretty, the addition of bacon sounds really good to, I always just added a bit of liquid smoke if I am in the mood for a smoky split pea, but I like the idea of the extra little something tucked into the soup :)

  4. says

    Ack, I somehow got behind on reading your posts and missed these French Canadian recipes! I’m impressed that you were able to come up authentic French Canadian vegetarian dishes, since that doesn’t seem to be very common! The festival sounds so neat too and perfect for wintertime…I’d love to try the frozen maple syrup and the Caribou!

    • thefigtree says

      It’s true! Last year we decided to go to Festival du Voyageur for dinner, and I could not eat anything! I was so disappointed. Everything had meat – right down to the bread! So, I made it my mission to re-create the dishes, so I could enjoy them this year. The pea soup was awesome. Tasted exactly how I remembered it tasting as a kid.


  1. […] I originally started blogging to share my favourite recipes with friends and family. Many of my friends and family were looking for tried & true vegetarian recipes to add into their weekly meal plans. Since I had been a vegetarian for 15 years by the time I started my blog in 2010, I had tons of great veggie recipes to share. Soon after I started blogging, I started getting a lot of positive feedback from others around the web. It was great to see so many people interested in trying out wholesome, meatless dishes. Last year I decided to focus on creating vegetarian dishes using ingredients from around-the-world. It’s been a lot of fun trying to recreate some standard favourites without meat. (Example: Vegetarian French Canadian Pea Soup) […]

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