Split Pea Soup

Classic split pea soup. Dried split peas are cooked with water and ham hocks, onions, garlic, and leeks. Filling, hearty winter soup.

  • Prep time: 10 minutes
  • Cook time: 1 hour, 45 minutes
  • Yield: Makes 2 quarts. Serves 6.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb (2 1/4 cups) green split peas
  • 1 large onion, peeled and chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 1 large leek, chopped
  • 1 large carrot, chopped
  • 1 large clove of garlic, halved
  • 1 herb bouquet*
  • 2 well-rinsed ham hocks
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Optional garnish - small toasted croutons (avoid for gluten-free version)**, chopped parsley or chives

*Herb Bouquet: Tie 3 cloves garlic, 4 allspice berries, 2 bay leaves, 1 teaspoon thyme, 8 sprigs parsley in rinsed cheesecloth or place in bouquet garni muslin bag.

**To make toasted croutons, take 2 or 3 slices of day-old French or Italian loaf bread, cut into cubes. Let dry out a bit (can put in 200 degree oven for 10 minutes to help dry). Melt a tablespoon or two of butter on medium high heat in a large skillet. When hot, add the bread cubes, spread out in a single layer. Let toast on one side and then turn to other sides. Add more butter if necessary. Alternatively you can toss the cubed bread with olive oil and let toast in a 350°F oven until lightly browned.

Method

1 Pick over the peas and remove any stones. Wash and drain peas. Place in a 4 quart pan with the vegetables, herb bouquet, ham hocks and 2 1/2 quarts of water. Bring to a simmer. Skim the scum off the top of the soup for several minutes, until the scum ceases to rise. Cover loosely and simmer about 1 1/2 hours, or until peas are tender, stirring occasionally in case they stick to the bottom of the pan.

2 Remove the ham hocks and herb bouquet from the soup. Purée the soup with a blender. An immersion blender works great for this; if you are using a regular blender, take care to workin batches and only fill the blender halfway if the soup is still hot, and hold down the lid while blending. If you want an exceptionally smooth soup, pass the purée through a sieve.

3 Return the purée to the pot and heat to serve. Add salt and pepper to taste. Ladle into warm bowls and garnish with croutons and parsley or chives.

If you want, don't discard the ham hocks, but cut away the outer skin and remove the meat from the bones. Dice the meat and serve with the soup.

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Comments

  1. Gabriella

    What do you mean by split peas?

    Thanks!

  2. Tom Hammer

    Ah, this is a staple in our house and pretty darned near exactly how we make it (sans celery, and we like a little diced carrot). If you want to boost the umami a bit, replace the water with chicken or vegetable stock.

    Want to get fancy? Hit the soup with a stick blender before serving for a smoother texture (I prefer thicker and heartier m’self). Garnish with a dollop of sour cream and some chopped scallion or a few cilantro leaves.

    Elise, you rock. Gotta love food like this: cheap, delicious, nutritious and easy to fix.

  3. Aaron Howard

    Are you sure this recipe calls for 2.5 quarts of water? It’s way too watery. Am I supposed to lose a quart or so of water when simmering?

  4. Elise

    Hi Gabriella – split peas are dried peas that have been split in half.

    Hi Tom – I love it, “boost the umami“. Indeed some stock would do the trick, eh?

    Hi Aaron – yes, 2 1/2 quarts it is. The dried peas soak up a bunch of it and the resulting soup will be quite thick enough.

  5. Joe

    I’ve got my stock simmering now and am anticipating this nice winter, rib-stickin’ comfort food this evening.

    Found your recipe in a Google search…something I often do for recipes even if I’m already familiar on how to prepare a particular dish.

    “Winging it”: Instead of the hocks, I’m using pork chops (a rather poor cut) I found on sale at the grocery today. For flavor, I browned them off well before putting them into the stock.

    What’s it mean when my mouth is watering as I type? :)

  6. Lucia Menisxk

    I always put in about 1/2 cup of barley in my pea soup. It makes it thicker and more hearty.

  7. AZ

    Hi Elise,

    I was wondering, if I omitted the ham hocks, will it make a differnce in the taste? What would be a good vegetarian substitute?

