Can Split Pea Soup Ever Be Pretty?

split pea soup
Herbed Split Pea Soup
Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme with Ham and Potato
Fried Sage and Garlic Chive Blossom Garnish

Tasty, you bet. To the eye, it has the most unfortunate color and often sludgy texture. But close your eyes, and you will be transported to soup heaven. Rich, flavorful, nourishing and comforting split pea soup has global appeal. Vegetarian versions are as equally satisfying as those made with ham or bacon.

Split pea will always be a nostalgic, family soup. It doesn’t remind us of our favorite gourmet restaurant or our most memorable meal, instead, it is a soup that soothes, calms, and makes us feel nurtured, at home, comfortable.

 Split Pea Soup

pea soup
But can split pea soup ever be pretty? We can only try.

Herbed Split Pea Soup Recipe

herbed split pea soup

  • 1 onion, diced
  • 4 inner celery stalks, with leaves, sliced
  • 1 large carrot, sliced
  • 3 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 1 t. red pepper flakes
  • 16 oz. green split peas, picked over and rinsed
  • 1 meaty ham bone, plus reserved diced ham
  • 3 medium red rose potatoes, cooked, peeled, diced
  • parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme, bay
  • garlic chive blossoms (optional)

spiral-cut ham

I make split pea soup with the leftover spiral-cut ham after Thanksgiving every year.

meaty ham bone
Reserve several slices from the ham to dice and add to the soup at the end.

making split pea soup

Split peas are a variety of field peas grown specifically for drying. When the skins are removed during the dehydrating process, the peas naturally split in half.

fried sage leaves

Sauté onion, celery, and carrot in olive oil in a large soup pot until softened. Add red pepper flakes, sauté another minute. Add the meaty ham bone and cover with filtered water. Add split peas, garlic, 3 or 4 bay leaves, a sprig of fresh rosemary and several sprigs of fresh thyme. Bring to a boil, skimming any scum from the surface. Lower the heat and simmer for 1 1/2 hours or until the peas have almost all disintegrated. This assures that the texture won’t be sludgy. Remove ham bone, bay leaves and the sticks from rosemary and thyme. Add salt to taste.

Fry fresh sage leaves in butter (I use Smart Balance) until lightly crisp, remove to a paper towel. Add diced ham and potato to the soup. Simmer another 10 minutes. Lastly, add fresh chopped parsley. Ladle soup into warm bowls. Garnish with a sprinkling of parsley and fried sage leaves (and chive blossoms if available).

split pea soup with sage
An alternative to croutons, crispy fried sage leaves melt in the mouth like buttery herbal candy.

28 thoughts on “Can Split Pea Soup Ever Be Pretty?”

  1. Your title made me smile 🙂 If anyone can make split pea soup pretty, you can! The shot with the spoon showing a bit of ham and carrot does the trick – now I’m craving a comforting bowl of warm pea soup.

    1. Hi Krisztina – Over 40 years ago, Harry J. Hoenselaar, the founder of HoneyBaked Ham, invented and patented a unique machine that slices a ham in a single, continuous spiral. So, I bought it already sliced. Isn’t it great?

  2. You definitely did it! Wow, everything about that dish looks and sounds absolutely delicious. Also, your Thanksgiving ham is a work of art! Well done on making me crave this soup at only 07h40 in the morning!

  3. You know, shooting soup is tough and you have done a masterful job.. what a beauty!!! The spiral ham shot is like a magical shell… just perfect!!!!

  4. Now I know what to do with the ham bone that’s in my freezer! I’m glad that I left lots of ham on it. Great post, LL.

  5. Looks pretty to me! I love the flavors here…great recipe! I just made a vegetarian version the other day…will have to hide this from my kids so they don’t miss the ham 🙂

  6. Leave it to you to make one of the ugliest (but tastiest) soups attractive – you did it! And I love the use of all those herbs – that’s what I’ll be doing next time.

  7. I bet this split pea soup is the best ever…including the beautiful ham!!! I had never made this soup at home before, but it used to be my Monday lunch when I was working because their Monday soup special was always split pea. I miss it… my kids and husband are not into split pea and I can’t make it only for myself… I’d love to visit you for a bowl of soup. 🙂 I think I won’t be able to drink split pea after I try yours though. Looks really, REALLY delicious!!!

  8. you know, the ONLY reason I’ve not blogged about split pea (potaje–as we call it) is because it’s simply not pretty. Ours is green in color b/c of how we cook it. No other vegetables other than butternut squash… It’s my absolute favorite pea in the world. Before black beans and chick peas, I’d devour an entire pressure cooker of split peas. I absolutely love how you decorated your soup. It’s simply stunning. You’ve given me inspiration to play around with our classic recipe and make into something appealing to the eye. Because the taste is definitely there! Brava.

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