Split Pea Soup with Ham

4.89 from 9 votes
↓ Jump to Recipe 9

This post may contain affiliate links | disclosure policy

Grab a big spoon and cozy up to a warm bowl of split pea soup with tasty bits of ham. It’s the perfect comfort food for those chilly days.

Split pea soup in a white bowl.

Recipe Science

  • Sauteing the carrots, celery, and onions brings the natural sugars to the surface, adding a hint of sweetness to the soup. 
  • Dried split peas contain starch, adding a thick and creamy texture when pureed.
  • Slowly simmering the ham hock converts collagen to gelatin, adding richness while making the tough meat tender.

Why It Works

You may have rolled your cart straight past the dried split peas hidden in the bean aisle at the grocery store. Next time, put the brakes on and grab a bag of bright green legumes. They make an excellent creamy base for this split pea soup recipe. No soaking is required; add them to the pot and let them simmer.

I saute a trio of freshly chopped vegetables with bold herbs, making the soup base incredibly flavorful. I also cook an entire pork hock until the pieces fall off the bone to add a smoky taste. Breaking the meat down further contrasts the smooth soup puree with a savory contrast.

Ingredients You’ll Need

Ingredients needed to make this split pea soup recipe.
  • Peas: Green split peas are dried, peeled, and cut in half, significantly extending their shelf life compared to fresh peas. They have a mildly sweet taste. Yellow split peas can be used, they have an earthy flavor. They have a creamy texture when cooked, making them ideal for soups and stews like Indian dal.
  • Ham Hock: Pork hocks (ham hocks) are inexpensive, tough pieces of meat that deliver a ton of smoky flavor and richness to the soup. You can buy hock raw or cured and smoked. Check the packaging to indicate if it’s fully cooked!
  • Vegetables: A classic mix of diced carrots, onions, and celery creates a delicious flavor base for the soup. Minced garlic adds a wonderful allium aroma and taste.
  • Oil: I prefer the flavor of fruity extra-virgin olive oil to saute the vegetables. However, a more neutral avocado oil or decadent butter also works well.
  • Seasonings: The vegetables are seasoned with salt and black pepper. Dried bay leaf and thyme infuse the stock with a mild eucalyptus and herbaceous note.
  • Stock: I use chicken broth or stock to add dimension to the soup. The ham hock is salty, so I control the seasoning level with unsalted stock. If unavailable, replace 1 cup of stock with water to dilute the salt.

See the recipe card below for all ingredients and measurements (US and metric).

Ingredient Substitutions

  • Swapping the Ham Hocks: I often use a meaty leftover ham bone from baked ham made at Christmas, Thanksgiving, or Easter. Smoked pork shank or turkey leg also works well. Add 1 cup of cooked chopped bacon or diced ham steak. Simmer until the peas are tender, about 30 to 45 minutes.
  • Using Cooked Peas: You’ll need 4 cups of canned or frozen peas (defrosted). Omit the water from the recipe. Simmer the ham hock in stock until tender, then add the peas to warm before pureeing.
  • To Make it Vegetarian: Omit the ham hocks and use vegetable stock for a vegetarian soup. Cook the peas and vegetables until very tender, at least 30 minutes. Add fresh or dried mushrooms for a savory flavor with a chewy, meat-like texture.

How to Make Split Pea Soup

Celery and carrots cooking in a pot.

Step 1: Cook the Vegetables

To flavor the soup base, a mixture of yellow onions, celery, and carrots, also known as mirepoix, is added. The diced vegetables saute in a heavy-bottomed Dutch oven with olive oil to bring their natural sugars to the surface. The sweetness balances the savory smoked pork.

Garlic and thyme sauteing in a large pot.

Step 2: Saute the Aromatics

I use fresh chopped thyme and bay leaf to enhance the taste and add lingering herbal notes. I add a generous amount of minced garlic to provide an earthy allium flavor as the cooking mellows the sulfurous compounds. Cook them in hot oil to extract more fat-soluble flavors.

Ingredient Chemistry: New flavors form during the Maillard reaction when you see browning on the vegetables and smell a light caramel aroma.

Green split peas being washed in a colander.

Step 3: Add the Peas

Another enticing reason to use green split peas is that they don’t need to be soaked! Unlike quick-soaking beans to soften and hydrate their hard coating, you can add split peas straight into the pot. Just make sure to rinse off any dirt accumulated from processing.