    Thanks,
    AZ

    Yes, it will make a big difference in the taste. You might try adding some smoked tofu as a vegetarian substitute. ~Elise

  8. Elizabeth

    Made this last night. 1.5 hours isn’t enough time to really get the peas soft and I didn’t have it set as low as a simmer. My husband let it cook longer after I went to bed (he stays up later than I do) so I’m not sure how long it cooked altogether, but the peas still weren’t soft-squishy when I pulled the pot out of the fridge this morning. Otherwise, it’s a really easy recipe.

    Sounds like you have a tough batch of split peas. Also note that the older the dried peas, the longer they will take to soften. ~Elise

  9. Scott Casey in Oklahoma City

    Would a little bit of sherry really kick it up?

    Why don’t you try it and see? ~Elise

  10. Gayane

    I’m making this right now. I didn’t have ham hocks but I had home made chicken stock and that’s what I used 2 quarts of and added 1/2 qrt water. Oh and I caramelized the onions and sauted the garlic first. Also, since I didn’t have the cheese cloth, I just loosely put the herbs in there minus the bay leaves. I’m hoping they will turn out delicious.

  11. Gayane

    Oh my gosh, this turned out absolutely delicious. We loved it. So much better than my regular split pea soup that I make. Will definitely use this recipe often.
    Thanks so much for posting it.

  12. Gayane

    Oh and I also wanted to mention, I cooked it longer. I cooked it for 2hrs. I offered some to my neighbor who doesn’t like split pea soup at all and he couldn’t believe that he actually liked it. That’s how good it was. I can’t stop rambling about it.

  13. If at first...

    I made a mistake on this batch today. I thought I had cheese cloth in the house but didn’t. So instead of running back to the market, I figured I’d just pluck the spices out. Worked well enough for the bay leaves…not so well for the parsley, which disintegrated.

    Now featured on my shopping list…a re-supply of cheese cloth.

  14. GoneVeg

    You read my mind. I was just thinking about split pea soup.

    To AZ who asked about a vegetarian version: I’m of Russian Jewish descent and so I grew up on vegetarian split pea because we didn’t eat pork.

    There are a lot of ways to make it tasty. My Mom added some kind of dairy product to boost the creaminess. I’m vegan so I use different kinds of veggie stock: mushroom & soy sauce-based when I want a more traditional flavor; nori & miso-based when I want something Asian-y. Try it with your favorite veggie stock!

  15. Mary

    Just wanted to say that we love pea soup and the version I use is quite similar. I use the ham bone and some left over ham, definitely celery with the leaves (seems to add more flavor) and I might add a potato which also helps to thicken. I don’t add garlic but may try that next time. The addition of the bay leaves is also great. I put all ingredients in the slow cooker and leave it alone for the day. Mmmm good and even better and thicker the second day.
    Love your website and the normal recipes. Thanks.

  16. Karin Jung

    I love pea soup and this recipe is almost identical to mine. I make a pork free version using a smoked turkey leg. The flavor is practically identical to ham hocks and you get about triple the meat.

  17. Lydia (The Perfect Pantry)

    Another trick to get the smoky flavor of ham hocks into the soup is to use a bit of your favorite barbecue sauce, store bought or homemade.

  18. Judit

    Wow, I just made split pea soup too, similar seasonings but I cooked it in the slow cooker. I have had bad experiences with split peas not softening even after 4 hours of stovetop cooking (despite soaking them overnight beforehand).
    The crock pot worked like a charm.

  19. Gaelle

    I love split pea soup but since I can not manage to cook it in my pressure cooker (it sticks to the bottom no matter how much liquid I pour in), I sort of gave up. I’ll give it another try with this great recipe. Thanks.

    • Andre

      I used the pressure cooker to cook the split peas. After getting the water to boil I put the peas in and turned down the heat to a simmer for about three min’s and then let them sit for an hour and dumped them in with the ham bone for another hour.

  20. Peter

    The French Canadians of Quebec consider this a classic of their regional cuisine. A smoked kam hock makes this soup sublime. Good rib-stickin’ grub.

