Quebecois Penicillin: Traditional French-Canadian Split Pea Soup

French-Canadian Pea SoupI’m baaaack.

Errr… you did notice I was gone, right?

I’ve got an excuse, though. After three years of sailing through flu season with nary a sniffle, I got slammed with a really nasty cold a couple of weeks ago – I’m talking one of those Seven Dwarves kind of cold, which comes complete with Sneezy, Coughy, Sniffly, Wheezy, Sleepy, Dopey and Snot.

Needless to say, being able to stand upright for more than a couple of hours at a time has been my biggest achievement this past two weeks. Managing to do other stuff, like cooking, blogging, doing the dishes or maintaining an intelligent conversation? Yeah, not so much.

It’s a good thing I had squirreled away a couple of containers of this French Canadian Pea Soup in my freezer, after one of my occasional stocking-up-for-a-rainy-day cooking binges.

It’s exactly the kind of food I crave when I’m under the weather. It’s smoky and hearty, with a subtstantial warmth that coaxes me back to some semblance of humanity when I’d rather huddle under the covers in a miserable ball of snotty self-pity. Best of all, it’s easy… I can always manage a quick defrost-and-reheat sort of meal, no matter how miserable I am.

French-Canadian Pea SoupIf chicken soup is Jewish penicillin, then this is the Quebecois version.

I’ve written this recipe to use a store-bought ham hock, since that’s what I use when I don’t have a leftover ham bone kicking around, but I can vouch for the fact that a good-sized meaty ham bone left over from Easter dinner will do just as well (as would the scraps from a smoked pulled pork shoulder, for that matter). Whatever you do, don’t leave it out altogether – that meaty pork bone is essential to giving the soup a deep, rich, smoky flavour that belies its relatively short list of ingredients.

No matter what it is you might be suffering from, I guarantee that a couple of bowls of this soup are sure to set you right.


French-Canadian Split Pea Soup
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
A classic Quebecois favourite, this slow-simmered soup is smoky, rich and stick-to-your ribs good.
Recipe type: Soup
Serves: 8
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and sliced
  • 10 cups water
  • 1 lb dried yellow split peas
  • 1 smoked ham hock (~ 1 lb)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp dried savoury
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  1. In a very large heavy-bottomed pot set over medium-high heat, sweat the onions and carrots in butter for 5-7 minute, or until onions are soft and translucent.
  2. Stir in water, split peas, ham hock, bay leaves, thyme and savoury. Bring the soup to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to low and simmer, covered, for about 2½ to 3 hours, or until the peas are soft and begin to fall apart into a puree.
  3. Remove the ham hock. Pull the meat away from the bone, and shred or chop into small dice. Set ham aside, and discard the bone. Remove bay leaves and discard these as well.
  4. Taste soup, and adjust seasoning as needed with salt and pepper. For a very smooth soup, use an immersion blender to puree completely, or leave as-is for a chunkier texture. Stir chopped ham back into the soup, and serve immediately.



  1. Jean says

    Sorry to hear you were sick but I'm glad you're feeling better!

    I'm loving the color of this soup–much more appealing than the green split peas I always use. I can almost taste this, warm and comforting, for sure!

  2. Jackie says

    Man, I could go for a bowl of this right about now! Lunchtime hunger pangs are settling in and I'm ready for something hearty and warming.

    Hope you're feeling better now, lovely!

    Jax x

  3. TheGourmetCoffeeGuy says

    Very good post. Agree with you that soup is healthy and makes you feel good when you are sick. Soups made with ingredients as your recipe includes or similar are believed to have anti-inflammatory properties that soothe sore throats and ease the misery of colds/flu. Thank you for sharing such good recipe.

  4. Lo says

    I must say, I think that a good split pea soup is the cure for many ills. Have been craving a nice hot pot of this for at least a week…

  5. callyn says

    Yeah! I just found your blog via a recipe for blueberry/hyssop ice-cream and am I delighted.
    We are like-minded in the food dept.
    I live in the West, Vancouver so a fellow Canadian. Don't get out to Toronto as much but I love it there.
    Hope you are feeling better and I look forward to more great recipes & food thoughts.

  6. kita says

    Ive never had split pea soup but I am a sucker for pretty much all hearty soups. It always justs hits the spot. It looks lovely and sounds delicious.

  7. Pretend Chef says

    You must have known that I had a craving for split pea soup while I was sick a week ago. Even though I am already back to tip top shape I am happy to have this recipe to make a big batch and freeze. Yummy! Hope you get to feeling on top of your game soon. Take it easy and get plenty of rest!

  8. bellini valli says

    Even as a kid this was one of my favourites. I am with you in fighting off colds for over 3 years and this year it hit me too.I remember spending the entire weekend in bed and had nothing but water.

  9. kathleen says

    hello there, i just want you to know that i really enjoy looking arround in your website
    and thanks for sharing imformation im looking forward for more amazing post


  10. Lynn @ I'll Have What She's Having says

    Sounds like a really nasty cold, glad you're feeling better!
    I had some pea soup yesterday at a cabane a sucre, I love that stuff. It really does sooth the soul. I'm bookmarking your recipe :)

  11. Lawyer Loves Lunch says

    Yay, glad you're feeling better. I'm convinced it was the soup that "fixed" you :)

  12. All Things Yummy says

    That sounds delicious and perfect for a cold stormy day. So sorry to read you were sick. Glad you're feeling better.

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