Yellow Pea and Coconut Milk Soup

Yellow Pea and Coconut Milk Soup Recipe

This soup starts out thin, but when the spinach and rice are added, it ends up with layers of textures and colors. For a lighter first-course soup, omit the rice or use very little.

Split peas take at least an hour to cook, which is one good reason to soak them for a couple of hours, unless you pop them into a pressure cooker for 25 minutes on high. Another alternative is to use red lentils, which break down quickly into a light, golden soup.–Deborah Madison

LC Don't Toss Those Cilantro Stems! Note

Who can afford to mindlessly toss good ingredients in the garbage? Yet that’s what many of us do each time we carelessly chop off cilantro stems and bid them a hasty adieu. The fragrant little stalks carry just as much aroma as their leafy counterparts and lend oomph to this simple, pocketbook-friendly lentil soup…as well as just about any other recipe that calls for cilantro, including the fragrant Peppercorn Cilantro Root Flavor Paste. You can thank us later.

Yellow Pea and Coconut Milk Soup Recipe

  • Quick Glance
  • 30 M
  • 1 H, 45 M
  • Serves 6 to 8


  • 2 cups yellow split peas, rinsed and soaked for at least 1 hour if possible
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3 cloves
  • Sea salt and coarsely ground pepper
  • 2 to 4 tablespoons butter, light sesame oil, or a mixture
  • 1 large onion
  • 1/4 cup minced cilantro stems
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Pinch of hot red pepper flakes
  • One 15-ounce can coconut milk
  • Juice of 1 large lime, or to taste
  • 3 tablespoons chopped cilantro
  • 1/2 cup rice
  • 1/2 teaspoon each ground turmeric and paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon each cumin seeds and freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 cup yogurt
  • Large bunch spinach, stems removed, well washed


  • 1. After you’ve soaked the yellow peas, drain and put them in a pot with 2 quarts water, the bay leaves, cloves, and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer and cook, partially covered, while you go on to the next step.
  • 2. Melt the butter in a medium skillet over medium heat, then add the onion and cilantro stems. Cook, stirring frequently, until the onion starts to color and soften, about 10 minutes. Add the spices and 1/2 cup water from the simmering peas, and cook until the water has cooked away. Add the onion to the simmering peas and continue cooking until both are very soft, about an hour in all. Remove the bay leaves and cloves, then purée. Return the soup to the stove and stir in the coconut milk. Add the lime juice, then taste for salt and season with pepper. Stir in the chopped cilantro.
  • 3. To finish, bring 1 cup water to a boil, then add 1/4 teaspoon salt and the rice. Give it a stir, lower the heat, and cover the pan. Cook until the rice has absorbed the water and is done, about 15 minutes. Combine the spices with the yogurt and set aside. In a separate skillet, wilt the spinach in the water clinging to its leaves, then chop it coarsely. To serve, ladle the soup into bowls, divide the spinach leaves among them, then add cooked rice to each bowl and serve with a spoonful of the spiced yogurt.
Hungry for more? Chow down on these:

Testers Choice

Testers Choice
Testers Choice
Valerie Peterson

Aug 22, 2006

This soup came together beautifully, easily, and deliciously. The proportions of the spices and the coconut milk created a perfectly nuanced fusion of flavors, with no one overpowering note. The spinach and the rice provided satisfying textural contrast, appealing to the tongue as well as the eye, and the spiced yogurt—its seasonings as balanced as the soup’s—imparted a tangy counterpoint to the creamy base. Although the combination of spices might seem exotic to some, the resulting dish is so approachable that my guinea pigs, whose taste buds vary in levels of adventurousness, unanimously declared it a keeper of a recipe.

Testers Choice
TeAntae Turner

Aug 22, 2006

This is an excellent soup that is richer than would be expected if you simply examined the ingredients. The soup alone is delectable; adding the spinach, rice, and yogurt brings out a whole additional level of complexity to the flavor that just makes it even better. This soup also reheats very well, though the color will not be as vibrant as the original. Deborah Madison does it again!

