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Cuban Split Pea Soup

Cuban Split Pea Soup

This Cuban style split pea soup, or potaje de chicharos in Spanish, is a thick soup that’s loaded with vegetables and smoked pork.

 

In this recipe, yellow split peas are cooked with onions, carrots, celery, garlic, potatoes and smoked ham shanks to make a delicious, filling and affordable meal your family will love.

 

If you’re looking for more Cuban style meals, try the classic chicken fricassee, or this ropa vieja, which is shredded beef cooked in a delicious tomato sauce.

 

These Cuban style pork chops and this pollo en salsa are quick and easy recipes that are great for weeknight dinners!

 

What’s a potaje?

In Cuban cuisine, a potaje refers to a thick soup, usually made with vegetables and beans. Potajes are typically served as a stand-alone soup, or as a side dish with white rice and a protein.

 

In this recipe the potaje is made with chicharos (split peas). But there are other popular Cuban potajes that are just as delicious, including potaje de frijoles colorados (red beans) and potaje de lentejas (lentils).

 

Should we 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 very similar taste. Some say yellow is sweeter, some say green is sweeter. Overall, they’re the same.

 

I prefer the yellow split peas. I find the color of the finished soup much more appealing and the flavor is wonderful.

Cuban split pea soup served in a large black bowl.

 

To make this potaje de chicharos you will need

12 ounces of Yellow Split Peas

1 pound of Smoked Ham Shanks, or Ham Hocks

2 tablespoons of Olive Oil

1 Medium Yellow Onion, finely diced

2 Medium Sized Carrot, small dice

1 Celery Rib, finely diced

3-4 Garlic Cloves, minced

½ teaspoon Dried Oregano

¼ teaspoon Cumin

1 Bay Leaf

6 cups Chicken Broth

1 Large Potato (about 12 ounces), peeled and cut into ½ inch cubes

A pinch or two of Black Pepper

Salt, to taste (we added about ½ teaspoon at the end)

 

Sort the Split Peas

Before starting the prep work, pour the split peas in a large bowl and sort through them. Look for foreign objects like small rocks.

 

Don’t skip this step. Despite great processing practices, small stones and other foreign objects still make it into the packaged product.

 

Rinse the split peas well. Then cover them with water and let them soak while you get the rest of the ingredients ready.

 

Prep Work

We’re going to start the split pea soup by sautéing onions, carrots and celery in a little olive oil. This combination of vegetables is called a mirepoix, and it makes a great base for soups and stews.

 

Then we are going to build flavor by adding garlic, spices and of course, smoked ham.

 

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

 

Dice the onions, carrots and celery. Mince the garlic and measure out the spices. Peel and dice the potatoes and keep them in a bowl covered with cold water so they don’t start to brown.

 

Smoked meat tends to be salty. Rinse the ham shanks with cold water to control some of the salt.

 

Alright, now we’re ready to cook!

The ingredients for the Cuban split pea soup arranged on a wood cutting board

 

Start the split pea soup

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 the vegetables gently for 5 minutes, stirring frequently.

 

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

 

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

 

Drain the split peas using a mesh strainer. I’ve used a spaghetti strainer before and those tiny peas get stuck in the holes. Use a mesh strainer and spare yourself the frustration!

 

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.

 

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.

 

Finish the split pea soup

Remove the ham hocks from the soup and set them on a cutting board to cool. Then add the diced potatoes to the soup. Make sure you drain the water first. Cover the pot and continue cooking.

 

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

 

Continue to cook the soup until the potatoes are fork tender. This should take 20-25 minutes.

 

Stir the soup more often as it thickens. Make sure you’re stirring at the bottom, to prevent sticking. It may also be necessary to knock the heat down just a bit if it’s boiling too vigorously.

 

Season and serve

Taste the potaje de chicharos and add salt (if needed) and pepper. It’s best to hold off on adding extra salt to this soup until the end, since the chicken broth and the smoked ham both contain salt. As a reference, we added about ½ teaspoon to our potaje de chicharos.

 

Remove the bay leaf from the pot and discard.

 

Serve this delicious soup with a piece of crusty bread or a side of white rice, if desired. Serves 6

Cuban split pea soup served in a large black bowl.

 

If you’re a fan of soups check out this collection of Cuban soups. There’s sure to be something for all tastes.

A collage of five Cuban soups, from left to right: ajiaco, crema de malanga, sopa de res, Cuban chicken soup and Cuban corn stew.

 

Cuban Split Pea Soup served in a large black bowl.
Print Recipe
5 from 1 vote

Cuban Split Pea Soup (Potaje de Chicharos)

This Cuban style split pea soup, or potaje de chicharos in Spanish, is a thick soup that’s loaded with vegetables and smoked pork.
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time1 hr 15 mins
Total Time1 hr 30 mins
Course: Soup
Cuisine: Cuban
Keyword: split peas, yellow split pea soup
Servings: 6
Calories: 477kcal

Ingredients

  • 12 ounces Yellow Split Peas
  • 1 pound Smoked Ham Shanks or Ham Hocks
  • 2 tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 1 Medium Yellow Onion finely diced
  • 2 Medium Sized Carrot small dice
  • 1 Celery Rib finely diced
  • 3-4 Garlic Cloves minced
  • ½ teaspoon Dried Oregano
  • ¼ teaspoon Cumin
  • 1 Bay Leaf
  • 6 cups Chicken Broth
  • 1 Large Potato about 12 ounces, peeled and cut into ½ inch cubes
  • A pinch or two of Black Pepper
  • Salt to taste (we added about ½ teaspoon at the end)

Instructions

Sort the Split Peas

  • Pour the split peas in a large bowl and sort through them. Look for foreign objects like small rocks.
  • Rinse the split peas well. Then cover them with water and let them soak while you get the rest of the ingredients ready.

Prep Work

  • Dice the onions, carrots and celery. Mince the garlic and measure out the spices. Peel and dice the potatoes and keep them in a bowl covered with cold water so they don’t start to brown.
  • Rinse the ham shanks with cold water.

Start the split pea soup

  • 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 the vegetables gently for 5 minutes, stirring frequently.
  • Add the garlic, cumin and oregano to the pot.
  • Cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly.
  • Next, add the ham shanks, chicken broth and the bay leaf to the pot. Give everything a good stir.
  • Drain the split peas using a mesh strainer.
  • 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.
  • 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.

Finish the split pea soup

  • Remove the ham hocks from the soup and set them on a cutting board to cool.
  • Then add the diced potatoes to the soup. Make sure you drain the water first. Cover the pot and continue cooking.
  • When the ham shanks are cool enough to handle, remove and discard the fatty skin and bones.
  • Chop the meat, return it to the pot and stir well.
  • Continue to cook the soup until the potatoes are fork tender. This should take 20-25 minutes.
  • Stir the soup more often as it thickens. Make sure you’re stirring at the bottom, to prevent sticking. It may also be necessary to knock the heat down just a bit if it’s boiling too vigorously.

Season and serve

  • Taste the potaje de chicharos and add salt (if needed) and pepper.
  • Remove the bay leaf from the pot and discard.
  • Serve the soup with a piece of crusty bread or a side of white rice, if desired.

Nutrition

Calories: 477kcal | Carbohydrates: 44g | Protein: 32g | Fat: 19g | Saturated Fat: 5g | Cholesterol: 63mg | Sodium: 1038mg | Potassium: 1219mg | Fiber: 16g | Sugar: 6g | Vitamin A: 70.2% | Vitamin C: 30% | Calcium: 8.7% | Iron: 29.4%
All data provided here is for informational purposes only. This information is provided as a courtesy and there is no guarantee that it is accurate.

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