Pea soup, a culinary delight imbued with tradition and flavor, opens up a world where simplicity and sophistication intertwine. Each simmering pot tells a tale, with each spoonful offering a glimpse into a cherished past.
Savory, hearty, and warming pea soup bridges cuisines, cultures, and generations. Yet, it remains a personal journey where home cooks infuse their unique flair. As you embark on creating this comforting dish, your kitchen becomes a culinary playground.
The process is as rewarding as the taste, from the first sizzle of aromatic vegetables to the final sprinkle of fresh herbs. It’s not merely about filling bowls with soup; it’s about crafting memories and a tangible expression of love.
Pea soup is an invitation to discover, explore, and savor a time-honored classic. So, are you ready to be a part of this vibrant and flavorful narrative?
What Is Pea Soup?
Pea soup is a comforting and nourishing dish made primarily from peas, usually split peas, which have a natural creaminess when cooked. Aromatic vegetables like onions, carrots, and celery are often included, along with herbs and spices, for flavor.
The soup can be pureed for a smooth texture or left chunky, depending on preference. It’s globally popular with variations across cultures, from the smoky ham-infused version in the United States to the vegetarian variant in India.
It’s a staple comfort food, enjoyed for its simplicity and heartiness.
History Of Pea Soup
Pea soup traces its roots back to antiquity, with variations found in diverse cultures worldwide. The Greeks and Romans appreciated it for its ease of cultivation and storage, often selling it in their street food stalls.
Over the centuries, it became a staple in Europe, particularly in Britain and France, with “pease porridge” frequently mentioned in old literature.
Its popularity grew in Scandinavia, where Sweden’s ärtsoppa remains a traditional Thursday meal. Early settlers introduced it in the Americas, and it has become synonymous with Canadian and American comfort food, often including ham or pork for added flavor.
- Thursday Soup: In Sweden, pea soup, known as ärtsoppa, is traditionally served on Thursdays, a custom dating back to the Middle Ages. This practice also extends to the Swedish Armed Forces.
- Literary Mention: Pea soup is famously referenced in the nursery rhyme, “Pease Porridge Hot,” illustrating its long-standing presence in British cuisine.
- Sailors’ Staple: Historically, pea soup was a staple among sailors. It could be easily stored and cooked in large quantities, providing sustenance during long voyages.
- Yellow or Green: The soup can be green or yellow depending on the type of peas used. Both types are common, with green split peas often used in North America and yellow in Europe.
- Health Powerhouse: Pea soup is high in protein and fiber, making it a nutritious and filling option. Due to its beneficial properties, it’s often part of a detox or health-focused diet.
What Makes The Pea Soup Special?
What makes pea soup special is its universal appeal and ability to reflect cultural nuances. Rooted in a humble ingredient – peas – it is a masterclass in simplicity and comfort.
Yet, it’s versatile enough to take on flavors from around the globe, from the smoky, ham-laden bowls in North America to the spiced, vegan versions in parts of Asia.
Nutritionally, it’s a powerhouse, rich in protein and fiber, which adds to its charm. Pea soup also has a unique, naturally creamy texture when cooked, even without adding cream or milk.
Moreover, it connects to the past, present in many culinary traditions for centuries, sometimes referenced in folklore and literature.
|Shallots (medium), finely chopped||2|
|Fresh shelled green peas||3 cups|
|Whipping cream (optional)||3 tablespoons|
- The Peas: Always start with high-quality, dry split peas. They don’t require soaking and break down beautifully to provide that signature creamy texture.
- Herbs & Spices: Classic herbs like bay leaf, thyme, or rosemary can be used. Spices like cumin or turmeric could add an interesting depth of flavor in non-traditional versions.
- Liquid: Use a good quality vegetable or chicken stock. Homemade is best, but if you’re using store-bought, go for low-sodium so you can control the salt level.
- Protein: If you’re using ham or bacon, smoked is best. The smoky flavor infuses the soup, adding a wonderful flavor dimension. Consider adding smoked paprika for a hint of smokiness for a vegetarian version.
