Split-Pea Soup with Sausage & Kale

When I first wrote this column way back in 2004, something called "kale" was the new green on the block, not the trendy find-it-everywhere green it is today. For this hearty homemade soup, I modified a classic split pea soup, adding kale for healthiness and a touch of sweetness and a bit of sausage for richness and texture. Delicious, this stuff! It's easily converted to a vegetarian or vegan soup and either way, it's perfect for the fickleness of late-winter and early-spring days.

Split-Pea Soup with Sausage & Kale, another classic soup ♥ KitchenParade.com. Gluten Free. Easy to convert to vegan.

Homemade Split-Pea Soup, Made from Scratch. Real Food, Fresh & Comforting. Budget Friendly. One-Pot Meal. Great for Meal Prep. Low Fat. Easy to Convert to Plant-Based Vegan Soup. Naturally Gluten Free.

  • "It was great!" ~ Kathy

Let's Go "Kale Green"!

Lime green. Mint green. Olive green. Sage green. Spring green. Kale green.

Kale green? Yes, kale green. It’s the new green, in the color and the culinary sense. Your body and taste buds will thank you for seeking it out.

This recipe’s first run was for lunch for a girlfriend and a teenage nephew helping me paint the family room. (The paint color? Tundra green. I kid you not!)

The recipe called for lentils but without hesitation, I substituted split peas when that’s what was in the pantry. “Yum,” was our unanimous reaction.

When making another batch with lentils later, was I ever surprised that the split peas were far preferable, yielding a softly sweet and creamy soup.

Split-pea soup it's been ever since!

What Are Split Peas?

Home cooks are probably familiar with dried beans like chickpeas, kidney beans, cannellini beans, red beans, and so on.

But I suspect there's less familiarity with dried peas.

A few fun facts:

  • Dried peas are legumes, that the plant family that includes beans, soybeans, chickpeas, peanuts, lentils and more. Some times, dried legumes are called "pulses".
  • Dried peas can be purchased for cooking either whole (just tiny round balls of dried peas) and split (sliced right in half, forming two small half spheres).
  • Dried peas come in two colors, green and yellow. There's no taste difference but different cultures have developed favorites. For example, Scandinavian Split-Pea Soup is traditional in both Finland and Sweden but the Finns use green split peas for their hernekeitto and the Swedes use yellow split peas for their ärtsoppa.
  • Split-pea soups are part of the cuisines of Australia, Britain, Ireland, French Canada, Germany, Indonesia, the Netherlands, the Nordic countries, Poland and the Northeast, Midwest and Pacific Northwest regions of the United States.
  • Split peas are the main ingredient in the staple Indian dish called dal.
  • Dried peas do not require soaking before cooking.
  • It does pay to give dried peas a quick rinse before cooking, just to wash off the dustiness that appears during the drying and packaging process.

What's In Split-Pea Soup with Sausage & Kale?

In all my recipes and most well-written recipes, every ingredient serves a purpose. Each one matters. Each one contributes to the overall dish. It's not that an ingredient can't be substituted by something else but when choosing the substitute, it's important to understand why the original ingredient was present in the first place.

