Chicken Split Pea Soup

Split pea soup seems to remind many people of the holidays.

Vertical image of a white bowl filled with a meat, vegetable, and pulse stew next to a blue napkin, with text on the top and bottom of the image.

The base is famously flavored with leftover ham (and ham bone), and a warm, smoky bowl of the stuff is just the ticket when there’s a chill outside. But that ain’t my story.

For me, split pea soup travels my taste buds straight to Melrose Place.

Not the drama-filled soap opera from the ’90s. Actual Melrose Place, an offshoot of Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles.

Yes, while many others envision slurping lush split pea broth as they patiently wait for Santa’s arrival on a snowy evening, or perhaps in the days after the Easter Bunny has laid his eggs (or whatever it is that he does), the split pea soup of my dreams sits firmly within the bustling Melrose District.

And it was in the general vicinity of this landmark, where vintage high-end fashion meets about a million brunch venues, that I encountered one of the very best bowls of soup I’ve ever had.

Vertical image of a bowl of chunky green soup with a side of bread on a green plate in front of a smaller white bowl with a yellow towel.

It was 2011, and I was residing in Hollywood, California. My mom had flown across the country for a visit. This meant I had to sift through a sea of restaurant menus in order to find something that would suit her picky palate.

We landed on Blu Jam Café, a southern-inspired breakfast eatery with a Cajun twist. I had my heart set on something from the sunrise menu, but I noticed my mom eyeing the lunch lineup.

She went with the vegan split pea soup.

Neither of my parents eat red meat, so I knew this ham-free version would fit the bill as a satisfying meal in her book. I had never embarked upon a quest to see the bottom of a whole bowl of split pea myself, but was always drawn to the savory aroma when my mom would heat up a container in our North Carolina home.

She offered a sample, so I tried a rich, silky-smooth spoonful. The next thing I knew, I had decided to pair my pancakes with a side of split pea soup.

Vertical top-down image of a white bowl with a chunky green stew on a green plate next to bread and a yellow towel.

I never could have imagined this cheery hipster diner would feed me a dish that soothed my soul and stood out so starkly from all the other food that I was used to in the bustling California culinary scene, but Blu Jam did the damn thing.

And from that West Coast memory, this split pea soup recipe was born.

I wanted to steer clear of using the traditional ham, while including a protein that still bulked things up a bit. Enter: deliciously juicy chicken breast.

In the spirit of starting from scratch (as opposed to using pre-cooked meat), I sear chicken pieces in the bottom of my pot to start. They’re set aside while the aromatics – onions, celery, sweet bell pepper, and so on – soften to avoid overcooking, but the brown bits they leave behind provide ample flavor all the way through to the end.

In my mind, no herb goes better with chicken than rosemary (I blame my dad’s signature rosemary roasted chicken with lemon and garlic for that). The leaves are sturdier than those of tender herbs like parsley or basil, so it simmers alongside the other components instead of being added in at the end.

Vertical close-up image of a white bowl filled with a chunky meat and vegetable green stew.

As for the split peas themselves, here are the highlights: these little cuties are technically hulled and split field peas grown specifically for drying. They don’t require any pre-soaking, which gives these fiber-packed beads a quick cooking time.

They’re slightly sweet, and have a creamy texture that lends itself well to pureeing. Blending half the broth isn’t necessary, but it creates a thicker consistency, and ultimately, what I deem a better texture as far as the split pea soup experience goes.

Trust me when I say this is one heck of a nod to that delicious Hollywood brunch.

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Horizontal image of a bowl of chunky green stew with a side of bread on a green plate.

Chicken Split Pea Soup


  • Author: Fanny Slater
  • Total Time: 1 hour
  • Yield: 4-6 servings 1x

Description

Fresh, piney rosemary gives an herby lift to this hearty split pea soup, simmered with savory aromatics and juicy chunks of chicken.


Ingredients

Scale
  • 2 cups cubed chicken breast (about 12 ounces)
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt, divided, plus more to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided, plus more to taste
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and diced
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 large bell pepper (any color), diced 
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
  • 2 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups dried green split peas, rinsed under cold water
  • 8 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons minced chives

Instructions

  1. Season the chicken all over with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. In a large Dutch oven, melt the butter with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and brown on all sides, about 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the chicken to a plate.
  2. Add the remaining oil to the Dutch oven and reduce the heat to medium. Add the carrots, celery, onion, and bell pepper. Cook until the onions begin to soften, about 5 minutes.
  3. Stir in the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, along with the rosemary, garlic, split peas, and broth. Bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover the pot, and simmer until the peas are tender, about 20 minutes.
  4. Transfer about half of the soup to a food processor or blender, and pulse until smooth. Return the pureed soup to the pot, stir in the chicken (along with all of its juices from the plate), and cook for 5 more minutes to make sure the chicken is heated and cooked all the way through. Season to taste with additional salt and pepper.
  5. Divide the soup among bowls, garnish with chives, and serve hot.
  • Prep Time: 25 minutes
  • Cook Time: 35 minutes
  • Category: Chicken
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: Soup

Keywords: chicken, split pea, soup, peas

Cooking By the Numbers…

Step 1 – Prep and Sear the Chicken

Cube and season the chicken breast with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper.

