– This recipe for split pea soup has a special twist – chicken! –
During the winter, there’s a special place in my heart for soup — especially my favorite, a recipe for split pea soup. I love soup that’s thick, almost porridge-like in its texture, and feels comforting and creamy even if there’s no dairy involved. (Both my vegetarian congee recipe and super-comforting potato curry soup fit the bill here.)
I’ve made split pea soup so many times I can’t count, and I usually make it with a ham hock because… well, that’s just how I’ve always done it. It’s delicious that way, so no complaints there.
But recently I had one of those must soup now moments, being wintertime and all, where nothing would quell the urge to face plant into a bowl of hot, steamy split pea soup. I found my freezer woefully devoid of smoked ham hocks and chicken stock (sad panda ??), yet rife with what appeared to be a metric f**k-ton of whole chickens. A cursory glance at the fridge yielded a few slices of bacon of unknown age. (And hey, bacon is immortal, right?)
There was a winter storm raging through the area that day, so I opted to work with what I had.
A recipe for split pea soup with… chicken?
So here’s there thing about making split pea soup: It’s flexible. Purists might argue that split pea soup should not be messed with, but I’m all about making do with what you’ve got. If you get a little creative — or you haven’t been to the grocery store in a while — you can make split pea soup with all sorts of different ingredients. You can use whatever stock you’ve got handy, or even lightly salted water in a pinch. You can leave the meat out and add deeply sautéed mushroom instead. You can swap out the very thing this soup is named for – split peas – and use lentils, yellow peas, chickpeas, or even the random mixed-bean blend that’s your mom left in your cabinet last year.
(A note if you decide to use other beans: The bigger and older the beans, the longer they’ll need to cook. You may also want to soak them overnight first, if they’re particularly mature. I have a whole post on how to work with dried beans with more details.)
Given all of this, using chicken in a recipe for split pea soup makes sense. Incredibly delicious sense.
I ended up using the whole chicken to make the stock, which conveniently cooked the chicken as well, so all I had to do was remove it from the bones and add it to the soup a little later. Easy! Then I cooked the bacon down and used the fat to brown the onion and veggies (because, bacon), and saved the leftover bacon bits to sprinkle on top of the soup once I’d ladled it into bowls.
I have to say, I may never make a recipe for split pea soup without chicken again. The shredded chicken adds something beautiful to this soup, a lightly sweet flavor that doesn’t compete with the smoke usually provided by the ham hocks. (Though the bacon adds just a hint of smokiness, which is nice.) The texture is spot-on, and honestly, I think this soup recipe is one of the most comforting things I’ve eaten all year. Definitely a keeper.
You can easily make the stock for this soup the day before, and just stick both the broth and the meat in the fridge until you’re ready to use it. Even the soup froze well, so if you’ve got a bunch left over, do yourself a favor and freeze it in single-serving containers so you have an amazing dinner waiting the next time you don’t want t cook after a really lousy day.
And if you’re looking for something a little less winter-y but just as comforting, check out this Thai coconut soup with sweet potatoes. It’s sweet, creamy, and warming, and totally vegan if you want it to be.
My Best Recipe for Split Pea Soup with Chicken
- One 3-pound whole chicken skinned and cut into eight pieces, with back reserved
- 1 whole carrot sliced
- 1 whole parsnip sliced
- 1 whole red onion sliced
- 1 stalk of celery
- 8 cups of water
- 4 slices of bacon finely diced
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 whole onion diced
- 2 whole carrots diced
- 1 stalk of celery diced
- 8 cups chicken stock
- 2 cups split peas rinsed
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt or sea salt
- 1/2 cup crème fraîche (optional)
- In a large soup pot, add all chicken parts, carrot, parsnip, onion, celery, and water. Heat just to a boil and simmer gently, barely bubbling, for 1 hour. Occasionally skim the schmutz off the top.
- Once the broth is done, strain the stock through cheesecloth into a large pot and set aside. Separate chicken from vegetables and set chicken aside to cool. Discard veggies and wash pot so you can use it to make the soup. Once chicken has cooled, shred and reserve meat. Discard bones.
- In a large soup pot, fry bacon over medium heat until crispy. Using a slotted spoon, remove bacon from pan, leaving the fat in the pot. Place fried bacon in a bowl, cover, and place in the refrigerator until the soup is done.
- Add butter to bacon fat, stirring until melted. Add onion and cook just until the onion begin to brown, about 7 minutes. Add remaining vegetables and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Add chicken stock, split peas, and shredded chicken, stirring well.
- Bring to a boil and reduce heat to low, simmering the soup uncovered for 2 to 3 hours, until the peas are soft and the soup is nice and thick. Occasionally scrape the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon to prevent burning.
- Once the soup is done, stir in honey and salt.
- Serve hot, topped with a sprinkling of fried bacon and a spoonful of crème fraîche.
This content was originally posted on FearlessFresh.com.