  21. Debbie WSchoonmaker

    I grew up on Green Split pea and a Trips to LA, we always stopped for Andersen Split Pea in Buellton, California. Sometime my Mom would make Yellow Split Pea. And I have fallen in Love with it now because I started to add Ground Coriander. (Yellow split pea, onion, carrot, celery, gr. coriander, ham bone and pepper). And yes a jigger of Sherry is very nice. Now you can add a spoon of sour cream too.

  22. Heike

    For a fat freer version you can also cook the meat separately the day before, than let it cool. The fat hardens and it is easy to remove it. If you soak the split peas overnight than they won’t need that much cooking time to get soft.

  23. jmf

    Pea soup….my favorite! We usually stick to a very basic recipe of ham, onions, water, S&P and sometimes carrots. I don’t even bother to puree or strain – except to remove the bone. Lately, we have been adding curry powder for a change – soooo goood! Also, the soup freezes well so I often set aside a few servings to keep for another day.

    Love your blog – it is my ‘go-to’ recipe site. You have never steered me wrong.

  24. Thom

    Just wanted to suggest a garnish …
    freshly grated parmesan cheese. If I were a real cook, I’d be able to tell you why. But, I’m not, so just try it.

    Thanks for this “uptown” version. But I’ll stick with my down home version with chunks of ham off the hocks and halved/quartered carrots.

    Love your blog, Elise

  25. Seth @ Boy Meets Food

    Can you believe I just picked up a bag of split peas at the grocery the other night, thinking that they sounded good right about now?

    My dogs REALLY love it when I make this, because they know they get the hocks.

  26. Momcat

    Your picture made my stomach growl. A fond childhood memory from my grandparents’ home. We never had it at home because my mom hated it. I loved it and sometimes will cheat and use canned soup with packaged salad croutons. Not the same, but a fair lunch-alone cheat.

  27. Jan

    I always keep some ham steaks in the freezer so that when the pea soup craving hits, I dice a ham steak, carrot, celery, onion and simmer with the peas with bay leaf, salt and pepper. I don’t puree mine – when the peas are nice and soft I stir the soup a lot and that mushes them up and keeps a bit of texture. One pot gourmet dinner!

  28. Tracy

    I highly recommend the crock pot/slow cooker method. I add celery, onions (or leeks), carrots, vegetable stock and water to a pound of split peas and set to cook on low all day.

    Before serving, add salt/pepper to taste, more water if too thick and the juice of 1-2 lemons.

    Easy and delicious!

  29. Holly

    I would like to use a leftover ham bone I have instead of the ham hocks. Is that an okay substitution? Should I add a little liquid smoke?

    Yes, you can use a ham bone, and yes, you might want to add a little liquid smoke if you have it. ~Elise

  30. Lester

    It’s nice to see this on the front page. I dug this up on my own a couple of weeks ago to warm up the unusually cold So Cal winter. It’s delicious!

  31. Cookin' Canuck

    Really nice, simple recipe! I love that bowl you served it in.

  32. Steve

    Thanks for the recipe, it sounds great! I have been using chicken broth for a basic split pea recipe for years, but this sounds like a nice change.

    I have never used ham hocks and don’t know where to get them. Will any butcher have them out or do I have to ask. If they are harder to find, any recommendations for a butcher to go to would be great. I live in East Sac…

    Thanks again!

    If you’re in East Sac you can easily get them at Corti Brothers. But any Raley’s or Safeways would have them too. ~Elise

  33. Patsey Manning

    This sounds absolutely delicious, and I will make it soon. I want to add a “veggie friendly” flavoring for the soup, to substitute for the ham hocks. I add vegan liquid smoke flavoring to my soups and stews – great flavoring. That plus the smoked tofu Elise suggested should work out very well.

  34. Ben

    I’m curious to know how many people tried this recipe the first way, or the way you say Julia Child recommends. To saute the onion, carrot, celery, etc. seems important to me. Do you notice a difference either way? Here is how I do it which is more in line with Julia: http://gutblog.com/?p=692
    Split Pea Soup is amazing stuff. Repost every winter.