  • Dried Split-Peas Either green or yellow, whole dried peas would also work. Could you substitute lentils? Yes but I prefer this particular soup with split peas and happily recommend Homemade Lentil Soup for anyone set on lentils.
  • The Aromatics Onion and garlic flavor the split-peas as they cook, forming a delicious broth.
  • Sausage A loose uncooked sausage works here, just be sure that it cooks through. A fully cooked sausage also works here, just be sure to cut it into small bites.
  • Liquids The recipe calls for both water and chicken stock in a 1:1 ratio. At least to my taste, 100% chicken stock is just too rich. If you have a homemade stock like No-Big-Deal Homemade Chicken Stock (so easy!), especially if it's frozen, that's a great choice.
    But! If you don't, not to worry. Use your usual stuff, cubes, pastes, etc. – just know that these often contain tons of salt, it'll affect your own "season to taste" at the end.
  • Kale You'll want a sturdy kale here, curly kale and lacinato kale seem easiest to find, at least in my U.S. grocery stores.
    But! You could also choose another sturdy green, mustard greens or another sturdy spinach.
    Why do I keep emphasizing "sturdy"? Because the heavier/thicker the green, the better it'll stand up to a long simmer, softening without turning to mush.
    If your choice is a more tender green, especially anything labeled "baby", you'll want to wait to add it until just before serving, letting it cook only as long as it takes to become tender, sometimes a couple of minutes, some times mere seconds.
    For more info about leafy greens like kale, spinach and more, check out the A-Z Leafy Greens page at my food blog about vegetables, A Veggie Venture.
  • A Final Glug of Vinegar Bean and lentil soups often call for an acid just before serving, it just brightens the cooked food in a way that makes all the difference. For my At Last! Black Bean Soup, lime juice takes the soup from so-so to wow-oh-wow. In this soup, rich balsamic vinegar is added just before seasoning, be sure to taste "before" and "after" to taste for yourself what happens. Remember the difference and you'll become a better cook!

How to Make Split-Pea Soup

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

  • Brown the sausage and sauté the onions, garlic and if you like, the kale stems/ribs.
  • Stir in the split peas and liquids and bring to a boil.
  • Let simmer until the split peas are soft and fully cooked, about 90 minutes.
  • Just before serving, stir in a splash of balsamic vinegar and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Here's What's NOT In This Recipe

Sometimes, what's left out of a recipe is just as important as what's put in. That's definitely the case here.

  • Spices It's a rare Kitchen Parade recipe that doesn't use spices to, well, spice things up. But in this soup, the sausage, stock and kale provide so much rich flavor, spices are unnecessary. That makes this an extra-appropriate recipe to cook if you ever find yourself away from your own kitchen and spice cabinet.
  • Tons of salt You may not even need to add salt at all, that's because the sausage is probably well-seasoned, the stock may be seasoned plus there's just so much flavor going on here.

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 simple recipe for Split-Pea Soup hits the mark, go ahead, save and share! I'd be honored ...

Split-Pea Soup with Sausage & Kale, another classic soup ♥ KitchenParade.com. Gluten Free. Easy to convert to vegan.


Hands-on time: 15 minutes
Stove-top time: 90 minutes
Makes 15 cups (freezes well or make a half batch)

This recipe makes a bunch, be sure to find a big enough pot!
  • 1 bunch sturdy kale such as curly kale or lacinto kale, stems and center ribs removed, greens chopped fine, about 5 ounces kale leaves after trimming

  • 4 ounces (112g) smoked kielbasa or Italian sausage or another sausage, cut in bite-size pieces
  • 2 cups chopped onion
  • 8 garlic cloves, minced

  • 2 cups (400g) dried yellow or green split peas, rinsed and picked through
  • 6 cups water
  • 6 cups chicken stock

  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar or red wine vinegar
  • Salt and pepper to taste

TIMING OPTION If you like, prep the kale (see How to Prep Kale, below) before beginning to cook. Doing it beforehand means the stems and ribs can be cooked along with the onion and garlic. Otherwise, the kale prep can be done later, just discard the stems and ribs.

BROWN THE SAUSAGE Heat a large Dutch oven or stockpot over medium high. Drop the sausage pieces into the pot (they should sizzle) and stir lightly to spread evenly over the bottom of the pot. Stir occasionally, it's good to let a little "crust" form on the outside of the sausage. (If the sausage isn't pre-cooked, be sure to cook it all the way through.)

SAUTÉ THE ONION, GARLIC & KALE STEMS/RIBS While the sausage is browning, stir in the garlic and onion as they're prepped, also the kale stems/ribs if you're using them. Lower the heat to medium and cook, stirring often, until the sausage is slightly crispy and the onion is soft.

ADD REMAINING INGREDIENTS & BRING TO A BOIL Stir in the split peas, water, stock and kale ribbons. Bring the soup to a boil.

SIMMER FOR 90 MINUTES Cover and reduce the heat to maintain a slow simmer, simmer until the peas are cooked through, about 90 minutes.

