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.

Perfect for that first burst of cold weather and to enjoy throughout fall and winter, 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

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
  • 1/2 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 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 medium celery rib, cut into 1/4-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 1/4-1/2 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.

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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Reviews & Comments

  • Just made it. Sooooo good!!!

    • — Donna on October 21, 2021
    • Reply
  • I made this today and it was very good. Turns out this isn’t thick and ‘creamy’ like I’ve always made. This seems more brothy. I’ve never used herbs or bacon either.
    I use about 1 1/2 pounds of peas then mash some toward the end so the soup is thicker.
    Using 2 or 3 smoked ham hocks and about a 1/3 of the ham steak, it’s plenty flavorful and ‘hammy’ for us. Pigs nowadays must have super skinny hocks. Not much meat like the old days!

    With all the leftover cooked ham, I sometimes make scalloped potatoes and ham (yum), or make a quick ham salad that we can use multiple ways.

    I looked on your site and didn’t see any cracker recipes, but they’re easy enough to make.

    • — sapat on October 16, 2021
    • Reply
  • I decided to modify this recipe using ingredients I had at hand. The changes:
    – yellow split peas, not green
    – small ham steak, about 200 grams, no bacon
    – added 1 tsp liquid smoke and about 2 TBS tomato paste
    Otherwise I followed the recipe. It came out great.

    • — Jim on October 15, 2021
    • Reply
  • This was easy to prepare and delicious! The whole family enjoyed it. Hearty enough for a meal. I’ll be making again!

    • — Jennifer on October 14, 2021
    • Reply
  • Can you make this soup in a slow cooker?

    • — Therese F Cislak on October 14, 2021
    • Reply
    • Hi Therese, 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 October 14, 2021
      • Reply
  • The soup was ok. I found the ham steak very bland after cooking it, it is much better with a smoked ham hock which you can find in most all grocery stores that sell ham steaks..

    • — Richard on October 11, 2021
    • Reply
  • I have not tried this approach but this is one of my favorites and I make it several times a year but I have never been successful unless I soaked the peas overnight, simple boiling for 45 minutes doesn’t seem to do it?

    • — Dave on October 10, 2021
    • Reply
    • Hi Dave, You shouldn’t need to soak split peas overnight; they get quite soft in the recommended cooking time. They are similar to lentils, which do not require soaking.

      • — Jenn on October 10, 2021
      • Reply
  • I made this for my husband who loves split pea soup. I’m not a fan, but indulged him. I tasted it and thought it was good! He said it had fantastic flavor! Will definitely make again.

    • — Kathy on October 9, 2021
    • Reply
  • Jenn: I was getting ready to make split pea soup and went on your website but didn’t see a recipe for this. I used another recipe but next time I’ll use yours. I always go to your website first. Did I miss your recipe?

    • — Pamela Harriman on October 8, 2021
    • Reply
    • Hi Pam, I just shared the recipe in yesterday’s newsletter, so it’s brand new! If you looked for it prior to yesterday, you wouldn’t have found it. Next time you are craving split pea soup, please give it a try!

      • — Jenn on October 8, 2021
      • Reply
      • Jenn, I absolutely will. I’m printing the recipe. ❤

        • — Pamela Harriman on October 8, 2021
        • Reply
  • Could you use a slow cooker for this recipe? How would I change the recipe?

    • — Therese F Cislak on October 8, 2021
    • Reply
    • Hi Therese, this seems like a recipe that may lend itself nicely to a slow cooker, but because I don’t have a slow cooker, I can’t give you guidance on how to adapt it. Here are some tips on converting recipes to a slow cooker that you may find useful.

      • — Jenn on October 9, 2021
      • Reply
      • Thank you Jenn I appreciate the information.

        • — Therese F Cislak on October 14, 2021
        • Reply
  • Fantastic! I just happened to have everything and made this for this evening meal! Paired it with a challah (your recipe) and it turned out wonderfully. Very fulfilling, very tasty and satisfying. Thank you, Jenn!

    • — Christine on October 7, 2021
    • Reply
  • If, if, I could get a ham bone, should we omit the bacon and add less ham?

    • — Sunny Drohan on October 7, 2021
    • Reply
    • Yep! You may not need any extra ham at all, depending on how meaty your ham bone is.

