The Best Split Pea Soup Recipe

This Split Pea Soup recipe is hearty, protein packed, NUTRITIOUS comfort food at its finest!  This foolproof recipe is creamy (without any cream), adeptly seasoned (you’ll love my secret ingredient!), versatile, and freezer friendly. It’s the easy, must-make recipe after you’ve cooked a ham for EasterThanksgiving, or Christmas to use that meaty ham bone OR I’ve included alternatives!

Watch How to Make Split Pea Soup Recipe

top view of split pea soup with a ladle showing how thick it is


 

Why you’ll love this Split Pea and Ham Soup

  • NUTRITOUS.  Split peas are rich in plant-based protein, fiber, and essential vitamins and minerals, like they’re on a mission to promote health while keeping you feeling full and satisfied.
  • THICK AND CREAMY WITHOUT ANY CREAM. Using a pound of dried split peas creates a full bodied soup that’s extra comforting without all the calories.
  • MEATY HAM BONE PERFECTION. A leftover meaty ham bone infuses the soup with deep, salty pork flavoring that’s divine.
  • ADEPTLY SEASONED.  The salty ham is rounded out with aromatics, yellow curry powder, dried parsley, dried thyme, ground mustard that makes your eyes roll back in your head with delight.
  • THICK VEGGIES.  The vegetables are cut on the thicker side and added to the soup later so they don’t get lost.
  • MEAT AND POTATOES.  The meaty chunks of ham are complimented with buttery potatoes, a match made in heaven!
split pea soup with ham in a Dutch oven
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Ingredients for the Best Split Pea Soup Recipe

This Split Pea Soup with Ham is made with easy-to-find ingredients that creates otherworldly wholesome comfort. Let’s take a closer look at what you need (full recipe in the printable recipe card at the bottom of the post):

  • Split peas: Split peas are regular peas that have been dried and split. They are sold by the bag located near the grains and lentils at your grocery store or purchase them on Amazon here. They come in green or yellow, but I prefer green for this recipe. Green tends to be sweeter and yellow tends to be earthier.
  • Ham: A meaty leftover ham bone from Easter, Thanksgiving or Christmas, is ideal for this recipe. The bone will simmer with the soup, infusing it with flavor, then you’ll cut the ham off the bone and add the chunks to the soup. If you don’t have a ham bone, see alternatives in the section below.
  • Potatoes: Use Yukon gold potatoes peeled and diced into 3/4-inch cubes. Don’t substitute with Russet potatoes because they can fall apart and turn mealy in the soup, whereas Yukon gold potatoes remain intact and buttery.  
  • Mirepoix:  Yellow onion, carrots and celery are known as the holy trinity of cooking and provide a richness and depth of flavor that can’t be achieved any other way.
  • Garlic: Use 4 garlic cloves – or more!
  • Chicken broth: Take care your chicken broth is low sodium otherwise your soup will be too salty. Water will be used with the broth to compensate for the salty ham.
  • Seasonings: Yellow curry powder, dried parsley, dried thyme, ground mustard, pepper and bay leaves season the Split Pea and Ham Soup to perfection.
showing the split pea soup ingredients:  split peas, ham bone, carrots, celery, potatoes, onion, garlic, chicken broth, water and spices

Split Pea Soup Recipe Substitutions

Split Pea Soup is extremely versatile – use turkey, make it vegetarian, add vegetables, etc. Here are a few ideas:

