The humble, pantry staple split pea made into a delicious, healthy split pea soup using your Instant Pot OR stovetop!
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Purposely slowing it all down…
I woke up a week or so ago with the thought that we are almost through fall, and I didn’t even realize it! So we are slowing it down, taking more off the schedule, and making more time for spending with family outdoors before that cold snow hits!
A kid soup favorite
Part of me slowing down has been to ask the girls some of their favorite fall and winter foods that we want to be sure to include in our meal plans over the next few months. We all want those most looked forward too meals, and the girls were excited to collaborate on a few favorites. Of course indulgent lasagna, Thanksgiving meal staples, casserole, biscuits, and hot cocoa were all on the list. But want surprised me was some of the simpler foods that my kids looked at as “comfort foods” in their eyes – like this split pea soup. They’ve been eating this exact recipe for split pea soup since they were toddlers! It took me a bit to figure out the exact timing for making it in the Instant Pot, loosely following the IP instruction manual time table for different legumes, but I’ve got it how I like it now, and I’m so excited to share it with you!
A soup (and pantry!) staple
The humble split pea. It is almost always on my pantry shelf, for a myriad of reasons! I first learned about peas/dried peas in the very first real food cookbook that I bought, “Nourishing Traditions” by Sally Fallon. So much of the traditional food preparation that I do even today stems from what I learned in this priceless book! At a dollar a pound, dried peas are really one of the most cost-effective ways to feed my family in balance with other nutrient dense food staples. Peas, along with many other legumes are also a great “perfect food” balance of slow burning carbohydrates for energy, and protein. While we are not an exclusively plant-based diet family, properly prepared legumes like peas help me balance meals – because most people don’t need to be eating meat for their only source of protein all day long. And one of the biggest reasons dried peas are almost always found in my pantry is because my kiddos adore them! I purchase split peas in the bulk section of our local health food store. Check around where you shop, or local food co-ops. You can also find them on Amazon.
Peas are more than just their fiber – which is a fantastic nutrient benefit by the way! They are also packed with protein, three different B vitamins, and essential minerals that our organs depend on to function together the way they were meant to. We already talked about how the combination of slow burning carbohydrate energy and protein makes peas a great balanced food, so the added bonus of these nutrients is fantastic!
Split Pea Soup
Typically, split pea soup is flavored with a ham hock and/or chopped ham. It is really rare for me to have pastured ham around other than Easter, so over the years I have perfected that smoky pork flavor that infuses split pea soup with so much amazing taste with a couple secret ingredients. Using smoked paprika works so well, and it is a cost-effective staple that most people have in their pantry. If we happen to have a little bacon grease leftover from weekend breakfasts, a small spoonful of that into the cooking fat also adds smoky pork flavor. The flavor also comes from cooking the veggies the right way……
Instant Pot Pro Tip…SLOW DOWN…
Seems a contradiction, eh?! I know it, you bought the Instant Pot so you could make meals…instantly! But if there is one thing this stovetop soup lover has learned, it is that if I want that amazing flavor that so many veggies have to offer…I’ve gotta slow down and let that saute do it’s magic. Don’t skip that step. Get your veggie basics down in the pot with some flavorful fat – I promise it is worth the 10 minute wait. The flavor is a night and day difference.
To blend or not to blend?
That is all up to you! Pictured in this post is the more traditional way of serving split pea soup – un-blended. The little bits of peas and carrots are so fun and colorful. Truth be told, because I served this soup to my little ones as toddlers and tended to blend it up completely so it was easier for them to serve themselves with a straw, all 3 of my kids prefer the soup totally blended. It transforms into this super velvety bowl of soup – the texture is amazing.
Since split peas are technically a “legume,” we know that soaking will help reduce the phytic acid in the split peas, making them easier on digestion. You’ll notice around the 10 hour mark of soaking that the peas will have the start of a little sprouted “tail.” Sprouting these little “tails” in legumes allows the nutrients in the bean more readily available to absorb. Dried peas are very easy to sprout because they naturally “split” during the drying, but you can certainly just do the minimum 6 hour soak if that is what you have time for (I end up in this boat more often than not!). Soak for at least 6 hours and no more than 12. You can approach the soaking a couple different ways (it truly just depends on how your schedule works – there is no one right way!) ::
- Get the peas soaking first thing in the morning when you wake up to make the soup around dinnertime.
