Hearty and nutritious, split pea soup has become a staple in many cuisines around the world. With its origins in ancient Greece and Rome, hot pea soup found its way to cold climates and took root in Scandinavian and Germanic countries before making its way to Russia. The low cost and “one pot” preparation made it a comfort food and staple dish in many parts of the globe.
While recipes vary, split pea soup is typically made with dried peas that are either green or yellow, depending on the regional variety. Since fresh pea season in most countries only lasts a few months, dried peas are a perfect substitute during the fall and winter months. The split peas are cooked with a variety of root vegetables and some type of meat to add heartiness and flavor.
Split pea soup became especially popular in the nineteenth century when farmers and peasants began experimenting with recipes.
Around the World
In Germany, traditional sausages and smoked pork meats were incorporated into the recipe and served with dark rye bread.
The Dutch version of pea soup is a thicker, heartier stew cooked with pork and root vegetables like potatoes, carrots, and turnips. In the wintertime it’s common to find the soup, called “snert” sold as a snack along the frozen canals.
Since the Middle Ages, eating split pea soup on Thursdays has been a popular tradition in Finland and Sweden. Eaten with pork pancakes, it was the perfect hearty dish to hold people over in preparation for fasting on Fridays. Adding mustard is a unique twist that’s particular to these two Scandinavian countries.
In Russia, as in other cool climates, split pea soup was embraced as a filling, economical and high-protein dish for the masses. Using various meats that were available added extra flavor to an otherwise humble, and some may even say boring, soup. Like in the Dutch version, potatoes and carrots were often added to make the soup heartier and more nutritious.
How Do I Make Split Pea Soup?
Here’s our favorite one pot recipe.
Now that we know the history of pea soup, what’s the best way to make it? Is there an authentic split pea soup recipe?
Every cuisine claims to have an authentic recipe. But the truth is, most traditional recipes include the same staple ingredients. The difference in recipes in usually in the thickness of the soup. Some varieties are more brothy, resembling a soup more than a stew. Others thicker, heartier and more stew-like.
Whichever you prefer, feel free to experiment with the recipe until you get the desired consistency and flavor.
Prep time: 15 min | Cook time: 45 min – 1 hour | Servings: 4-6
1 cup of split peas
2 liters of water (8.5 cups)
2 cups of sliced carrots
1/2 medium onion, finely diced
2 cloves of smashed garlic
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 medium potatoes, cubed
2 sausage links (or 2 cups of diced bacon)
2-3 bay leaves
6-8 pepper corns
Salt & pepper
Basil leaf or parsley for garnish
Dark rye bread for small toasts (optional)
Place split peas into a bowl and cover with cold water. Let soak until the peas have almost doubled in size (about 45min to an hour).
Finely chop the onion, cut carrots and dice potatoes. Cut the sausage, pork or any other meat into small pieces.
Place a large saucepan on medium heat and add 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil.
Add onions and saute until translucent; drop in two cloves or smashed garlic.
Add sausage and let fry until sausage is golden brown; remove sausage from the pan and reserve for later.
Drain the soaked peas and add them to the saucepan; pour in half the water (about 4 cups), cover and let them stew on medium heat. Uncover after about 15 minutes to check on the water content. The peas should be mushy and just slightly covered with water.
Add the raw carrots, potatoes and sausage back to the saucepan; drop in the bay leaves, pepper corns and salt and pepper to taste. Pour in the rest of the water, cover and let boil for another 15-20 minutes.
Slice the bread and place into toaster oven.
Uncover the soup and check for consistency. The peas should be mushy, and potatoes and carrots soft boiled. The amount of liquid will vary and will be absorbed by the peas and veggies the longer it is left on the heat. If the veggies are done, turn off the heat and let the soup rest for about 10 minutes.
Serve soup piping hot with a few slices of well done dark rye toast.