      • — Jenn on October 7, 2021
      • Reply
  • Love your recipes and would like to try this one but we don’t eat ham/pork. Would you recommend chicken thighs or beef as a substitution? Thanks.

    • — elisahope on October 7, 2021
    • Reply
    • Hi, You could definitely try this without the pork, although it won’t have as much flavor. One option would be to add smoked turkey drumsticks. Please LMK how it turns out if you try it!

      • — Jenn on October 7, 2021
      • Reply
  • Jenn,
    Many recipes call for ham, bacon, or prosciutto to add depth of flavor–is there a vegetarian alternative?
    Thanks!
    Kt

    • — Kathryn on October 7, 2021
    • Reply
    • Hi Kathryn, You can try this without the pork, but it won’t have nearly as much flavor (and you’ll definitely need more salt). Please LMK how it turns out if you try it!

      • — Jenn on October 7, 2021
      • Reply
  • Love this recipe. I’d like to share my own with you, it’s kind of the “lazy” version!
    Pea soup, but really, it’s vegetable soup with a pea base!

    In a soup pot, add a bag of dried peas, an onion cut up in chunks, a handful of peeled carrots, cut up stalk of celery or dried celery flakes. and whatever other veggies you have on hand (or not). I like to add a cut up potato for some heartiness. Add water to cover everything, plus some as the soup will thicken as it cooks. I add the seasonings, a tablespoon of salt (or more or less to taste), ground black pepper, about a teaspoon+ of dried basil (I use my hand to measure), 1/4 teaspoon each of marjoram and thyme. I usually add a heaping teaspoon of ham base (“Better than Bouillon”) if you don’t have ham, but this is optional (or throw in a piece of bacon?)

    Simmer until all veggies are soft, including peas, and then remove from heat and let cool – or else you will have a mess when you blend it.

    Ladle into a blender or food processor (in batches, don’t make it too full) and puree’. Pour into a large bowl or plastic containers. You may need to add water. I usually add water to my bowl or cup as I prepare it to eat, because I like a thinner consistency.

    This may sound more complicated than it actually is. Since everything is getting puree’d you don’t need to worry about chopping up the veggies very much, just throw them in the pot. This is really a healthy soup. And before serving, add the chopped ham if you have it, and the delicious garlicky croutons.

    Let me know how it turns out if you make it. Enjoy!

    • — Jackie Isamay on October 7, 2021
    • Reply
    • Thanks for sharing your version, Jackie!

      • — Jenn on October 7, 2021
      • Reply
  • I live in the Midwest, so it’s pretty easy for me to find smoked ham bones. What would you recommend for making it with them?

    • — Hannah on October 7, 2021
    • Reply
    • Hi Hannah, You can omit the bacon and ham steak and just simmer the ham bone with the soup. I would remove it at the end and shred the meat, and then add the meat back to the soup. Please LMK how it turns out!

      • — Jenn on October 7, 2021
      • Reply
      • I will definitely! Funny, I was just looking last week to see if you had a split pea soup recipe. Thank you for making one!!

        • — Hannah on October 7, 2021
        • Reply
  • You can also use a meaty smoked ham hock. Readily available in the supermarket. Or any smoked turkey parts also readily available in the market.

    • — Janet on October 7, 2021
    • Reply
  • I used a smoked pork hock. Worked great! The price of a bone in ham these days 😩

    • — Brenda Douglas on October 7, 2021
    • Reply
  • Your recipes are our go to recipes!! Any chance there’s a way to make this without pork? My husband is allergic to beef and pork. If not, I think I’m going to have to make this for me and the kids…sorry hubby;)

    • — Mindy on October 7, 2021
    • Reply
    • Hi Mindy, You could definitely try 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.

      • — Jenn on October 7, 2021
      • Reply
  • I use a smoked turkey thigh or turkey leg when making a bean and barley soup. The thighs are especially meaty. I think it would be a good substitute in this soup as well.

    • — Kathy on October 7, 2021
    • Reply
  • P.S. A dash of liquid smoke works great too during these hard times.

    • — Ruby on October 7, 2021
    • Reply
  • Looking forward to giving this one a try. If you can’t find ham bones, GOYA has a ham bouillon that comes in packets. I use it for all kinds of things to give that hammy flavor. I put it in boiling pasta water, soups, potatoes.

    • — Ruby on October 7, 2021
    • Reply

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