Kathy Maister's Start Cooking

Split Pea Soup Recipe

print recipe card posted in Soups, Salads, Sides and Sauces by Kathy Maister
Difficulty:

Split pea soup is a “stick to your ribs”, hearty soup. I make it with turkey kielbasa (Polish sausage), which turns it into a great winter’s meal.

(In Adelaide, Australia they serve green split pea soup with a meat pie floating in it. You buy it from street vendors and, as odd as it sounds, it’s actually delicious!)

Split pea soup, like all soups, has a flexible ingredient list. For this recipe you will need:

  • 1 pound of green split peas
  • 4 medium leeks
  • 2 Tablespoons of olive oil
  • 6 cups of chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1 pound of Polish Turkey Kielbasa
  • 2 Tablespoons of Fresh chopped lemon thyme
  • Zest from one lemon
  • Juice from one lemon
  • Salt and Pepper


Leeks, a tasty vegetable, are a part of the onion family, but have a much milder flavor than their cousins. Trim the ends off and slice them into about ¼ inch slices. Be sure to wash them well!

Heat 2 Tablespoons of olive oil in large pot. Add the dry leeks and cook on medium heat for about 5 minutes.

As the leeks are cooking, “sort” the dried split peas. That means to look through them to make sure no tiny stone ended up in the bag. (Many dry beans need to be soaked for several hours or overnight before you can cook them. YOU DO NOT NEED TO SOAK THE SPLIT PEAS FOR THIS RECIPE, or any recipe for that matter.)

Then rinse them under cool, running water.

Add them to the pot, along with 6 cups of chicken or vegetable stock. You can use the bouillon cubes to make the stock, or buy stock in a can.

Bring the pot to a boil and then turn it down to simmer. Cover the pot and simmer it for about 1 hour, giving it an occasional stir.

The peas are going to get totally soft and mushy, and the leeks are going to cook down completely. The soup is going to get really (really) thick.

Cut the turkey kielbasa into bite size pieces and add it to the pot.

Simmer the soup for about another 10 minutes. The sausage is already cooked so we are mostly just heating it through.

While the soup is simmering, chop the fresh lemon thyme. This has a wonderful, fresh, lemony flavor that adds such a lift to this soup! Pull the tiny leaves off the stem. Discard the stem and chop the leaves up.

I also like to add the juice of one lemon along with the zest.

Turn off the stove and add the lemon zest, juice, and lemon thyme. Give it a taste to see if it needs some salt and pepper. If the soup is too thick, add some more chicken or vegetable stock to thin it down a bit.

The soup is ready to serve!

Enjoy!

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35 Comments

Justin said:

The soup looks amazing. I think we are going to make it for lunch tomorrow!

I remember a polish easter treat I had with a polish family that was just boiling a kielbasa for 2 days and then shaving fresh horseradish into the broth. Oddly, it was delicious. I’m sure your soup is better though, can’t wait to try it!

Colin said:

It’s so great to hear how to make this pea soup it looks incredible!

Always one of my favourites, the only version I know how to make comes in a can, and is only a fraction as good as this one looks. I’ll be trying this as soon as I can get to the polish butcher for the kolbasa.

Kathy Maister said:

Great! Make sure you get “already cooked” or “smoked” kielbasa. I used the turkey kielbasa which is really quite tasty and healthier than the real thing. (When I was little, every Easter, my girlfriend’s grandfather would make and smoke his own kielbasa. He had an out door fireplace where he did the smoking. The entire neighborhood would smell like kielbasa!)

Nicole said:

Kathy,

I love the idea of using turkey kielbasa in this recipe! I always use smoked ham and was wondering what would be a good substitute if I were making this for friends who don’t eat pork. I’ve made completely vegetarian versions of pea soup but they are never as satisfying! Thanks for the great idea!

Kathy Maister said:

Hi Nicole, Turkey kielbasa is really great in this soup! I hope you like it. I would like to also add that this soup freezes beautifully! Cheers!

Suzie said:

Your soup sounds marvelous and I want to serve it for friends but what ingredient should I add to keep my guests from having gastric problems? I do not want to seem gross, but I want my guests to enjoy their evening.

KGWagner said:

Suzie – “what ingredient should I add to keep my guests from having gastric problems?”

Simply add 1/4 tbsp of “magic”. It’s available in an imagination near you

There’s little you can do about it other than to not feed them. Some people have trouble with some foods, while others don’t. It’s unpredictable, and it’s usually not the food’s fault. You might want to read this treatment of the subject.

KGWagner said:

So, I finally made this stuff. First time I ever made pea soup, even though it’s one of my favorite soups.