- Finishing Touches: A splash of vinegar or a squeeze of lemon juice at the end of cooking can brighten up the flavors. Also, remember to garnish. Fresh herbs, a swirl of cream, or even some crunchy croutons can add a delightful finishing touch.
Can You Vary The Recipe With Other Ingredients?
Pea soup is a versatile dish that can easily accommodate dietary preferences and restrictions:
- Keto: While split peas are not typically keto-friendly due to their carb content, you can create a keto version by substituting peas with lower-carb vegetables like zucchini or broccoli, and adding a higher fat content with cream or a generous dollop of sour cream.
- Paleo: Traditional pea soup is already paleo-friendly, provided you skip any added sugars or dairy. You might also opt for a meat-free version or use compliant sausage or bacon.
- Gluten-Free: Pea soup is naturally gluten-free. Just ensure that any stock or broth you use is also gluten-free, as some brands may contain gluten.
- Whole30: To make a Whole30 pea soup, avoid legumes (including peas) and dairy. A good alternative could be a creamy vegetable soup with compliant sausage or chicken for protein.
- Vegetarian and Vegan: To make your pea soup vegetarian or vegan, simply omit any meat. Use vegetable stock/broth instead of chicken or beef. For a creamy vegan version, blend cooked peas with vegetable broth, sautéed onion, and garlic. To add flavor, consider adding smoked paprika or liquid smoke.
- Melt the butter over medium heat in a large saucepan or soup pot. Add the chopped shallots and cook until they become soft and translucent, about 3-4 minutes.
- Pour in the water and add the peas to the pot—season with salt, pepper, dried thyme, and garlic powder. Stir everything together, and bring the mixture to a boil.
- Once boiling, reduce the heat to low and let the soup simmer uncovered until the peas are tender. This should take about 10-15 minutes if you’re using fresh peas or slightly longer for frozen peas.
- Once the peas are cooked, remove the soup from the heat and allow it to cool slightly. Using an immersion blender or regular blender, carefully puree the soup until smooth. Work in batches to avoid overfilling the blender jar if using a regular blender.
- Place a fine-mesh strainer over the saucepan and strain the pureed soup back into the pot. This step will remove any fibrous bits and ensure a smooth consistency.
- If desired, stir in the heavy cream to add richness and a creamy texture to the soup. Return the saucepan to low heat and gently reheat the soup, stirring occasionally. Be careful not to let it boil after adding the cream to prevent curdling.
- Taste the soup and adjust the seasonings as needed. Add more salt, pepper, or any other seasonings you prefer.
- It is ready to serve once the soup is heated and well-seasoned. Ladle the soup into bowls and garnish with chopped fresh parsley if desired. Serve hot, and enjoy!
Variations, Add-Ons, And Toppings
Pea soup can be easily adapted to suit different palates and diets. Here are some exciting variations, add-ons, and toppings:
- Meaty Twist: Add diced ham, bacon, or smoked sausage during the cooking process for a hearty, smoky flavor.
- Vegetarian Delight: For a vegetarian version, add diced potatoes or chunks of carrots for added texture and flavor.
- Spiced Up: For an Indian twist, you could add spices like cumin, turmeric, and a hint of chili powder.
- Protein Boost: Stir in shredded chicken, diced tofu, or cooked lentils for added protein.
- Vitamin Kick: Add a handful of spinach or kale just before blending for a nutritional boost and a vibrant green color.
- Creamy Delight: Add a swirl of cream, yogurt, or coconut milk for a richer soup.
- Crunch Factor: Top with croutons, roasted nuts, or pumpkin seeds for a delightful crunch.
- Fresh and Zesty: A squeeze of lemon juice or a sprinkle of lemon zest can add a fresh, tangy contrast to the creamy soup.
- Herb Garnish: Sprinkle with fresh herbs like mint, parsley, or dill just before serving.
- Cheese Topping: A sprinkle of shredded cheese or a spoonful of ricotta can add a delicious finishing touch.
Scaling The Recipe
Scaling a soup recipe like pea soup is relatively straightforward. The general rule of thumb is to increase or decrease all ingredients proportionally, maintaining the same ratio to ensure balanced flavors.
