Yellow Pea and Coconut Milk Soup

This yellow pea and coconut milk soup starts out thin, but when the spinach and rice are added, it ends up with layers of textures and colors. Hearty and delicious.

Three bowls of yellow pea and coconut milk soup with pieces of spinach and a dollop of yogurt in each bowl.

Adapted from Deborah Madison | Vegetable Soups | Broadway, 2006

Deborah Madison does it again. That’s what a recipe tester said after tasting this soup. We couldn’t agree more. While there are trendier bloggers and food websites, we keep coming back to this cookbook author for her exquisitely balanced and comforting recipes that are homey yet haute at the same time.–Renee Schettler

Yellow Pea and Coconut Milk Soup

Three bowls of yellow pea and coconut milk soup with pieces of spinach and a dollop of yogurt in each bowl.
This yellow pea and coconut milk soup starts out thin, but when the spinach and rice are added, it ends up with layers of textures and colors. Hearty and delicious.
Deborah Madison

Prep 30 mins
Cook 1 hr 15 mins
Total 1 hr 45 mins
8 servings
363 kcal
5 / 4 votes
Print RecipeBuy the Vegetable Soups cookbook

Want it? Click it.


  • 2 cups yellow split peas rinsed and soaked in water for at least 1 hour if possible
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3 cloves
  • Sea salt and coarsely ground pepper
  • 2 to 4 tablespoons (1 to 2 oz) butter, light sesame oil, or a mixture
  • 1 large onion diced
  • 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
  • 1 (15-ounce) can coconut milk
  • Juice of 1 large lime or to taste
  • 3 tablespoons chopped cilantro
  • 1/2 cup uncooked white 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 rinsed, water still clinging to its leaves


  • After you’ve soaked the yellow peas, drain them and place 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, cover partially, and begin to cook.
  • Meanwhile, in a medium skillet over medium heat, melt the butter. And then add the onion and cilantro stems. Cook, stirring frequently, until the onion softens, 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 and 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.
  • Bring 1 cup water to a boil and 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.
  • In a small bowl, combine the spices with the yogurt. In a separate skillet over medium heat, wilt the spinach in the water clinging to its leaves and 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.
Print RecipeBuy the Vegetable Soups cookbook

Want it? Click it.


*Do you include the stems when you chop cilantro?

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 stems are edible and carry just as much aroma as their leafy counterparts. They 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.  Including them depends on your preference but they will add extra flavor and texture to your recipes. Thank us later.

Show Nutrition

Serving: 1portionCalories: 363kcal (18%)Carbohydrates: 46g (15%)Protein: 16g (32%)Fat: 15g (23%)Saturated Fat: 11g (69%)Trans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 10mg (3%)Sodium: 83mg (4%)Potassium: 919mg (26%)Fiber: 14g (58%)Sugar: 6g (7%)Vitamin A: 4229IU (85%)Vitamin C: 17mg (21%)Calcium: 113mg (11%)Iron: 5mg (28%)

Recipe Testers' Reviews

Deborah Madison does it again! This is an excellent soup that's 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 yellow pea and coconut milk soup also reheats very well, though the color will not be as vibrant as the original.

Fabulous! This yellow pea and coconut milk 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.

Originally published August 22, 2006


#leitesculinaria on Instagram If you make this recipe, snap a photo and hashtag it #LeitesCulinaria. We'd love to see your creations on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.


  1. 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. 🙂

    1. 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!

  2. 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!


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

Have something to say?

Then tell us. Have a picture you'd like to add to your comment? Attach it below. And as always, please take a gander at our comment policy before posting.

Rate this recipe!

Have you tried this recipe? Let us know what you think.

Upload a picture of your dish