Comfort Food: Split Pea and Ham Soup

Split pea and ham is one of my all-time favorite soups. It’s rich, delicious, and easy to make. It also uses the inexpensive ham hock and a short list of ingredients we usually have on-hand, so it’s a very cheap meal with plenty of leftovers.

The sugar in this recipe caramelizes the juices of the vegetables, perfectly offsetting the salty-smokiness of the ham, and creating a heart-warming comfort food. The vinegar brings a brightening acid.

Split Pea and Ham Soup

2-1/2 Lbs smoked ham hock, whole

4 qts water

1 bay leaf

1 T neutral oil, such as vegetable or avocado

2 large yellow onions, chopped medium

3 ribs of celery with leaves, sliced 1/4-in. thick

3 carrots, sliced 1/4-in. thick

1 T sugar

3 cloves of garlic, minced

1 Lb split peas, rinsed and picked through

3 waxy potatoes, such as Yukon gold, in 1/2-in. dice

1 t dried thyme


Freshly ground black pepper

Balsamic vinegar

In a large pot, add the ham hock, water and bay leaf, and bring the water to a simmer. Reduce to very low, cover, and simmer for 2-1/2 hours. Remove the ham hock and place in a bowl to cool. Reserve the broth in another pot or bowl, and discard the bay leaf. When the ham hock is cool enough to handle, pick the meat into bite-sized pieces and set aside. Discard the fat, skin, and bones.

Meanwhile, in the original pot, heat the oil over medium-high. Add the onions and cook until they’re becoming translucent, about 4 minutes, stirring frequently. Then add the carrots and celery. Cook for 2 minutes, then stir in the sugar. Reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring and scraping the bottom of the pot occasionally, for 15 minutes until a brown crust forms and the vegetables are tender. Then add the garlic and cook for 1 minute.

Return the broth that the ham hocks simmered in to the pot and scrape the bottom well. Return to a simmer over medium-low, then add the split peas. Cook the peas until they are just tender, about 20 minutes. Then add the potatoes, ham and thyme. Cook until the potatoes are very tender and some of the peas are beginning to dissolve, thickening the soup. Adjust seasoning as necessary.

Serve in bowls with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar.

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  1. February 9, 2015    

    Here in Holland, we eat split pea soup all the time. I recommend you adding fresh sliced pork belly, pork chops, celeriac and any kind of smoked sausage, preferably the Dutch kind but frankfurter would do just as good. As you can see us Dutch do love meat! The soup is done once your (wooden) spoon doesn’t fall if you try and make it stand up in the middle of the soup, this can take up to two days! You can also use the exact same recipe but replace split peas with brown beans!

    • February 9, 2015    

      That sounds great! We do a similar dish with beans. We really don’t eat enough split peas here– this is my only recipe. Thanks for the ideas!

      • February 9, 2015    

        Same here, this is the only dish that involves split peas I know of. 🙁


I'm Kelly. Writer, crafter, forager, country winemaker, cook. Mama of an awesome toddler and married to my best friend. We recently returned to the Pacific Northwest, where we're setting out to grow, make, and learn as much as we can as the future unfolds.

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