The classic Scandinavian split-pea soup, usually made with yellow split peas on Thursdays across Sweden and Finland. It's also the traditional Scandinavian supper on the Christian calendar's Shrove Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday – what fun-lovin' folk call "Fat Tuesday" or "Mardi Gras".
This simple soup is one of my own very oldest recipes, dating back to the year I lived in Finland. It's hearty, it's comforting, it's great for a crowd or a houseful of hungry houseguests! Some times I make it with ham (some times a lot, usually just a little) but it's also good without ham, making it not just vegan but Vegan Done Real.
Make Scandinavian Split-Pea Soup on the stovetop (isn't it lovely to have a pot of soup merrily simmering on the stove?!) or in a slow cooker or use the "oven as slow cooker". All work beautifully, it's your choice!
First published in print in 2003, republished online in 2015 for a little weekend cooking inspiration!
Late-winter, early-spring days are so unpredictable. Some days, the air is almost warm and the earth teases us with a scent of spring promise.
Other days – brrr! The daffodils and tulips may poke their little heads out of the ground but it’s downright cold. And windy! Even snowy!
Scandinavian Split-Pea soup is an old, old recipe guaranteed to warm your family from the inside out on these last chilly days.
I read once, "The bigger the pot, the better the soup!" Well no wonder this soup is so good because the recipe makes a bunch! So make sure your cooking pot is big enough – or halve the recipe if it’s not – then plan for a crowd or freeze some soup for later.
Then again? One year, two of us just couldn't stop eating this soup! I feared we'd run short so made another pot the very next day!
During cold weather, this is one of a couple of go-to soup recipes before Thanksgiving, when family are gathering for Christmas, whenever we're going to have a houseful of overnight guests. When it's first made, there'll be quite a lot of broth-to-beans but as time goes on, the beans and vegetables soften and it all becomes one, one big tasty, wholesome pot of split-pea soup.
SCANDINAVIAN SPLIT-PEA SOUP
Hands-on time: 25 minutes
Cooking time: 5 – 7 hours (needs occasional stirring)
Makes 18 cups
- 1 pound dried split peas (or whole dried peas), yellow or green
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 3 onions, diced (about 3 cups)
- 1 rib celery, diced (about 1 cup)
- 3 leeks, white parts only, cut in 1” pieces
- 12 cups water
- 3 potatoes, skins on, diced (about 3 cups)
- 4 carrots, chopped (about 2 cups)
- 1/8 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 ham hock (for flavor) or ham shank (for meat), optional
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- Black pepper to taste
SOAK PEAS Rinse and drain peas in a colander. In an extra-large kettle, cover peas with cold water plus about three inches (in my big stockpot, that's almost 10 cups of soaking water, this lets the peas soak up lots of liquid) and soak overnight at room temperature. In the morning, drain peas and set aside. Rinse the kettle.
COOK PEAS In the kettle, heat olive oil until shimmery. Add the onions, celery and leeks and onions and sauté, stirring often, until deep gold in color (this step is important to the flavor, don't skip on the color). Add soaked peas and water, cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for an hour.
SLOW SIMMER ON THE STOVE Add potatoes, carrots, thyme, ham hock or hank shank, salt and pepper. Cover and simmer for 3 – 5 more hours, stirring occasionally and checking for desired consistency. If it gets too thick, add hot water; if it seems too thin, remove the cover. The soup is done when the beans are soft.
SERVE Remove ham hock and shred any meat into the soup, discarding the fat. Taste and adjust the seasoning.
MORE COOKING OPTIONS
SLOW COOKER After soaking, cook the peas on high in the slow cooker for 4 hours, then add the remaining ingredients and cook for 4 - 6 hours on low. (Regular readers know I'm no fan of slow cookers because their performance varies so much. This is the timing that's worked for me.)
OVEN AS "SLOW COOKER" After soaking, cook the peas in the oven at 220F/105C for about 90 minutes. Reduce the oven to 200F/100C. Add the remaining ingredients, cover and let cook in the oven for 4 - 6 hours.
RECIPE VARIATIONS I've had great results substituting a multi-bean dried bean mix for dried split peas and sweet potatoes for white potatoes.
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