  • Swap peas: Substitute with green or yellow lentils. However, lentils only need to be cooked 30-40 minutes to soften and will not break down as much, so add the vegetables sooner. To thicken, use an immersion blender or blend 2 cups in a blender then transfer it back to the soup.
  • Customize the protein source: Smoked turkey leg is a great alternative to ham. Smoked sausages, such as kielbasa or smoked turkey sausage, can also richness and depth to the soup.
  • Vegetarian split pea soup: Omit the meat entirely and swap the chicken broth for vegetable broth. Enhance the smoky flavor with smoked paprika, liquid smoke, or other savory spices. Consider using dried mushrooms (such as porcini) or fresh mushrooms to add a rich, umami flavor to the soup.
  • Add vegetables: Customize the vegetables based on what you have or what you like, keeping in mind different cooking times and adding vegetables accordingly. You can try parsnips, cauliflower, corn, bell peppers, mushrooms, asparagus, etc.
  • Add beans:   Substitute all or some of the potatoes with cannellini beans.
  • Swap broth: Swap the chicken for vegetable broth if desired or use all water and add 4 teaspoons chicken bouillon.
  • Swap seasonings: Experiment with different herbs and spices. Marjoram, rosemary, or cumin can add unique flavors.
showing how to serve split pea soup with ham in a bowl garnished with parsley

How to make Split Pea Soup with Ham

This recipe is easy to make, it just requires some time to simmer to break down the split peas. Let’s take a closer look at how to make it with step-by-step photos (full recipe in the printable recipe card at the bottom of the post):

  • Step 1: Sauté Aromatics. Sauté onions until softened, 5-7 minutes. Add garlic and sauté 30 seconds.
showing how to make Split Pea Soup recipe by sautéing onions until softened
  • Step 2: Add Ingredients. Add split peas, bay leaves and seasonings, then nestle in the ham bone.  Pour the chicken broth and water over top.
a collage showing how to make Split Pea Soup recipe by adding split peas and seasonings, ham bone, broth and water
  • Step 3: Simmer. Cover to help bring to a boil, then reduce to low. Simmer, covered, for 50 minutes, stirring occasionally, and replacing the lid.
showing how to make Split Pea by simmering for 45 minutes
  • Step 4: Add Vegetables and Simmer. Remove ham from soup to a cutting board. Add the celery, carrots, and potatoes. Cook, covered on low, for an additional 30 minutes or until vegetables are tender and peas have broken down to your liking. 
showing how to make Split Pea recipe by adding carrots and celery
  • Step 5: Chop Ham. While the vegetables are simmering, cut the ham off the bone and cut it into pieces.
showing how to make Split Pea by chopping the ham off of the bone
  • Step 6: Add Ham. Once the veggies are tender, stir the 2 cups diced ham into the soup.
showing how to make Split Pea recipe by adding the ham back to the soup
  • Step 6: Season. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add additional liquid as needed to thin.
showing how to make split pea soup with ham by thinning with additional water

Tips for make the Best Recipe for Split Pea Soup

Follow these tips for the best Split Pea Soup recipe:

  • Choose the Right Ham: Using a meaty ham bone will infuse the soup with rich, savory notes that can’t be achieved any other way. However, the alternatives provided will still be tasty, just not as deeply flavorful 😉.
  • Control the Salt: If using ham bone, use half water, half low sodium broth. If using ham steaks or bacon, all low sodium chicken broth can be used.
  • Simmer Gently: Allow the soup to simmer slowly over low to medium-low heat. This gives the split peas time to break down and release their starches, resulting in a creamier texture. Check the soup’s simmer periodically and adjust as needed. You’ll likely need to lower the temperature as it cooks.
  • Adjust to taste: After the soup has simmered and the chopped ham is added back to the soup, enhance the soup with additional spices like a dash of cayenne for a subtle kick or additional herbs if desired. Wait until the very end to add additional salt if needed.
  • Liquid Consistency: If you prefer a thinner soup, add more water or broth. For a thicker consistency, let the soup simmer uncovered the last 20 minutes or so, keeping in mind it will thicken as the peas break down with residual heat.
  • Be Prepared to Add Additional Liquid. The soup will thicken significantly as it sits, so be prepared to thin with additional broth or water.
showing how to serve split pea soup with ham by adding to a bowl and garnishing with parsley

What to serve with Split Pea and Ham Soup

This Ham and Split Pea Soup is a meal-in-one complete with protein, veggies and starch, so you can call dinner done or serve it with any of these additional sides:

up close of a spoonful of split pea and ham soup showing the consistency

Split Pea Soup Recipe FAQs

Where is split pea soup from?