Horizontal image of cooking chunks of white meat in a pot with ground pepper.

In a large Dutch oven or large stockpot, melt the butter with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over medium-high heat. The butter adds richness, while the olive oil has a higher smoke point that helps to prevent burning.

Brown the chicken on all sides, for about 5 minutes total. Searing the outside locks in all the juices, and the chicken will finish cooking through when you simmer it in the final mixture in the last 5 minutes of cooking.

It will leave tasty brown bits (known as fond) behind in the pan, which will all come up when you add the stock, adding delicious flavor to the dish.

Using a slotted spoon, transfer the chicken to a plate. It will release some juice as it rests, which you’ll want to add back into the soup for additional flavor. Be sure to reserve it.

Step 2 – Chop and Soften the Veggies

Horizontal image of assorted chopped vegetables in a wooden cutting board.

Peel the carrots, and then dice them along with the celery and bell pepper. Chop the onion and rosemary, and mince the garlic and chives.

Horizontal image of assorted chopped vegetables cooking in a pot.

Add the remaining oil to the Dutch oven and reduce the heat to medium. Add the carrots, celery, onion, and bell pepper. Cook until the onions begin to soften, for about 5 minutes. The mixture will be very fragrant.

Step 3 – Stir in the Peas and Broth

Thoroughly rinse the peas under cold water to remove any dirt particles or debris. They don’t need to be soaked ahead of time.

Horizontal image of mixing peas and broth in chopped vegetables in a pot.

Stir in the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, as well as the rosemary, garlic, split peas, and broth. Bring the mixture to a boil.

Step 4 – Puree Half the Soup

Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover the pot, and simmer the mixture until the peas are tender, for about 20 minutes.

Horizontal image of an immersion blender blending vegetables in stock in a pot.

Transfer about half of the soup to a food processor or blender, and pulse until smooth. Be sure to vent the top, since it’s piping hot!

You can also use an immersion blender right in the pot; just pulse on low until your desired consistency is reached. You want the soup to thicken slightly, while retaining plenty of chunky texture from the vegetables.

Step 5 – Stir in the Chicken and Serve

Return the pureed portion of the soup to the pot, and stir in the chicken along with all of its juices from the plate. Cook for 5 more minutes to make sure the chicken is fully heated and cooked through.

Horizontal top-down image of a white bowl with a chunky green stew on a green plate next to bread and a smaller bowl.

The internal temperature of the largest piece should register 165°F when checked with a meat thermometer, or you can cut the biggest one open to check for doneness.

Season to taste with additional salt and pepper if necessary.

Divide the soup among bowls, garnish with the chives, and serve hot.

More Split Peas, Please!

If you happen to have cooked chicken leftovers tucked away in your fridge (such as plain tenders you threw in the pressure cooker), feel free to save yourself a step and swap them in.

Horizontal image of a bowl of chunky green stew with a side of bread on a green plate.

Or leave the chicken (and butter) out entirely for a vegan version of this split pea soup, like the one my mom and I first fell in love with. Use thick, chunky pieces of potato instead, added in and cooked until tender along with the peas, to keep things hearty and achieve that uber-velvety mouthfeel.

For a fully made-from-scratch version, reach for this slow cooker chicken stock instead of using a store-bought product. It’s my best recommendation for imparting a really intense, deep flavor.

My beloved split pea soup from Los Angeles was garnished with wedges of toasted sourdough. Croutons for you, or no? Share your ideal soup toppers in the comments below! And don’t forget to give this recipe a five-star rating if you loved it.

For more chicken-centric soups, cozy up to these recipes next:

Photos by Fanny Slater, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published by Jennifer Swartvagher on July 13, 2015. Last updated on December 18, 2021.

Nutritional information derived from a database of known generic and branded foods and ingredients and was not compiled by a registered dietitian or submitted for lab testing. It should be viewed as an approximation.

About Fanny Slater

Fanny Slater is a home-taught food enthusiast based in Wilmington, North Carolina who won the “Rachael Ray Show” Great American Cookbook Competition in 2014, and published her cookbook “Orange, Lavender & Figs” in 2016. Fanny is a food and beverage writer, recipe developer, and social media influencer. She was a co-host on the Food Network series “Kitchen Sink,” was featured on Cooking Channel’s longtime popular series “The Best Thing I Ever Ate,” and continues to appear regularly on the “Rachael Ray Show.”

21 thoughts on “Chicken Split Pea Soup”

  1. I’ve always wanted to try split pea soup, but as most of the recipes I find require ham, this obviously hasn’t happened yet. I really appreciate finding a recipe with alternate ingredients, and with a vegetarian option to boot! It looks absolutely tasty.

    Reply
    • I was thinking the same thing; the ingredients make this recipe very versatile so that you can easily replace it with something else if need be. Having a vegetarian option for anything automatically makes it more likely to be tried out, I’ve noticed. Even by people that aren’t vegetarian in the first place; people like dishes with lots of options.

