Split Pea Soup is the hearty, healthy classic that you need to keep you warm and cozy through soup season and beyond! Split green peas are fiber-rich and protein-packed, and when cooked down, transform into a rich, ultra cozy bowl of comfort. Shall we?
What is Split Pea Soup?
Split Pea Soup is a hearty soup made from dried split green peas that are cooked with aromatic vegetables in flavorful liquid or broth for a couple of hours until they break down into a thick soup, almost the consistency of a curry. Versions of split pea soups exist in different cultural cuisines.
Often, the split peas are cooked with a ham bone or ham hocks which add salt and savory umami to the final soup. This makes split pea soup an efficient way to use up leftover ham.
In this house, Split Pea Soup is a post-Holiday dish made with a ham bone leftover from an Easter, Thanksgiving, or Christmas Holiday dinner. Especially after Christmas and into the New Year, Split Pea Soup basically kicks off what is now unofficially known as month-long Soup Season.
By the way if you don't have a leftover ham bone or spare ham hock just laying around, don't worry, I got you (in the recipe notes).
What are Split Peas vs Green Peas?
Are split peas the same as regular green peas? Yes!
Split peas are dried green peas, so yes, they are the same thing as those bright green peas you usually get frozen or fresh as English peas in the Spring time. Split peas are peeled of their thin seed coating, "split" into their two halves, hence their name, and dried.
Just as a note of definition, split peas and green peas are part of the legume family, which also includes beans and lentils.
Split Pea Soup Health Benefits
Depending on your health and dietary needs, Split Pea Soup can be part of a healthy lifestyle! Split peas themselves are rich in fiber and packed with protein. One serving of split peas, about ¼ cup dried, or ½ cup cooked, offers:
- a whopping 8.3 grams fiber
- 8.3 grams of protein
And if your Split Pea Soup
Ingredients You Need for Split Pea Soup
There are a little more than a few ingredients in this list, but the actual prep and cooking is pretty minimal. Here's what you need:
- 1 ham hock or ham bone - if you don't have this, or want a non-pork version, leave it out and use any richly flavored stock in place of water.
- 2 cups green split peas
- 1 large carrot
- 1 large celery rib
- 1 medium onion
- 2-4 garlic cloves
- 1 bouquet garni: 3-4 sprigs parley, 1 bay leaf, 2 sprigs thyme, 1 leek white part only, 2 cloves
- salt and black pepper
- optional garnish: toasted croutons, shredded cooked ham, fresh peas, chopped fresh parsley and chives
Ingredients Notes and Resources
Ham hock or ham bone. In this house, we only ever make Split Pea Soup when we actually have a leftover ham bone from a Holiday dinner. However, you can absolutely buy ham hocks to make this soup on any given day. Ham hocks are the lower portion of a pork leg that's not part of the ham. If you cannot find a ham bone or ham hock, or want to make this Split Pea Soup vegetarian, use a rich flavored stock in place of the water.
Green split peas are dried green peas that have been peeled and split down their natural seam into two halves, which shortens their cooking time. You can find them in the same grocery store section as other dried beans and lentils.
Bouquet garni is a cluster of herbs that are tied together with a string and cooked along with a soup or stew to flavor it. The entire bouquet is removed from the soup once cooking in complete. A bouquet garni can be made from any type of herbs. In this case, use parsley, bay leaf, thyme, and leek.
Salt. Salt is an obvious and ubiquitous ingredient. I use this Kosher salt.
All other vegetables, herbs and produce I get from the the regular grocery store.
How to Make Split Pea Soup
Look, in general, soup of any kind is not a complicated dish to make. You just throw a bunch of ingredients in a pot with liquid and as soon as a few minute to boiling, you can have a pretty decent pot of soup.
And Split Pea Soup is truly one of the easiest soups to make. Here is how you make Split Pea Soup:
- Simmer ham bone, split peas, and water for 1 hour, or until the peas starts to break down.
- Add remaining vegetables and simmer for another 30 minutes to 1 hour, until the split peas break down.
- Remove the ham bone/hock from the soup and pull off all the ham. Discard the bone.
- Ladle finished soup into bowls, garnish, and enjoy.