The modern version of split pea soup, as we commonly know it today, has ties to European and American culinary traditions. In Europe, particularly in countries like England and Germany, split pea soup has been a staple for centuries. It was a simple and economical dish made from readily available ingredients, providing a nourishing and filling meal for people of different socioeconomic backgrounds.

In the United States, split pea soup gained popularity as European immigrants brought their culinary traditions with them.. Over time, it has become a classic comfort food enjoyed in households and restaurants across the country.

Is split pea soup good for you?


Split pea soup can be part of a nutritious diet, as split peas themselves offer a range of health benefits. Here are some key nutritional components of split peas:

1. Protein: Split peas are an excellent source of plant-based protein. They provide a substantial amount of essential amino acids, making them a valuable protein source, especially for those following a vegetarian or vegan diet.
2. Fiber: Split peas are rich in dietary fiber, including both soluble and insoluble fiber. Fiber is beneficial for digestive health, as it helps regulate bowel movements, lowers cholesterol levels, and may contribute to a feeling of fullness.
3, Vitamins and Minerals: Split peas contain various vitamins and minerals, including folate, potassium, magnesium, iron, and zinc. Folate is important for cell division and the formation of DNA, while potassium and magnesium are essential for heart health and muscle function.
4. Low in Fat: Split peas are low in fat, making them a healthy choice for those watching their fat intake. The majority of the calories in split peas come from carbohydrates and protein.
5. Antioxidants: Like other legumes, split peas contain antioxidants that help combat oxidative stress in the body. Antioxidants play a role in reducing inflammation and protecting cells from damage.
6. Blood Sugar Regulation: The fiber and protein content in split peas can contribute to better blood sugar regulation. Consuming foods high in fiber and protein can help stabilize blood sugar levels, making split peas a suitable option for individuals with diabetes or those looking to manage their blood sugar.

What is the difference between lentils and split peas?

Lentils and split peas are both legumes, but they differ in color, taste, and texture. Lentils are lens-shaped and come in various colors, including green, brown, red, and black. They have a slightly peppery flavor and a firm texture, holding their shape well after cooking. Split peas, on the other hand, are dried and split versions of field peas, and they commonly come in green or yellow varieties. Split peas have a milder, somewhat sweet flavor and a softer texture, breaking down during cooking to create a creamy consistency. While both are nutritious and versatile, lentils and split peas bring distinct characteristics to dishes, influencing their use in various culinary applications.

What thickens split pea soup?


Split peas naturally thicken the soup as they break down as they cook, releasing starches into the liquid, creating a creamy consistency.

Should split pea soup be thin or thick?


Split pea soup is generally preferred to be thick, with a creamy consistency resulting from the natural breakdown of split peas during cooking. If it’s too thick for your liking, thin it with additional broth or water until it reaches your desired consistency.

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showing how to serve split pea soup with ham by adding to a bowl and garnishing with parsley

Split Pea Soup Recipe with Ham

This Split Pea Soup recipe is hearty, protein packed, NUTRITIOUS comfort food at its finest!  This foolproof recipe is creamy (without any cream), adeptly seasoned (you'll love my secret ingredient!), versatile, and freezer friendly. It’s the easy, must-make recipe after you’ve cooked a ham for Easter, Thanksgiving, or Christmas to use that meaty ham bone OR I’ve included alternatives!
Servings: 8 -10 servings

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Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 16 oz. bag dried split peas, rinsed, picked over for debris
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 tsp EACH yellow curry powder, dried parsley, dried thyme, ground mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 meaty ham bone (with 2 cups meat on the bone for later)
  • 4 cups reduced sodium chicken broth
  • 3 cups water
  • 3 ribs celery, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
  • 2 medium carrots, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 2 cups Yukon gold potatoes, peeled, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

