Scandinavian Split-Pea Soup

That's Hernekeitto in Finnish;
Ärtsoppa in Swedish;
Gule Ærter in Danish;
Ertesuppe in Norwegian;
and "Wholesome & Delicious" in English.

You'll love this classic Scandinavian split-pea soup, usually made with dried yellow split peas on Thursdays across Finland and Sweden (just imagine! every week!) and is also the traditional supper on Shrove Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday in the Christian calendar (and what what fun-lovin' folk call "Fat Tuesday" or "Mardi Gras"). Scandinavian Split-Pea Soup is a hearty, healthy soup so in my kitchen, it's a nourishing cold-weather staple.

Scandinavian Split-Pea Soup ♥, the classic Scandinavian recipe made with dried split peas on Thursdays across Sweden and Finland. Hearty comfort food, great for a crowd or a houseful, either meaty or vegan. Weight Watchers friendly!

Whole Food, Simply Prepared, "Plain" But Perfect. Home-Style & Comforting. Hearty & Filling. Simmer on the Stove or in the Oven or in a Slow Cooker. Budget Friendly. Great for Meal Prep. How to Feed a Crowd. Potluck & Party Friendly. Low Fat. Weight Watchers Friendly. Delicious with Ham, Delicious as Vegan Done Real. Naturally Gluten Free.
On My Mind ♥ Daffodils bent over under the weight of spring snow.

How to Warm Your Family From the Inside Out

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 then, 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.

Equally Good: With a Little Ham, a Lot of Ham ... and Vegan

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 methods work beautifully, it's your choice!

What's In Scandinavian Split-Pea Soup? Pantry Ingredients!

In all my recipes and most well-written recipes, every ingredient serves a purpose. Each one matters. Each one contributes to the overall dish. Usually I'm a big fan of substitutes, in this case, I recommend sticking with the recipe, it just works.

  • Dried Peas Dried peas aren't as easy to find as dried beans but keep your eyes peeled. In my experience, dried green peas are easier to find but oh, the Finns anyway love their yellow peas. Some times, you're lucky enough to find whole dried peas, other times the peas are "split" in half, hence the name "split pea soup". Dried whole peas and dried split peas both work. On the rare occasions I have both, I like to do a 50:50 mix. Like dried beans, dried peas should be used within a year, see Why Dried Beans Won't Cook.
  • The Aromatic Vegetables The dried peas simmer with onion, celery and leek for an hour, flavoring the peas.
  • The Root Vegetables Later, chunks of potato and carrot are added, these add bulk and texture to the soup.
  • The Ham I go back and forth, ham is wonderful in this soup, but it's also great without ham, which makes it vegan!
  • The Seasoning The recipe calls for just a smidgin of dried thyme but please, don't skip it. After that, it's just salt and pepper. That said, if you use a ham hock or a ham shank, these add flavor, richness and texture, all.
  • Water Over time, I've really come to appreciate using water rather than stock in soups, it lets the soup's ingredients shine without being overpowered by the stock's own distinctive flavor, especially saltiness. Still, if you have something like No-Big-Deal Homemade Chicken Stock or No-Big-Deal Vegetable Stock, go for it.
A spoon of dried yellow split peas linked to recipes calling for dried peas ♥

What Are Dried Peas (Dry Peas), Anyway?

We're probably all familiar with dried beans, right? Think black beans, kidney beans, Great northern beans, etc.

Dried beans are easy to find and inexpensive. Cooking beans is also easy and the results are stunningly delicious, just see How to Cook Dried Beans from Scratch (Slow Cooker or Oven Slow-Cooking).

And we're definitely all familiar with canned beans, even easier to find and also economical.

Well, dried peas are just like dried beans except that, well, they're peas, not beans.

Dried peas are very high in fiber and unlike their fresh counterparts which require only brief cooking, must be cooked in liquid for a long while.

A spoon and bowl of dried green split peas linked to recipes calling for dried peas ♥

How to Make Scandinavian Split-Pea Soup

The detailed recipe is written in traditional recipe form below but here are the highlights in four easy steps. You can do this!

