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Recipes » Soups & Salads » Split Pea Soup with Smoked Bacon

Split Pea Soup with Smoked Bacon

Rich and hearty Split Pea Soup with Smoked Bacon is soul warming soup perfect for cozying up with on cool nights, and enjoyable year-round. 

A bag of green split peas, some chicken broth, and an immersion blender will get you started with this delicious split pea soup recipe. While this recipe is most popular during colder months, split pea soup is healthy energy in a bowl that should be enjoyed year-round. The addition of smoked bacon or a leftover ham bone does the heavy lifting in terms of flavor in this dish.

a brown bowl on a woven mat, filled with split pea soup with bacon and croutons

My local grocery store appears to be unloading their overage of bagged soup beans this week. Seriously, less than $1 for a bag of green or yellow split peas, dried navy beans, or a mixed bag. I’m loading up.

All that’s left to grab is a baguette, some bay leaves, and a block of Irish butter. I’m ready for soup making on a cold weather dreary day.

This soup recipe will be easy given I already have homemade chicken stock and Christmas’s leftover smoked ham bone frozen. To really impart the serious smoky notes I am looking for, I will also use cooked bacon and just a bit of the rendered bacon fat to sauté the aromatics.

A bouquet garni of fresh thyme, a bay leaf, and fresh parsley will offer an earthiness when all is said and done. Pretty much soup perfection!

For this method, I will use a large Dutch oven. The ingredients will break down gradually over medium heat into a lovely consistency in about 35 to 45 minutes time in a solid and heavy-bottomed pot like this.

Ingredients for Smoky Split Pea Soup

  • thick-cut smoked bacon
  • a large leftover ham bone or two small ham hocks
  • olive oil
  • Vidalia onion
  • celery
  • Kosher salt
  • black pepper (or white pepper)
  • smoked paprika
  • fresh garlic
  • fresh carrots
  • a medium fresh parsnip or large russet potato
  • green split peas
  • chicken broth, homemade chicken stock, or well seasoned vegetable broth
  • bouquet garni of fresh thyme, a bay leaf, and fresh parsley

optional for serving

  • crisp cooked bacon
  • croutons
  • torn parsley leaves
Split pea bacon soup comfort food

How to Make Split Pea Soup with Bacon

Cook the Bacon

In a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat, cook thick-cut smoked bacon slices that you’ve chopped into 1-inch long pieces, reducing heat to medium after the bacon begins to shrink. Cook until crisp, about 6 minutes.

Use a slotted spoon to transfer the cooked bacon to a paper towel-lined plate. Discard all but a tablespoon, give or take, of the bacon grease.

Char the Ham Bone

This step is optional, but I find it imparts a unique smoky flavor which I cannot achieve simply by adding the bone to the soup while it’s simmering. This step involves charring the ham bone, or more specifically, the bits of meat and fat left on the bone.

Replace the Dutch oven over medium heat and add in a bit of olive oil. Add the bone and allow it to heat undisturbed until it begins to crackle and pop.

Use kitchen tongs to rotate the bone slightly, allowing for all sides to char slightly. This action of charring the bone adds to the amazing accumulation of flavor stuck to the bottom of the pot, and trust me, the step is well worth it.

Remove the bone to a plate to cool. Later in the process, I will take a sharp knife and cut or dislodge as much of the charred bits of meat from the bone as I can to later add to the soup.

Sauté the Aromatics

If required, add another very small amount of olive oil to the Dutch oven. Toss in a rib of finely diced celery and a single and very large chopped sweet onion. I use Vidalia, available widely here in the South.

To the celery and onion, add both Kosher salt and black pepper in increments of 1/2-teaspoon each, and 1/4-teaspoon of smoked paprika. Sauté over medium or medium-low heat (you merely sweat the mixture, not brown) for 6 to 8 minutes until very soft.

Stir in 4 smashed and finely chopped cloves of fresh garlic. Cook 1 additional minute.

Add in Vegetables

Prep root vegetables to include 3 medium carrots and 1 medium sized parsnip by first peeling, then dicing into 1/4-inch pieces. Add all to the aromatics and stir.