  35. QL7

    I make the Julia Child recipe using my leftover hambone. (In fact, I have a pot ready to go as I type this.) It is delicious and hearty and great for a cold weather meal. I always add a little liquid smoke for some extra flavor.

  36. briefcandle

    For vegetarian-friendly smokiness, try a couple pods of cardamom seeds. Works great!

  37. Sandy

    The Feb. 2010 issue of Vegetarian Times also has a recipe for split pea soup; for smokiness it uses smoked paprika and chipotle chile. (It also has chopped sweet potato in it, as well as tomatoes.)

  38. Bill

    Re: ham hocks

    I get a smoked ham hock at the grocery store, and have the butcher slice it into 4 or 5 slices. It makes it easier to pull the meat off to chop it and add back to the soup, and I think you get more flavor out of it.

    Puree

    I have never had to use a blender to puree my soup. I just cook it till all the vegetables (except the carrots) disappear. If you use leeks, this won’t work, so replace the leek with another onion.

    Herbs

    Adding a bit of dried tarragon is nice; works well with the flavor of the peas.

    Accompaniments

    Tremendous served with cottage-cheese dill bread, too. Or a beer quick bread like this one.

  39. Jan (Family Bites)

    This is my very favourite soup. Here in Canada it’s one of our signature dishes, and I think your version looks stellar. Sometimes, if I’m feeling really lazy, I just use bacon in place of ham hocks and it works quite well!

  40. eva cooper

    Itching to try this, I love split pea soup, but make mine with carrots onions and potatoes. I’m not going to use the ham, as I’m jewish, and anyway my dad always told me he doesn’t like pea soup because of the ham stock, so i’ll just try it without… see what happens.

  41. Alta

    I second the use of smoked paprika to substitute some of that smoky flavor that ham would give. I love it both ways though. Sounds delicious!

  42. Corinne

    I use my pressure cooker (saves a lot of energy, too); I have no problem with peas burning to the bottom – only when reheating in a regular pot. The actual pea cooking time(including cooling time to open the cooker) is more like 45 min. Peas and water should fill a pressure cooker only halfway. First bring peas (or lentils, dry white beans, etc) to a boil, skim off the starch, then seal the pressure cooker. Do not add salt till the end; salt keeps the peas/beans from softening.
    I’m going to try added garlic next time.

  43. eva cooper

    yeah just made this, after 6 hours the peas were still a bit hard. Next time I’ll cook them in the pressure cooker first…
    I had to keep adding water so the taste is not amazing… but I’m not giving up on this yet!

    If after cooking the peas 6 hours they are still hard, it sounds to me like they are a bit old. The older the peas or beans, the longer they need to cook to become tender. ~Elise

  44. Megan

    This is delicious, but it made too much for the two of us. Does this soup freeze well? I actually didn’t puree it, as I like the little chunks of veggie and partially-smooshy split peas, so I don’t know if that matters for freezing, either.

    Thanks for your help!

    I’m guessing that it would freeze well but I haven’t tried it. ~Elise

  45. Anna

    I love pork in general but ham isn’t my favorite part for some reason. However, I can’t imagine split pea soup without a ham hock. The bone broth provides very absorbable minerals and gelatin, too, which is better than any mineral supplement pill. At the very least, I’d use some pancetta or bacon for favor if I didn’t use a ham hock or ham broth. But I happen to have a ham hock or two in my freezer anyway, so this is on the menu this week for sure.

    Our CSA box last week had a couple small leeks and a few of the previous week’s carrots are still hanging around (and I’ve still got gobs of celery I diced and froze from the CSA boxes in Dec).

    I use empty teabags from a local coffee/tea shop for my cooking herbs. After filling, the top of the bag folds over to contain the stems and leaves – no string or tying needed. The whole thing gets a quick rinse and goes into the compost bin after it is fished out. In a pinch, a stapled coffee filter will do the same thing (the cone shapes work best).

  46. Linda

    Elise, this recipe was wonderful. I had a taste for split pea soup all last week, and then there you were with a perfect recipe. I followed all of your directions – no changes. In the past, when I made my own pea soup, I only used one ham hock. Using two really made a great taste difference. Thanks for sharing!