Testers Choice
Matilda Luk

Aug 22, 2006

This soup, while time consuming, is rich and spicy, yet fresh and sprightly in taste. Dishes that are East Indian-spiced tend to go for depth of flavour; but this soup, with the addition of just-cooked spinach and rice, has a fresh verve, while the coconut milk, spiced yoghurt, and blend of spices in the soup give it a wonderful mouthfeel and a tingle of heat.

Testers Choice
Cindi Kruth

Aug 22, 2006

After I selected this recipe I began to have second thoughts. All those ingredients, all those steps, all those pans, and the blender too. When the soup was simmering and the smells began to fill my kitchen, I returned to my original thought that all those spices could blend into some really great flavor. Blooming the spices by cooking them in the butter and onions eliminated any raw overtones and they had, as anticipated, evolved into a fantastically aromatic seasoning.

Testers Choice
Susan Hillery

Aug 22, 2006

Fabulous! This soup has everything that you could ever desire in a dish: great flavors, great textures, and great appearance. The soup itself is reminiscent of an Indian dal, but ever so creamy, with a slightly sweet undertone. The rice and spinach add a wonderful dimension, a wonderful tooth feel, juxtaposed with the soup and the smooth, spicy yogurt topping. And don’t omit the spicy yogurt topping—it complements everything else perfectly.

  1. Megan says:

    This is a delicious soup. Really intense flavors layered with the mellow lentils. (I used the red lentils instead.)

  2. Cyndy says:

    This soup is really tasty. I will make it again and again. Thanks for posting and thanks to Deborah Madison for sharing.

  3. Cecilia says:

    Mmm…i love soup…I love yellow split peas and I love coconut milk!

    And I can’t think of a single reason not to make this tonight :)

    I’ll try it with brown rice but otherwise, I’m sticking with the recipe. Love that you added the bay leaves too. I don’t know if that’s a Portuguese thing but my mom always added them and now I do too. It gives the soup something extra!


    • Renee Schettler Rossi, LC Editor-in-Chief says:

      Lovely thinking, Cecilia. We’ll be standing by to hear how it goes…

  4. Sheila Lankford says:

    As I was making this very soup but from Mastercook, I was thinking, “Gosh, 5 1/2 teaspoons of turmeric sure is a lot!” so I only put 4 teaspoons in, even though that seemed like a lot, too. But I thought, maybe it’s just for the color! After my husband and I had it for dinner (agreeing that although it was too much turmeric, it was still pretty good, enough so that we had seconds), I decided to Google the recipe and found it on this site. Aha! Only 1 1/2 teaspoons of turmeric! Somehow when I was importing the recipe from Mastercook, “1” got changed to “5”. Mystery solved. I can’t wait to make it again with the proper amounts of spice—as I said, we enjoyed it with the turmeric nonetheless. :)

    • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

      Sheila, I’m sorry to hear about the gaffe, but I have to say, I’m glad it happened as it brought you here! Many thanks for sharing how much you like the soup, it’s one of our faves, too. And rest assured, we test each recipe over and over to ensure it’s worthy of your time, your ingredients, and your expectations, which means that you can cook with confidence when you try our recipes. Welcome!

  5. Angel Ann says:

    Where is the nutritional information???

    • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

      Angel Ann, we actually don’t calculate the nutritional information for our recipes. While we’re aware that this is disappointing to some, our philosophy is to try to emphasize a casual yet healthful balance of various foods rather than a strict counting of calories or fat grams. We do understand that there are those for whom exact amounts are necessary or desired, and we’re sorry if this disappoints you. I do hope you still try the recipe, as we’ve heard nothing but really quite nice things about it.

  6. I just made it and it was very flavorful. A bit of work. Only thing was I didn’t add the yogurt mixture–and I don’t think I missed it. The spice profile says Thai or perhaps Mediterranean but the purée aspect along with the rice and spinach put it on another level. Very good.

    Won’t necessarily make it again, as my wife ‘liked’ it but it didn’t put her over the moon.

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