I had some split pea soup from the hospital cafeteria the other day and while it was satisfying, something about it just didn’t taste genuine. So, I thought it was time to make some of my own. Plus, it was >$2 per serving and I knew that I could do better than that! Right I was.
Smoked ham hocks are usually used to infuse split pea soup with flavor, but I didn’t feel like dealing with one of those monstrosities. So, I went with bacon instead. Bacon still gives you that salty-smokey ham flavor, but is a little easier to deal with (and sometimes easier to find). Bacon and potato are pretty much made for each other, so I decided to throw some of those in there too. Between the bacon and chicken broth, this soup already has a lot of flavor going on, so you don’t have to mess with measuring out five or six different herbs and spices. It’s as simple and delicious as it gets. It’s soup for beginners!
Split Pea, Bacon & Potato Soup
Split Pea, Bacon & Potato Soup
- 6 oz bacon ($1.68)
- 1 medium yellow onion ($0.47)
- 2 cloves garlic ($0.16)
- 1 lb split peas ($1.48)
- 8 cups chicken broth* ($1.04)
- 1 whole bay leaf ($0.15)
- freshly cracked pepper ($0.05)
- 1 1/2 lbs potatoes ($1.44)
- 1/2 tsp salt ($0.02)
- Cut the bacon into one-inch strips and add to a large pot. Cook the bacon over medium heat until it is brown and crispy.
- While the bacon is browning, dice the onion and mince the garlic. Once the bacon has browned, add the onion and garlic to the pot and continue to cook and stir over medium heat. The moisture from the onions will dissolve the browned bits from the bottom of the pot and absorb the bacon flavor.
- Once the onions are soft and translucent (5 minutes), add the split peas, chicken broth, bay leaf, and a healthy dose of freshly cracked pepper (20-25 cranks of a pepper mill).
- Allow the soup to begin heating through while you peel and cube the potatoes. Cut the peeled potatoes into one-inch cubes then add them to the soup. Place a lid on the pot, turn the heat up to high, and bring it to a rolling boil. When it reaches a rolling boil, turn the heat down to low and let it simmer gently for 45 minutes.
- After 45 minutes of simmering, test the peas to make sure they are very soft. Turn the heat off and let the soup cool slightly. Remove the bay leaf and then use an immersion blender to lightly blend the soup until it is creamy with a few chunks. If you don't have an immersion blender, carefully transfer a few cups at a time to a blender, drape a towel over the lid, and pulse the contents until smooth. Work in batches until half of the soup is blended smooth.
- Taste the soup and add additional salt as needed (I added about 1/2 teaspoon). Serve with crusty bread or garnishes like shredded cheddar cheese or sliced green onions.
Step by Step Photos
Start by slicing the bacon into one-inch strips. I used half of a 12 oz. package. The other half will be frozen for later use. Place the sliced bacon in a large pot and cook over medium heat until brown and crispy.
While the bacon is cooking, dice the onion and mince the garlic.
Now the bacon is nicely browned and crispy. The brown stuff stuck to the bottom of the pot will be dissolved off in the next step, so don’t worry about that. If you plan on blending your soup until it is completely smooth later (I left mine half chunky), you may want to remove the bacon at this step and add it back in the end. The bacon fat will still provide plenty of flavor as the rest of the soup cooks.
Add the onions and garlic to the pot. Continue to cook and stir. As the onions soften and release moisture, the browned bits stuck to the bottom of the pot will loosen and dissolve. Cook until the onions are soften and translucent.
Add the split peas. You can find these in near the dry beans in the grocery store.
Also add the chicken broth, bay leaf, and some freshly cracked pepper.
Allow the soup to begin heating while you peel and cube the potatoes. I used red skinned potatoes, but decided to peel them so that the soup would be a bit more smooth in the end. Cut them into one-inch cubes then add them to the soup. Place a lid on the pot, turn the heat up to high and let the pot come to a rolling boil. Once it reaches a rolling boil, turn the heat down to low and let it simmer gently for 45 minutes.
After 45 minutes check to make sure the peas are very soft. Remove the bay leaf and turn off the heat.
Allow the soup to cool a bit because blending hot liquids is super dangerous. Work in small batches, filling your blender only half way. Always drape a towel over the blender so that if some of the hot/warm liquids escape, they won’t spray all over and burn you (because no soup, no matter how delicious, is worth burning your face off for).
Pulse the mixture until it is smooth, then add it back to the pot. Repeat this process until about half of the soup has been blended smooth.
Taste the soup one last time and add more salt as needed. Potatoes tend to absorb a lot of salt, so you’ll likely need a little bit more just to give it some punch. I added about 1/2 teaspoon. Now you have a silky smooth yet chunky Split Pea, Bacon & Potato Soup.
P.S. I can not say, think, or type the phrase “silky smooth” without thinking about the Zohan.