Split pea soup is just the thing to chase the evening chill away with its thick, yet velvety consistency and sultry smokiness. Classic split pea soups are simmered with a ham hock and incorporate veggie staples including celery, carrots and onions to build robust layers of flavor. Adapted from Oxmoor House’s Split Pea Soup with Ham, this recipe includes cubes of ham to add meatiness as well as fresh thyme and red pepper flakes to contribute earthiness and heat. The peas literally disintegrate into the soup as it simmers away, resulting in an irresistibly creamy soup best paired with a slice of good bread.
Start to Finish: Around 1 hour, 15 minutes
Servings: Approximately 7 cups
Difficulty Level: Beginner
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 medium-sized onion, diced
- 2 cups of dried split peas, sorted and rinsed
- 1 smoked ham hock, scored
- 1/2 pound cured ham, cut into 1/2 cubes
- 7 cups chicken or vegetable broth
- 3 stalks celery, chopped
- 3 large carrots, sliced
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 tablespoon fresh thyme, finely chopped
- Salt and pepper, to taste
Saute the Vegetables
Melt the butter in a large pot over medium-high heat. When the butter bubbles with heat, add the onion, celery and carrots and saute for 5 to 7 minutes, until the onions are soft. Add the garlic and split peas and continue cooking for 1 minute, stirring constantly.
Simmer the Soup
Pour in the broth, followed by the bay leaves, thyme, red pepper flakes, ham and ham hock. Bring the soup to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer it, covered, for about an hour, until the split peas are tender. If the soup is too thick for your liking, add a little more broth to thin it out. Add a few dashes of salt and pepper as needed. Remove the soup from heat and serve it.
Use bacon instead of cubed ham to achieve the desired smokiness. You can also include a small splash of liquid smoke or a hickory-smoked salt to add bold smokiness or opt for smoked paprika to add subtle hints of smoky flavoring.
Instead of using a ham hock, a leftover ham bone works just fine.
Fresh or dried herbs and spices really punch up the flavor of split pea soup. Rosemary and sage add pungent, piney aromatics, smoked paprika lends additional smokiness, marjoram adds an earthy woodiness, and tarragon gives off a pleasing anise flavor.
If you prefer a thicker split pea soup, reduce the amount of broth by 1 cup. As the soup nears the end of cooking time, check the consistency. If it's not quite thick enough, let the soup finish cooking with the lid removed.
Christina Kalinowski is a writer from the Twin Cities who began her career in 2011. She contributes food and drink related articles to The Daily Meal. She holds a Master of Arts in sociology from Purdue University.