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 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.
Begin by sorting through the split peas to remove any rocks or debris.
Rinse the split peas and let drain.
Meanwhile, 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.
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.
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.
Meanwhile, shred the ham steak into small bite-size pieces with two forks. Cover with foil again.
Remove and discard the thyme sprigs, bay leaves, and bacon slices. Add the shredded ham 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).
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.
Cook, stirring frequently, until golden brown and toasted, 3 to 5 minutes, then let cool.
To 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.
You May Also Like
- Pea Soup with Basil
- Smoky White Bean and Ham Soup
- Green Pea & Asparagus Soup with Feta, Mint & Pita Croutons
- Black Bean Soup
- French Lentil Soup
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.
- 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)
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Meanwhile, shred the ham steak into small bite-size pieces with two forks. Cover with foil again.
- 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.)
- 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.
- Note: Regular sliced bacon can be used, but the thinner slices are a little harder to remove from the soup.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Who ever heard of putting the ingredients at the end of the instructions? Anyway it turned out well
Hi Donnamarie, at the very top of the page, to the right of the recipe name, you’ll see an orange/red button that says Jump to Recipe – if you click on that, it will take you directly to the recipe. Hope that clarifies and glad you enjoyed the soup. 🙂
Going to make this ASAP! Can I use dried thyme?
Sure, Caitlin – I’d use a heaping teaspoon. Hope you enjoy!
Made this split pea soup turned out really good
I have made this soup twice, once with the bacon, and once without. Either way, it is delicious. This time I made the croutons to accompany the soup. Really nice. Thank you for the recipe!
I made this soup for the first time and it was outstanding!!! I followed the recipe exactly but replaced the ham steak with a smoked shoulder pork butt and added a few more pieces of bacon!!! I am making again tomorrow and wondering if the soup would freeze well. I have sent this recipe to all my chat groups with rave reviews!! Thank you for exceptional recipes and a great website!!!
So glad you enjoyed it! Yes, it freezes nicely; see the bottom of the recipe for specific freezer-friendly instructions.
I’m sorry if this is a silly question, but I am making this tonight… Do you put the bacon in the soup raw and remove it at the end?
Not a silly question — the bacon goes in raw. Hope you enjoy!
This recipe is great as is. This is the second time I have made it, third time I have eaten it, no need to change a thing. Thank you.
Living in the province of Quebec where pea soup is part of our traditional maple shack meal, I was surprised to read that this recipe requires green peas. My family recipes always used yellow peas that we have to soak in water first to make the soup.
I made your recipe with green peas as mentioned and it was a hit, full of taste, definitely another recipe to keep:)
I was wondering if there is a reason why split green peas were used instead of yellow peas like we usually see in traditional pea soup?
Bonjour Martine, So glad you enjoyed the soup! Yellow and green split peas are very similar; I only call for green because that’s what my supermarket carries. Feel free to use yellow if you like.
Turned out delicious!! Thanks for sharing!!
I love all your recipes which are so easy and flavorful! I have a hambone with some ham still on it. Would I just add it when this recipe calls for adding the ham and then pull it out to take off the ham when this recipe calls for taking out the ham? Thanks!
Hi Kathleen, So glad you like the recipes! I would pull the ham off the ham bone before you add it to the soup. Because the ham is already cooked it will get overcooked if it’s in there for too long. I’d wait and put it in with the carrots and celery. Hope that helps and that you enjoy!
Delicious! I love recipes that work out so well the first time you make them. Will be keeping this on rotation through the winter – and I don’t even really like peas!
Delicious! So much flavor. Third time making it here and everyone loves it!
hi- i am a long time fan of ATK recipes so i know this will be good, but know they usually have reasons for why to do certain steps. question: i am using the leftover ham bone from christmas dinner to make broth, and cut off all the bits and bobs to use instead of the steak, so it will be in smallish pieces and not so easy to extract. it is already cooked, so i am wondering if it is just for flavor or to soften the meat, would it make more sense to put it in a cheese cloth pouch, or cut up into smaller pieces and just never take it out, or put it in later with the carrots and celery? also, would it make sense to use the pork stock i am making instead of the water, or is water integral to cooking the peas? i am sure it will turn out delicious either way, but curious how to adapt? thanks!
Hi Gretchen, Because the ham is already cooked, I’d wait and put it in with the carrots and celery as you don’t want it to get overcooked. Also, I think the pork broth would be nice. Enjoy!
Whoa this was good and creamy! I added some double smoked ham pieces that a had from Christmas and was delish! I already had dinner but I have sampled this soup 40 times already while it was done and cooling. My husband is a split pea soup connoisseur apparently and approved of this yummy soup!
Love your recipes Jen, I have a small cut of raw semi- smoked pork on hand . Would you suggest I cook it separately or just add it raw to cook with the soup?
Hi Francesca, Glad you enjoy the recipes! I’d just cook it with the soup.
This was delicious!