Split peas, carrots, and bay leaf in a dutch oven.

Sauté for a minute to lightly toast the surface for more flavor. Since the legume skins have been removed and broken in half, the extra exposure helps them cook quickly. This process is similar to making lentil soup. Lentils are in the same family, although they are still whole seeds in their pods.

Pork hock placed in a Dutch oven.

Step 4: Add the Pork and Liquid

Add the ham hock to the pot.

Pouring chicken stock over a pork hock.

Add water and unsalted chicken stock or broth, then bring it to a boil over medium-high heat.

Ham hock simmering in a pot of liquid.

Step 5: Simmer the Soup

The key is to heat the liquid to a boil, then cover and reduce the heat to a simmer to tenderize the ingredients gently.

Metal tongs lifting a piece of meat and flipping it over in a pot.

Cooking the pork hock will take about 2 hours. I recommend flipping it halfway through to ensure even cooking.

Tips for Perfect Execution: Although the smoked ham hock is cured, it’s not quite soft enough yet. It needs a long cooking time in liquid to tenderize the connective tissues so the meat will fall off the bone. For this to happen, the internal temperature must be maintained at 210 degrees for at least an hour. This process converts the collagen to gelatin, melting it down along with the fat in the skin.

The meat is ready when it can easily be pulled off the bone. During this time, the starches in the peas hydrate, swell, and expand in size. The legumes become so soft that they begin to disintegrate, naturally thickening the soup.

Small pieces of pork hock on a cutting board.

Step 6: Chop the Meat

Once the pork hock finishes cooking, remove the skin and separate the meat from the bone. You can chop it into big chunks or more refined pieces, chef’s choice. The bits of meat add a nice burst of saltiness and texture to each spoonful. There should be about 1 cup of pork from a 1 ½ pound hock.

Immersion blender being used in a pot of soup.

Step 7: Puree the Soup

Experimentation Encouraged: If you like a rustic texture, you can keep the vegetables and peas as is. Otherwise, use a handheld immersion blender to break down the ingredients for a smooth consistency. Pulse it a few times or process it until it is silky smooth. If you don’t have an immersion blender, a potato masher or countertop blender works well too.

Ladle lifting soup out of a big pot.

Step 8: Garnish and Serve

Stir in the chopped pork and serve hot. Sprinkle on chopped parsley for a pop of green color.

Two bowls of split pea soup topped with pork pieces.

Alternatively, sliced basil or chives add a stronger herbaceous taste.

Want some crunch? Add homemade croutons on top. I like to warm up a big crusty loaf of bread. My family loves dipping pieces into their bowls and soaking up the delicious soup!

Frequently Asked Questions

What are split peas?

Split peas are tiny half-moon-shaped seeds of Pisum Sativum, a member of the legume family. They are high in protein and fiber, making them a nutritious addition to recipes. Split peas are identical to round green peas, which are often canned and frozen but differ in their processing.

Do split peas need to be soaked before cooking?

No! These dried legumes have no skin and are broken into small pieces. This allows them to soak up moisture quickly and tenderize much quicker than other dried beans.

Is split pea soup healthy?

Yes! One cup of cooked split peas delivers about 16 grams of protein and 16 grams of fiber. This homemade split pea soup with ham also contains fresh vegetables like onions, carrots, and celery. Ham hock is added for flavor and texture, but a leaner type of meat can be used for a lower-fat version.

What pairs well with split pea soup?

There is nothing better than dipping a slice of bread into the hearty soup. If you’re a fan of rustic crusty bread, try my no-knead bread, but you’ll have to plan a day ahead. Otherwise, soft pieces of rosemary focaccia or crunchy garlic bread are excellent options.

Can I make the soup in advance?

Cool and store split pea soup in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days. Alternatively, store it in the freezer for 3 months. It’s a great hearty soup for meal prep!

More Soup Recipes

If you tried this Split Pea Soup recipe, please leave a 🌟 star rating and let me know how it went in the 📝 comments below!