- If you wish to double the recipe, multiply all the ingredients by two. For instance, if the recipe calls for 1 cup of split peas and 4 cups of water for 4 servings, and you want to make it for 8 people, you would use 2 cups of split peas and 8 cups of water.
- Remember also to increase the size of your cooking pot accordingly to accommodate the larger quantity.
- If you wish to make less soup, you can halve the recipe. For example, for 2 servings, you would use 1/2 cup of split peas and 2 cups of water.
- However, be aware that certain elements, such as cooking times, might not scale down perfectly when reducing a recipe. Smaller quantities may cook slightly faster, so keep an eye on your pot and start testing for doneness a little earlier.
What Is Used For Garnishing?
Garnishing a pea soup can add an extra touch of flavor, texture, and visual appeal. Here are some commonly used garnishes:
- Fresh Herbs: Freshly chopped herbs such as parsley, mint, dill, or chives can add a pop of color and a burst of freshness.
- Cream or Yogurt: A swirl of cream or a dollop of yogurt can add a touch of richness and create a beautiful contrast in the green soup.
- Croutons or Bread: Croutons or a slice of crusty bread on the side can add a delightful crunch.
- Cheese: A sprinkle of shredded cheese or a spoonful of crumbled feta or goat cheese can add a creamy, tangy contrast.
- Bacon or Ham: If the soup is not vegetarian, a sprinkle of crispy bacon bits or diced ham can add a savory, smoky touch.
- Seeds or Nuts: Roasted pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, or toasted almonds can add a bit of crunch and a nutty flavor.
- Olive Oil or Infused Oil: A drizzle of good quality olive or flavored oil, such as truffle oil, can add a luxurious finish.
- Spices: A light sprinkle of spices like smoked paprika, black pepper, or chili flakes can add a hint of heat and complexity.
Can I Make Soup Name In A Slow Cooker Or Instant Pot?
Pea soup can definitely be made in either a slow cooker or an Instant Pot. These appliances make the soup-making process even more effortless. Here’s how:
- Begin by sautéing your shallots in a pan over medium heat until they’re soft and translucent. Transfer them to the slow cooker.
- Add the peas, water, and seasonings into the slow cooker, stirring to combine.
- Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours, or high for 3-4 hours, until the peas are tender.
- Once cooked, use an immersion blender to puree the soup right in the cooker or carefully transfer it to a regular blender in batches. If you prefer a smoother consistency, strain the soup after blending.
- Stir in the cream (if using), taste, and adjust the seasonings. Serve hot.
- Use the sauté function on your Instant Pot to cook the shallots until they’re soft and translucent.
- Add the peas, water, and seasonings to the pot, stirring to combine.
- Secure the lid and set the pressure release to sealing. Cook on high pressure for 15 minutes, then let the pressure release naturally for 10 minutes before quick-releasing any remaining pressure.
- Puree the soup using an immersion blender or in a regular blender in batches. If you prefer a smoother consistency, strain the soup after blending.
- Stir in the cream (if using), taste, and adjust the seasonings. Serve hot.
Can I Use Store Broth, Or Should I Make My Own?
Both options work well and largely depend on your personal preference and the time you have at hand.
- Store-Bought Broth
This is a convenient and time-saving option. When shopping for store-bought broth, aim for low-sodium versions so you can control the salt content in your soup. Always check the ingredients to ensure there are no additives or ingredients you might be sensitive to.
The flavor of store-bought broths varies significantly between brands, so you should try a few to find your favorite.
- Homemade Broth
Making your own broth allows you to control the ingredients and flavor. It’s a great way to use up vegetable scraps or leftover bones. Homemade broth often has a fresher, deeper flavor than store-bought versions.
However, it does require more time and planning. If you make broth regularly, consider making it in large batches and freezing it in portion-sized containers for future use.
Can I Use Different Types Of Meat/Fish/Pasta/Vegetables For The Soup?
Pea soup is a versatile dish and can easily be adapted to incorporate various types of meat, fish, pasta, and vegetables. Here are a few possibilities:
- Meat: While ham is a common addition to pea soup, you could also use other types of meat. Smoked sausage, diced bacon, or even shredded chicken could add a different flavor profile and texture.
