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Sopa de Chicharos (Cuban Split Pea Soup)

Sopa de Chicharos (Cuban Split Pea Soup)

This Cuban style split pea soup is called sopa de chicharos, potaje de chicharos, or simply chicharos in Spanish. It’s a thick soup that’s loaded with split peas, vegetables and smoked pork. It makes a hearty, nutritious and affordable meal.

The chicharos served in a large, white bowl.

 

This soup is one of the potajes that are popular, and on frequent rotation, in Cuban kitchens. A potaje is a thick soup that is typically bean based. Like chicharos, frijoles colorados (red bean soup) and potaje de lentejas (lentil stew) are served frequently. They’re a staple at lunch or dinner and served as a stand-alone soup or with white rice and a protein like this bistec de palomilla or these Cuban-style pork chops.

 

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Should you use yellow or green split peas?

Split peas come in two dry varieties, yellow and green. There is no major difference between yellow split peas and green split peas. They require the same cooking time and have similar taste. Some say yellow is sweeter, some say green is sweeter. Overall, they’re the same, so use the one you prefer for this soup.

 

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 1 Medium Yellow Onion, finely diced
  • 2 Medium Carrots, diced
  • 1 Celery Rib, diced
  • 3-4 Garlic Cloves, minced
  • ½ teaspoon Dried Oregano
  • ¼ teaspoon Cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon Black Pepper
  • 1-1½ pound Smoked Ham Shanks, Ham Hocks or a meaty Ham Bone – we used sliced ham shanks
  • 6 cups Chicken Broth
  • 1 Bay Leaf
  • 12 ounces Dried Green or Yellow Split Peas, sorted, rinsed and soaked – we used green split peas
  • 1 Large Potato (10-12 ounces), peeled and cut into ½-1 inch pieces
  • Salt, to taste if needed

The ingredients for the split pea soup displayed on a wood cutting board.

 

Sort and soak the split peas

Before starting the prep work, pour the split peas on a clean, flat surface or in a very large bowl and sort through them. Look for foreign objects like twigs, small rocks, discolored or misshapen beans. Don’t skip this step. Despite great processing practices, foreign objects still make it into the packaged product.

Green split peas displayed on a wood cutting board.

 

Rinse the split peas well. The best way to do this is to pour them in a large mesh strainer and run them under cold water until the water runs clear. Then, place them in a bowl, cover with water and let them soak while you get the rest of the ingredients ready.

 

Prep Work

Things will move quickly at the start of this soup. It’s best to have everything ready to go before you start cooking.

  • Dice the onions, carrots and celery. They’re going into the pot at the same time so keep them in the same bowl. I like using glass nesting bowls to keep my ingredients organized.
  • Mince the garlic, measure out the oregano, cumin, black pepper and gather the oil, bay leaf and chicken broth.
  • Rinse the ham shanks/hocks with cold water. Smoked meat tends to be salty, rinsing them helps to control some of the salt in the finished dish.
  • The potatoes don’t go in until the end. You can prep them now or later, it’s up to you. Peel and dice the potatoes. Keep them in a bowl covered with cold water; it slows down the browning process.

The prepped ingredients for the soup separated in glass bowls and displayed on a wood cutting board.

 

Alright, now we’re ready to cook!

 

Make a flavor base

Before we start the soup let’s make a flavor base. Sautéing a few vegetables and spices in a little bit of oil makes all the difference between a good soup and a great soup! We’re not going with a traditional sofrito for this split pea soup. Instead we’re using a mirepoix, which is a combination of onions, carrots and celery.

 

Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat (we used a 6 quart Dutch oven). When the oil is hot, but not smoking, add the onions, carrots and celery. Cook the vegetables gently for 5 minutes, stirring frequently.

Diced onions, carrots and celery sauteing in a large pot.

 

Add the garlic, oregano, cumin and black pepper to the pot. Cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly.

Onions, carrots, celery, minced garlic and spices sauteing in a large pot with a wood spoon in the pot.

 

Make the soup

Add the smoked ham.

Three slices of ham shank being added to the vegetables cooking in the pot.

 

Next, add the chicken broth and the bay leaf to the pot. Give everything a good stir.

Chicken broth being added to the ingredients in the pot.

 

Drain the split peas using a mesh strainer. I’ve used a colander before and those tiny peas get stuck in the holes. Use a mesh strainer and spare yourself the aggravation! Add the split peas to the pot and raise the heat to high. When the broth comes to a boil, lower the heat to medium-low and cover the pot.

The split peas being added to the soup.

 

Cook the soup for 40 minutes. Keep the broth at a simmer. If it’s boiling too vigorously, lower the heat a bit. Give the soup a good stir occasionally.

 

Remove the ham from the pot and set it on a cutting board to cool. Then add the diced potatoes to the soup. If you were keeping the potatoes in water make sure to drain them before adding them in. Cover the pot and continue cooking.