Split Pea Soup

I love making split pea soup because it's a hearty and comforting dish that's perfect for cozy nights at home.
4.89 from 9 votes
Prep Time20 minutes
Cook Time2 hours 10 minutes
Total Time2 hours 30 minutes
Servings 8 servings
Course Soup
Cuisine American

Ingredients 
 

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups diced yellow onion, ¼" dice
  • 1 cup diced celery, ¼" dice
  • 1 cup diced carrots, ¼" dice
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons fresh thyme, chopped or 1 teaspoon dried
  • 1 dried bay leaf
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 16 ounces dried green split peas, sorted and rinsed (2 to 2 ¼ cups)
  • 1 ½ pounds smoked pork hocks, or ham hocks
  • 4 cups water
  • 4 cups unsalted chicken stock
  • 1 tablespoon chopped parsley, for garnish

Instructions 

  • Cook the Vegetables – Heat a Dutch oven or large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. Add the olive oil. Once hot, add the onions, celery, carrots, salt, and pepper. Saute until soft and lightly brown, about 8 to 10 minutes.
  • Saute the Aromatics – Add the thyme, bay leaf, and minced garlic. Saute for 30 seconds until fragrant.
  • Add the Peas – Add the split peas and saute for 1 minute.
  • Add the Pork – Place the pork in the center of the pot. Add the water and chicken stock. Stir and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.
  • Simmer the Soup – Once boiling, reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer. Stir occasionally so that the peas do not stick to the bottom. Adjust the heat as needed to maintain a gentle simmer.
    After 1 hour, flip the ham over. Continue to cook until the peas fall apart and the soup lightly thickens, about 1 hour. The meat should easily pull off the bone, and the vegetables should be tender.
  • Chop the Meat – Remove the bay leaf and discard. Transfer the ham to a cutting board. Remove the skin and discard. Pull the meat off the bone and dice it into small pieces.
  • Puree the Soup – Use an immersion blender to puree the soup for a smooth consistency. Alternatively, use a countertop blender in batches. If desired, leave a few cups of peas intact for a rustic texture.
  • To Serve – Season the soup with salt and pepper to taste. Add the pork back to the pot and stir to combine. Divide among bowls and garnish with parsley.

Recipe Video

YouTube video

Notes

  • Recipe Yield: 8 cups
  • Serving Size: 1 cup
  • Pork Hock (ham hock) Substitutes: Ham bone with some meat attached or smoked pork shank. You can add 1 cup of cooked chopped bacon or ham steak and simmer until the peas are tender, about 30 to 45 minutes.
  • Storing: Cool completely and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Add more stock or water as needed to adjust the consistency when reheating. Freeze for up to 3 months.

Nutrition Facts

Serves: 8 servings
Calories 317kcal (16%)Carbohydrates 42g (14%)Protein 21g (42%)Fat 8g (12%)Saturated Fat 2g (10%)Polyunsaturated Fat 1gMonounsaturated Fat 4gCholesterol 15mg (5%)Sodium 254mg (11%)Potassium 864mg (25%)Fiber 16g (64%)Sugar 7g (8%)Vitamin A 2882IU (58%)Vitamin C 7mg (8%)Calcium 67mg (7%)Iron 3mg (17%)

Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000-calorie diet. All nutritional information is based on estimated third-party calculations. Each recipe and nutritional value will vary depending on the brands you use, measuring methods, and portion sizes per household.

Tried this recipe?

Tag me on Instagram. I'd love to see how it turns out!

Tag @jessica_gavin

Jessica Gavin

I'm a culinary school graduate, cookbook author, and a mom who loves croissants! My passion is creating recipes and sharing the science behind cooking to help you gain confidence in the kitchen.

Quick & Easy Meals in Under 30 Minutes!
Get 25 simple meals your whole family will love.
Jessica Gavin standing in the kitchen

You May Also Like

Reader Interactions

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating




9 Comments Leave a comment or review

  1. Sharyn says

    I love split pea and ham soup. I plan on making this soup in my crockpot. Is there anything different I should do? thank you

  2. Marge Nath says

    Jessica,

    First of all I love getting all your recipes and using some.
    I love split pea soup.
    I was wondering what other
    kind of ham can you put in besides ham hocks?
    Thanks
    Marge Nath

  3. Joy Barnett says

    Wonderful layers of flavor in this recipe. I used my crockpot for 8 hours, as I was gone all day. What a great, warm, comforting meal to come home to! This was the first time I have ever used split peas, it won’t be the last. I have already passed the recipe along to friends who are new to split peas, too. Thank you!!!!

    • Jessica Gavin says

      You’re welcome, Joy! I love that you made the recipe in a slow cooker. Was it on low or high heat? I can’t wait to give it a try!