This traditional French Canadian Pea soup is easy to make, feeds a CROWD - cheaply - is tasty, filling, and a great way to use up leftover ham!
Originally published January 17, 2013. Updated on 3/6/2023
I'm a huge fan of French-Canadian Pea Soup - or “soupe aux pois”. I loved it when I was a kid - especially when served at Festival du Voyageur activities in my hometown!.
I loved it when I first moved out on my own, living on the cheap, and buying the canned Habitant pea soup like it was going out of style.
When I was an expatriate Canadian in the United States ... I may have loved Habitant soup even more! Like many other “product of Canada” items, it was a great comfort food, in my time away.
Unlike many of the other homeland foods I adore, this traditional dish is easily made, with almost all of the ingredients being available locally.
My grandmother used to simmer ham and the dry beans in Dutch ovens for a long time, before picking bits of ham off the bone to serve in the soup.
It was a great soup - Tasty, filling, cheap to make. As an adult, I decided to come up with my own version of the soup, simplifying the process.
Serve it with a hunk of Traditional Bannock - so good!
Homemade French Canadian Pea Soup
This version is a bit easier than the 100% traditional way, which uses a ham bone in it. Feel free to add a ham bone in with the water, pulling it out as the mixture gets thick, though.
I just find it convenient to use the small, boneless ham chunks for this!
This makes a LOT of French Canadian pea soup, by the way.
Because soup isn't an everyday kind of thing to make, I like to make a large batch, and freeze most of it - it freezes / thaws beautifully.
Thick French Canadian Pea Soup... Or Not?
As you can see by the photos in this post, you can make this soup in various different viscosity levels.
Sometimes I’m in the mood for a nice, smooth pea soup.
Other times, I’m in the mood for a very thick pea soup - almost more of a pease pudding - that you can stand a spoon up in.
If you want it thick, cut the liquid a bit to start. You can add more later, but you can’t really take it away!
For an extra smooth pea soup, use an immersion blender on the finished soup - I generally don’t bother, as it gets pretty smooth just through the cooking process.
I did not use a blender to make the smooth soup, as pictured.
Some day, I’ll do up Instant Pot / pressure cooker or slow cooker directions for this soup, but for now... just cook it on the stove top, like Gramma did 🙂
This recipe uses super basic ingredients that should be easy to find at your local grocery store. A few notes for you:
Yellow Split Peas
The main ingredient! You’ll find these in with the dried beans section in most grocery stores.
You can use green split peas with this recipe, it makes a decent soup... it just won’t really be traditional for *this* style of pea soup!
This is a great way to use up leftover ham after a holiday dinner - butt end, ham shank, spiral sliced, picnic ham, whatever.
I’ve even made it just using one of those little breakfast hams and ham steaks that were on sale.
The main thing to keep in mind is that if you roasted your ham with a very flavourful glaze - like my Southern Comfort Glazed Ham - you might want to cut the rind off.
Pineapple and Southern Comfort don’t really work with the flavour profile of French Canadian pea soup, LOL!
Originally, I made this dinner soup with only water - as my grandma did.
The thing is, her boiling of the ham bone added a lot of flavour to the water, that you just don’t get from only using the meat of the ham.
So, I’ll use some broth to boost the flavour - chicken broth or chicken stock work well.
Sometimes I’ll substitute vegetable stock or vegetable broth if I have some of the good, homemade stuff on hand to use up.
I generally use half water, half broth / stock, as I find the flavour can be a bit overpowering if I use ALL stock. You get a lot of flavour from the vegetables, beans and herbs!
Summer savoury is an herb that’s popular in certain regions of Canada - especially in Newfoundland.
You may have seen it in some of my recipes, it’s a nice addition to things like Savoury Mushroom Chestnut Stuffing, Tourtiere, Cod Cheeks & Dressing, Cod Au Gratin, Hearty Beef Stew (and my Keto Beef Stew!), Replica Swiss Chalet Sauce, Creamy Chicken Wild Rice Soup, and - most recently - my Keto Cod au Gratin.
It’s a great herb, and it’s a a big part of what gives this soup its iconic flavour.
Mt Scio brand is the best, IMHO
Sure, you can't get *proper* summer savory in Minnesota - but you CAN beg friends to bring some back from vacations on Canada's east coast!
(Thank you Laura and Andrew, you're awesome and I adore you for it!)
Barring that, I think Penzey’s sells it, and you can usually find Summer Savory on Amazon.
Rounding out this recipe, you will need:
Butter or Olive Oil
Ground Black Pepper
... I just don’t really have anything to add, as far as these last few ingredients go!
More French Canadian Recipes
Looking for more recipes from La Belle Province? Bon appétit!
This recipe is one of many fantastic Canadian recipes in my cookbook, "More Than Poutine: Favourite Foods from my Home and Native Land”.
"More than Poutine" is a Canadian cookbook like no other - written by a Canadian living away, it includes both traditional home cooking recipes, as well as accurate homemade versions of many of the snacks, sauces, convenience foods, and other food items that are hard to come by outside of Canada!
More Canadian Comfort Food!
Whether you’re a Canadian in the US or not, we could all use some comfort food these days. Here are some Canadian Favourites!
Back Bacon / Canadian Bacon
Canadian Popcorn Seasoning Recipes
Dill Pickle Dip
Doughnut Holes - Timbits!
Homemade Deep N Delicious Cake
How to Make Peameal Bacon and Back Bacon
Maple Butter Tarts
Poutine, My Way!
Puffed Wheat Squares
Replica Swiss Chalet Sauce
Tiger Tail Ice Cream
Looking for even more Canadian recipes? Check out our full Canadian Recipes list!
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French Canadian Pea Soup
- Large pot
- 2 tablespoon Butter or Olive Oil
- 3 Onions Chopped
- 2 Cups Grated Celery
- 3 lbs Dried Yellow Split Peas
- 12 cups Chicken Broth
- 12 Cups Water
- 3+ lbs Cured Ham Cut into bite sized pieces
- 1 Cup Grated Carrots
- 1 tablespoon Dried Summer Savoury
- 1 Bay Leaf
- 2 teaspoon Ground Pepper
- In a LARGE pot, melt butter over medium high heat.
- Add onions and celery, saute until vegetables are tender and onions are translucent.
- Add split peas, broth, water, ham, and carrots, bring to a boil. Cover pot, remove from heat, and allow to sit for one hour.
- After one hour, return pot to heat and bring up to a boil over medium high heat once more. Add summer savory, bay leaf, and pepper, stir well to combine.
- Reduce heat, simmer over medium heat until split peas break down, forming a very thick soup. If it gets too thick for your liking, just add a little water or broth to thin it out a bit.
- Remove bay leaf, season with salt to taste.
- Serve hot, with slices of baguette for dipping.
More Recipes that Remind me of Gramma
Since originally writing this post, my gramma has sadly passed... but her memory lives on.
Here are a few recipes that remind me of her, whether as something she taught me to make, a replica of a retail treat we used to enjoy together, or one of my own recipes that she would request whenever I’d visit, as an adult.
Gramma's Perogies Recipe
Homemade Marshmallow Cones
Homemade Clodhoppers Candy
Puffed Wheat Squares
Honey Dill Dipping Sauce
Paska - Ukrainian Easter Bread
Baking Powder Biscuits
Grandma's Potato Salad
Easy Butterfly Cupcakes
Breakfast of Champions
Beep Drink Recipe