Pro-tip: If you prefer a soup with a smoother texture, you can puree the cooked split peas with an immersion blender, in a food processor, or in a blender before adding the remaining chopped vegetables. Personally, I like soups with texture.
Substitutions and Variations
This Split Pea Soup recipe, as with most soups, is generally forgiving and flexible. In terms of ingredient amounts and ratios, you can just eyeball a lot of it. There aren't many ingredients in the recipe but there are a few substitutions you can make to fit the recipe into taste preferences and dietary restrictions.
I have made this recipe many times as presented, as well as with the substitutions and variations as noted below:
No Ham Bone/Ham Hock. If you don't have a ham bone or hock, use a rich vegetable, chicken, or beef broth in place of the water to simmer with the split peas, and add a large ham steak. You can also use a smoked turkey leg and serve with pulled turkey meat. Chop the ham steak to garnish the soup at the end.
To Make Split Pea Soup Vegan/Vegetarian, leave out the ham bone or hock and substitute mushroom or rich vegetable stock for the water. You can also follow a detailed recipe for Vegetarian Split Pea Green Soup here.
Split Peas. Green split peas are traditional, but there are also yellow split peas, which you can substitute 1:1.
Herb Bouquet Garni. The recipe as presented uses a bouquet garni of fresh herbs like parsley, bay leaf, and thyme. However, you can substitute dried herbs for any of the fresh ones. Use 1-2 teaspoons of the dried version of each of the herbs.
How to Level Up Split Pea Soup
The true beauty of classic Split Pea Soup is that it's so simple, garnished with that ham and some croutons. However, if you do want to level up a simple, cozy bowl of soup, here's what I've done in the past to rave reviews:
- Spice it up. Swirl spicy Chili Crisp over each bowl to add a different kind of heat to a steaming hot bowl of soup
- Green Machine. Split Pea Soup is actually a faint yellowish green color, but if you want to make it actually green—and amp the health factor while you're at it!—add baby spinach! You can either toss a few handfuls of baby spinach into a blender or food processor, ladle about half the hot Split Pea Soup, blend, then add back to the soup for a bright shot of green into the soup! Or, you can stir whole baby spinach leaves into the soup at the end.
- Complete Protein. Split peas are almost a complete protein, in that they do contain all nine essential amino acids, but two of them, cysteine and methionine, at much lower levels. If you're going the meat-less route with the soup, add a spoonful of cooked rice with the soup to make up for the amino acids cysteine and methionine to make Split Pea Soup a complete protein source!
- Serve in Bread Bowl. Can it get any cozier? If you serve Split Pea Soup in a bread bowl it can.
Tools and Equipment
As I always say, you don't need any special equipment to make Split Pea Soup. You can simply use a knife and cutting board to mince the garlic and chop the vegetables. However, that doesn't mean there are a couple of gadgets and tools that might make Split Pea Soup even easier than it already is.
Stock Pot: I use a very large stock pot by this cookware company. It has a heavy bottom and easy-to-hold handles. Any large pot that fits the ingredients will do. A large Dutch oven is great for this.
Slow Cooker: I have this 6-quart programmable slow cooker. If you are going to use a slow-cooker, I highly recommend getting/using a slow-cooker that has a timer or auto-shut-off so you can truly "set it, and forget it," which is kind of the point of a slow-cooker, imho.
Vegetable Peeler. Current favorite all-purpose vegetable peeler to use for the carrots.
Chef's Knife. This is my workhorse chef's knife, slightly more pricey than others, but definitely worth it. I have had it for more than 10 years and use it every day.
Immersion Blender. Great for pureed soups with a little more texture.
Food Processor. I have been using an older model of this mini food processor for 15, maybe 20, years.
Blender. You don't need a high-power blender, but this one works well for soup because of it's large pitcher.
