Easy recipe: Scrumptious split pea soup

Bean-based soups are amazing for their nutritional value and the sheer comfort they provide, not to mention that they cost so little to make. The problem with making most legume soups from scratch is the amount of time it takes to soak the beans – usually overnight – and then cook them, which can take hours more. If you don’t do it properly, instead of a soft bean, you’ll risk biting into something as hard as a rock.

Split pea soup doesn’t have these issues. Like lentils, the beauty of split peas is that they cook quickly – about 45 minutes – and require no soaking beforehand. Yet they pack plenty of fiber and protein, and about zero fat. Add the soup’s earthy taste and warm-your-belly satisfaction, and split pea is a winner. It’s also very cost-effective and can be tailored to a variety of tastes. You can buy a 1-pound bag of dried split peas in just about any grocery store for around $2 or less. The soup can be made vegetarian style or, for even more flavor, can include crisp, rendered bacon bits or a traditional ham hock.

While water can be used as the base liquid, I prefer broth or stock since it adds flavor. You can use chicken, vegetable, even turkey or beef broth, or a combination thereof.


I like to mix low-sodium chicken broth and vegetable broth for mine. Furthermore, I bolster my split pea with potatoes, carrots and onions and garlic. The result is a big pot of soup that can feed an army.

If making homemade soup has daunted you all these years, start with split pea, and start right here.


Makes 6-10 servings

  • 16-ounce bag dried split peas, rinsed well
  • 64 ounces of broth or water (use a cup less if you like thicker soup)
  • 1/2 brown onion, chopped small
  • 3 medium carrots, peeled and chopped small
  • 1 potato, peeled and chopped small
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • Optional: Bay leaves
  • Optional: Peppercorns
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Step 1a: Rinse the peas under cold water in a colander, then put them in a large (at least 8-quart) pot.

Step 1b: Add the liquid, heat on high and bring to a boil, skimming any froth that may come to surface.

Step 2: While waiting for the boil, peel and chop the onion, carrots, potato and garlic.

Step 3: When the soup is about to boil, dump in the rest of the ingredients, then bring to boil. Here I like to add several whole peppercorns and two or three bay leaves for extra flavor. (These ones I’m holding are amazing Kampot peppercorns from Cambodia, purchased from my friends at the Pepper Project, whose product sales benefit the impoverished.)

Step 4: Cover, turn the heat to low and simmer for 45 minutes. Uncover toward the end and stir. The peas will literally start falling apart.

Step 5: If you want a very smooth, even texture, use an immersion blender. Otherwise, cook until the texture is to your liking. If you want a thicker soup, uncover and cook longer until the soup reduces. Don’t forget to fish out the bay leaves if using; do the same for the peppercorns if you don’t want to bite into one. Taste and season if necessary with salt and pepper.

Congratulations: You’ve just made split pea soup. Ladle the soup into big bowls, garnish with croutons, pepper sauce or any other goodies to your liking, and enjoy.


  1. paula said,

    January 27, 2012 @ 9:09 am

    Looks yummy! We love split pea soup.

  2. S R Bahan said,

    February 2, 2012 @ 5:51 pm

    Glad I went online after reading recipie in newspaper. Needed to find out what kind of broth. The one in the newspaper did not specify. Will try this week. Thanks

  3. Michelle said,

    January 26, 2013 @ 6:14 pm

    DELICIOUS!!! I love Matt’s recipes…. they are so easy and they taste like it took hours in the kitchen! I was a fan the first time I made french onion soup!

  4. lynn said,

    March 14, 2013 @ 1:25 pm

    can split pea soup turn brown when cooking with onions

  5. Matt Degen said,

    March 16, 2013 @ 8:47 pm

    Hi, Lynn — I don’t think that’s likely, unless you cook the onions so long that they caramelize (like this). Pea soup will usually take on a darkish green color. It may not be everyone’s favorite hue, but the results are delicious nonetheless.

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