It came out excellent! I am so pleased!

I did modify the recipe slightly. I used scallions instead of leeks, as the only leeks I could get were “organic”, which is market-speak for “food that looks like it’s been run over by a tractor and costs three times as much.”

I also used real keilbasa rather than the turkey variety, but that’s just me sassing my circulatory system

Kathy Maister said:

KGW, I agree, on occasion, sass is a good thing! :)

kathy said:

I WAS SOAKING MY DRIED PEAS AT ROOM TEMPERATURE FOR A DAY AND A HALF. I RINSED THEM THREE TIMES BUT KEPT THEM AT ROOM TEMPERATURE IN THE KITCHEN. THE KITCHEN SMELLS LIKE ROTTEN EGGS, DOES THAT MEAN THAT THE PEA SOUP THAT I WANT TO PREPARE IS CONTAMINATED?

KGWagner said:

It sounds as if the sugars were starting to ferment from the overly-long soaking, producing hydrogen sulfide, which smells strongly of rotten eggs. They aren’t contaminated, but you might have some trouble getting people to eat them

Kathy Maister said:

I agree with KGW, I think the beans were over soaked. I would toss them and start over. Here is a chart with soaking times and information on soaking beans. Please do remember that SPLIT PEAS DO NOT REQUIRE SOAKING.

Good Luck!

Sarah said:

Kathy is there anything I can add in place of the turkey kielbasa to make this soup vegan, yet still heavy on flavor?

Kathy Maister said:

I would just serve the soup as is without adding anything in place of the kielbasa. You can probably tell by the photos that this is a really hearty, thick soup on its own!

Narconon Vista Bay said:

I’m getting hungry just looking at the soup, I plan on making it later today. Good idea on the turkey instead of ham, I’ve read that turkey is much more healthy for you than ham is. I’m glad someone mentioned in the comments to make sure you have already cooked kielbasa, I missed that the first time through. I look forward to trying this.

Kathy Maister said:

Thanks NVB!
This soup is a meal by itself! Pre-cooked turkey kielbasas makes it really hearty and healthy too!

nancy r said:

i have soaked green split peas for24hrs. rinsed and cooked them 10 mins. fast boil, discard water .Re-fill and cooked for four hours and the peas are still not mushy. What is wrongnancy r

KGWagner said:

Nancy R.-

Are you sure you turned the stove on? Because in 4 hours, those peas should have been reduced to a charred mess

This recipe only takes an hour to cook.Forget everything you know about cooking peas or beans, and follow the recipe exactly. Trust me, it works like a charm.

Kathy Maister said:

FOR THIS RECIPE – DO NOT SOAK THE SPLIT PEAS!

Nancy, If you read the comment just a few above yours you will discover that someone else also had a lot of problems when they tried to soak split peas. One does not need to soak split peas.

(Dried beans are another story!)

FOR THIS RECIPE – DO NOT SOAK THE SPLIT PEAS!

Charlene said:

Hi, I have just discovered this website and I LOVE IT!!!!I’m 20 years old and I’ve been trying to learn how to cook for a while now but have failed because cookbooks or other websites use so many ingredients that sometimes i didn’t even know existed! I almost lost hope but now I believe that I might be able to cook.THANK YOU!!! you make it seem so easy! Splitpea soup is my most favorite dish that my deceased grandma used to make….I am going to try to make this one and i hope it is as delicious as hers!!

KGWagner said:

Charlene –
This is one of my favorite soups, too. I’ve made this recipe about 5 times since Kathy posted it, and every time I’ve done it slightly different, and every time it’s been great.

The things I’ve done differently aren’t earth-shaking. I’ve just traded meats and onions around. For meats, I’ve used skinned and skinless smoked sausage (keilbasa), ham, bacon, or Bac-Os (soy based). For onions I’ve used green onions, yellow, and Vidalia. I still haven’t used the leeks she calls for, but I’m quite sure they’d be good, too.

Other than that, just follow her recipe and you can’t miss. This is one delicious, basic, nutritious, and filling soup you can keep in your head forever.

Charlene said:

KGWagner, thanks for the suggestions, I wrote them all down so I can try them. I’m so excited to try it. Next week I will be making it, and I will let you know as soon as I taste it! :)

nancy r said:

How does one get split peas to dissolve without having to liquidize them?

KGWagner said:

How does one get split peas to dissolve without having to liquidize them?

You have to have a Magic Spoon. At precisely 53 minutes and 9 seconds into the cooking time, you wave it over the top of the pan saying “Oku nadiro nicto sorena, eh?”, which is Canadian for “This stuff should be almost done…” Take the lid off the pan and and viola! They’ll be all sorts of soupy. Now would be a good time to add whatever meat you’d like and give it a stir.

