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Split Pea Soup with Ham

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A simple recipe that delivers big flavor, this split pea soup with ham is hearty enough to serve as a meal.

Split pea soup is a classic American soup made from split peas—peas that have been hulled, dried, and split—and a pork-rich broth. The soup is traditionally made with a smoked ham bone, but these days it’s near impossible to find ham bones at the supermarket. This recipe, modestly adapted from America’s Test Kitchen, has a genius workaround: simmering a few slices of thick-cut bacon and a ham steak in the broth to make the soup smoky and extra meaty. This split pea soup is a simple recipe that delivers big flavor, and it’s hearty enough to serve as a meal. I top it with croutons made from a fresh baguette (and serve the remaining baguette on the side), but it would also pair nicely with homemade artisan bread or cornbread.

What You’ll Need To Make Split Pea Soup with Ham

split pea soup ingredients

Split peas come in green and yellow varieties. Green split peas are a bit sweeter and most commonly used in split pea soup recipes. Yellow split peas are milder in flavor and often used to make Indian dal recipes. Split peas are similar to lentils in that they are both part of the legume family and they don’t need to be soaked prior to cooking.

Step-by-Step Instructions

Begin by sorting through the split peas to remove any rocks or debris.
picking through the split peas

Rinse the split peas and let drain.

rinsing the split peas

Meanwhile, heat the butter in a large Dutch oven or soup pot over medium heat.

melting the butter in a Dutch oven

Add the onion and salt and cook, stirring frequently, until softened, 4 to 5 minutes.

cooking the onions

Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Do not brown.

softened onions and garlic

Add the broth, water, ham steak, bacon, peas, thyme sprigs, and bay leaves.

broth, water, ham, bacon, split peas, and herbs added to the pot

Increase the heat to high and bring to a boil, stirring frequently to keep the peas from sticking to the bottom of the pot. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer until the peas are tender but not falling apart, about 45 minutes.

simmering split pea soup

Remove the ham steak and place it on a plate; cover with foil and set aside.

removing the ham steak from the split pea soup

Stir in the carrots and celery and continue to simmer, covered, until the vegetables are tender and the peas have almost completely broken down, about 30 minutes longer.

adding the carrots and celery to the split pea soup

Meanwhile, shred the ham steak into small bite-size pieces with two forks. Cover with foil again.

shredded the ham steak

Remove and discard the thyme sprigs, bay leaves, and bacon slices. Add the shredded ham to the soup.

adding the shredded ham steak back to the soup

Return to a simmer. Add a few grinds of pepper, then taste and adjust seasoning if necessary (depending on the saltiness of the ham and bacon you used, you may need an additional 1/4-1/2 teaspoon salt).

finished split pea soup

How To Make Croutons

Melt 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add 2 cups of cubed good-quality French or Italian bread.
bread cubes in melted butter

Cook, stirring frequently, until golden brown and toasted, 3 to 5 minutes, then let cool.

toasted croutons in panTo serve, ladle the soup into bowls and top with the fresh croutons. The soup will thicken as it sits on the stove; thin it with water and adjust seasoning as necessary.

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Split Pea Soup with Ham

A simple recipe that delivers big flavor, this split pea soup with ham is hearty enough to serve as a meal.

Servings: 6 to 8
Prep Time: 15 Minutes
Cook Time: 1 Hour 30 Minutes
Total Time: 1 Hour 45 Minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 pound ham steak, skin removed, cut into quarters (see note)
  • 3 slices (4 oz) thick-cut bacon, left whole (see note)
  • 1 pound green split peas (about 2 cups), picked through and rinsed
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme, plus more for serving
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 medium carrots, cut into ½-inch pieces
  • 1 medium celery rib, cut into ¼-inch pieces
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Fresh croutons, for serving (optional; see instructions below)