  47. Caroline

    I’m making this soup right now, using a recipe mashup somewhere in between yours, Childs’, and my pressure cooker. (Peas in cooker, broth on stove with hock as we speak). It smells SO good. Can’t wait!

  48. Crazy Sweet LIfe

    My husband absolutely loves pea soup. Here in Quebec we always buy the Habitant brand but I’ve been meaning to try out a homemade recipe. Will definitely give this a shot and let you know the results. If he eats it all in one sitting, it’ll be a success!

  49. Stephany Brisco

    I made this soup exactly as you described and I wanted you to know that we loved it! I was thinking it wasn’t thick enough, even after I blended it, but when we sat down for dinner to eat that’s when I realized it was absolutely perfect. I really love it’s consistency! Thanks!

  50. Mary

    My husband can’t have ham….I use a ham base instead–takes care of the salt problem and gives the soup a ham flavor. Last year I switched to a low sodium ham base…needless to say, John is still able to partake in the enjoyment of pea soup.

  51. souper

    I’m going to take a chance you might find this:’

    I just wasted a about $10 worth of ingredients to cook a crock-pot of split pea soup for 12 and one-half hours. The barley is cooked, the yellow split peas are cooked, the green are hard as rocks.

    Yes, I know now. I must have got an old batch. But they don’t look any different.

    What would be helpful is how to know our beans, legumes, pulses are not OLD?

    These were bulk, in an organic/vegetarian store. One would think they’d be flying out of there, and hardly get a chance to hit bottom of the bin.

    How can we tell? Darn. Everything I used including organic low fat and sodium stock was expensive.

    P.S. To the poster who tells us green split pea soup is a Quebec staple. Nooo. That’s yellow split pea soup. Green comes from U.K.

    Wish I had a way of telling how old the beans/peas were. My mom once mistakenly cooked up my pie weight beans, the ones that had been baked dozens of times in the pie shell to keep the sides from slipping and the bottom from rising, and those had to be the toughest beans I’ve ever eaten. The only recommendation I have is to go to a store with a high turnover of produce. I would also complain at the store where you bought these old peas. ~Elise

  52. Stephanie Moist

    OMG! Thank God for your recipe. What would I have done.
    You guys rock. I’m making the split pea soup right now. Thanks.

  53. jess

    I need to use less water in this. Maybe reduce by half or so and then add as needed. I only put in 2 qts and it is very, very runny.

  54. jess

    Ok, I take it back, I take it back, I take it back. I just took the lid off and boiled it for a while longer. It thickened up and it tastes just like my mother used to make.

    thanks!

  55. Kate

    I tried a variation using smoked sausage, 1/4 t celery seed, 1/4 t allspice, more garlic and chicken broth. It took about 2.5 hours for the peas to soften and enough liquid to evaporate to get the right thickness. Very delicious results! I’ll be linking to your blog from mine.

  56. Joanie

    I always soak my peas before cooking them, at least overnight. This reduces the need to cook them so long. I like the soup thick and no sign of a pea part. smooth and thick, with onion,carrot, basil, celery seed. If you are vegan you can use a onion soup packet.

  57. Jan

    I love pea soup – I always keep a nice thick ham steak in the freezer to use in my soup. I add diced onion, carrot and celery plus salt, pepper, poultry seasoning and a pinch of cayenne, mine is always ready after about an hour or so of simmering. I don’t puree mine – I like a bit of texture.

  58. Stelly

    For a great vegetarian/vegan alternative, Trader Joes does a Soy Chorizo sausage that I pop into the pot/slowcooker. It adds some tang to the soup (but also changes the color a little) if you find it too bland without meat.

  59. Molly

    Great recipe. i saw it online and just made it for a second time. I used extra finely minced carrots instead of leeks and a tiny bit more onion. Aside from that and using chicken bullion to start the stock and extra chopped ham it was DELICIOUS!

    Thanks. a permanent recipe in my book!

  60. Mark Yoslow

    It is impossible to cook dry split peas in 1.75 hours, but I gave it a shot anyway. The reason there are so many additions being suggested by other cooks above is because the original does not work.

