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
  • 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 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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