Split Pea Soup

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Grab a big spoon and cozy up to a warm bowl of split pea soup with tasty bits of ham. The recipe is easy to make, and it’s the perfect comfort food for those chilly days.

split pea soup in a white bowl
Table of Contents
  1. What are split peas?
  2. Saute the aromatics
  3. Add the peas
  4. Add the pork
  5. Simmer the soup
  6. Chop up the meat
  7. Puree the soup
  8. Serve this with
  9. FAQ
  10. Split Pea Soup Recipe

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

I saute a trio of freshly chopped vegetables with bold herbs to make the soup base incredibly flavorful. I also use an entire pork hock cooked until the pieces fall off the bone to add a smoky taste. Breaking the meat down further adds a savory contrast to the smooth soup puree. Now, just make sure you have some warm crusty bread to dip.

ingredients to make a soup

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 for a nutritious addition to recipes. They are identical to round green peas that are often canned and frozen. However, they differ in their processing.

Split peas are dried, peeled, and cut in half, significantly extending their shelf life compared to fresh peas. They also come in two colors; green is sweeter, and yellow has an earthy flavor. When cooked, they have a creamy texture making them ideal for soups and stews like Indian dal.

split peas being washed in a colander

Saute the aromatics

I like to use my heavy-bottomed dutch oven to make this soup. A mixture of yellow onions, celery, and carrots, also known as mirepoix, is added to flavor the soup base. The diced vegetables are sauteed in olive oil first. This process brings the natural sugars of the onions and carrots to the surface, adding a hint of sweetness to the soup. 

New flavors form when you see browning on the vegetables and start to smell a light caramel aroma. To enhance the taste, I use fresh chopped thyme and bay leaf to add lingering herbal notes. Cook them in hot oil to extract more fat-soluble flavors before adding the liquids. I add a generous amount of minced garlic to provide an earthy allium flavor as the cooking mellows the sulfurous compounds.

Add the peas

Another enticing reason to use green split peas- no need for soaking! Unlike beans with a hard coating that need time to hydrate before simmering, you can add split peas straight into the pot. Just make sure to sort and rinse any dirt accumulated from processing. 

Since the legume skins have already been removed and broken in half, the extra exposure helps them cook very quickly. It’s similar to making lentil soup. They are actually in the same family, although lentils are whole seeds still in their pods.

Add the pork

To add richness and a deep smoky flavor to the soup, I use a whole pork hock (also called ham hock). This cut of meat comes from the first joint of the leg, and it’s packed with flavor. Pork adds body to the soup from the conversion of collagen to gelatine as it simmers. You can buy hock raw or cured and smoked. Check the packaging to indicate if it’s fully cooked.

I use smoked pork hock for the recipe. Although already cured, it’s not quite soft enough yet for enjoying in the soup. It requires low and slow cooking to tenderize the meat and soften the connective tissues to fall off the bone. The longer you simmer the soup, the more time it allows the ingredient flavors to marry together. I recommend flipping the ham hock over halfway through cooking to ensure both sides contact the hot liquid.

Simmer the soup

Water and unsalted chicken stock or broth add more flavor to the soup. The key is to bring the liquid to a boil to get hot, then cover and reduce the heat to a simmer. This process allows the ingredients to cook and tenderize gently. It will take about 2 hours to cook the pork hock thoroughly. 

The moisture helps to convert the tough connective tissue loaded with collagen into gelatin. You know that it is ready when you can easily pull the meat off the bone. During this time, the starches in the peas hydrate, swell and expand in size. The legumes get so soft that they begin to disintegrate, naturally thickening the soup consistency.

Chop up the meat

Once the pork hock finishes cooking, remove the skin and separate the meat from the bone. You can chop it up 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

Puree the soup

If you like a rustic texture, you can keep the vegetable and peas as is. For a smoother consistency, use a handheld immersion blender to break down the ingredients. You can pulse it just a few times or process it until silky smooth.

If you don’t have an immersion blender, a potato masher or countertop blender works well too. Stir in the chopped pork and serve hot. I like to warm up a big crusty loaf of bread. My family loves dipping pieces into their bowls. 

Serve this with

Ladle lifting soup out of a big pot

FAQ

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 quickly soak up moisture and tenderize much quicker compared to beans.

Can the recipe be made vegetarian?

Yes, omit the ham hocks. Cook the peas and vegetables until very tender, at least 30 minutes. You can also add fresh and dried mushrooms for a savory flavor with a chewy meat-like texture.

Is split pea soup healthy?

Yes! One cup of cooked split peas delivers about 16 grams of protein and 16 grams of fiber. This soup contains fresh vegetables like onions, carrots, and celery. Ham hock is added for flavor and texture, but you can use a leaner type of meat for a lower in fat version.

What can be used to substitute pork hocks (ham hocks)?

If you have leftover ham bone with some meat attached, that makes an excellent swap. Smoked pork shank or turkey leg also works well. You can add 1 cup of cooked chopped bacon or ham steak and simmer until the peas are tender, about 30 to 45 minutes.

two bowls of split pea soup topped with pork pieces

Cook the pork low and slow

Pork hocks (aka ham hocks) are inexpensive, tough pieces of meat, but they can deliver a ton of smoky flavor and richness to the soup. They need a long cook time to tenderize the connective tissues for the meat to fall off the bone. The internal temperature needs to be maintained at 210-degrees for at least an hour for this to happen. This process converts the collagen to gelatin, melting it down along with the fat in the skin.

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Split Pea Soup

Grab a big spoon and cozy up to a warm bowl of split pea soup with tasty bits of ham hock, and it's the perfect comfort food for chilly days.
Pin Print Review
4.25 from 4 votes
Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time2 hrs 10 mins
Total Time2 hrs 30 mins
Servings 8 servings
Course Soup
Cuisine American

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups diced yellow onion, ¼-inch dice
  • 1 cup diced celery, ¼-inch dice
  • 1 cup diced carrots, ¼-inch 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 

  • 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 the vegetables soften and lightly brown, about 8 to 10 minutes.
  • Add the thyme, bay leaf, and minced garlic. Saute for 30-seconds until fragrant.
  • Add the split peas and saute for 1 minute. Add the pork to the center of the pot. Add the water and chicken stock, stir, then bring to a boil.
  • Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer. Stir occasionally so that the peas do not stick to the bottom of the pot, adjusting the heat as needed to maintain a gentle simmer.
    Flip the ham over 1 hour after cooking. Cook until the peas fall apart and lightly thicken the soup. The meat should pull off the bone and the vegetables are tender, about 2 hours.
  • 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.
  • For a smooth consistency, use an immersion blender to puree the soup. Alternatively, puree the soup in batches using a countertop blender. Leave a few cups of peas intact for a more rustic texture if desired.
  • Season the soup to taste with salt and pepper. Add the pork back to the soup and stir to combine.
  • Divide among bowls to serve and garnish with parsley.

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.

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Nutrition Facts
Split Pea Soup
Amount Per Serving
Calories 317 Calories from Fat 72
% Daily Value*
Fat 8g12%
Saturated Fat 2g10%
Polyunsaturated Fat 1g
Monounsaturated Fat 4g
Cholesterol 15mg5%
Sodium 254mg11%
Potassium 864mg25%
Carbohydrates 42g14%
Fiber 16g64%
Sugar 7g8%
Protein 21g42%
Vitamin A 2882IU58%
Vitamin C 7mg8%
Calcium 67mg7%
Iron 3mg17%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

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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.

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7 Comments Leave a comment or review

  1. 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!!!!

  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. 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

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