Not Your Mom’s Split Pea Soup

Not Your Mom's Split Pea Soup

See? Looks nothing like the split pea soup of your childhood.

Not that your mom isn’t a good cook or anything, but a lot of us grew up hating her split pea soup. Well, not her split pea soup specifically, but rather that generic split pea soup that all American (and Canadian?) moms seem to make, purely by instinct, in the dead of winter when it’s snowy and blustery and there’s nothing to do but sit around inside with a big pot of soup on the stove.

Some of us have come around to liking split pea soup as adults (how else will we inflict it upon our children?), but not everyone has, which is why this recipe is so brilliant – because it’s nothing like the split pea soup of your childhood…unless your mom originated in Spain, like this soup. Caramelized onions and tomatoes bring a little excitement to an otherwise low key (and awkwardly-colored) soup base, while the split peas do their part by balancing out the strong onion and tomato flavors with an earthy undertone. The end result is entirely different from anything you’ve ever associated with split pea soup. It retains just a hint of the split pea flavor you’ll remember from your childhood, but in a whole new setting.

Like the last recipe, this is adapted from the book  Bean by Bean by Crescent Dragonwagon (whose possibly nonexistent son I would like to marry, so I can have her last name). As Ms. Dragonwagon notes, a good stock or broth really makes this recipe, so choose wisely.

Not Your Mom’s Split Pea Soup


  • 2 cups (about 1 lb.) green split peas
  • 8 cups good vegetable or chicken stock, water + bullion stuff, etc.
  • 4 large onions, chopped (you will use 1 at the beginning and 3 later on)
  • 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 2 parsnips (they look like white carrots), if you can find them, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 bunch spinach, de-stemmed
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes (fire-roasted, if you can find them)
  • ¼ bunch parsley, lower stems discarded, mined
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste


  • 1 handful fresh basil leaves


1. Wash the split peas well to reduce the amount of foam they'll produce once they boil. Combine the split peas, stock, one chopped onion, carrots, parsnips, and bay leaves in a heavy soup pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook, partially covered, for one hour.
2. Add the spinach to the split peas, and continue cooking for another 30 minutes.
3. Once you've added the spinach, heat the olive oil in a heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the remaining three chopped onions and sauté until the onions begin to caramelize, about 20-30 minutes.
4. Once the onions have turned a golden brown, add the tomatoes to the onions, bring to a simmer, and cook, stirring often, until the mixture has thickened to an almost paste-like consistency - about 10 minutes or so.
5. Remove the onion-tomato mixture from the heat, then add the minced garlic, basil, parsley, and black pepper to taste. Stir this mixture into the split peas, and serve hot.
[Adapted from Bean by Bean by Crescent Dragonwagon]


Cost of core ingredients: All primarily organic and purchased at my food co-op.

  • ~1 lb. split peas @ $1.29/lb. = $1.29
  • 4 large onions: ~$4.50
  • 2 carrots: ~$1.15
  • 2 parsnips: $1.21
  • 1 bunch spinach: $3.19 (it’s so expensive in the winter!)
  • 1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes: $1.99
  • ¼ bunch parsley: $0.50

Total cost for 6 servings: $13.83 + the cost of small amounts of Better than Bullion (in my case), garlic, bay leaves, olive oil, salt, and pepper.

Bon Appétit!

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