GARNISH

  • Chopped fresh parsley

Instructions

  • Note: The split peas do not need to be soaked for this recipe.
  • Sauté aromatics: Melt butter in olive oil in a large Dutch oven/soup pot over medium-high heat. Add chopped onion and sauté until softened, 5-7 minutes. Add garlic and sauté 30 seconds.
  • Add split peas and ham: Add split peas, bay leaves and seasonings and give them a stir. Nestle in the ham bone. Pour the chicken broth and water over top.
  • Simmer: Cover and bring to a boil, then reduce to a gentle simmer. Simmer, covered, for 50 minutes, stirring occasionally, and replacing the lid.
  • Remove ham and simmer: Remove ham from soup to a cutting board. Add the celery, carrots, and potatoes to the soup. Simmer, covered, for an additional 30 minutes or until vegetables are tender, and peas have broken down to your liking. Meanwhile:
  • Chop ham: Cut the ham off the bone and cut it into pieces (don’t add back to the soup yet). Once the veggies are tender, stir 2 cups diced ham into the soup.
  • Adjust to taste: The soup will thicken significantly as it sits, as the peas continue to breakdown from residual heat, so be prepare to add additional broth or water to thin to desired consistency. Season the soup with salt and pepper to taste. Garnish servings with parsley if desired.

Notes

  • Split peas: They are sold by-the-bag located near the grains and lentils at your grocery store or purchase them on Amazon here. They come in green or yellow, but I prefer green for this recipe. Green tends to be sweeter and yellow tends to be earthier.
  • Storage: Let the Split Pea and Ham Soup cool to room temperature, then cover and store in your Dutch oven or transfer to an airtight container. Refrigerate for up to 3 days.  The soup can also be frozen for up to 3 months.  The soup will thicken significantly, but is easy to thin to desired consistency with water or broth when reheating.

HAM OPTIONS FOR SPLIT PEA SOUP

Split Pea Soup is typically made with a ham bone (detailed below, used in the recipe) but here are a few more options:
  • Ham Bone: This can come from any leftover ham(spiral, whole bone-in etc.) cooked for the holidays, OR, purchase one directly from the butcher counter at your grocery store or neighborhood butcher. If possible, ask for them to leave about 2 cups meat on the bone.
  • Smoked Ham Hock: If you want to maintain the smoky flavor without using a ham bone, a smoked ham hock (also known as a pork knuckle) can be a flavorful substitute. It doesn’t have the meat, so you’ll want to combine it with chopped ham.
  • Ham Steak: This is thick slices of cooked ham cut from a whole ham roast. They can be found packaged in the refrigerated meat section near the bacon or sliced from the butcher counter. Once home, just chop them into chunks. You won’t have all the deep flavor from the bone so adjust seasonings (salt, etc.) to taste or combine it with ham hock or 4 raw bacon strips that simmer with the soup (then removed, see below).
  • Bacon+ ham steak: Swap the ham bone in the recipe for 4 ounces thick cut bacon (left whole) and 1 pound ham steak, cut into quarters. Simmer with the split peas for 45 minutes. Remove the ham steaks, add the carrots and celery and cook until tender per recipe. Remove the bacon slices (discard), shred and add the ham back to the soup.
  • Bacon: Cook 8 strips thick-cut bacon until crisp. Remove from the pot and leave 2-3 tablespoons bacon drippings to use to sauté the onions instead of butter. Cook and crumble the bacon to cook with the soup, saving a about ¼ to top the soup with.
  • Leftover Ham: If you have leftover ham without the bone from a previous meal, chop it into pieces and use it in your split pea soup. It’s a great way to repurpose leftovers. Combine it with the bacon option or enjoy alone, adjusting seasonings to taste.
  • Other protein: Smoked turkey leg is a great alternative to ham. Smoked sausages, such as kielbasa or smoked turkey sausage, can also richness and depth to the soup.

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2 Comments

  1. Stephanie says

    Pea soup is truly one of the most wonderful comfort foods there is & your recipe certainly delivered! I adapted this to the slow cooker by reducing the water by a cup, down to 2 cups. I loved your unique spice addition of curry to the pea soup, that was a tasty surprise, I may even bump it up to a teaspoon next time.

    • Jen says

      It is an amazing comfort food, I agree! And I’m so glad that this was to your taste!