Stainless steel tongs
What Else to Serve with Split Pea Soup
I am an executive member of the "Soup is a Meal" club, so I generally would serve the soup perfect as-is, with nothing more than the suggested shredded ham and toasted crouton garnishes. However, if Split Pea Soup is a starter at your table, here are a few additional dishes that work particularly well with Split Pea Soup:
- Caesar-ish tri-colore salad with an Anchovy Vinaigrette
- Roasted broccoli, or steamed if you want to keep all your cooking on the stovetop
- Stay on all-green theme with Crispy Shredded Brussels Sprouts
- Baked Salmon as a main protein, and just leave the shredded ham garnish off the soup
Wine for Split Pea Soup
I'm not saying you should open a bottle of wine to pair with a bowl of soup that you're eating at the kitchen counter for dinner on a Tuesday night, but I'm not not saying that either. Let's just say this is a lesson in food and wine pairing.
- Grüner Veltliner. Something green and vegetal like split peas naturally call for a white wine. Grüner Veltliner is perfectly light and herbal, like a slightly more interesting Sauvignon Blanc.
- Chardonnay. Though it's green and made mostly with vegetables, Split Pea Soup is rich, thick, and hearty. Medium-bodied, lightly oaked Chardonnay would be able to stand up to the texture, especially if you're serving the soup and wine when it's cold outside.
- Spanish Red Wine Like Rioja. Highlight Split Pea Soup's background notes of salty and smoky with a light-bodied red from the Rioja region of Spain, usually made with the Tempranillo grape.
Advance Prep, Leftovers, and Storage
Make a huge pot of Split Peas Soup in advance then store and/or freeze in single serving containers to thaw and eat all through soup season.
How Long Can You Keep Split Pea Soup in the Refrigerator? You can store leftover Split Pea Soup in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to three days. Re-heat in a pot on the stovetop.
How Long Can You Freeze Split Pea Soup? You can freeze Split Pea Soup in an airtight container or plastic zipper bags for two months. Re-heat in a pot on the stovetop with a splash or two of water or broth so the frozen soup doesn't burn before thawing out.
No, you do not have to soak split peas before cooking like you have to do for dried beans. Split peas will cook until soft and broken down in 1-2 hours, depending on the split peas. You can soak split peas overnight to shorten cooking time to about 40 minutes.
Yes! Split Pea Soup can support health, specifically because it is both fiber- and protein-rich. One cup of dried split peas has 8-10 grams of fiber and 8 grams of protein. Split peas are also a good source of vitamins B and K and the mineral magnesium.
Yes, green split peas and regular green peas are the same things, the seed of the Pisum Sativum plant. Split peas are peeled of their thin seed coating, "split" hence their name, and dried. Both split peas and green peas have the same nutritional content, though their taste and texture differ when cooked.
Split peas and regular peas are the same thing, they are prepared differently, so the soups they make are different as well.
Split Pea Soup is made with dried split peas, which break down naturally as they cook. The final soup has a yellowish-green color which results from the split peas being dried.
Regular pea soup is made from cooking and pureeing fresh green peas. The resulting soup is bright green, smoother because it is pureed with a blender, and has a fresher, "greener" taste.
If you want to go H.A.M. and um, start with a ham, try this Bourbon Maple Ham recipe, then:
- save the "leftover" center ham bone as well as a few slices of the ham for this Split Pea Soup recipe below
- make Split Pea Soup's cousin, Lentil Soup
- you can also use the ham bone to make a basic ham stock to freeze
Split Pea Soup Recipe
- 1 small ham hock or ham bone
- 2 cups green split peas rinsed and picked over
- 8 cups cold water
- 1 large carrot diced
- 1 large celery rib diced
- 1 medium onion diced
- 2 garlic cloves minced (I used 4!)
- 1 bouquet garni 3-4 sprigs parsley, ⅓ to ½ bay leaf, 2 sprigs thyme, 1 leek white white part only, 2 cloves
- salt and black pepper to taste
- optional garnish: toasted croutons, shredded cooked ham, fresh peas, chopped fresh parsley and chives
- Combine ham bone, 2 cups green split peas, and cold water in soup pot. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer for 1 hour.
- Stir in diced carrots, diced celery, diced onions, minced garlic, and bouquet garni. Simmer until the ham bone (or ham hock) and peas are tender, about 1 hour more.
- Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Remove from heat and remove the ham bone or ham hock. Discard the bone, skin, and fat. Dice the meat and return it to the soup. For a thicker soup, simmer to the desired consistency. Stir to blend before serving.
- Garnish with soup croutons, shredded ham, fresh peas, or fresh chopped herbs if using.
