Split pea soup is an underdog. It can be misunderstood. There’s the color: drab compared to eating the rainbow of spring asparagus, chioggia beets, purple potatoes and the like. There’s the consistency: often on the thick side, sometimes on the very slightly grainy side if your peas aren’t quite done. But, and this is an important but, there’s the flavor, which overcomes any hesitations you may have about color or consistency. A well-made split pea soup is better than almost any other winter soup, and I will stand behind that declaration. It’s homey and nostalgic, fairly inexpensive, crowd-friendly, good for you (split peas are high in protein and fiber), creamy and soothing and just plain tasty. I made the best split pea soup I’ve ever made (or had) last weekend and have been savoring the leftovers, doling out a bowl here and there to make it last. It feels great to know I have a recipe to make it exactly how I want it to taste, and I am excited to pass the recipe along to you.
My recipe uses ham but can be made vegetarian-friendly, actually vegan, very easily– just leave out the ham. If you grew up using ham hocks, by all means sub those in. I used a mix of green and yellow peas because that’s what I had on hand, but you can use all of one or the other if that’s what you have at home. Other than those details, split pea soup is so easy you’ll want to have a pot simmering on your stove every weekend this winter. My house smelled so good and, as is the case with many comfort foods, the leftovers are almost better than the meal the night you make it. And so, though not the prettiest meal in my rotation, it ranks among the tastiest and will be a staple at our house from now on. I always have been one to cheer for the underdog.
Best-Ever Split Pea Soup
- 2 T. grapeseed or canola oil
- 1 medium leek, light green and white parts only, washed and thinly sliced
- 2 carrots, peeled and cut into pennies
- 1 c. cubed ham
- 2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
- 2 1/4 c. split peas, green or yellow or a mix
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1/2 tsp. black pepper
- 10 c. water
- 2 bay leaves
In a large soup pot or Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium-high heat; add the leeks and cook for 5 mins., stirring occasionally, until softened. Add the carrots and ham and cook for an additional 3-4 mins. Add the split peas, garlic, salt and pepper and stir; pour in the water and bring the soup to a boil, increasing the heat if necessary. Once the soup is boiling, add the bay leaves, reduce the heat to medium and cover; simmer for 2 – 2 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally (more often toward the end to prevent sticking), until the peas have cooked through and broken down. Remove the bay leaves and taste, adding more salt and pepper if necessary. Serve hot, or cool to room temperature and store in the fridge for up to a week. Split pea soup freezes well and can be kept for 3-6 months in the freezer.