Split Pea Soup with Ham Hock

This split pea soup with ham hock is hearty, inexpensive comfort food that’s made with everyday ingredients including carrots, onion, celery, fresh herbs, and broth or water. Garlic croutons add crunch but are completely optional.

Ham Hock and Split Pea Soup

Split pea soup with ham hock illustrates how split peas and ham hocks are meant to go together, so much so that a minimum of supporting ingredients are called for to flesh them out into a satisfying soup. Though it’s typically thought of as a thick-as-can-be affair, it doesn’t need to be. If you like, add a bit more liquid to thin the soup and see what you think.

 –Tom Valenti

Split Pea Soup with Ham Hock

  • Quick Glance
  • (2)
  • 1 H
  • 2 H, 30 M
  • Serves 4 to 6
5/5 - 2 reviews
Print RecipeBuy the Tom Valenti's Soups, Stews, and One-Pot Meals cookbook

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Ingredients

  • For the split pea soup
  • For the garlic croutons (optional)

Directions

Make the split pea soup

Put the split peas in a bowl and cover with cold water for at least 20 minutes while you cook the vegetables.

Heat the oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat until hot but not smoking. Add the carrot, onion, and celery and season with salt, pepper, and a pinch of sugar. Cook, stirring, until the vegetables soften, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another 2 minutes.

Drain the split peas and add them to the pot. Add the bay leaf, marjoram, broth, and ham hocks. Give everything a good stir and bring the liquid to a boil over high heat, continuing to stir to keep the peas from scorching. Lower the heat, cover, and simmer for 1 hour. The peas will be partly disintegrated.

If the ham hocks aren’t tender, leave them in. Otherwise use tongs or a slotted spoon to remove them from the pot and set them aside on a plate. Cook the soup for 30 minutes longer, or until the peas and other vegetables have completely broken down and the soup has thickened considerably. If it seems too thick, add more stock or water.

While the split pea soup is simmering, and as soon as the ham hocks have cooled enough to work with, use your hands to remove the meat from the bones, shredding it as you work. There won’t be a lot of it, but what is there is very flavorful.

When the pea soup is done, use tongs or a spoon to remove and discard the bay leaf and marjoram sprigs. Taste and correct seasoning, bearing in mind that the bits of ham are salty. Add the reserved ham to the pot. If not serving immediately, let cool, cover, and refrigerate for a few days or freeze for up to 1 month. Reheat before proceeding.

Make the croutons (optional)

Melt the butter in a wide, deep saute pan over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute to soften it and infuse the butter with its flavor.

Add the bread to the pan and cook, tossing frequently, until the bread is crisp and golden brown 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer to paper towels to drain. Use at once, or let cool and keep at room temperature for up to 6 hours.

To serve, ladle the split pea soup into individual bowls and drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil. Scatter some thyme leaves over each serving, if desired, or float a garlic crouton on top of each bowl.

Print RecipeBuy the Tom Valenti's Soups, Stews, and One-Pot Meals cookbook

Want it? Click it.

Recipe Testers' Reviews

This soup is perfect for a cold winter night, however, it’s easy enough to make after work for a taste meal. A ham hock shouldn’t be too hard to find, just ask your butcher at the grocery store. The ham is a delicious addition to this recipe and add extra saltiness and heartiness to the already full-bodied soup.

If you can’t locate a ham hock, or you have leftover Christmas ham, this is a great way to use it up. Just cube the ham instead of pulling off the hock. This recipe is one that is a culinary surprise because just when you think that it can’t be done in the time is says, it turns out a perfect soup.

Also, it freezes well and makes fantastic leftovers, if it isn’t devoured the first time around!

If you're like me, you grew up with an innate dislike for split pea soup. Why? I can only guess that something with that name was served in my elementary school cafeteria, perhaps from a can. This is not that abomination! Quite the contrary, in fact. THIS split pea soup is an excellent example of comfort food, good on a cold "shelter-in-place" evening and even better as leftovers for a few days afterwards if the family doesn't beat you to it.

I fixed my soup with smoked ham shanks, which I learned are similar to hocks but meatier, which I feel makes them superior. The shanks I found were larger than called for but not double in size so I had the tough choice of using significantly more, or significantly less, than the recipe called for. I went with "more" and I felt the end result was improved by the adjustment.

There is nothing difficult here, and once the vegetables are diced the hands-on work is pretty much over. Sit back and enjoy the aroma of cooking ham and peas.

An hour and a half of cooking was sufficient to break down the peas and other vegetables but the end result was not homogeneous and was not as thick as the picture. We ate some of the soup immediately and refrigerated the rest. When it came out of the refrigerator a day or two later, it was thick like in the photo.

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Comments

  1. I swapped out the ham hock for smoked neck bones. Delicious! Best pea soup I’ve ever had, probably because it included some spices. Thank you!

  2. Delicious! I loved the flavor of this recipe and will make it again. Mine turned out quite thin though and will have to either add more peas or reduce the broth amount. As it is 2 quarts is a lot!

    1. Barbara, so glad you liked it. Hmmm, it’s never thin when I make it. I used to make it all the time about ten years ago. I’ll make it again this fall and report back.

  3. Be careful with your ham hock, I used slightly less than two lbs and the soup tastes like a salt lick.

      1. Excellent! I find when it comes to some of these old-timey ingredients, I need to go to a real butcher, not a supermarket, to find them. Most of the counter help in a supermarket are kids who just know how to stock coolers.

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