After justifying behaviors, after reconciling little differences, after earnest efforts to work things out, you just get to a certain point where the only mature solution is...divorce.
Can I divorce my entire family?
They don't know anything about it and really, if I were to go through with the whole thing without even telling them, they won't even notice.
You see, in the last few years, by no conscious effort of my own, I have become virtually invisible in my family, a gradual process that initiated a few years ago when my father declared that “there is no hope for" me. Dad made the decree after the first of my two younger siblings had the first baby/child/grandchild of our family and he meant, of course, that there was no hope of marriage for me. I was too overripe to be plucked by a prince from the family tree, instead destined to plummet a dried, wrinkled sweatpants-clad fruit to the ground and rot through her thirties and beyond with eleven cats to which she is allergic and an internet connection.
It's no one's fault, really. Though if I had to, I'd be inclined to blame my parents. Even with all the cruel and unusual, but so very real, traditions of an Immigrant-American family, there was one that my parents made the mistake of never instituting: the Birth Order Marriage rule (BOM).
B.O.M. Not Calm
BOM states that "children will be married in the order in which they are conceived."
Had BOM been rule in The Delicious family, then as the first-born, I'd have to be first-married, even if my two younger sisters were in 10 year long relationships and were bursting at the seams of the wedding gowns that they've been designing in their imaginations since they were toddlers.
In an extreme singles situation like, oh, I don't know, mine several years ago, my family could drop the BOM on me, directly pressuring me to expedite for the sake of my younger sisters.
Obviously, that didn't happen. My sisters married years ago and you know what state I'm currently in.
Once my married younger sisters began reproduction — Dad actually uses words like "reproduction," but that's not surprising since he relates everything to either the military or the animal kingdom — there really was nothing left for my parents to use as leverage. Mine was a lost cause that faded into the background, and when my nieces and nephews, rather my parents' omgrandchildren, screamed onto the scene, my family didn't just give up hope for my getting married; they just sort of forgot about me entirely.
Out of the Balks
I'm bitter about many things, but all of that, oddly enough, was not the grounds for divorcing my family. They are all part of the backdrop for one brief, tragic scene within the comedy that was the Delicious Christmas Holiday that finally put me over the edge.
As I usually do, I kicked off the usual Delicious Holiday Dinner deliberations by calling Mom. Or so I thought I was "kicking it off." Little did I know that the rest of my family had failed to include me in dinner planning that had taken place several days before. It wasn't a big deal, as I have said, to be forgotten in that way. It was, however, a big deal when Mom told me what the plan was.
Sister's house, as per yoozh. Early evening, no surprise.
No cooking because Mom had already bought an entire pre-cooked, all you can heat-n-eat, Holiday Ham dinner out of a box.
I was speechless.
I was going through every stage of PTSD and shock on silent, turbo speed while my Mom continued to explain with words like "so much easier," "no clean up," and, the one that haunts me even now years later...
We were going to microwave our holiday dinner for 12.
The dead-ass silence on my end of the line must have been a hint to Mom that something was Not. O. K.
At that point, it was so ridiculous I didn't know if Ashton Kutcher was going to come crashing through my door with my Mom laughing, if I should laugh or cry, if I was really biologically related to these people who share my same last name. Even if I were adopted, after this many years, don't these people know me?
It wasn't a joke.
Throw Me a Forking Bone
On that Christmas Day, we really did eat a fully cooked meal that we heated, for the most part, in the microwave oven.
Strangely enough, with four little nieces and nephews crawling all over me, my tiny dog terrorizing Mom and my sisters in the kitchen, and indirectly listening to my Dad giving the lectures I've heard a hundred times before to his new victims students, my brothers-in-law, I didn't even notice that the ham, potato salad, creamed corn, and other assorted side dishes actually came in three bags, not a box.
And two years later, during the cleanup after almost exactly the same Delicious Family Holiday Ham Dinner with all thefixin's, my Dad pointed to a tightly twist-tied crumpled plastic bag shoved into a corner on the kitchen countertop and asked if it was trash.
"No," my Mom replied. "That's the ham bone for Sarah. So she can make soup for her blog."
I've never felt so seen in my life.