Split peas -- dried, hulled peas that split naturally into tiny half-moon shapes -- are a versatile, inexpensive and nutritionally complex food. Both the yellow and green varieties are low in fat and high in fiber and protein. One cup of split peas provides 65 percent of the daily recommended amount of fiber, and almost a third of the recommended daily amount of protein. In addition to their nutritional benefits, split peas are easy to prepare and are ideal candidates for slow cooker, whether as the component of a recipe or a stand-alone side dish.
Measure dry split peas into a sieve or colander. Rinse the peas under cold running water while swishing them around with your fingers. Pick out and discard any discolored peas or bad bits. There is no need to soak split peas before cooking.
Spoon the split peas into the slow cooker. Add 2 cups of water or stock for every cup of split peas for a finished dish with a thick, stew-like consistency; add 3 cups of water or stock for every cup of split peas for a finished dish with a soup-like consistency.
Add meat and vegetables chopped into bite-sized pieces to the slow cooker, if desired. Salt pork and ham are classic ingredients for a split pea soup. Onions, carrots, leeks, celery, potatoes and canned or fresh tomatoes are suitable additions for added flavor and texture. If you add root vegetables, include a little extra liquid; if you add canned tomatoes, reduce the amount of added liquid.
Add fresh or dried herbs and spices of your choice, as well as other seasonings such as chopped garlic, ginger, Worcestershire sauce and lemon juice. Indian spices cooked with split peas make a classic dhal-inspired dish. Bay leaves, thyme and black pepper complement a classic pork and split pea soup.
Stir all the ingredients together and set the slow cooker to low for six to eight hours.
Skim away any foam that develops on the surface of the liquid after the mixture reaches a simmering point. Replace the lid and leave the peas to cook until the timer goes off.
Taste a few split peas. They should be soft all the way through. If they still have a little bite, turn the cooker back on and let them cook for another hour or two. For a smooth texture, let the mixture cool a little, then blend it with a stick-blender, liquidizer or food processor.
- If you want to adapt a split pea-based recipe for the slow cooker, reduce the amount of liquid the recipe calls for in half for a stew-like dish, or by a third for a soup.
- For a creamy soup, add a dollop of sour cream, a little heavy cream or milk, or some coconut milk at the end of the cooking time to just warm through. Creamy ingredients generally are not suitable for long, slow cooking.
Joanne Thomas has worked as a writer and editor for print and online publications since 2004. Her writing specialties include relationships, entertainment and food, and she has penned pieces about subjects from social media tools for Adobe to artists’ biographies for StubHub. Thomas has also written for such names as Disney, Hyundai, Michelob and USA Today, among others. She resides in California and holds a bachelor’s degree in politics from the University of Bristol, U.K.