Scandinavian Split-Pea Soup

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!

Scandinavian Split-Pea Soup | Weight Watchers PointsPlus 2 | KitchenParade.com

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.

ALANNA's TIPS Make the soup a day or so before serving (or start early in the morning) for like many soups and stews, the flavors enhance when allowed to rest. Plus, do you find the cooking time for beans varies widely? Unless you’re ready to order a backup pizza for supper, this is another reason to make this soup in advance! UPDATE Here's why! Be sure to use fresh split peas. If you have a gas stove that's hard to set low enough to maintain a slow simmer, I really love using the oven as a "slow cooker" for this and other long-cook recipes. The results are perfect! Do clean the leeks thoroughly, otherwise they can be so gritty. I halve the bulbs lengthwise, then pull the layers apart beneath running water, using my fingers to wipe away the grit. (Here's a photo tutorial for how to clean leeks.) Do cook the onion, celery and leeks until a deep gold in color; this releases their natural sweetness and flavors the soup with only a bit of fat. To my taste, the leeks really make this soup, adding so much sweetness and richness without the usual "pound of bacon" that goes into other recipes for split-pea soup. The leeks are also important, fresh are great, so are the frozen leeks from Trader Joe's, about 8 ounces for this recipe. I'm a "spice forward" cook so always question whether a mere 1/8 teaspoon of dried thyme will be enough. It often is! Other times, when the soup is done, I find myself adding another 1/8 teaspoon, it makes all the difference. Skip the ham hock or ham shank if you want a vegetarian soup, it’s still delicious. Or move the other direction, adding a pile of browned ham to the soup for the last hour or so. Do add the salt and pepper after the beans are fully cooked; adding the salt earlier can make them tough.

SCANDINAVIAN SPLIT-PEA SOUP

Soaking time: Overnight
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.

NUTRITION INFORMATION Per Cup: 81 Calories; 1g Tot Fat; 0g Sat Fat; 1mg Cholesterol; 40mg Sodium; 14g Carb; 5g Fiber; 4g Protein. WEIGHT WATCHERS POINTS WW Old Points 1 & WW Points Plus 2. CALORIE COUNTERS 100-calorie serving = 1-1/4 cups (5g protein).

RECIPE VARIATIONS I've had great results substituting a multi-bean dried bean mix for dried split peas and sweet potatoes for white potatoes.


More Hearty Soup Recipes

(hover for a description, click a photo for a recipe)
Ham & Beans Sausage & Kale Split Pea Soup Homemade Lentil Soup
~ more soup recipes ~

More Scandinavian Recipes

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Hi Alanna,
This is my first fan letter EVER. I love your site! Your recipes are so do-able - no hard to find ingredients and adaptable to our allergies to milk & wheat and meet my preference to eat low on meat & high on veggies and legumes. I can often look for a recipe on your site and be delighted to find that I have the ingredients in the house.
Thank you so much.

Marsha Abarbanel
Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
Feeding 7 each day, including 4 teenagers!
 
Here's a Norwegian soup recipe we enjoyed often when I was a youngster (now 70). Mom gave me the recipe, but didn't know how to spell the name of the soup. It's pronounced klee-bun, but I just arbitrarily spelled it cleban.
Chet Newman
 
I am definitely bookmarking this recipe. I recently bought 5 lbs of split peas on Amazon (delicious, may I add, from Palouse Farms), and have been looking for ways to use them up. Thanks for passing down your family's recipe!
 

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Thank you for taking a moment to write! I read each and every comment, for each and every recipe. If you have a specific question, it's nearly always answered quick-quick. But I also love hearing your reactions, your curiosity, even your concerns! When you've made a recipe, I especially love to know how it turned out, what variations you made, what you'll do differently the next time. ~ Alanna