Ham and Split Pea Soup


Let’s be honest – split pea soup is by far one of the least appetizing dishes to look at. My grandma always made this when I was a younger and I would never dare go near it – it looked far too unappealing for my underdeveloped taste buds. As a result, I had never tried the soup, instead being turned off by its looks. My grandma recently returned home from a stint in the hospital and rehabilitation center and I thought that making her a pot of soup for when she got home would be a nice gesture. Knowing that ham and split pea soup has long been one of her favorites, I took the opportunity to try something new and work with an ingredient I had never used before (dried peas).

I can’t stress enough how pleasantly surprised I was by the flavor of this soup. I’m not sure exactly what I was expecting, but this soup is thick, hearty and full of flavor, and one that I will definitely be making again during the cold winter months. A key component to all of the flavor is making your own stock from a ham and ham bone. The house smelled absolutely fabulous while the stock was simmering and I couldn’t wait to add the rest of the ingredients to the soup and let it continue to simmer. After this soup and making my own mushroom stock for the Cream of Mushroom soup back in the fall, I am totally sold on the benefits of taking the time to create homemade stock for whatever soup I am making.

Ham and Split Pea Soup

Yield: 6 servings

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 5 hours

Total Time: 5 hours 30 minutes


1 piece (about 2½ pounds) smoked, bone-in picnic ham
4 bay leaves
1 pound (2½ cups) split peas, rinsed and picked through
1 teaspoon dried thyme
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 medium onions, chopped medium
2 medium carrots, chopped medium
2 medium stalks celery, chopped medium
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 medium cloves garlic, minced
Pinch sugar
3 small new potatoes, scrubbed and cut into ½-inch dice (about ¾ cup)
Ground black pepper
Minced red onion (optional)
Balsamic vinegar


1. Place the ham, bay leaves, and 3 quarts water in a large stockpot or Dutch oven. Cover and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until the meat is tender and pulls away from the bone, 2 to 2½ hours. Remove the ham meat and bone from the pot. When the ham is cool enough to handle, shred the meat into bite-sized pieces and set aside. Discard the rind, fat, and bone.

2. Add the split peas and thyme to the ham stock. Bring back to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer, uncovered, until the peas are tender but not dissolved, about 45 minutes.

3. While the peas are simmering, heat the oil in a large skillet over high heat until shimmering. Add the onions, carrots, and celery and saute, stirring frequently, until most of the liquid evaporates and the vegetables begin to brown, 5 to 6 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the butter, garlic, and sugar. Cook the vegetables, stirring frequently, until deeply browned, 30 to 35 minutes; set aside.

4. Add the sauteed vegetables, potatoes, and shredded ham to the pot with the split peas. Simmer until the potatoes are tender and peas dissolve and thicken to the consistency of light cream, about 20 minutes. Season with ground black pepper to taste. (The soup can be refrigerated in an airtight container for 2 days. Warm the soup over low heat until hot.) Remove the bay leaves. Ladle the soup into bowls, sprinkle with red onion, if using, and serve, passing balsamic vinegar separately.

(Source: The Best Soups & Stews (Best Recipes), pages 163-165)


16 Responses to “Ham and Split Pea Soup”

  1. Erin on February 19, 2009 at 11:31 am

    This looks delicious! I’ll definitely have to try it.


  2. Joelen on February 19, 2009 at 11:43 am

    This looks delicious and comforting! I need to cook more with peas…


  3. elly on February 19, 2009 at 12:32 pm

    This looks great. I had the same feelings as you about split pea soup and recently made it for the first time myself. I think it would be even better with some ham. Mmm.


  4. Kate on February 19, 2009 at 2:21 pm

    I’m going to give you a secret I just learned myself – but don’t share it, okay? SECRET! I started using salt pork instead of picnic ham in soups. You MUST try it – so good! And it gives an amazing flavor.


  5. Elyse on February 19, 2009 at 7:52 pm

    I love split pea soup, and I’m ashamed to admit that I don’t think I’ve ever made it for myself! I can’t wait to try this recipe; thanks for sharing!


  6. gwyn on October 15, 2009 at 10:06 pm

    I made this today. it was my first time making stock (and first time making split pea soup) & i have to say – easier than i thought! My husband & i agreed that this was the best split pea soup we’d ever had – he wants to have it on a regular basis! My 3 year old LOVED it but i couldn’t convince my 5 year old to get past the odd green color. oh well – her loss!


  7. gwyn on October 15, 2009 at 10:11 pm

    oh a few things. it never tells us when to take out the bay leaves – i took them out after the peas were done & before putting in the veggies. Also on step #3 i think you mean “while peas are simmering” (instead of ham simmering). (oh & large skillet instead of lage skillet on step #3. ok i’m done being an anal person now! 😉 Great recipe!!!


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  13. Kat on August 16, 2013 at 1:44 pm

    Love split pea soup, it’s one of my favourites! It is very common here in Canada.


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  15. Jill on February 2, 2014 at 7:11 pm

    You never let me down, Fellow Pittsburgh Girl!
    I went hunting for split pea soup recipe and this one is DELICIOUS!
    Next time, I am buying a bigger ham and doubling the recipe – everyone devoured it and it was gone in a blink of an eye.


  16. Laura on February 16, 2014 at 4:15 pm

    I’ve tried 4 split pea soup recipes – from those done in slow cookers and finished off with an immersion blender, to those cooked with a ham hock – and this one is by far the BEST tasting, savory, most hearty recipe of them all!

    Even your oldies are goodies – BeB


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