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A bowl of split pea and ham soup topped with olive oil croutons.

Split Pea and Ham (or not!) Soup

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5 from 11 reviews


This is a very basic recipe for split pea and ham soup. My mother sent me the recipe years ago, and in her version, there is no ham, so this easily can be made vegetarian. To do so, simply omit the ham bone and the diced ham, and be more generous with the salt. Water works just fine, but if you prefer using vegetable broth, that will work, too. 

Green Split Peas: Some green split peas may require soaking to allow them to cook in a timely manner. I have been using the Bob’s Red Mill brand, which require no soaking, and they cook fully in about 45 minutes of simmering. Check the instructions on whatever bag you are using — most split peas do not require soaking — but some might, anywhere from 4 to 6 hours to overnight. 

To freeze: Transfer soup to quart containers and freeze for up to 3 months. 


  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 4 cups diced onions, from 2 medium to large
  • 1.5 to 2 cups diced carrots
  • 1 to 1.5 cups diced celery
  • 1 tablespoon cumin seeds or 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • kosher salt to taste
  • 1 to 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 ham bone, if you have it, or 1 ham hock, see notes above if making without
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 lb. split peas (about 2 heaping cups), rinsed, see notes above
  • 8 to 10 cups water, plus more as needed
  • 1 bay leaf
  • fresh cracked pepper to taste
  • 2 cups diced ham, optional


  1. In a large pot, heat the oil over high heat. When it shimmers, add the onions, carrots, celery, and cumin seeds or ground cumin. Season with a pinch of kosher salt. Give it a stir. Turn heat to low. Cover and cook for 15 to 20 minutes or until vegetables have lost their firmness and have softened a bit.
  2. If you haven’t rinsed your split peas, do that now. Let drain in a sieve.
  3. Uncover the pot, add the garlic, and cook for about a minute. Add the ham bone, bay leaf, and split peas. Add 8 cups of water. Season with a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil; then lower heat so that everything is just simmering. Check the soup at 30 minutes and give it a stir. You likely will need to add more water. I consistently add at least 2 more cups of water. Season generously (if you wish) with pepper.
  4. Cook for at least 15 minutes more (roughly 45 minutes total, though depending on your split peas, it may take more or less time). Taste. It’s done when the split peas have totally broken down. Add salt to taste. (Note: Depending on your ham bone, you will need to add more or less salt, so taste the soup, and add salt as needed to ensure it is seasoned to your liking.)
  5. Remove the ham bone. Retrieve any large hunks of meat that may have fallen into the soup off the ham bone. Remove any pieces of meat clinging to the ham bone. Dice up the ham and add it back to the soup. If it wasn’t a particularly meaty ham bone, you may want to add more diced ham to the soup — it’s totally up to your tastes and preferences — it’s delicious without ham; it’s delicious with ham.  Once the ham has been added, give it a stir, and one final taste. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  6. To make croutons: Dice up 3/4 pound bread (roughly). Place in a bowl. Toss with about 1/4 cup olive oil and season with salt to taste. Toast in the oven at 425ºF for 10-15 minutes or until golden to your liking. 
  7. Serve soup topped with croutons or with bread on the side. See notes above for freezing. 
  • Prep Time: 25 minutes
  • Cook Time: 45 minutes
  • Category: Soup
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: American