 

When the ham is cool enough to handle, remove and discard the fatty skin and bones. Chop the meat and return it to the pot. Stir well.

 

Cover the soup and continue to cook until the potatoes are fork tender, stirring occasionally. This should take 20-25 minutes.

 

As the split peas fall apart the soup will thicken. Stir it more often to prevent sticking. It may also be necessary to lower the heat just a bit if it’s boiling too vigorously.

 

What to do I do if my soup is too thick?

Chicharos is a thick soup. It should have enough body that running a spoon through it leaves a trail. But, there is such a thing as too thick. If this happens: add water or chicken broth until the desired consistency is reached. Don’t add too much liquid at one time. Add about ¼ cup, stir and decide if you need more. Also, keep in mind that the soup will thicken further as it cools.

 

Season and serve

Remove the bay leaf from the pot and discard. Taste the chicharos and add salt if needed. It’s best to hold off on adding extra salt to this soup since the chicken broth and the smoked ham both contain salt. As a reference, we did not add extra salt to ours.

 

Serve the soup with a piece of crusty bread or a side of white rice, if desired.

A close up image of a spoon lifting a helping of the split pea soup.

 

If you’re a fan of soups you may like these:

 

The chicharos served in a large, white bowl.
Print Recipe
5 from 2 votes

Sopa de Chicharos (Cuban Split Pea Soup)

This Cuban style split pea soup is called sopa de chicharos, potaje de chicharos, or simply chicharos in Spanish. It’s a thick soup that’s loaded with split peas, vegetables and smoked pork.
Prep Time30 mins
Cook Time1 hr 15 mins
Total Time1 hr 45 mins
Course: Soup
Cuisine: Cuban
Keyword: split peas
Servings: 6
Calories: 553kcal
Author: Elizabeth

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 1 Medium Yellow Onion finely diced
  • 2 Medium Carrots diced
  • 1 Celery Rib diced
  • 3-4 Garlic Cloves minced
  • ½ teaspoon Dried Oregano
  • ¼ teaspoon Cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon Black Pepper
  • 1-1½ pound Smoked Ham Shanks Ham Hocks or a meaty Ham Bone
  • 6 cups Chicken Broth
  • 1 Bay Leaf
  • 12 ounces Dried Green or Yellow Split Peas sorted, rinsed and soaked
  • 1 Large Potato 10-12 ounces, peeled and cut into ½-1 inch pieces
  • Salt to taste if needed

Instructions

  • Sort, rinse and soak the split peas for approximately 20-30 minutes while you prep the rest of the ingredients.
  • Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. When the oil is hot, but not smoking, add the onions, carrots and celery. Cook gently for 5 minutes, stirring frequently.
  • Add the garlic, oregano, cumin and black pepper to the pot. Cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly.
  • Add the ham shanks, chicken broth and the bay leaf to the pot. Stir well.
  • Drain the split peas using a mesh strainer. Add them to the pot and raise the heat to high. When the broth comes to a boil, lower the heat to medium-low and cover the pot.
  • Cook the soup for 40 minutes. Keep the broth at a simmer. If it’s boiling too vigorously, lower the heat a bit. Stir occasionally.
  • Remove the ham from the pot and set it on a cutting board to cool.
  • Add the diced potatoes to the soup. If you were keeping them in water make sure to drain before adding them in. Cover the pot and continue cooking.
  • When the ham is cool enough to handle, remove and discard the fatty skin and bones. Chop the meat, return it to the pot and stir well.
  • Cover the pot and continue cooking until the potatoes are fork tender, stirring occasionally. This should take 20-25 minutes.
  • As the split peas fall apart the soup will thicken. Stir it more often, making sure to get to the bottom of the pot to prevent sticking. It may also be necessary to knock the heat down just a bit if it’s boiling too vigorously.
  • Remove the bay leaf from the pot and discard. Taste the chicharos and add salt if needed. As a reference, we did not add extra salt to ours.
  • Serve the soup with a piece of crusty bread or a side of white rice, if desired.

Video

Notes

If the soup is too thick: Add about ¼ cup of water or chicken broth at a time, stir and decide if more is needed. Keep in mind that the soup will thicken further as it cools.

Nutrition

Calories: 553kcal | Carbohydrates: 40g | Protein: 40g | Fat: 26g | Saturated Fat: 8g | Cholesterol: 95mg | Sodium: 1108mg | Potassium: 1180mg | Fiber: 16g | Sugar: 6g | Vitamin A: 3511IU | Vitamin C: 21mg | Calcium: 82mg | Iron: 5mg
The nutritional information above is computer generated and is only an estimate. There is no guarantee that it is accurate.This data is provided as a courtesy for informational purposes only.


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