Fall has arrived! Here in Texas it doesn’t feel like fall in the least. In fact, it’s in the upper 90’s today. The night and morning temperatures have been low enough lately to justify a little more than a tank top and shorts, however, and my sinuses are feeling the season change. Even if it’s hot out, a nice bowl of soup seems perfect for the first day of autumn.
Split pea soup is one of those traditional dishes that most people seem to have very strong feelings about. They’re a little like beets or cilantro. It’s love or hate, but rarely anything in between. I get it, I suppose. The color isn’t necessarily the most appetizing, and it can definitely cook up into a texture that’s more paste-like than soup-like. Personally, the color never bothered me much. The texture, that’s all about how it’s cooked. More importantly than either of those to me is the smell. The scent of a really good, vegetable and herb loaded stock with a hint of ham smells like feel better in a bowl to me. Or a crockpot.
I am fine with labor intensive cooking. If you read my blog, you’ve probably noticed this. It’s therapeutic to me. That said, I still have a family, a job, other hobbies, and no maid. Sometimes I just need to put something in the crockpot so we can have dinner when we get a chance to sit down and eat. Still, I hate nothing more than letting something simmer away all day, opening up the crockpot, and then wishing I’d just made the time to cook. This recipe never leaves me feeling that way. It’s every bit as good as every batch I’ve ever labored over the stove to cook. In fact, if I hid the crockpot, I’m pretty sure my family would not know the difference. I’m all about that.
This particular recipe is a little more gently flavored than some I have had. It uses leeks instead of onion, which has a similar, but softer flavor. Leeks can be more difficult to find in some areas, however, so an onion can be substituted if needed. I also skip the garlic that I’ve seen in many split pea soup recipes as that can overwhelm other flavors rather quickly. This recipe also uses a piece of ham shank. You can use a ham bone (after carving a ham for something else) instead, if you happen to have one. If you need a vegan or vegetarian option, you can also skip this part entirely and use a really good vegetable stock for flavor.
As to the split peas themselves, it has been brought to my attention that dried split peas are not as universally available in grocery stores as I have found them to be. If you’re struggling to find them, Amazon is an easy source. I mostly by the Bob’s Red Mill ones (click here to find them on Amazon), if I’m not just buying them in bulk. You can also find certified organic and non-GMO ones there, if you so choose, which I’ve never seen in stores. I’ve also never used them, so I’m not making any specific recommendations there.
Crockpot Split Pea Soup
- 2 1/2 cups dried split peas
- 2 quarts vegetable or chicken stock
- 1 whole bay leaf
- 4-5 sprigs fresh parsley (flat leaf)
- 1/2 pound ham shank (smoked, if possible)
- 3 carrots
- 4 celery sticks
- 1 large leek
- 2 tsp salt (omit if using salted homemade stock, or store bought stock that isn't low sodium)
Add stock, bay leaf, split peas, and ham shank to crockpot. Cover and cook on high for 6-7 hours.
After peas have cooked on high for 6-7 hours, finely chop parsley and add it to crockpot.
Slice ends off of celery, carrots, and leek. Cut vegetables into 1/4" slices and add to crockpot. Use both greens and whites of the leek.
Sprinkle salt over soup, recover, and allow it to cook for one more hour until vegetables are soft.
This soup is also great next day, after the flavors have melded a bit. It does tend to get very thick when it sits though. If your leftovers are more the consistency of oatmeal than soup, don't worry. Just stir in a little more stock, or a small amount of water, until it's back to your desired consistency.
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