This yellow split pea soup is hearty, wholesome and delicious. In this recipe, yellow split peas, bacon and vegetables combine to make more than a soup, it’s a meal.
Split pea soup doesn’t take very long to make. Split peas are like lentils, they cook quickly (by bean standards anyway). In our Cuban split pea soup recipe we use ham shanks and simmer them in the soup. But for this yellow split pea soup we use bacon instead of ham shanks, cutting the cooking time a little.
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What is the difference between yellow and 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. I find the flavor of the yellow split peas to be milder and sweeter.
- Bacon – Use regular sliced bacon but don’t use anything sweet (like maple). If you use thick slice or thin slice make sure to adjust the cooking time.
- Vegetables – Onions, carrots, celery, garlic and a potato make this yellow split pea soup not only flavorful but wholesome and filling.
- Seasoning and spices – This split pea soup is simply seasoned with cumin, oregano, black pepper, a bay leaf and salt (if needed at the end).
- Broth – We use chicken broth, since the split pea soup has bacon there’s no point in using vegetable broth, but if it’s what you have on hand then use it.
- Yellow Split Peas – sorted, rinsed and soaked briefly
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 and small rocks, discolored or misshapen beans.
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, place them in a bowl, cover with water and let them soak while you get the rest of the ingredients ready.
The best way to rinse split peas is to pour them in a large, mesh strainer and run them under cold water until the water runs clear. I’ve used my pasta colander in the past and those tiny peas get stuck in the holes. Use a mesh strainer and spare yourself the aggravation!
Things will move quickly at the start of this soup. It’s best to have everything ready to go before you start cooking.
- Cut the bacon into ½ – 1 inch pieces. Use kitchen shears to cut the bacon, it’s quicker and easier than chopping.
- 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 bay leaf and chicken broth.
- The potatoes don’t go in until the end. You can prep them now or later. Peel and dice the potatoes. Keep them in a bowl covered with cold water to slow down the browning process.
Alright, now we’re ready to cook!
- Add the bacon to a large, heavy pot (we used a 6 quart Dutch oven) over medium heat. Cook the bacon, stirring frequently, until crispy.
- If the bacon rendered too much grease remove some before adding the vegetables. The easiest way to do this is to: take the pot off the heat, mound the bacon to one side and gently tip the pot so that the drippings pool on the other side of the bacon. Use a ladle or spoon to scoop out some (not all) of the bacon grease.
- Add the onions, carrots and celery to the pot and cook the vegetables gently until the onions start to soften.
- Next, add the garlic, oregano, cumin and black pepper to the pot.
- Add the chicken broth and the bay leaf to the pot. Give everything a good stir and gently scrape any bits on the bottom of the pot.
- 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.
- Simmer the soup to let the flavors develop and combine. Give the soup a good stir occasionally especially as it thickens.
- Finally, add the diced potatoes to the pot. Cover the soup and cook until the yellow split peas break apart and the potatoes are fork tender.
Tips to make the best yellow split pea soup
- It’s best to hold off on adding extra salt to this soup since the bacon and pre-packaged broth both contain salt. As a reference, we did not add extra salt to ours.
- Stir the yellow split pea soup with bacon only occasionally at first. As the split peas fall apart the soup will thicken and you will need to stir more often.
- Make sure to get to the bottom of the pot while stirring to prevent sticking. It may also be necessary to lower the heat if it’s boiling too vigorously.
- This is a thick soup. But if it’s too thick for your liking then add water or chicken broth until it loosens. Don’t add too much liquid at one time. Add about ¼ cup, stir and decide if you need more. Taste and adjust the salt, if needed.
Season and serve
Remove the bay leaf from the pot and discard. Taste the soup and add salt, if needed.
Serve the soup with warm, crusty bread, crackers, white rice or on its own.
Storing and reheating
Store the split pea and bacon soup in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3-4 days.
To freeze the soup, allow it to cool so it’s not piping hot. Place it in airtight containers; remember to leave room for expansion when the soup freezes. Place the soup in the refrigerator to let it cool further, and then move it to the freezer. Freeze the soup for about 3 months.
Reheat the soup in a saucepan over medium to medium-low heat. Add 2-3 tablespoons of chicken broth or water and stir. Once the soup stars warming and you can gauge how thick it will be, add more liquid until it reaches the desired consistency and is hot.
You may also like:
- Bacon Lentil Soup
- Chickpea Soup
- Lentil Sausage Soup
- Lentil and Andouille Sausage Soup
- Navy Bean Soup
- Cuban Ajiaco
Yellow Split Pea Soup
- 8 ounces Bacon cut into ½ – 1 inch pieces (about 6 regular strips)
- 1 Medium Onion finely diced (use yellow or white onion)
- 2 Medium Carrots diced
- 1 Celery Rib diced
- 4-5 Garlic Cloves minced
- ½ teaspoon Dried Oregano
- ¼ teaspoon Cumin
- ¼ teaspoon Black Pepper
- 6 cups Chicken Broth
- 1 Bay Leaf
- 14 ounces Dried Yellow Split Peas sorted, rinsed and soaked
- 1 Medium Potato about 8 ounces, peeled and cut into ½-1 inch pieces
- Salt to taste if needed at the end
- Sort, rinse and soak the split peas for approximately 10-15 minutes while you prep the rest of the ingredients.
- Add the bacon to a large, heavy pot over medium heat. Cook the bacon until crispy, approximately 10-12 minutes, stir frequently. If the bacon rendered too much grease remove some before adding the vegetables but leave 1-2 tablespoons in the pot.
- Next, add the onions, carrots and celery. Cook the vegetables gently for 3-4 minutes, stirring frequently.
- Add the garlic, oregano, cumin and black pepper to the pot. Cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly.
- Add the chicken broth and the bay leaf to the pot. Stir well while gently scraping any bits off the bottom of the pot.
- Drain the split peas well. Add them to the pot and raise the heat to high. When the broth comes to a boil (it will take about 5 minutes), lower the heat to medium-low and cover the pot.
- Cook the soup (covered) for 25 minutes. Keep the broth at a simmer. If it’s boiling too vigorously, lower the heat a bit. If it’s not simmering raise the heat. Stir occasionally.
- Add the potatoes to the pot. If you were keeping them in water remember to drain them before adding them in. Cover the soup and continue cooking for 15-20 minutes until the split peas break apart and the potatoes are fork tender.
- Stir the soup occasionally at first, and as the soup thickens stir more often. As the split peas fall apart the soup will thicken. It may also be necessary to lower the heat if it’s boiling too vigorously.
Season and serve
- Remove the bay leaf from the pot and discard.
- Taste the soup 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, crackers, rice or on its own.
- 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. Taste again and add salt if needed.
- The best way to drain the split peas is to use a large, mesh strainer.