Yellow pea soup


Swedish style yellow pea soup

Yellow pea soup is an absolute classic in Swedish food. It has been served in Sweden since the middle ages! Traditionally it was served on Thursdays to get people ready for the Christian fast which would begin on Fridays. Even today it is still often served on Thursdays in schools and always in the army and the navy.

It is very close in taste and texture to pease pudding, a famous traditional British dish, much loved by my mother. In other words it is quite mealy, but if you would like it to be more soupy just add a little more stock.

In Sweden it is made with salted pork belly, essentially unsliced streaky bacon, but as this is almost impossible to buy I recommend using an unsmoked ham hock instead or simply smoked ham. John Duxbury


Recipe summary for yellow pea soup



• Traditionally this is served with hot Swedish punsch (a rum based liqueur with arrack), but I prefer a beer!
• Traditionally the soup is also followed by pancakes with strawberry jam and cream, but I couldn't possibly eat anything else after such a filling soup!
• Increase the amount of stock if you would like it more "soupy".
• If you have any leftovers, the soup keeps well for several days in a fridge and can then be reheated.


500 g (1¼ lb) dried yellow split peas
500 g (1¼ lb) unsmoked ham hock*
1 tbsp   oil
2   sticks of celery, trimmed and finely diced
2   onions, peeled and finely chopped
½ tsp   dried thyme
½ tsp   dried oregano
2 litres (8 cups) ham of chicken stock, made with 3 bouillon cubes
    salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp   freshy thyme and/or marjoram, finely chopped

*Swedes would normally use a 500 g (1¼ lb) piece salted pork belly, but I have suggested using a ham hock as it is easier to obtain. If you use salted pork belly, instead of boiling it in water, as in step 2, brown it in a pan before using.
*If you can't find a piece of salted pork belly or a ham hock then use a 250 g (8 oz) piece of good quality unsmoked ham instead and omit step 2.


1. Rinse the split peas in cold water and leave to soak overnight. Drain them and put them to one side.

A ham hock used in making a Swedish style pea soup

2. Put the ham hock in a pan and cover with water. Bring to the boil and simmer for a couple of minutes. Turn off the heat and discard the water. (This removes any excessive saltiness.)

3. Put a large saucepan on a low heat and add the oil. Once hot, add the celery, onions and dried herbs and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally until soft but not coloured.

A ham hock and dried peas being heated up to make a Swedish style pea soup

4. Add the peas, ham and stock and heat until simmering. Then skim off any foam and simmer with the lid on for 50 minutes.

Shredding the ham for a Swedish style pea soup

5. Use tongs to pull out the ham and move it to a board. Chop and shred it up, discarding any rind and fatty pieces. Roughly mash the peas with a potato masher, then stir in the shredded ham and the fresh thyme and/or marjoram.

5. Season the soup with salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste before serving, although because the meat is salty, the soup may not need any extra salt.

Serving suggestions

A dish of Swedish style pea soup

Serve with knäckebröd (rye crispbread) and individual dishes of a good Swedish mustard, such as Johnny's senap. (Swedes traditionally dip their spoons into the mustard before taking a spoonful of the soup.)


Swedish mustard is slightly sweeter and less hot than English or French mustard and goes really well with this soup. You can buy it online, at IKEA and in specialist shops.


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