- Fish: Though less common, you could certainly add fish to pea soup. Smoked fish like haddock or salmon could complement the creamy texture and mild flavor of the peas.
- Pasta: Small pasta shapes like ditalini, orzo, or small shells could be cooked directly in the soup to make it more filling. Remember that pasta will absorb some of the liquid, so you may need to adjust the amount of broth or water accordingly.
- Vegetables: Besides the classic additions of onions, carrots, and celery, many other vegetables work well in pea soup. Consider adding diced potatoes, turnips, or parsnips for extra heartiness. For a pop of color and nutrition, leafy greens like spinach or kale could be stirred in right at the end of cooking.
Success Tips – Tips And Tricks For Making Soup
Making a great soup isn’t just about following a recipe but also about understanding a few fundamental principles. Here are some tips and tricks that can take your soup from good to great:
- Quality Ingredients: Start with the best ingredients you can find. Fresh, high-quality ingredients can significantly elevate the flavor of your soup.
- Prep Ahead: Chop all your ingredients before you start cooking. This is especially important for soup, where ingredients often must be added quickly.
- Uniform Chopping: Try to chop ingredients in uniform sizes. This ensures they cook evenly.
- Layer Flavors: Begin by sautéing aromatic vegetables (like onions, garlic, celery, and carrots) to build a flavor base. Adding herbs and spices at this stage can also intensify their flavor.
- Deglaze the Pot: If bits of food are stuck to the bottom of the pot after sautéing, add a splash of wine, broth, or even water, and scrape the bottom as the liquid simmers. These bits are packed with flavor and will incorporate into the soup.
- Simmer Gently: Soups should be simmered gently, not boiled vigorously. A slow simmer can help meld the flavors together without making the ingredients challenging or the soup cloudy.
- Adjust Seasonings: Season your soup in stages – start with a small amount, then adjust as necessary toward the end of cooking.
- Blending Soups: When blending hot soup, be cautious. Only fill the blender halfway, start on a low speed, and hold the lid down with a towel for safety.
Pea soup and broccoli cheddar soup can be nutritious choices, with pea soup typically providing more dietary fiber and lower fat content. Enjoy these delicious soup as part of a balanced and wholesome meal!
What Are The Total Calories In The Pea Soup?
The total calorie content in pea soup can vary depending on the exact ingredients and their quantities used in the recipe. On average, a one-cup serving of homemade pea soup can have around 150-200 calories.
Adding elements like cream or meat (such as ham or sausage) will increase the calorie count. Conversely, a simpler version made with just peas, vegetables, and water or vegetable broth will likely be on the lower end of the calorie range.
Dietary Restrictions Of Pea Soup
Pea soup is fairly adaptable and can often be modified to suit various dietary restrictions. Here are some considerations:
- Low-Fat: You can omit any added cream or use a lower-fat alternative for a lower-fat version.
- Allergies: Pea soup is typically free of common allergens like nuts, soy and eggs. However, always check the ingredients of any store-bought items, and be aware of any potential cross-contamination if you’re cooking for someone with severe allergies.
Health Benefits Of Pea Soup
Pea soup has numerous health benefits, largely due to its main ingredient, peas. Here are some of the key benefits:
- High in Fiber: Peas are a great source of dietary fiber, which can aid digestion, help maintain healthy blood sugar levels, and promote feelings of fullness.
- Protein-Rich: Peas contain a decent amount of protein, which is vital for building and repairing tissues in the body.
- Heart Health: The fiber and potassium in peas can contribute to heart health by helping to reduce cholesterol levels and maintain healthy blood pressure.
- Weight Management: Due to its high fiber and protein content, pea soup can keep you feeling full and satisfied, which could help with weight management.
- Immunity Boost: Peas’ high vitamin C content can help boost your immune system.
How Can I Make Pea Soup Lower In Sodium?
Reducing sodium in your pea soup can be achieved through a few simple modifications:
- Use Low-Sodium or No-Sodium Broth: Opt for low-sodium or no-sodium versions if you’re using store-bought broth. Alternatively, making your own broth at home allows you to control the amount of salt used.