  • SOAK THE PEAS IN WATER OVERNIGHT I know some cooks skip this step but I just have better results when I do. (And it's kinda a self-management tool: if the peas are soaked when I get up in the morning, I'm way more likely to cook them!) Once the peas are soaked, drain the peas.
  • SAUTÉ THE FIRST VEGETABLES (If you're going to use a slow cooker for actual cooking, you may want to use a skillet to sauté the vegetables.) Sauté the onion, celery and leek until deeply golden, that color adds so much flavor.
  • DECIDE HOW TO PROCEED You can finish cooking the soup on the stove, or you can use the oven to "slow cook" the soup (this is usually my choice) or you can use an actual slow cooker. Your choice of method!
  • COOK THE SAUTÉED VEGETABLES & PEAS BY THEMSELVES No matter your choice, this soup is cooked in two stages. In the first stage, the peas are cooked with just the sautéed vegetables and of course, the water. How long depends on your chosen cooking method (the timing is included below ).
  • ADD THE REMAINING VEGETABLES, THE HAM, THE SEASONING In this second stage, all the ingredients come together for the first time to finish cooking. Once again, how long this takes depends on your chosen cooking method.

How to Serve Split-Pea Soup Like a Finn

Let me focus on how hernekeitto is eaten in Finland, where I lived as an exchange student for a year and still correspond and visit with my families there.

On Shrove Tuesday For Finns, it's not Shrove Tuesday without big bowls of this hearty, wholesome split-pea soup followed by sweet cardamon-scented yeast buns called laskiaspulla that are filled with whipped cream and either jam (my favorite) or almond paste.

In the Christian calendar, Shrove Tuesday is the day before Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent. Sound familiar? "Fat Tuesday" and "Mardi Gras" and "Pancake Tuesday" are the exact same day and symbolize the start of the same liturgical season.

In Finland, dried pea soup is so popular, it's sold in grocery stores in large sausage-shaped tubes.

On Thursdays Again, split-pea soup is the star of this traditional Thursday meal, usually with Finland's amazing rye bread and maybe a little cheese.

Finnish rye bread is hard to replicate in the U.S. because our rye flours are so different. So I usually substitute the long, thin rye crackers called "FinnCrisp" that can be found in the American specialty stores. Swedish Knäckebröd Råg is also a decent substitute, look for these round rye crackers at IKEA.

Other times, I make Swedish Rye Bread. It's a lovely bread, albeit an entirely different than Finnish rye bread, sweeter and softer.

For Best Results

For my weekly column in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, I interviewed chefs and translated their restaurant recipes for home kitchens. The most illuminating question? "How can a home cook ensure the same results?" So now I ask that question of myself, too, for my own recipes. Have another question? Ask away, I'll do my best to answer!

  • Do use a large pot or slow cooker, this recipe makes a bunch!

  • Do avoid the temptation to just throw everything into the pot at once and be done with it. The peas are cooked first with a few sautéed vegetables, absorbing all that flavor. Then the potatoes, carrots, ham and seasoning are added. The two-step cooking process produces a markedly better soup, where the individual ingredients remain distinct in flavor and texture instead of turning into one big pot of mush.

  • Don't skip the 1/8 teaspoon of thyme. It's so little, you wouldn't think it makes much difference. But it really does! That said, after the soup is fully cooked, do take a taste. You might want to stir in another 1/8 teaspoon.

Bookmark! PIN! Share!

How do you save and share favorite recipes? recipes that fit your personal cooking style? a particular recipe your mom or daughter or best friend would just love? If this homey dried-pea soup recipe inspires you, please do save and share! I'd be honored ...

Scandinavian Split-Pea Soup ♥, the classic Scandinavian recipe made with dried split peas on Thursdays across Sweden and Finland. Hearty comfort food, great for a crowd or a houseful, either meaty or vegan. Weight Watchers friendly!


Soaking time: Overnight
Hands-on time: 25 minutes
Cooking time: 5 – 7 hours (needs occasional stirring)
Makes 18 cups
  • 1 pound (454g) 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 (don't skip)
  • 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 pot, cover the 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 the peas and set aside. Rinse the pot to use for cooking (unless you're using a slow cooker).

