This Split Pea Soup with Ham Comes Together Lickety Split
Here's a twist on classic split pea soup that doesn't require hours of simmering a ham bone. We keep it simple, and it's still bursting with smoky, hammy flavor.
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My family’s love of soup cannot be denied. From ramen to tomato to vegetable and bean, soup is a go-to for busy nights. Soup can easily be made ahead, typically in a single pot, and it’s an easy way to get a bunch of vegetables into a bowl. I love that it makes so many servings in one go. Leftovers are perfect for easy lunches. Microwave a serving between work meetings or pour it into a Thermos and tuck it into a lunch box for my kids; it’s the gift that keeps on giving.
Split pea soup is total comfort food. It’s hearty and thick, the split peas falling apart to create an almost creamy texture without needing to add dairy or break out the blender to puree it into submission. The Split Pea Soup with Ham recipe in this article is a clever, easier take on classic split pea soup; salty cubes of ham and crisp bacon add lots of flavor and texture.
I like to use a ham steak for this soup. It’s a totally underrated ingredient in my opinion. Precooked and ready to eat as-is, it’s great to center a meal around, or to add flavor to another dish. You can use half of one for this soup, or just double the whole recipe to ensure leftovers. Freeze the leftover ham and quickly defrost on those nights you forgot to take the chicken out to thaw. Because it’s already fully cooked, you can quickly defrost it in the microwave without worrying about giving it a weird texture that raw meats can sometimes get after the “defrost” setting. Add the ham to fried rice, mac and cheese, egg scrambles, casseroles, and more.
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Split peas 101 for beginners
If you're new to the world of cooking with split peas, read up.
What exactly are split peas?
Split peas are just what they sound like — peas! Although they may look like a lentil or bean, they’re just peas that have been dried so that they can be stored for longer shelf life. After drying, the peas are split in half to cut down on cooking time. They can come in yellow or green, and either one will work for soup. They’re an easy and economical plant-based protein, and an excellent source of much needed fiber. They’re great to keep on-hand, especially during colder months for when those soup cravings hit.
How long do you cook split peas?
Split peas are tender and soft after about 45 minutes of simmering, much less time than most dried beans. You do not need to pre-soak split peas. You can have a thick and creamy split pea soup in about an hour with little effort.
No, you don't need a ham bone
This Split Pea Soup with Ham recipe is proof you don't actually need a ham bone for a fabulous split pea soup!
Split pea soup recipes often call for a leftover ham bone or a ham hock to flavor the soup. The salty, smoky flavors complement the subtly smooth sweetness of the split peas beautifully. It is a great way to turn what would otherwise be discarded into a new dinner with just a handful of pantry staples.
But you can still get those flavors without first needing to eat your way through an entire ham or hours of simmering. This split pea soup recipe doubles up on the smoky pork flavor with both bacon and ham. Bacon fat provides the flavor base for your aromatics and cubed ham simmers with the peas for extra flavor and protein. This smart ingredient swap is a shortcut that saves on time but doesn’t compromise on flavor at all.
Frying up the chopped bacon and separating it from the fat; photograph by Meleyna Nomura
The simple steps to making Split Pea Soup with Ham
Step 1: Start by cooking three slices of chopped bacon in a little olive oil in a Dutch oven or large pot until crisp. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon and set aside.
Step 2: While the bacon cooks, chop a yellow onion, carrot, and celery. Once the bacon is set aside, add the vegetables to the pot with the bacon fat with some fresh thyme. Cook until starting to brown, about five minutes. Chop three cloves garlic, add to the pot, and cook for another minute.
Step 3: Pick over and rinse the dried split peas. Add them to the pot with chicken broth, diced ham, and a bay leaf. Bring to a simmer. Cover the pot and cook over medium low heat, stirring occasionally, until the split peas are tender, about 45 minutes. Pluck out the bay leaf, ladle the soup into bowls, and garnish with the crisp bacon on top.
Adding the peas to the pot; photograph by Meleyna Nomura
What to serve with the soup
Split Pea Soup with Ham is both meaty and full of veggies — it’s a meal in a bowl. But a crisp green salad or a grilled cheese on the side would be great additions.
How long does the soup last?
This Split Pea Soup with Ham is best enjoyed in the first two days. You can also freeze leftovers to defrost for a quick and easy meal down the road. Split pea soup does thicken as it sits, so you may need to thin it with water or additional broth when reheating.
Get the recipe: Split Pea Soup with Ham
More soup for dinner
If you love the idea of eating dinner out of a bowl instead of a plate now and then, explore these additional soup recipes.