      I’m not a split pea fan, but the rest of my family sure are, and they would love this. There are so many good foods in here, but at the same time it is easy to swap something out if you don’t like/want a specific thing, or just remove it altogether. The soup looks very creamy, too. I imagine it would be great with some crackers to dip in it!

      Reply
  2. This takes me back!
    Grandma used to make this all the time.
    I’m going to bookmark this, I really like this version and want to make it once the weather gets chilly.

    Reply
  3. Wow! This really does take me back. My Grandma used to make the best split pea soup growing up. It’s always nice to find a recipe like this that can easily be made vegetarian. This is another one to bookmark for a cool Fall or Winter day. Yum!

    Reply
  4. I’ve never been a fan of spilt peas (or any peas come to that) but I do make a similar soup using lentils alongside the chicken. The addition of the chicken really enhances what I consider to be a frugal dish and is also a great way of using up leftovers. Freezes well too.

    Reply
  5. You can’t eat ham? That’s the saddest thing I’ve ever heard. I don’t know what I would do if I was told that I couldn’t tolerate ham. I eat it everyday. Back to the topic at hand- this soup looks delicious. Perfect for a cold winter’s evening.

    Reply
  6. I love the rich flavor and heartiness of split pea soup. I’ve had it with and without ham, but have never tried making it with chicken, so this sounds nice a nice variation, especially for those who want something different, or can’t have pork or ham. I imagine this would be wonderful with a thick slab of French or Italian bread and butter.

    Reply
  7. Ahhh, this looks yummy. Probably very filling, a couple bowls later. Soup is always something that you can have a few big bowls of it. It’s great in the winter time to warm you up, but I still eat it in the summer. I just let it cool down a little more. The turkey, wait it’s chicken, you could slice it up and make it chunky. It looks so much like turkey. Either one or both. Let it sit in the mixture for awhile to marinate. I would be more inclined to make it vegetarian by adding more of the peas.

    Reply
  8. Split pea soup has always been my go-to recipe when I’m sick and in need of something to break the continuity of chicken noodle. However, I’ve never actually tried it with any meat beyond the traditional ham and, occasionally, bacon. I need to experiment with some of these ingredients; it definitely looks like a decently healthy meal to boost the immune system. Thanks for the recipe!

    Reply
  9. I am a huge fan of chicken soups! I really can’t wait to try this, considering I’ve never had a split pea example. It seems to rich and tasty. I also love the color of the broth and it really seems to make the chicken and peas the star of the show!

    Reply
  10. I love homemade soups. This chicken split pea soup is on the top of my ” must try this” recipe. Nothing like a hot hearty meal to enjoy.

    Reply
  11. My mother used to always prepare this dish for me when I was a little kid and I remember I liked it a lot! Chicken split pea is really delicious and it’s the only soup I eat! It’s too bad that I don’t have time to cook anymore. 🙁

    Reply
  12. Oh wow, that looks delicious! I’ve always wanted to try split pea soup, but my brother hates it so I never bothered to make it. But now that he’s out of the house I might be tempted to have a go at it! I really like the idea of chicken in it as well, since I see a lot with ham and I’m not really a pork fan. Also, I can’t believe I never thought to put basil in peas, that just sounds yummy like in a casserole or something. Eh, I guess that’s why my mom always cooks more than me.

    Reply
    • It’s perfect for those long winter nights, especially when you cook it with sausage / gizzard, i’d suggest slow cooking the gizzard so it’s soft and chewy. Truly a nice dish when you don’t want something too heavy on the stomach yet you can eat in large quantities, it also serves as a nice midnight snack!

      Reply
  13. I’ve never had split pea soup in my life. My family however live for this soup. I don’t really like ham, so to find a recipe that leaves room for substitutes is awesome! Well I’ll see how it turns out. I’m looking forward to making this dish.

    Reply
  14. Hi Jennifer, this recipe looks delicious, I do just have to share with you a split pea (or any dried soup mix) hint. Freeze the bag of split peas (beans/lentils) in the freezer for 24 hours after bringing it home from the grocery store.
    Why you may ask?…. one word: Weevils!
    These little beetle eggs/larvae are most commonly found in rice, grains, and soup mixes!
    But a night in the freezer kills all lurking bugs and when you wash your grains/legumes they are washed away.
    Enjoy your soups!

    Reply
  15. It is amazing that some recipes and/or foods can trigger a memory. For me it had the memory of winter nights as a family sitting around the fire place, drinking soup out of big mugs. Sometimes my mom will spice it up and serve the soup with a fresh loaf of home made bread.
    This recipe sounds amazing. I haven’t tried a split pea soup with chicken. It will definitely be on my menu this winter.

    Reply
  16. I love this recipe. It is so simple to make. I have had it many times before. My mom would cook it for us during the winter months. I will definitely try to make it myself soon and see if my family likes it as much as I do. Thanks for sharing!

    Reply
  17. Well anytime that I hear the words hearty and thick to describe a soup you can usually count me in, and this one sounds like another winner. I have to admit that I was a little turned off to pea soup for a little bit, but then sure enough after getting over the initial hesitation with the name, it is delicious and I enjoy it from time to time. I have never had it with chicken though, so that is a nice change of pace. Thanks for sharing.

    Reply

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