Recipe: Smoky Split Pea & Carrot Soup

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There’s been a lot of Bare Bonesin’ here at Casa de Poor Girl lately.  Trying to manage all the complications that come along with my medical condition while to trying to look for a new job has made things a little…. challenging, so to speak.  In a perfect world, I’d take this time to truly heal and transition into writing full-time; alas, bills and rent still need to be paid, so that dream can’t become a reality just yet.  And so, it’s become necessary for me to tighten up my already binding food budget belt even tighter.

It’s not a bad thing, really.  In creating the new recipes for the book, I’ve been playing with a lot of different foods, and while that’s fun, it’s also made me neglect my Bare Bones staples.  Whether it’s out of necessity or just because, making good use of things like whole grains, dried legumes, pastas, rice, etc., is not only cost-effective, it really unleashes the kitchen artist in you.  It’s a challenge to turn things like beans & rice into something interesting and new, week after week.

While this recipe isn’t anything new or groundbreaking, it was still a good reminder that a soup such as this can be just as delicious sans swine.  There are certain foods that I feel ought to be enjoyed a certain way and no other, and split pea soup is one of them.  Most of the time I prefer mine with ham, and I always welcome a good split pea soup with real bacon bits.  But I have to admit there’s something to be said for the simplicity of a meatless version of this classic soup.  Sure, the smoky swine lends a special depth and flavor; but the easy combo of velvety smooth peas along with tender, sweet carrots is just delightful.  With some warm, crusty bread on the side, this is the perfect lunch for a mid-winter day.

That savory, smoky quality was still something I craved in my soup, meat or no meat.  So I amped up the flavor with some garlic, plenty of onion, and the magic touch – a nice pinch of cumin.  That little spice is what takes this soup from pleasant little pea soup to mysterious and, dare I say… sexy?  Yeah, I think so.  There’s nothing a pinch of cumin can’t kick up a notch, and just a little bit goes a long way.  Too much would overwhelm the subtle sweetness of the peas & carrots.

Oh yeah, why carrots?  Because carrots make me happy.  I love pretty food, and while the monochromatic look can be interesting, plain ol’ green soup just seems so… blah to me.  Some bright chunks of carrots give the soup some much needed color and extra texture.

Flavor profile discussion aside, what really makes this soup stand out is that for less than $2, you can make about 6-8 servings of soup.  That’s a ridiculous $0.33 per serving for something hearty, filling, and completely delicious!  How can this be, when a can of split pea soup that makes about 2 servings costs close to $2 all by itself?  Because dried split peas are CHEAP!  Whether you buy them bagged (I got mine at Grocery Outlet for just $0.99 – score!), or in bulk (even the organic ones at the co-op are quite inexpensive), these little guys cost very little and go a long way.

And that’s exactly what you need when those really lean times set in.  Ingredients that are affordable, that yield a lot when cooked, and that are, for the most part, non-perishable (not that processed boxed stuff, though), are what will get you through those harder times, as you can stretch them to make several different meals.  If you’re single or have a small family, you may not want to eat all 8 soup servings immediately.  Freezing small portions allows you to make that $2 batch of soup last a little longer, and it saves you from the boredom of repeated leftover nights.

All this excitement over a simple bag of dried peas, carrots and some water…  see why bare bones staples are so cool?  They go from ordinary to extraordinary with just a little help from some handy spices.  Let’s check out this great, easy recipe…

Smoky Split Pea & Carrot Soup (makes 6-8 servings; total cost per serving $0.33)

1 lb dried split peas, picked over & rinsed
6 c water
2 T olive oil
1 large clove of garlic, minced
1 small yellow onion, diced
1 t sea salt
1/2 t ground black pepper
1/2 t ground cumin
1/4 t ground paprika (or smoked paprika if you have it)
2-3 large carrots, diced

1.  In a large soup kettle, heat the olive oil and add the garlic & onion.  Add the salt, pepper & cumin, and cook over medium heat until fragrant and the onion becomes translucent.  Next, add the carrots and cook for about 2 minutes, until they begin to soften.  Add the peas and 4 cups of water and bring to a low boil.  Reduce heat, cover and simmer for about 20 minutes, or until the peas have softened and much of the water has been absorbed.

2.  Remove about half the cooked peas and set aside.  Add the remaining cup of water.  Using a hand blender or regular blender, carefully puree the remaining peas in the kettle until smooth (don’t worry if some carrots sneak in; when they combine with the onions they give the soup a similar kind of depth to a good mire poix).

3.  Return the reserved pea & carrot mixture and stir until well combined.  If the soup has cooled too much for your liking, simply bring back to a low simmer for a few minutes before serving.  Spoon generous amounts of soup into large mugs or bowls, garnish with extra ground black pepper, serve with warm, crusty bread, and enjoy!

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singer. writer. artist. champagne taste, 2 buck chuck budget. good cook. kooky. chocoholic. patron saint of cats. talker. listener. thinker. sometimes to a fault.

7 Responses to "Recipe: Smoky Split Pea & Carrot Soup"

  1. cherie says:

    i LOVE pea soup, and i one time wanted to make it, but, alas…no pork hocks, which is my favourite go-to for pea soup. then i remembered that a few weeks back i had cut up a pork roast, and had saved a few of the “ends” of the roast. the fatty little bits that i usually would have discarded, i decided to cube and freeze. i put ONE 1″ x 1″ cube of this in a pot of pea soup, and it added just enough flavour to round out my pea soup. so…just to show you…even the scraps sometimes add just the right touch. enjoy your soup! cheers!

  2. Ajay says:

    If you have a little ginger (powdered or fresh minced, cooked with the onion) it punches up the flavor w/o adding too much cost. But my “can’t make split pea w/o it” ingredient is – peanut butter! Add a dollop (spoonful to big fat spoonful, depending on what’s on hand) at the end, heat and stir until blended in. Makes it “smoky” and rich tasting w/o meat.

  3. Patricia Calef says:

    I always make my pea soup in a variation very similar to this. But this time I added the cumin and paprika. What a difference!!! My husband said, and I agree, that it was the best pea soup I have ever made.

  4. Rose Johnson says:

    I’ve long been a fan of pea soup, but I’ve never thought to add cumin to it. I’m definitely going to give this recipe a try.

  5. Emily says:

    You can also try adding smoky peppers for a vegetarian soup. I buy dried chipotle peppers from the bulk section in my co-op and add one of them to everything that would taste good with bacon.

    Oh and I wanted to say that today when I was at the grocery I used your tip about buying bagged spices from the international section of the store… 75 for a small bag of oregano! Nice. Probably buying from a bulk section would be cheaper still, but I was shopping in my neighborhood and did not have that option.

  6. Abi says:

    Great soup! It’s my new favorite (besides my gma’s version of course)! Totally yummy for this vegetarian family of two!!

  7. Bekki says:

    WOW! Poor girl, I love this recipe! One of the guys in my house said he loved it, and he usually hates split pea soup. I added 1/2 – 1 teaspoon of both coriander and tarragon in with the cumin/paprika, and it was amazing. I also added some frozen peas to make up for my slight split-pea deficit, and the added texture worked out really well. I love how you can get all that savory flavor without having to use meat or chicken stock. This is my new go-to recipe for those seriously rainy comfort food days! :P


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