Instructions

  1. Heat the butter in a large Dutch oven or soup pot over medium heat. Add the onion and salt and cook, stirring frequently, until softened, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Do not brown.
  2. Add the broth, water, ham steak, bacon, peas, thyme sprigs, and bay leaves. Increase the heat to high and bring to a boil, stirring frequently to keep the peas from sticking to the bottom of the pot. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer until the peas are tender but not falling apart, about 45 minutes.
  3. Remove the ham steak and place it on a plate; cover with foil and set aside. Stir in the carrots and celery and continue to simmer, covered, until the vegetables are tender and the peas have almost completely broken down, about 30 minutes longer.
  4. Meanwhile, shred the ham steak into small bite-size pieces with two forks. Cover with foil again.
  5. Remove and discard the thyme sprigs, bay leaves, and bacon slices. Add the shredded ham to the soup and return to a simmer. Add a few grinds of pepper, then taste and adjust seasoning if necessary (depending on the saltiness of the ham and bacon you used, you may need an additional ¼ to ½ teaspoon salt). Ladle the soup into bowls and top with fresh croutons, if using. (The soup will thicken as it sits on the stove; thin it with water and adjust seasoning as necessary.)
  6. Note: A ham steak is a thick slice of cooked ham cut from a whole ham roast. They can be found packaged in the refrigerated meat section of the supermarket, near the bacon.
  7. Note: Regular sliced bacon can be used, but the thinner slices are a little harder to remove from the soup.
  8. To Make Fresh Croutons: Melt 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add 2 cups of cubed good-quality French or Italian bread and cook, stirring frequently, until golden brown and toasted, 3 to 5 minutes.
  9. Make-Ahead/Freezer-Friendly Instructions: The soup can be made up to 3 days ahead of time and refrigerated, or frozen for up to 3 months. Defrost the soup in the refrigerator for 12 hours and then reheat it on the stovetop over medium heat until hot. The soup will thicken once cool, so thin with water and adjust seasoning as necessary.

Pair with

Nutrition Information

Powered by Edamam

  • Per serving (8 servings)
  • Calories: 431
  • Fat: 15 g
  • Saturated fat: 6 g
  • Carbohydrates: 42 g
  • Sugar: 6 g
  • Fiber: 15 g
  • Protein: 34 g
  • Sodium: 1,686 mg
  • Cholesterol: 57 mg

This website is written and produced for informational purposes only. I am not a certified nutritionist and the nutritional data on this site has not been evaluated or approved by a nutritionist or the Food and Drug Administration. Nutritional information is offered as a courtesy and should not be construed as a guarantee. The data is calculated through an online nutritional calculator, Edamam.com. Although I do my best to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures should be considered estimates only. Varying factors such as product types or brands purchased, natural fluctuations in fresh produce, and the way ingredients are processed change the effective nutritional information in any given recipe. Furthermore, different online calculators provide different results depending on their own nutrition fact sources and algorithms. To obtain the most accurate nutritional information in a given recipe, you should calculate the nutritional information with the actual ingredients used in your recipe, using your preferred nutrition calculator.

Gluten-Free Adaptable Note

To the best of my knowledge, all of the ingredients used in this recipe are gluten-free or widely available in gluten-free versions. There is hidden gluten in many foods; if you're following a gluten-free diet or cooking for someone with gluten allergies, always read the labels of your ingredients to verify that they are gluten-free.

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Comments

  • I used to think the only way to make pea soup was using the ham bone from a spiral ham. This recipe changed my thinking. It was delicious, and just as good, if not better than using the ham bone.

    • — Suzie DeAngelis on January 8, 2023
    • Reply
    • I use a ham hock! Easy to find – fairly meaty! Add ham steak if needed. Great recipe!!

      • — Cathy Lord on January 20, 2023
      • Reply
  • Just discovered Jenn’s page, made this soup tonight with some ham chunks from off the bone. Unfortunately, my son-in-law got the bone from the ham, but the soup was so delicious it didn’t matter, and so easy!
    I dipped crusty Italian bread instead of the croutons though.

    Will definitely be trying out more recipes from this site

    • — Rory on January 5, 2023
    • Reply
  • I made this perfect recipe on a cold colorado night and it is a winner! Thank you Jenn!

    • — Trina on January 4, 2023
    • Reply
  • Traditionally, people did not BUY ham bones to make this soup, they made it with the remains of a ham. Don’t people eat hams anymore? When you’ve eaten most of the ham, you use that bone with the leftover ham to make this soup.

    This is so weird, to see someone saying, gee, you can no longer buy a ham bone…. I am going to be 70 years old tomorrow, and I’ve never seen anyone BUY a ham bone to make split pea and ham soup. Never. Not once.

    • — Ellen on January 2, 2023
    • Reply
    • I like lean ham and the bone in spiral hams are only available at Easter time – if then. I can’t eat an entire (ham with bone in) and it tends to be more fatty. This, I looked in my grocery to buy a ham bone!! Nada. Thus the ham hock.

      • — Cathy on January 20, 2023
      • Reply
  • Hi Jenn, I have a ton of leftover Christmas ham. Could I use that in place of the ham steak, or will that result in less flavor…?

    • — Sarah Penny on December 29, 2022
    • Reply
    • Hi Sarah, It will still be delicious with leftover ham. Enjoy!

