Split Pea Soup

I am jetlagged. Yesterday was my first day in Seattle (I flew in from London Sunday night) and my brain feels like Cheerios. Which means that last night I stared dumbly at the vegetables at the Madison Market for at least five minutes feeling not simply indecisive, but incapable of decision. Picked up some yellow cauliflower (cool looking, but $4.49 a pound. A pound!), put it down. Picked up some white radishes, put them down. Looked at the beets, felt like I was going to cry. When I wandered to the baking aisle I couldn’t deal with all the bags of things. So many packages! All with letters on them, all in a row, so OVERWHELMING. So it was with a feeling of weepy relief that I decided to make split pea soup.* Split pea soup was a staple of my diet when I was young, broke, and vegetarian (I am still one of those things! Guess which!) and my split pea soup is bitchin’.

It is simple. It’s basically split peas cooked with a mirepoix and plenty of garlic. You can add bacon, if you want (substitute bacon fat for the olive oil and garnish with crispy lardons), but it’s not necessary. Shit. Now I want bacon.


1 cup split green peas

1 and ¼ liters water

1 carrot, chopped into small dice

1 onion, chopped into small dice

1 stick celery, chopped into small dice

2 large or four small cloves garlic, minced

2 small or one medium potato, diced

About 1/3 cup shelled peas (fresh if you can manage, otherwise frozen will do)

2 tablespoons olive oil (or three to four rashers of bacon – optional)

1-2 bay leaves

1 and ½ teaspoons cumin

1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves

½ teaspoon crushed red chiles (red chile flakes)

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 teaspoons salt

2-3 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)

Yogurt, sour cream, or crème fraiche for garnish (optional)


Rinse and drain the split peas, picking out any stones and debris. Put in a medium saucepan with the bay leaves and one liter of water, bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, skimming off any foam that rises to the surface. Simmer uncovered (or partially covered) for approximately 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

While the peas are simmering, heat the olive oil in a heavy bottomed skillet and then sauté the garlic, onions, celery and carrots with the cumin, crushed red pepper, ground black pepper, thyme and one teaspoon salt until the onions are transparent and the carrots are semi tender. (If you are using bacon fat, fry the bacon rashers in a skillet, remove the bacon when crispy, and discard all but two tablespoons of bacon fat. You will use this fat to sauté your veggies.)

Add the vegetables to the pot with the split peas, deglaze the pan with ¼ liter of water, stir into the split peas, and continue to cook over medium-low heat until the peas are tender, about another 30-40 minutes. When the split peas are soft, remove from heat, remove and discard bay leaves, and puree until smooth. Return to heat, add the remaining salt (and additional water if the consistency is too thick for your liking) and stir in the potatoes.  Cook, stirring occasionally to prevent the peas from sticking to the bottom of the pan, until the potatoes are cooked through. (This shouldn’t take longer than 10-15 minutes, max.) Stir in the lemon juice and the cayenne pepper (if you want a bit of kick to your soup – otherwise, omit), and adjust seasonings. Add the fresh or frozen peas, and cook until they are tender but not mushy (about another 5-7 minutes). Serve, garnished (if you wish) with the yogurt/sour cream/crème fraiche. (And the bacon! Naughty carnivore.) This soup is even better the next day.

Serves 6-8.

* I may well have discovered THE CURE FOR JETLAG. After making and consuming my split pea soup I slept like a baby for ten hours and awoke feeling semi-human. Hooray!

10 thoughts on “Split Pea Soup

  1. This is perfect! There is nothing I crave more on blustery, Pacific NW autumn to winter days than a steaming bowl of hearty pea soup. I love the complexity of flavors in this recipe and will have to try it. And I will also have to use bacon fat in spite of the veggie leanings in my household… and save the lardons on the side for us carnivores to put on separately.

  2. Nice and simple. And very comforting indeed. Perfect for the season. I would probably have to add the bacon too, pea and bacon just so so damn well together. Shit. Now I want bacon too 😉

      • Susan, I meant I love split pea soup, but detest eating the pesky round slimy peas. Once it’s in split pea soup, somehow all ground up, I don’t mind it. Weird, I know.

        By the way, I’m so jealous… you came from London to Seattle. Two of my favorite cities. Are you visiting Seattle?

        • I know exactly what you mean! Don’t worry, I wasn’t bothered by your previous comment. I love both London and Seattle too … I used to live in Seattle, now I live in London, and I am visiting Seattle, seeing lots of friends, and eating everything in sight.

          • I used to live in Seattle also – in Belltown and then we moved to the Eastside (Bellevue). Great city! I hope you post a trip report and share all the yummy eats you’ve found on this trip.

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