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Recipe for vegetable pea soup with ham

Canada is the world’s largest exporter of yellow peas, also known as yellow split peas.
Vegetable Pea Soup with Ham Recipe | Michele Bogle
Vegetable Pea Soup with Ham Recipe | Michele Bogle

Historically, a lamb was eaten as the main course for Easter dinner. It is a 3,000-year-old tradition that stems from the Jewish holiday, Passover. The Passover Seder or ritual dinner included the sacrificial lamb as an integral part of that celebration.

When some converted to Christianity, they continued to observe the tradition of eating lamb at Easter. 

This custom was wholly embraced in the United States as wool was a popular fabric during World War II. When the war ended, so did the demand for wool. The diminishing number of sheep farmers meant that fewer legs of lamb were available for Easter dinner.

Ham quickly became a great alternative to North Americans, as it was more affordable, and without question, the meat was more plentiful.

Pigs were domesticated in 8500 BC. by Spanish Explorer Hernando DeSoto, dubbed the Father of the American Pork Industry. He established the first pig farm in North America during the sixteenth century. 

Customarily pigs were slaughtered in the fall and cured over the winter, then ready to eat once spring arrived and the Lenten fasting ended. The choice of ham over lamb became a matter of both convenience and economics.

Below is the recipe for vegetable pea soup with ham. Adding the leftover ham to the soup became a deliciously healthy meal idea and an economical way to feed a family. Over time, pea soup became an Easter staple.

Many are accustomed to using split green peas, which are less starchy and have a sweeter flavour than the yellow variety. The yellow peas have an earthy, nutty taste and are milder. Your flavour profile comes down to a preference and regard for other ingredients you pair them with. 

Canada is the world’s largest exporter of Canadian Yellow Peas, also known as yellow split peas. Most recognize the Habitant Pea Soup cans from your local grocer. Many might not notice the added description, French-Canadian, on the label.

This creamy, chowder-like food was created in the French-Canadian community of Manchester, New Hampshire, in the 1930s when the company decided it made a lot of sense to open a manufacturing plant in Canada. The combination of flavour and texture has made this soup a Canadian favourite ever since. Yellow pea soup tastes like a warm hug on a cold day.

Vegetable pea soup with ham recipe

PREPARATION TIME   3 hrs 15 min      YIELDS   4 


Large stock pot, heat-resistant spatula, mixing spoon, cutting board, paring knife, measuring cup, peeler, ladle, small skillet, paper towel


Soup -

1 Tbsp olive oil

1 large onion, chopped

2 stalks of celery, thinly sliced

4 large garlic cloves, minced

4 cups unsalted chicken broth or bouillon 

4 cups water

2 cups dried yellow split peas, rinsed

2 bay leaves

2 tsp dried thyme

Salt to taste

½ tsp freshly ground black pepper

ham bone with at least 2 cups of meat on the bone

2 large carrots, chopped

Fresh parsley, optional garnish

Croutons -

1 half-loaf French baguette

4 Tbsp butter

1 large garlic clove, minced


Step 1

Add olive oil, onion, and celery over medium-high heat in a large stockpot. Stir often with a spatula for a few minutes until the onion becomes translucent. Incorporate 4 minced garlic cloves for an additional minute.

Step 2

Mix water, split peas, bay leaves, ground pepper, and thyme in the chicken broth. After combining the ingredients, place the ham bone into the soup mixture. Bring mixture to a boil, cover, then reduce the heat to a low simmer for 2 hours. Stir occasionally.

Step 3

Remove the ham bone from the soup. Let it rest for a few minutes on the cutting board for it to be cool enough to handle. Dice desired amount of meat and return the pieces to the stock pot. Mix in the chopped carrot and do a taste test. Add additional salt at this time if needed. Cover.

Continue to simmer the soup for 30 to 60 more minutes until the peas are tender.

Step 4

On a cutting board, remove the crust from the bread and cut the bread into ½ inch cubes.

Add the butter and minced garlic clove to the skillet over medium-high heat. Lower the heat slightly to avoid burning the garlic. As it begins to sizzle, set the bread cubes into the hot butter mixture, turning each every 30 seconds until the sides are golden. When a golden colour is achieved, move each piece to a fresh paper towel to absorb excess butter. 

When the soup is ready, ladle portions into serving bowls, add the freshly-made croutons to the top, serve, and enjoy!