DECIDE Now you need to decide how you're going to cook the soup, all three ways work really well.

COOK ON THE STOVE This method requires three steps.

First, In the pot, 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).

Second, add the soaked/drained peas and 12 cups water, cover and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for an hour.

Third, add potatoes, carrots, thyme, ham hock or hank shank, salt and pepper. Cover and simmer the soup 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.

~or~ USE THE OVEN AS A "SLOW COOKER" This is my favorite!

First, in a large, oven-safe pot, heat the 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).

Second, add the soaked/dried peas and 12 cups water, cover and cook in the oven at 220F/105C for about 90 minutes.

Third, reduce the oven temperature to 200F/100C. Add all the remaining ingredients, cover and let cook in the oven for 4 - 6 hours.

~or ~ USE A SLOW COOKER 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 but your slow cooker may perform differently.

First, in a large skillet, heat the 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).

Second, combine the sautéed vegetables, the soaked/drained peas and 12 cups water in a large slow cooker. Cook on high in the slow cooker for 4 hours.

Third, add the remaining ingredients and cook for 4 - 6 hours on low.

SERVE Remove the ham hock or ham shank and shred any meat into the soup, discarding the fat. Taste and adjust the seasoning.

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 dried 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! 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. Fresh are great, so are the frozen leeks from Trader Joe's, about 8 ounces for this recipe. 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. 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. Whatever you do, don't skip the thyme entirely. 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 peas are fully cooked; adding the salt earlier can make them tough. I've had great results substituting a multi-bean dried bean mix for dried split peas and sweet potatoes for white potatoes.
NUTRITION INFORMATION Per Cup (assumes no ham): 99 Calories; 1g Tot Fat; 0g Sat Fat; 0mg Cholesterol; 212mg Sodium; 22g Carb; 8g Fiber; 4g Sugar; 7g Protein. WEIGHT WATCHERS Old Points 1 & PointsPlus 3 & SmartPoints 3 & Freestyle 0 & myWW green 2 & blue 0 & purple 0 & future WW points CALORIE COUNTERS 100-calorie serving = 1 cup (7g protein).

More Finnish Recipes

~ Finnish recipes ~
A collection of Finnish recipes ♥
Salmon Chowder ♥, fresh salmon in a creamy broth with carrot, potato, fennel.

Karelian Borscht (Russian Beet Borscht Soup) ♥, extra hearty with sausage and a swirl of sour cream but also especially earthy and delicious as a vegetarian borscht.

Finnish Fruit Tart (RahkaPiirakka) ♥, here with blueberries, also try golden raisins, cherries, rhubarb and more. One Bowl. Press-in Crust. Super Easy.

Shop Your Pantry First

(helping home cooks save money on groceries)

~ dried beans & peas recipes ~
~ leek recipes ~
~ potatoes recipes ~
~ carrot recipes ~
~ ham recipes ~

~ All Recipes, By Ingredient ~
~ How to Save Money on Groceries ~

Kitchen Parade is written by second-generation food columnist Alanna Kellogg and features fresh, seasonal dishes for every-day healthful eating and occasional indulgences. Quick Suppers are Kitchen Parade favorites and feature recipes easy on the budget, the clock, the waistline and the dishwasher. Do you have a favorite recipe that other Kitchen Parade readers might like? Just send me a quick e-mail, you'll find my current address in the FAQs. How to print a Kitchen Parade recipe. Never miss a recipe! If you like this recipe, sign up for a free e-mail subscription. If you like Kitchen Parade, for more scratch cooking recipes using whole, healthful ingredients, you're sure to like my food blog about vegetable recipes, too, A Veggie Venture. If you make this recipe, I'd love to know your results! Just leave a comment below.

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Alanna Kellogg
Alanna Kellogg

A Veggie Venture is home of "veggie evangelist" Alanna Kellogg and the famous asparagus-to-zucchini Alphabet of Vegetables.


  1. 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!

    1. Marsha ~ Your left your ever-so-kind note some years back and I remember it well. But all these years later, please know, it still makes my day, knowing that my recipes work so well in your kitchen. Cooking for Seven, that’s a big big job!

  2. Anonymous11/02/2010

    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

  3. 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