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Split Pea Soup

Classic split pea soup! Dried split peas are cooked with ham hocks, onions, garlic, and leeks. This filling, hearty soup is perfect for cold winter days.

Split pea soup with ham hock and topped with croutons.
Elise Bauer

There's something about winter that just begs for the making of split pea soup, wouldn't you agree?

Like the proverbial groundhog, who failing to see his shadow, retreats into the comfort of his burrow, in the chilly, foggy dampness of what is Sacramento winter, I stick my head out the door, only to make a quick retreat back into the house, wanting nothing more than to make a big pot of this hearty soup.

Made with dried "split" peas, and cooked up with flavorful, smoky ham hocks, split pea soup is warm, satisfying, and great for leftovers. This split pea soup recipe is adapted from one written by Julia Child years ago for a Parade Magazine article.

VIDEO: How to Make Split Pea Soup

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Split Pea Soup

What Are Split Peas?

Split peas are different from the fresh peas we use to make side dishes or mix into shepherd's pie. They're a specific kind of field pea that is intended to be dried for long storage. After removing the outer hull, the peas are split in half along a natural seam, hence "split peas."

Split peas are either green or yellow; for this soup we're using green split peas. (Here's a version with yellow split peas.)

You can store split peas for up to a year. Because they are small and already split in half, they don't require pre-soaking and will cook faster than other kinds of dried legumes.

  • Tip: don't store your dried split peas too long. Old peas take much longer to cook. In fact, if your split peas remain hard even after a long cooking time, the likely cause is that your peas were old. Even if you recently bought them, it's hard to know how long they were sitting on the shelf at the store. Best advice? Use the peas by their "best buy" time printed on the package.
A split pea recipe in a bowl.
Elise Bauer

Ways to Top Your Soup

I like to top this soup with a handful of homemade croutons and some chopped parsley or chives.

It's easy to make your own croutons (here's how). You can also toast a piece of bread until quite dry and then tear it into pieces with your hands.

More topping ideas? Remove the meat from the ham hocks and stir it into your soup, or add some smoky bacon or diced chicken. You could also add a handful of chopped baby spinach or another green, or top your bowl with a swirl of thinned yogurt or sour cream.

How to Store and Freeze This Soup

Split pea soup can be kept refrigerated for about a week, or frozen for up to three months.

To freeze, cool the soup completely, then transfer to freezer containers or bags. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator, or gently warm the frozen soup in a saucepan over low heat on the stove top.

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Split Pea Soup

Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 110 mins
Total Time 2 hrs
Servings 6 servings
For the 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.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound (2 1/4 cups) green split peas
  • 2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 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 (see Recipe Note)
  • 2 ham hocks, well-rinsed
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Small toasted croutons (avoid for gluten-free version), to garnish
  • Chopped parsley or chives, to garnish

Method

  1. Pick over the peas and remove any stones. Rinse and drain the peas.
  2. Sauté the vegetables:

    Heat the olive oil in a large (4-quart) thick bottomed pot on medium high heat. Add the chopped onion, celery, carrot, and leek. Cook until the onion is translucent, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add the garlic and cook a minute more.

  3. Cook the peas with the vegetables, herbs, ham hocks and water:

    Place peas in the pot 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.

    Partially cover and simmer about 1 1/2 hours, or until peas are tender, stirring occasionally in case they stick to the bottom of the pan.

  4. Remove the ham hocks and herb bouquet from the soup.
  5. Purée 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 work in 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.

  6. Remove the meat from the ham hocks (optional):

    If you'd like cut away the outer skin from the ham hocks and remove the meat from the bones. Dice the meat and stir it into the pureed soup.

  7. Season to taste:

    Return the puréed soup to the pot and heat until once again steaming. Add salt and pepper to taste.

  8. Serve garnished with croutons:

    Ladle into warm bowls and garnish with croutons and parsley or chives.