Actually, the peas are split (hence the name “split peas”). They’ll fall apart on their own without any intervention whatsoever

Kathy Maister said:

Hi Everyone!
I have been away on vacation (without my computer!) and am just now catching up on this conversation.

Charlene, KGW is right, you can make all sorts of adjustments to this recipe and, no matter what, it is still fantastic! I used leeks instead of onions just to show everyone how to cook with leeks.

Nancy as long as you keep cooking the split peas, with enough liquid, they will become totally smooth and will not require additional mashing, mushing, or pulverizing.

As you can tell by the photos, the way I make this soup it comes out very thick. My husband likes really thick hearty soups – as do I! You can alway add more broth to thin it down if you like.

Cheers,
Kathy

PS
KGW – you always do make me laugh!

nancy r said:

I have soaked and boiled these split peas which i bought about 2 weeks ago, for several hours after having soaked them overnight and the still are not mushy;even when liquidised they are still gritty. Perhaps I should buy some elsewhere. I have made this soup some years ago with much success and wondered if they are now processed differently? thanks for the comment.

KGWagner said:

Nancy –

Don’t soak the peas, and don’t boil them.

You might want to go back to the top of this page where the recipe is, and right next to the title of the column you’ll see a link that says: Print Recipe Card. Print the recipe out, and take it to the kitchen with you for reference the next time you want to make this soup.

miri said:

I’m in the same boat as nancy r. No matter what I did (with/out soaking, with/out salt) the peas just didn’t get soft.

I’m stumped. maybe the water is too hard where I live.

KGWagner said:

Since this is the second or third time this issue has come up, I decided to do a little research.

It seems there’s a school of thought that says adding salt to pulses (beans, peas, lentils) early in cooking leaves them a little hard. Not everyone agrees, but enough do to make me wonder if it’s true.

If it is, then here are some considerations for when making things like bean or pea soup.

If you’re to cook in stock, as the split pea recipe calls for here, it might be better to cook in water, then add bouillon cubes later for flavor. Bouillon cubes are high in salt, so you wouldn’t want them in early. Also, if you have a water softener, your water is somewhat salted to start with, so you might want to get the water from before the softener, or buy a gallon of distilled water to cook with. Finally, if the recipe calls for cured meats like this one does, they’re heavy in salt, too. Don’t put them in until the end of the cooking time. Cured meats are already cooked anyway – all you’re really doing is warming them up and leaching them a bit for flavor – so they don’t need to be in the pot the whole time.

Kathy has a good article on pulses that you might also want to read.

Anonymous said:

Nancy i do hope that you did not give up on the recipe!! I too had soaked my split peas and it NEVER cook!! So i didnt SOAK and YEP i got a fabulous Stew..i didnt want a soap as my BF loves stew and spit peas!!! Thanks everyone for making my split peas FABULOUS!!! Oops…nuff love from Jamaica ;-)

Kforsythe said:

To add smokey flavor but keep the recipe vegan use Liquid Smoke. Found near the BBQ sauce in the grocery store. 1 tsp should do it! Go easy on it!

startcooking said:

I have never tried liquid smoke – I wonder what it is made of????

KGWagner said:

I have some here, and the label says:

  • Water
  • Natural Mesquite Flavor
  • Vinegar
  • Molasses
  • Caramel Color

Your guess is as good as mine what “Natural Mequite Flavor” is.

The stuff is sorta like food coloring, though. You don’t want to use much of it – it’s potent. A few drops goes a long way. If you apply it like the label says – sprinkling it (like soy sauce?) – you’ll be burping it up all night. Not that it makes you burp any more than usual, but you’ll definitely notice how often “usual” is

startcooking said:

Kevin, you always make me laugh!

I think I’ll stick to adding turkey kielbasas to my split pea soup!

HENRI said:

MESDAMES! WHAT IS THE SENSE OF TAKING perfectly good peas, go to all the trouble of processing them to take the water out, package them and then have cooks take hours to force the water back in ? For any pea soup recipe you favor, just use frozen fresh peas, and to cut the bright green color cook up two or three carrots, add them to the broth and then puree the whole mess. Then add whatever smoked or smoky meat you want and heat through. The carrot adds its own bit of extra flavor and nutrients. BTW, I am French-Canadian, so I know SOUPE AUX POIS from ditch-water! This way takes much less time, and if you add a bit of nice Madras curry (to taste), you add another dimension to pea soup. BON APPETIT and CHACUN A SON GOUT!