Next, pour in a full pound of green split peas that have been picked over. Again, give the mixture a good stir to coat all of the vegetables and peas and cook for 2 minutes.

Cooking the peas more or less dry gives the smoky notes that have built up in the bottom of the pot a chance to flavor the tough outer layers. It may seem like extra work, but attention paid and time spent make for the BEST pea soup.

Pro Tip: if you do not have access to fresh parsnips, you may substitute a large russet potato. Peel, dice, and par-boil the potato for 8 minutes in lightly salted water. Add to the soup at the same time you add the chicken broth to allow the potato to finish cooking with the soup.

Simmer the Soup

Turn the heat back to medium-high and put the ham bone in the pot. Add in 8 full cups of chicken broth. Use a great addition of homemade stock or homemade bone broth if you have it for a richer finish, but broth will work fine if you do not.

Use the back of a wooden spoon to scrape the bottom of the pan of all of the brown bits known as fond. A natural release of all of those smoky nuisances and salt from the bacon and ham takes place with every scrape of the spoon.

Add the bouquet garni of fresh herbs and simmer, covered, for a cooking time of 35 minutes. Discard the bouquet garni and remove the ham bone. Use an immersion blender to puree just about half to three quarters of the soup.

Embellish the Soup

This is where I take a sharp kitchen knife and CAREFULLY cut the charred bits of ham from the bone. I will go all out to exploit the flavor in that bone, can you tell?

Add the bits to the soup along with all but a few pieces of the crispy bacon and stir. The bacon pieces will reconstitute slightly after being in the soup for a while, which, in my opinion, makes them better.

Ladle and Serve

Ladle the soup into bowls. Top with the reserved pieces of bacon, freshly torn parsley leaves, and crunchy croutons.

Season with salt and pepper before serving if necessary, but I think you will find the flavor profile spot on! Serve with a baguette and softened Irish butter or other tasty homemade bread.

Modifying the Norm to Make It Not Entirely Average

  • Play with variations on the flavor and garnish with sauteed chopped golden apples and shallots or crispy toasted slices of garlic
  • Drizzle Balsamic or fig glaze in a straight line, then drizzle a hint of heavy cream over the glaze in the same straight line. Drag the back of a knife back and forth over the drizzle lines to create a swirly pattern atop each bowl of soup. Be clever!
  • Skip the smoky bacon altogether and focus on this being solely a split pea and smoky ham soup by omitting the bacon and adding small cubes of ham (dicing a ham steak is easiest) in addition to the smoky ham bone.
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Split Pea Soup with Smoked Bacon

Jenny from Not Entirely Average
Rich and hearty Split Pea Soup with Smoked Bacon is soul warming soup perfect for cozying up with on cool nights, and enjoyable year-round. 
No ratings yet
Servings: 4 servings
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 35 mins
Total Time 50 mins
Course Soup
Cuisine American, Southern
Servings 4 servings
Calories 697 kcal

Equipment

Ingredients
 

  • 4 slices thick cut smoked bacon chopped into 1-inch long pieces
  • 1 large leftover ham bone may substitute 2 small ham hocks
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt or to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper or white pepper if preferred; or to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 rib celery finely diced
  • 1 large sweet onion such as Vidalia chopped
  • 4 large cloves garlic chopped
  • 3 medium carrots peeled and cut into 1/4-inch pieces
  • 1 medium parsnip peeled and cut into 1/4-inch pieces; may substitute a large russet potato, peeled, diced, and par-boiled 8 minutes in salted water; add drained pieces to the soup at the same time you ad the chicken broth to finish cooking directly in the soup
  • 1 pound green split peas picked over, pebbles and debris removed and well rinsed
  • 8 cups low sodium chicken broth or homemade stock or homemade bone broth
  • bouquet garni of fresh thyme, bay leaf, and fresh parsley