    Sounds as if you just have old dry peas. The older the peas (same with dry beans) the longer you’ll have to cook them to get them tender. What defines “old”? Peas/beans that were harvested more than a year ago. The other thing that can screw up the cooking time for legumes is the hardness of the cooking water. Hard water = longer cooking time. You can add a pinch of baking soda to the water to help address this if your water is hard. ~Elise

  61. casey

    Made this yesterday, and it is delicious and so easy to make. I had the time to let it simmer for 3 hrs and it was creamy. Thanks for this recipe.

  62. Aislinn

    I’m a bit intimidated by the herb bouquet. Is there another way to do this?

    Thanks. I am looking forward to making this recipe.

    No need to be intimidated, it’s easy! And it’s the best way to get the essence of the herbs and spices in the soup. You need to be able to fish them out, so putting them in a little cheesecloth, or thin muslin is the easiest way to do so. That said, if you want to try it without the herb bouquet, just add a clove of garlic to the soup, a pinch of ground allspice, 2 bay leaves (remove them before puréeing), a half teaspoon of thyme, and 2 tablespoons of chopped fresh parsley to the soup while cooking. Purée with the soup. Adjust seasonings to taste. ~Elise

  63. Jen

    I’m making this now I dont have all the spices here or a way to make a herb bouquet, so I used all the dried spices except allspice , is there another spice i can use to come close to allspice, Not going 20 miles to store to get 1 spice. Plz help I want it as close as possible. Thank you PS when I shop this weekend I will get dried allspice then. For next time.

    Just skip the allspice. Or add a small pinch of nutmeg. ~Elise

  64. Beth in the Heartland

    Made this last night – DELICIOUS – just like my mom made. Used 2 onions instead of an onion & leek, didn’t use immersion blender or puree. Otherwise followed recipe as-is. This is a KEEPER! Thanks Elise!

  65. Rebecca

    Actually split peas are the dried, peeled and split seeds of Pisum sativum. They come in yellow and green varieties. The peas are round when harvested and dried. Once dry, the skin is removed and the natural split in the seed’s cotyledon can be mechanically separated, in part to encourage faster cooking.

  66. Martha

    How can I cook this in the crock pot? What times do I use?

    I haven’t cooked this in a slow-cooker, but if anyone reading has, please feel free to chime in. ~Elise

  67. Natasha Bolis

    Worth a try! Great easy soup recipe!

  68. Becca B.

    It’s fall again so, soups on! I made this fantastic split pea soup but did not use the cheesecloth. I included turmeric, cumin, basil, thyme, ginger, white pepper and lime! The juice of two limes really brought all of the flavors together in an amazingly well rounded way. I used chicken stock instead of water. I will make this again!

    Next time I may consider making it even more interesting with MORE turmeric, cumin, maybe some curry and I’ll make coconut rice to give it an Asian feel?

  69. Jackie

    I always love your recipes Elise! How fitting is it that Julia Child’s recipe from Parade Magazine has always been MY recipe for Split Pea Soup? This is a great recipe. If you have trouble with the peas cooking in a reasonable time you can also pre-soak them for a few hours. I know, you shouldn’t have to, but living in the Denver area and having very hard water, I find it much easier to soak them in filtered water.

  70. Vanessa

    I made this last night for Halloween, and it came out delicious. I used chicken stock in place of water, and I put in fresh herbs – parsley, thyme and rosemary – finely chopped, instead of the bouquet garni. It tasted wonderful. I also garnished with some lemon juice at the very end and it gave it an extra little zing. Lovely recipe, and as it was my first time ever making split pea soup, I have to thank you for posting it!

  71. DB

    I doubled the recipe and doubled all the ingredients except the ham hock (I used two) and only used 4.5 quarts of chicken stock (instead of 5 quarts of water). I also pulled the ham hocks out when it was done cooking, shredded the meat, and added it back to the soup. DIVINE! Based on another comment here, I made beer bread to go with it and it was SO GOOD dipped into the soup. YUM! Thanks for this wonderful recipe!