- Limit Added Salt: Be mindful of how much salt you add during cooking. Remember, you can always add more at the end if needed, but you can’t remove it once it’s there.
- Rinse Canned Peas: If you’re using canned peas instead of dried ones, rinse them under cold water before adding them to the soup. This can remove some of the added sodium.
- Avoid or Limit Processed Meats: Processed meats, like ham or bacon, can be high in sodium. Limit their use, opt for low-sodium versions, or replace them with fresh meat.
- Enhance Flavor without Salt: Boost flavor with herbs, spices, and aromatics like garlic, onion, and celery. Acidic ingredients like a squeeze of lemon juice or a splash of vinegar can also enhance flavor without adding sodium.
How Can I Make Pea Soup Lower In Sugar?
Pea soup, when made from scratch, is generally relatively low in sugar as it primarily consists of peas, vegetables, broth, and seasonings, none of which are significant sources of sugar. However, if you’re looking to minimize the sugar content even further, consider the following tips:
- Avoid Canned Ingredients: Some canned ingredients, especially tomatoes, can contain added sugar. Always read labels if you’re using any canned goods, and opt for those without added sugar.
- Choose Low-Sugar Broths: If you’re using store-bought broth or stock, ensure it doesn’t contain added sugar. Some brands may add sugar or other sweeteners to their products.
- Limit or Avoid Sweet Vegetables: Certain vegetables, like carrots or sweet onions, can add a small amount of sugar to the soup. If you’re aiming for the lowest sugar content possible, limit these ingredients.
- No Added Sweeteners: Avoid recipes that call for added sweeteners like sugar or honey. While these are not common in traditional pea soup recipes, some variations might include them.
- Homemade is Best: When you make the soup at home, you control the ingredients and can ensure no unnecessary sugars are added.
How To Serve The Pea Soup In The Best Way?
Pea soup is a versatile dish that can be served in a variety of ways, depending on the occasion, personal preferences, and what you have on hand. Here are some serving suggestions:
- Bread on the Side: A piece of crusty bread or a roll makes a delightful companion to a bowl of pea soup. It adds a contrasting texture and is perfect for dipping.
- With a Salad: A light, fresh salad can contrast the rich, creamy soup. A simple green salad or a tangy coleslaw would work well.
- As a Starter: Pea soup can be served as a warming starter before a main course. If serving in this way, keep portion sizes smaller.
- In a Soup & Sandwich Combo: Pair a cup of pea soup with a half sandwich for a satisfying lunch. Consider a delightful combination of classic grilled cheese or a ham and cheese sandwich.
- Soup Bar: If serving to a crowd, consider setting up a soup bar with different toppings like shredded cheese, chopped herbs, and croutons, allowing guests to customize their own bowl of soup.
Perfect Side Dishes To Complement pea soup
Choosing the perfect side dish for pea soup depends on your preferences, but the goal should be to provide a contrast or complement to the soup’s creamy texture and mild flavor. Here are some options:
- Crusty Bread: A slice of fresh, crusty bread like a baguette or a hearty whole grain loaf is a simple and classic companion to any soup, perfect for dipping and soaking up the flavorful broth.
- Grilled Cheese Sandwich: Elevate your soup-and-sandwich combo with grilled cheese. The melted cheese and toasted bread offer an excellent contrast to the creamy soup.
- Green Salad: A light, fresh salad with a zesty vinaigrette can balance out the heartiness of the soup. You could go with a simple green salad or something with a bit of crunch, like a cucumber and radish salad.
- Pita Chips or Crackers: For a bit of crunch, serve your soup with a side of pita chips or whole grain crackers
- Quiche or Frittata: A slice of quiche or frittata can pair nicely with the soup for a more substantial meal. Choose one with flavors that complement the soup, like a simple cheese or a more complex spinach and feta.
How Long Can We Store The Pea Soup?
To freeze pea soup, let it cool down completely before transferring it to freezer-safe containers or bags. Try to fill the containers nearly completely, but leave some space to expand as the soup freezes.