      • — Jenn on December 29, 2022
      • Reply
      • Thank you, Jenn – it turned out PERFECTLY. And the bacon trick is genius! I so appreciate everything you do to make me a better home chef! ❤

        • — Sarah Penny on December 30, 2022
        • Reply
    • This recipe is nuts. I’m not saying it won’t work, but you don’t need what it calls for. Traditionally, this soup has always been made with leftover ham and leftover ham bones, if you have that. Do not worry that you do not have what this strange recipe calls for. If you go to the supermarket and buy a ham, what do you have when it’s almost all gone? A ham bone, and some ham? That’s what you traditionally use to make this soup. This is crazy, to suggest that people used to BUY ham bones. I will be 70 years old tomorrow, and I’ve never seen or known anyone, anywhere, at all, to buy a ham bone. They use what is leftover from a HAM!

      • — Ellen on January 2, 2023
      • Reply
  • This was a great recipe! I’ve never been a fan of slit pea soup, but I’m a convert. Simple but hearty!

    • — Meg on December 28, 2022
    • Reply
  • I’ve made it before and it’s delicious, but can I adjust the time to cook in a slow cooker?

    • — Becky Holley on December 13, 2022
    • Reply
    • Hi Becky, I think this is a recipe that could lend itself nicely to a slow cooker, but because I don’t own one, I can’t give you guidance on how to adapt it for one. Here are some tips on converting recipes to a slow cooker that you may find helpful.

      • — Jenn on December 14, 2022
      • Reply
  • My husband has gout so can’t use bacon or ham but loves split pea soup. Will it be ok without these? Is there anything I should add to boost the flavor? He loves every recipe I’ve tried from your site and books. Thank you.

    • — Myra on December 11, 2022
    • Reply
    • Hi Myra, You can make this without the pork, although it won’t have nearly as much flavor (and you’ll definitely need more salt). Another option would be to add smoked turkey drumsticks. I’d love to hear how it turns out if you try it!

      • — Jenn on December 12, 2022
      • Reply
  • This soup is so delicious! My 5 year old even asked for a second helping, something he only does with pizza or fajitas! And it was super easy to make. I made a couple of small tweaks – I added cumin and turmeric and chopped the bacon to add it in. This will definitely be a regular for our family this winter.

    • — Kiran on December 4, 2022
    • Reply
  • I made this split pea soup a few days ago and I love it. I did have to add more stock to it as it thickened a lot after I left it on the stove too long. But it turned out great. It tastes even better the second day and I will for sure make it again.

    • — Cheryl on December 2, 2022
    • Reply
  • Very good pea soup. I usually make it in the pressure cooker, but with prep and pressure up/down time this was about the same. Maybe a little more time, but better flavor. I had grown tired of the PC version. My husband loves pea soup so this will be my new go-to.

    • — Melissa S on November 30, 2022
    • Reply
  • Split Pea with Ham soup is one of my husband’s favorite fall/winter soups. I made this last night for dinner along with the croutons, and he pronounced it as the best split pea soup he’s eaten. I agree. The smoky flavor from the bacon added a wonderful flavor dimension to the finished soup. It was perfectly seasoned with the thyme and bay leaves. We thoroughly enjoyed this soup and will definitely be making it again.

    • — Kathleen on November 28, 2022
    • Reply
  • Hi Jenn,
    Do you think I could use an immersion blender to turn this delicious-looking soup into a potage? I would cut the ham into small cubes and just mix it in once the soup is smooth. Thanks.

    • — Denise Charron on November 28, 2022
    • Reply
    • Yes, I think that sounds delicious. Please LMK how it turns out. 🙂

      • — Jenn on November 28, 2022
      • Reply
  • Excellent recipe

    • — Mare Jacqmin on November 26, 2022
    • Reply
  • This was absolutely amazing, depth of flavor, so tasty! We gave some to a friend and they said the same thing, Best split pea soup ever!

    • — Lynne Green on November 26, 2022
    • Reply
  • This split pea soup turned out great! I left the bacon out but otherwise, followed it exactly as written. I was looking for a split pea soup recipe without having a ham bone and this fit the bill. Thank you!

    • — Janet on November 20, 2022
    • Reply
  • Absolutely delicious! I made a couple of adjustments. I couldn’t see wasting that bacon by throwing it out so I cut it into little pieces and sautéed it in the butter until just brown, then I removed it and continued with the rest of the recipe, adding it back in with the ham. Also, since I like a super chunky soup I doubled the carrots and the celery. A perfect soup for a cold night. Two thumbs up from the husband as well. I served it with the buttermilk biscuits which are also a winner.

    • — Julie Van Norden on November 10, 2022
    • Reply
    • I did the same with the bacon and extra vegetables, minus the biscuits! It’s very good!

      • — Margaret on December 29, 2022
      • Reply
  • I love all your recipes and my family is so happy I discovered you!! Is there any chance this could be done in an instapot?

    • — Debbie on October 22, 2022
    • Reply
    • So glad you like the recipes, Debbie! I don’t have enough experience with an instant pot to tell you confidently whether or not this would work in one, so you may want to take a peek at these tips. It looks like they could be useful. Sorry I can’t be more helpful!