Fabulous! Since we had ham for XMAS, I simply used that, including some of the fatty pieces which, I think, were a good substitute for the bacon we didn’t have around. Given that you pull the bacon out prior to serving, it seemed like it was really just there for the fat. We used normal sodium chicken broth and that worked out just fine, salt-wise. We’ll continue to use this recipe for years.
I used the ham hock with ham left overs from Christmas dinner. Did not use bacon but this soup had great flavor! Loved that it was so fast and easy and did not have to simmer all day to obtain a delicious soup. Would love a video with the step by step instructions.
I’ve done this recipe a few times and it always turns out well. The only differences are I don’t sautee the onion and celery because it can make the soup a little sweeter. Since I don’t like sweet, I just throw in the celery and onion raw with the peas. I throw in the carrots about halfway through so they’re less cooked. Also, I throw in a whole smoke ham shank with the skin vs the steak. You can find ham shanks at whole foods in the frozen packaged meat section near the frozen breakfast sausage etc. I just let the shank simmer in the peas for a couple hours until falling apart, then I take it out just like the recipe and shred – I put back only the lean meat obviously. Don’t be tempted to use broth – just use water as directed. Same recipe works for white beans and ham. Don’t soak the white beans just throw them in hard. This is my mother’s southern cooking but this recipe is my guideline. Thanks Jenn.
I haven’t had split pea soup in years and I remembered loving my grandmother’s so, I thought I would give this recipe a try and I am so very glad I did! It is delicious. The only change thing I did different was that I used hock and ham steak and cooked them in the broth, water, bay leaves, thyme sautéed onions and garlic for hours before continuing with the rest of the recipe. Everyone who shared this with me loved it and they are already asking for more! Thanks for such great recipes!
In my household it’s a crime to throw away perfectly good bacon, so before adding it to the pot per your recipe, I cooked it off in a non-stick pan and then proceeded with the rest. The soup was a a big hit this weekend!!
My husband raved about this pea soup. I will be making it again! Delicious! And easy.
I LOVE a thick hearty soup and I’ve always wanted to try a nice split pea and ham – but a vegetarian version – so if I used vegetable stock and smoked paprika to get the smoky flavour do you think that would work? Or should I use something like liquid smoke instead/as well?….or do you have some other brilliant ideas I could try? 😁
Thanks heaps 😊
Hi Kez, you could try adding smoked paprika and/or liquid smoke to this but the ham definitely does add a lot of flavor. I’m not sure if liquid smoke contains any salt, but if not, you’ll definitely need to add more salt to the soup. Please LMK how it turns out if you try it with any tweaks!
Excellent recipe, super simple ingredients, easy to make but great flavor. Your recipes do not disappoint, impressive!!
This was a quick simple way to make a hearty comfort dish for a winter evening, especially after a big Thanksgiving Day meal. I used the remainder of a spiral cut ham without bone and it came out great. The bits and pieces of ham were just right. Since it is freezer friendly all leftovers may be reheated. All around good way to round out the holiday.
This is by far the best pea soup recipe I’ve ever made! I have made it several times. I use an immersion blender before adding the ham. It’s a 10!! I haven’t made a recipe of Jenn’s that I didn’t like. I purchase her cookbook on Amazon as gifts for friends. It’s a great cookbook!!
Bonjour Jenn ,made this past week my husband was impress ,very good ,
I am not a big fan of split pea soup but I made this for my husband and to use up some leftover ham. Wow – it was so good, much better than any split pea soup I’ve made. I think the whole bacon cooking with the broth made a huge difference – gave it a lovely smoky flavor. I will definitely make again!
Jenn, this soup is delicious. I have had trouble finding ham hocs so using a ham steak is genius. I made the croutons sprinkled with a bit of garlic powder. Yummy and filling. Love and use many of your recipes. Thanks and keep up the good work!
Just made it. Sooooo good!!!
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.
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.
This was easy to prepare and delicious! The whole family enjoyed it. Hearty enough for a meal. I’ll be making again!
Can you make this soup in a slow cooker?
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.
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..
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?
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.
I agree soak over night
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.
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?
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, I absolutely will. I’m printing the recipe. ❤
Could you use a slow cooker for this recipe? How would I change the recipe?
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.
Thank you Jenn I appreciate the information.
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!
If, if, I could get a ham bone, should we omit the bacon and add less ham?
Yep! You may not need any extra ham at all, depending on how meaty your ham bone is.
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.
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!
Smoked turkey drumsticks would be a very tasty alternative to the pork. My housemate made a split pea recipe with them a month ago or so and it was very tasty. Thanks for your recipe Jenn. I’m going to make it today or tomorrow. A pkg of ham hocks called out to me last week at the store. Your recipe sounds really good.
Many recipes call for ham, bacon, or prosciutto to add depth of flavor–is there a vegetarian alternative?
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!
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!
Thanks for sharing your version, Jackie!
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?
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!
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!!
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.
I used a smoked pork hock. Worked great! The price of a bone in ham these days 😩
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;)
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.
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.
P.S. A dash of liquid smoke works great too during these hard times.
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.