- Or soak them overnight to make the soup in the morning/early afternoon.
Tips for making split pea soup stove top
You can definitely make this soup stovetop, and I did for years – literally the girls’ entire babyhood! I didn’t have an Instant Pot until my youngest was 2! The absolutely lovely part about making this recipe stovetop, is that you can totally double it up into a large stock pot. In fact, this recipe that I have been using in my kitchen for years is halved to fit into my Instant Pot. I made and froze batches of the large batch for years. Simply follow the same sautéing instructions in the recipe, and then when you get to the bone broth part, just pull your heat up to make the soup simmer until the split peas are cooked through. It will take about 45 minutes to simmer stove top.
Cook once, eat multiple times, dear momma! This batch typically feeds my family of 5 for two to three lunches. It freezes up great. As mentioned in the above paragraph, you can double this into your stockpot and cook it stovetop if you want more leftovers. If you have a larger Instant Pot (I have the 6 quart IP), you may be able to get away with a double. I’m not sure if the IP pressure cooking time changes with it doubling into the 8 quart pot – if you do happen to try it, let us know!
Healthy Instant Pot Split Pea Soup
- 1 lb split peas this is about 1 ½ cups of dried split peas if you buy in bulk
- 2 tbsp ghee or butter plus 1 tbsp leftover bacon grease for sauteing you can use all ghee or butter if you don’t have the bacon grease – the bacon grease gives a lovely flavor and hint of smoky pork
- 1 medium onion diced
- 2-3 medium carrots peeled and diced
- 1 large or 2 small stalks of celery diced
- 4 cloves of garlic minced
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- 1 ½ quarts bone broth less if you want your soup very thick
- 1 bay leaf
- Sea salt/pepper to taste
- Six to 12 hours before you want to make the soup, soak the split peas. Soaking helps reduces the phytic acid in the legume, making them easier on digestion. You’ll notice around the 10 hour mark that the peas will have the start of a little sprouted “tail.” Sprouting legumes allows the nutrients in the bean more readily available to absorb. Soak for at least 6 hours and no more than 12.
- When you are ready to make the soup, turn your Instant Pot on to “Saute,” melt the cooking fat (ghee and bacon grease), and add the onion, carrots, and celery with a big pinch sea salt. Saute for about 10 minutes until the veggies are very soft and sweet. Slow down and don’t skip this step! This is flavor!
- Add the garlic and smoked paprika and Saute for 1 minute, then turn the Instant Pot to “Off/Cancel.”
- Drain and rinse your soaked split peas, add them into the Instant Pot along with the bone broth and bay leaf, and stir to combine.
- Put the lid on your Instant Pot, turn the valve to closed, turn your Instant Pot on to “Soup,” and bring time down to 10 minutes. The Instant Pot will take about 10 minutes to come to pressure before counting down the 10 minutes. When the timer beeps that the 10 minutes of pressure cooking is done, turn the Instant Pot off, and leave the Instant Pot alone for 5 minutes. This naturally will let some of the pressure in the Instant Pot release and finishes the cooking process without overcooking the split peas. Release the rest of the pressure after 5 minutes, and take the lid off the Instant Pot. Remove the bay leaf.
- Scoop out 2-3 cups of the soup to a small mixing bowl, and blend with an immersion blender (you could use a regular blender), and then return the blended portion of soup back into the pot with the rest of the soup (it makes the broth nice and creamy!). Stir to combine, and sea salt/pepper your soup to your taste. The split pea soup will thicken a bit more as the soup cools since the peas continue to absorb liquid. You could alternatively blend the entire soup – my toddlers enjoyed using a stainless steel straw to drink their soup this way!
- Drizzle olive oil and/or splash raw cream or coconut cream into each bowl of split pea soup to garnish if you wish.