Once frozen, pea soup can be safely stored for 4 to 6 months. While it can remain safe indefinitely if kept continuously frozen at 0°F, its quality might start to degrade after this point.
To reheat, thaw the soup overnight in the refrigerator (if frozen), then reheat on the stove over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until hot. You can also reheat in the microwave in a microwave-safe dish.
If the soup is too thick after reheating, you can thin it with a bit of water or broth. Remember always to ensure the soup is heated thoroughly before consuming.
Can I Make Pea Soup In Advance?
Pea soup is an excellent candidate for making in advance. Many soup recipes, including pea soup, taste even better the next day as the flavors have had more time to meld together.
Here’s how to do it:
- Prepare the Soup: Follow your recipe to prepare the soup, then allow it to cool completely.
- Store: Transfer the cooled soup to an airtight container and store it in the refrigerator. As mentioned earlier, it should last 3 to 4 days in the refrigerator.
- Reheat: When you’re ready to serve, reheat the soup over medium heat on the stove, stirring occasionally to ensure even heating. If the soup seems too thick, add a little water or broth to thin it to your preferred consistency.
What Can We Do With Leftovers?
Leftover pea soup is incredibly versatile and can be repurposed into several delicious dishes:
- Vegetable Puree: Use it as a puree to serve under grilled or roasted meats or vegetables for a sophisticated presentation.
- Pasta Sauce: Heat it up until it thickens slightly, and use it as a sauce for pasta. Add some parmesan and fresh herbs for extra flavor.
- Pot Pie Filling: Mix it with cooked vegetables and maybe some diced chicken or turkey, then top with pie crust or puff pastry for a quick and easy pot pie.
- Frittata Base: Stir it into whisked eggs and cook to make a frittata. Add cheese and your favorite vegetables for a complete meal.
- Grain Bowl Component: Use it as a flavorful addition to grain bowls. It can provide moisture and flavor, replacing the need for a dressing or sauce.
Special Tools/Equipment Needed
Cooking pea soup doesn’t require any special tools, and you can make a delicious soup using basic kitchen equipment. Here are the key tools you’ll need:
- Large Pot or Dutch Oven: You’ll need a large pot or Dutch oven to cook the soup. A heavy-bottomed pot is best as it distributes heat more evenly and helps prevent the soup from scorching at the bottom.
- Sharp Knife and Cutting Board: These are essential for chopping vegetables.
- Wooden Spoon: This is useful for stirring the ingredients together and ensuring they don’t stick to the bottom of the pot.
- Blender or Immersion Blender: Once the peas are cooked, you must puree the soup to get its characteristic smooth texture. This can be done using a regular or immersion blender (also known as a stick blender). If using a regular blender, remember never to fill it more than halfway when blending hot liquids.
- Strainer (Optional): If you prefer a perfectly smooth soup, strain it after blending to remove any remaining solids.
- Ladle: This is useful for serving the soup.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I Use Frozen Peas Instead Of Dried Peas For This Soup?
Yes, you can use frozen peas. They’re a great time-saving option as they don’t need to be soaked and cook faster than dried peas. Keep in mind that the texture and flavor may be slightly different from a soup made with dried peas, but it will still be delicious.
What Can I Substitute For The Cream If I Want To Make This Soup Dairy-Free?
You can substitute the cream with coconut milk for a dairy-free version. Alternatively, you can omit it altogether, or blend some cooked potatoes into the soup for added creaminess without dairy.
Is Pea Soup Healthy?
Yes, pea soup is generally quite healthy. It’s high in fiber and protein, and it’s a good source of several vitamins and minerals. Its exact nutritional content can vary based on the specific recipe and any additional ingredients.
Can I Make This Soup Spicier?
Absolutely, you can add some heat to the soup by adding a chopped chili pepper, a dash of cayenne pepper, or some hot sauce. Add a little at a time, tasting as you go, to ensure you don’t make it too spicy for your liking.
What Can I Do If My Soup Is Too Thick?
If your soup is too thick, you can simply add a bit of extra broth or water until it reaches your desired consistency. Add the liquid a little at a time, stirring well after each addition, to avoid making the soup too thin.
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