This is a fabulous “throw it all in the slow cooker” Pea and Ham soup. There’s no need to cook the onion separately – it “sautés” itself in the fat from the ham hock that rises to the surface. Thick, hearty soup broth infused with incredible flavour from the ham bone!
A worthy ending for your leftover Christmas ham bone, or use store bought. Make this in your slow cooker or on the stove!
Pea and Ham Soup
I’ve always said that Lentil Soup is the least sexy looking soup in the world.
But in hindsight, I think Pea and Ham Soup should take that title.
I mean, think about it. A sparkling white Corn Chowder is pretty. A Thai Tom Yum Soup is colourful and vibrant. Creamy Carrot Soup is a cheerful bright orange colour. And a fiery red Laksa looks as bold as it tastes.
But Pea Soup? It’s brown more than green. Kahki at best.
So no, it’s not glamorous.
But this ugly duckling is seriously delicious. One bite, and you won’t be able to stop!!
What goes in Pea and Ham Soup
Here’s what you need for pea and ham soup. I’ve used a store bought ham hock here because I used up all the ham bones I managed to score from friends and even mere acquaintances. Yep, when it comes to rounding up ham bones, I’m shameless!!
Make sure you use a ham bone with plenty of meat because more meat means more flavour imparted into the soup – and more shredded ham!
Green split peas – these are just dried peas that are halved (split!) which means they cook faster and there’s no need to soak overnight (such as with most types of beans for things like Southern Baked Beans). They taste quite neutral, slightly earthy, and it absorbs the flavour of whatever they’re cooked in – in this case, ham! When cooked for a long time like we do here (in order for the ham meat to be ultra tender), they become creamy and thicken the soup;
WATER, no broth – the ham bone releases so much flavour that all we need is water for the soup broth. How good is that??!!
I love how economical pea soup is when made using leftover ham bone because the broth just needs water – no stock!
The Ham Hock – ham bone
If you’re wondering what a ham hock is, it’s a ham bone. And it is literally the bone inside a leg of ham, left after carving off all the ham (ie the cold cuts sold at delis). So it is already cooked – well, smoked.
If you buy one, you’ll find it looks a lot neater than a scrappy leftover leftover ham bone from a homemade Glazed Ham. The store bought ones are cut neatly then from the looks of it, they are re-smoked to seal the surface of the pink meat part.
Where to buy ham hocks
Store bought ham hock is sometimes sold over the counter and delis, otherwise it’s vac packed and sold with ham and similar items in the refrigerator section.
Make sure it’s meaty!
While store bought are intentionally nice and meaty (to flavour the soup and for plenty of shredded ham), leftover ham bones have been known to be picked clean by Ham Monsters. So if your ham bone isn’t meaty enough, just add a hunk of ham into the soup as well – just to ensure you get enough flavour into the broth.
Do the same if your store bought ham hock weighs less than 1 kg / 2lb. 🙂
Alternative: give the broth a flavour boost with a dash of stock/bouillon powder.
Just place everything into the slow cooker then turn it on
No need to sauté onion separately beforehand. In this recipe, the onion will rise to the surface and “sauté” in the ham fat. I’ve tried it sautéing onion first, then using my method and there is no difference in flavour.
The peas will be so soft they become creamy. So blitzing is optional. What I like to do is partially puree the soup using a handheld blender stick. This way you get the best of both worlds – a smooth, creamy soup broth with soft bits of pea and veg bits!
How long to cook Pea and Ham Soup
Make sure you slow cook Pea and Ham Soup in the slow cooker for at least 8 hours, but 10 hours is even better (on low). The ham meat should literally fall off the bone and be shredded with a touch.
Easily shreddable ham is an indicator that it’s been cooked long enough to release a ton of flavour into the broth!
Are split peas good for you?
They are! They’re high in fibre and protein, can help reduce cholesterol and are low in fat. But split peas are a higher carbohydrate vegetable so watch your intake if you’re on a low carb diet.
What to serve with Pea and Ham Soup
A hunk of warm crusty bread (preferably slathered in butter) is literally made for dunking into this thick soup.
In fact, forget spoons. Imagine eating the whole thing using bread as your feeding tool of choice?? 🙌🏻 For homemade, try this quick no yeast Irish Soda Bread or yeast free Sandwich bread. If you’ve got the time, make this crusty Artisan Bread – pretty sure it’s now officially the world’s easiest yeast bread! (It’s no knead, very foolproof).
Things to dunk into soup
If you’d like to add a side salad, try it with a Cucumber Salad for lovely contrasting crisp freshness, or for something different (and totally fabulous), a French Carrot Salad with Honey Dijon Dressing! – Nagi x
PS Some recipes dress up Pea and Ham soup by adding spinach or frozen peas at the end to make the soup colour greener. I choose to celebrate the unattractiveness and focus on flavour, flavour, flavour!
Watch how to make it
Pea and Ham Soup (slow cooker or stove)
- 500g / 1lb dried split peas (Note 1)
- 1.2-1.5kg / 2.4-3lb ham hock (aka ham bone), bacon hock or MEATY leftover ham bone (Note 2)
- 1/4 tsp salt (start with less, adjust later)
- 3/4 tsp black pepper
- 2 garlic cloves , minced
- 2 bay leaves , dried or fresh
- 1 onion , finely chopped
- 1 carrot , peeled and finely chopped
- 2 celery sticks , finely chopped
- 8 cups (2 litres/qts) water
Garnishes / serving:
- Parsley , finely chopped
- Crusty bread for dunking!
- Place peas in slow cooker, push ham in. Scatter all ingredients around the ham bone, then pour over water.
- Slow cook 8 to 10 hours on LOW or 6 hours on HIGH. (Or 2.5 hours on low on stove, 1 h – 1 hr 20 min pressure cooker/Instant Pot on HIGH)
- Remove ham bone, shred ham meat. Discard bone and fatty skin.
- Remove bay leaves. Use a stick blender to blitz 2 or 3 times – thickens soup but doesn’t make it completely smooth (my preference, you can blend completely if you want).
- Return ham into slow cooker, stir. Taste and add more salt if needed (soup gets lots of salt from ham).
More ways with leftover Ham Bone!
Here are other recipes I’ve shared made using ham hocks. They make an amazing way to flavour broth!
And more chunky, hearty soups
Life of Dozer
This is what he does on cleaning days – he gets sick of trailing me up and down the stairs as I whizz back and forth between floors with brooms and mops and vacuum cleaners so he eventually just plonks himself down halfway on the landing.
Don’t you love how relaxed he looks while I’m hot, sweaty and exhausted from manic cleaning??🙄