FINISH Just before serving, taste, then stir in the vinegar, salt and pepper and serve immediately.

VEGAN SPLIT PEA SOUP with POTATO & KALE To easily "veganize" this soup, just omit the sausage and chicken stock. For a texture contrast, dice one or two skin-on Yukon Gold potatoes, then use a vegetable broth. So good!


First, clean it well, an important step to avoid grit getting into the soup. To clean the kale, separate the leaves and soak for a minute or so in a sinkful or bowlful of warm water. (The kale will need a longer soak, and multiple rinses, if it's straight from the garden. Supermarket kale usually only requires a quick rinse. I like to use a colander in a bowl, so that I can lift the soaked kale out of the water and see how much dirt/crud remains in the water.) Rinse each leaf carefully under running water, using your fingers to dig into crevasses to remove hidden crud.

Second, separate the stems and center ribs from the leaves. Tear off the stems and center ribs; chop them first, just roughly, and cook along with the onion and garlic. Separately, chop the kale leaves in fine ribbons, this prevent strings of kale forming as the soup cooks.

ALANNA's TIPS No-Big-Deal Homemade Chicken Stock works really well here, so would others from cubes, pastes, containers, etc. Plan to freeze leftover soup for another meal. Plastic freezer bags work great, especially if your freezer is small, and come in pint, quart and gallon sizes, one of which is likely meal size for your own family. If you print this recipe, you'll want to check the recipe online for even more tips and extra information about ingredient substitutions, best results and more. See https://www.kitchenparade.com/2004/03/sausage-kale-split-pea-soup.php.
NUTRITION INFORMATION Per Cup: 117 Calories; 2g Tot Fat; 1g Sat Fat; 5mg Cholesterol; 438mg Sodium; 20g Carb; 7g Fiber; 4g Sugar; 9g Protein. WEIGHT WATCHERS Old Points 2 & PointsPlus 3 & SmartPoints 3 & Freestyle 1 & myWW green 3 & blue 1 & purple 1 & future WW points CALORIE COUNTERS 100-calorie serving = generous 3/4 cup (8g protein).

More Hearty Soups

~ hearty soup recipes ~
White Chicken Chili ♥ KitchenParade.com, spicy-but-not-too-spicy, just chicken, spices, chilies and white beans.

Chicken & Wild Rice Soup (Turkey & Wild Rice Soup) ♥ KitchenParade.com, hearty soup with wild rice and butternut squash.

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

Who Else Is Keen on Kale?

~ Chicken Stew with Chickpeas & Kale ~
~ Lucky Black-Eyed Pea Salad ~
~ more kale recipes ~
from Kitchen Parade

~ Quick 'Massaged' Kale Salad ~
~ Quinoa Pilaf with Kale & Corn ~
~ Green Rice ~
~ more kale recipes ~
from A Veggie Venture

Shop Your Pantry First

(helping home cooks save money on groceries)

~ sausage recipes ~
~ canned & dried beans ~
~ kale 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 via recipes@kitchen-parade.com. 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.

© Copyright Kitchen Parade
2004, 2005 (online), 2007, 2013 (repub), 2015 & 20222

Alanna Kellogg
Alanna Kellogg

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


  1. I made your kale-split pea soup tonight with curly kale. It was great!

    To make it vegan, I used a potato and some thyme instead of the
    kielbasa, veggie broth instead of chicken, and a squeeze of fresh lime juice
    instead of vinegar. Delish.

    Next time I'll try adding the kale just during the last 20 or 30 minutes, though, so it might stay a brighter green.

  2. My folks arrived Friday for a month long stay just down the road, and I stocked their freezer with a pint size jar and a quart size jar of soups from last week's Mixed Greens Soup Off. I'd chopped/blanched/frozen the kale, turnip greens, collards, and spinach (and maybe mustard? I don't recall) from one week's farm share (yes, one week's worth--plus bags of salad! No wonder I froze them!) and made dueling soups along these lines.

    So far the Swedish Wedding Soup jar came back empty.
    Thanks, Alanna--I'm trying this next time with split peas!


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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