      • — Jenn on October 24, 2022
      • Reply
  • OMG This is the first soup of any kind I have ever made, and it came out perfectly! I didn’t deviate from the recipe, and I just gobbled down a bowl! It’s delicious, has a wonderful texture and flavor, with a yummy aftertaste that I can’t quite put my finger on (is it the herbs?). The vegetables are perfectly cooked, not mushy, and it gives the creamy pea base a full chunky spoonful. I even topped it off with homemade croutons, for which I used “good French bread”. I never knew croutons could be so easy to make! I admit, a had a few cubes before the soup! I am so grateful for the recipe, and will definitely make it again.

    • — CALLI on October 19, 2022
    • Reply
    • Just realized, the aftertaste may be from the smoked bacon, as it is almost a buttery brown sugary taste… nothing overpowering… just a slight mmmm after the spoonful!

      • — CALLI on October 19, 2022
      • Reply
  • I am in love! Have never made split pea and ham soup before, and so have suffered for years not getting any. Just wow, so good and easy. Made exactly as written, only didn’t use all the ham in soup, half the amount was enough for my taste. Thank you. Going to make another pot on weekend, did double this time, x3 next pot.

    • — Vanessa Ward on October 17, 2022
    • Reply
  • This soup was absolutely delicious!! I made the croutons with English muffins. Oh and I baked the croutons. It was my best split pea soup ever!!

    • — JanieB on September 27, 2022
    • Reply
  • Jenn,

    I’m going to try using a smoked Turkey leg instead of the ham. Do you have any suggestion as to the spices? Thyme out, paprika in? Or just leave it alone??
    Jack

    PS: I love this soup!!!!

    Jack

    • — Jack on July 31, 2022
    • Reply
    • I’d just leave it as is (and so glad you like the soup)! 🙂

      • — Jenn on August 1, 2022
      • Reply
  • Hi Jenn,
    I have some leftover smoked ham hocks from making your Smokey White Bean Ham Hock Soup (which was a huge hit by the way) and I was wondering if I could use those here instead of the ham steaks. Do you think that would be good? Thanks! Can’t wait to try making this one!

    • — Turtle on July 1, 2022
    • Reply
    • Sure, I think you could get away with hocks here (and glad you liked the white bean soup)!

      • — Jenn on July 1, 2022
      • Reply
      • Thanks! Would I still need to add the bacon?

        • — Turtle on July 6, 2022
        • Reply
        • While it’s not mandatory, I’d use it just for the additional flavor.

          • — Jenn on July 7, 2022
          • Reply
  • I made your soup with 2 changes :
    1) I prefer yellow split peas instead of green, they have a slightly different flavor. I also use them because some in my family don’t like the green, I think it’s just a childhood association of some kind.
    2) I left out the bacon, it seemed like a lot of fat. I used a thing called “cashew cream” that I found on the web (who knows where?). It’s a cup of cashews in a measuring cup, barely covered with water and soaked until you have to add more (about 1 -2 hours), then liquefy in a blender. For me, this smoothed out the texture, thins out the viscosity, and adds a subtle nuttiness to the flavor, which I like. In the end, I’m not sure I added or lost fat or calories, but at least it’s plant fat!
    Questions
    1) I browned the ham in the pan to get some of that flavor, which it did, but when I shredded the ham later, it was hard as a rock! Will the ham be softer if I do not brown it?
    2) I have previously simmered the soup until the peas are completely dissolved. This time, I stuck to your schedule and did not simmer so long. The result was that the peas did not completely dissolve, but they had to be crunched with my teeth when I ate the soup. Not chewed, just crunched. This is new to me, but I think I like it. Could you comment on how thick or thin the soup you like the soup to be?
    Anyway, Bravo on a great recipe !!!! Jack

    • — Jack on June 4, 2022
    • Reply
    • Hi Jack, glad you liked the soup! To answer your questions:
      1) Yes, the ham would be softer if you didn’t brown it.
      2) The beans really should be soft. In terms of thickness, I describe it as medium (it shouldn’t be as thick as a vegetable purée).
      Hope that helps!

      • — Jenn on June 7, 2022
      • Reply
  • I rarely award anything five stars these days, but this recipe absolutely deserves them. I made it exactly as written and it is the best split pea & ham soup that I have ever made in my life. Thank you once again, Jenn. Your work is so helpful to your many readers and their families.

    • — John M. on May 31, 2022
    • Reply
  • I never leave comments but needed to come on here and say the flavor of this soup is off the chain 😋 so simple and yet so delicious!!!!

    • — Adriana on May 2, 2022
    • Reply

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