optional

  • crispy bacon pieces
  • croutons
  • torn fresh parsley leaves

Instructions
 

  • In a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat, cook bacon pieces, reducing heat to medium after slight shrinkage, about 6 minutes. Transfer cooked bacon to a paper towel-lined plate. Discard all but a tablespoon of the bacon grease.
  • Charring the ham bone is optional, but I find it imparts a unique smoky flavor which I cannot achieve simply by adding the bone to the soup while it's simmering. This step involves charring the bits of meat and fat left on the bone. Replace the Dutch oven to medium heat and add 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add the bone and allow it to heat undisturbed until it begins to crackle and pop. Use kitchen tongs to rotate the bone allowing all sides to char slightly. ProTip: This action of charring the bone adds to the amazing accumulation of flavor stuck to the bottom of the pot, and trust me the step is well worth it. Remove the bone to a plate to cool. Do NOT discard.
  • Add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil to the Dutch oven. Add diced celery, chopped sweet onion, Kosher salt, black pepper, and smoked paprika. Sauté for over medium or medium-low heat (you merely want to sweat the mixture, not brown) for 6 to 8 minutes until very soft. Stir in chopped garlic and cook 1 minute additional.
  • Add in the carrots, parsnip, and split peas. Give the mixture a good stir to coat all of the vegetables and peas and cook for 2 minutes. Cooking the peas more or less dry gives the smoky notes that have built up in the bottom of the pot a chance to flavor the tough outer layers. If substituting a russet in lieu of the parsnip, peel, dice, par-boil in salted water for 8 minutes, and drain.
  • Turn the heat back to medium-high and replace the ham bone to the pot. If substituting a russet in lieu of the parsnip, add the bar-boiled and drained pieces to the soup now. Add in 8 full cups of chicken broth, homemade stock or homemade bone broth. No one is wrong or better. Using stock or bone broth will offer a richer soup. Using low sodium chicken broth will accurately limit the amount of sodium.
  • Use the back of a wooden spoon to scrape the bottom of the pan of the accumulated brown bits known as fond. Add the bouquet garni of fresh herbs and simmer, covered, for a cooking time of 35 minutes.
  • Discard the bouquet garni and remove the ham bone. Use an immersion blender to puree just about half to three quarters of the soup. Use a sharp kitchen knife and CAREFULLY cut away any charred bits of ham from the bone. Add the bits to the soup along with all but a few pieces of the crispy bacon and stir.
  • Taste. Season with salt and pepper if required. Ladle the soup into bowls. Top with the reserved pieces of bacon, freshly torn parsley leaves, and crunchy croutons. Serve with baguette and softened Irish butter or other tasty homemade bread.

Notes

Please Note that table salt and iodized salt are NOT substitutions for Kosher salt. Do not use table salt or iodized salt in any of the recipes you find on Not Entirely Average UNLESS specified otherwise.
To Make Ahead prepare the soup without the toppings. Refrigerate up to 7 days. To Reheat add to a saucepan over medium heat, adding additional broth or stock to achieve desired consistency, about 5 to 8 minutes. To Freeze place in a freezer safe and airtight container for up to 2 months. To Thaw place in refrigerator over night.
Substitutions and Variations:
If You Cannot Locate Fresh Parsnips substitute a large russet potato that you have peeled, diced, and par-boiled in salted water for 8 minutes, then drained. Add the pieces to the soup at the same time you add the chicken broth.
If You Do Not Have a (leftover) Ham Bone use 2 small smoked ham hocks. Consider omitting Kosher salt if using hocks that have been cured using salt.
Chicken Broth versus Homemade Stock or Bone Broth: No one is wrong or better. Using stock or bone broth will offer a richer soup. Using low sodium chicken broth will accurately limit the amount of sodium. The decision regarding which to use is up to the chef!

Nutrition

Serving: 1servingCalories: 697kcalCarbohydrates: 94gProtein: 42gFat: 20gSaturated Fat: 5gPolyunsaturated Fat: 3gMonounsaturated Fat: 11gTrans Fat: 0.03gCholesterol: 15mgSodium: 646mgPotassium: 1996mgFiber: 33gSugar: 18gVitamin A: 7929IUVitamin C: 17mgCalcium: 139mgIron: 7mg
Keyword freezer friendly, leftover ham bone, make ahead, pork, soups & stews, split pea soup
Tried this recipe?Let me know how it was!
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2 Comments

  1. Another divine-looking meal – I ♥ ♥ split pea soup and with all the snow we have had the last week, this will be the next meal I prepare. Thank you for sharing at SSPS #250. Shared on SM