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12/8/05 | Split Pea Soup

[ Currently Eating: Coffee, not surprisingly ]

Split Pea SoupHomemade split pea soup is something I’ve always wanted to try to make. The comforting image of steaming bowls of the olive colored soup with chunks of ham, carrots, celery and onion floating around in it has been ingrained into my subconsciousness. And it’s all Anderson’s fault.

Anderson? Yeah, I’m talking about Anderson’s Pea Soup in Buellton off Highway 101 very close to the “Dutchtown” of Solvang. Anyone who’s ever driven on a long trip up the 5 or 101 freeways in California HAS to have seen these billboard signs seemingly in the middle of nowhere proclaiming: “Try Anderson’s Split Pea Soup, only 227 miles!”.

I don’t actually have a picture of one of the signs but I plan to take one next time I drive up north. This is some marketing genius who thought of this. There is absolutely nothing to do while driving up these long stretches of highway, but look at the scenery. So they just buy up some cheap ad billboard space in 50 mile increments or so and plop their signs down advertising how far it is to their Pea Soup Headquarters.

Anderson's Split Pea SoupI’d like to know how successful they are in getting people to think about Pea Soup… I know it’s certainly worked on me! I recently decided to make use of the extra ham and ham hock bones that are inevitably left over from Thanksgiving. I’ve never tried to make Split Pea Soup so I stopped by the market and picked up a few bags.

Helpfully, there was a recipe right on the bag. One thing about dried peas, beas, lentils… they are pretty much the same as far as I can tell. Thus, you might as well by the darned cheapest bag you can find. In this case it was the Albertson’s store brand of peas which came out at 69 cents for a 1 lb. bag.

These dried peas and beans actually expand quite a bit, so while a half pound might not seem like enough, resist the temptation to add more. They soak up an amazing amount of liquid. Also, I didn’t know that they would break down in the manner they did. I thought I might need to use a stick blender or something to get the right consistency. But all you need to do is cook it.

Green Split Pea Soup With Ham

1/2 lb of dried green split peas — $0.35
4-6 cups of water — negligible
1 Ham Hock or Ham Bone with meat still on it — free!
1 bay leaf — $0.05
1/2 white or yellow onion, chopped — $0.25
2 stalks celery, chopped — $0.20
1 carrot, chopped — $0.10
2 garlic cloves, minced — $0.05
1/2 tbsp oil — $0.05
salt, pepper to taste — negligible

Total: $1.05

Wash and drain the dried peas. Watch out for tiny ROCKS in the peas… the occur every so often and can break your teeth if left in! If you’d like to, cut off the ham from the bones, cube it and set aside. Some people leave it on and then cut it off after cooking, but cutting it off before will decrease the saltiness of the soup.

Heat up the oil in a large pot, add the onion, celery, and carrot. Cook over medium heat until softened, about 3-5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for about 1 minute more.

Add the water, peas, ham bones, bay leaf, and bring to a boil. Cook half covered over low heat for about 1 to 1.5 hours stirring occasionally. When you get near the end of cooking, you can add the cubed ham if you’ve reserved it. Add salt and pepper to taste. Delicious split pea soup is now ready!

I was pretty amazed at how easy it was to make this. I’ve tried recipes that use frozen peas instead and this didn’t come out as good. The “rind” on the frozen peas doesn’t disintegrate as well, forcing you to use a blender to get the right consistency. The dried green split peas break up of their own accord.

Split Pea Soup CloseupOne important note for this split pea soup is that depending on the saltiness of your ham and how much you put in, you will need to adjust both the amount of water and added salt. The good news is that you can add the water before or after, or anytime without affecting the overall quality.

The split pea soup with ham keeps in the fridge for at least a few days. You’ll notice the consistency gets really thick when refrigerated. Just add some water before nuking or re-boiling it.

This is a great way to make use of Thanksgiving leftovers. As I’ve said before, you want to stand up and claim that ham bone in the name of Cheap Eats before the other relatives do! If they argue, remind them that the holidays are a time for the spirit of giving, hehe.

The ham bone imparts a smoky subtle taste to the soup. It’s good enough for me, but those who like a lot of flavor may want to substitute a can or so of vegetable stock for an equal amount of water. Note, that if you do that you may need to increase the water or cut back on the salt.

Price: $1.05
Bought at: Peas at Albertson’s
Cheap Eats Score: 9/10

43 Responses to “Split Pea Soup”

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  1. cybele Says:

    Wow, you really splurged. I don’t eat mammals, so I usually have vegetarian split pea. I love split pea soup. I love it even more with barley in it.

  2. Cheap Eats Editor Says:

    cybele – I was planning on looking up recipes for vegetarian pea soup as well for those times when there’s no ham in the house. Oh yeah, I like barley in soup too…

  3. Peggasus Says:

    Yep, that’s the way I make it too. A few years back, after Easter dinner at my brother’s house, my mother and I almost came to (fake) blows about who got the hambone. My brother, in his Solomon-like wisdom, actually went to his basement and cut it in half with his table saw. We still laugh about it, but the fact remains that neither one of us was willing to let the other one have it!

    Yeah, some families fight about money, we fight about hambones.

  4. Cheap Eats Editor Says:

    peggasus – that’s too funny! my parents let it go this year because we had thanksgiving at our place. It’s sort of tradition that whoever is hosting just keeps the leftovers “soupables”.

  5. J.R. Says:

    Mmmm, my wife just made some…this is good stuff, thanks for the recipe. She used cubed ham, we didn’t have a hambone :)

  6. Cheap Eats Editor Says:

    J.R. – Yeah, I have made it with cubed ham before, or even hamsteak bought at the supermarket. The flavor is not as rich and hearty as if you use the hambone, but it’s still pretty good!

  7. ang Says:

    wow, you put barley in pea soup? i wouldn’t have thought that! i like barley if anyone has idea how to use it that would be great.

  8. Cheap Eats Editor Says:

    ang – well, truthfully I haven’t put barley in homemade soup myself just yet. I’ve only had it in pre-packaged soups and in restaurants. It’s quite delicious though…

  9. stan Says:

    A simple but killer recipie! I am simmering it as I type this. I used a hambone from Christmas. I have been talking about making peasoup for about a month now….Im sure evryone will be happy I finally did it! Thanks for your help!

  10. Jo Says:

    Greetings! We are driving from San Francisco to North Carolina in a few days. Because this is a move for life we just HAVE to stop at Anderson’s for soup. Pea soup is one of my favs and I can remember stopping at Anderson’s as a kid when we went on road trips. There used to be a running contest that anyone beating the current record number of bowls of soup would win a trip to Denmark. Can you imagine a 10 yr olds biggest dream being to eat 25 bowls of pea soup? ;o) Most I could ever manage was 2 bowls. I might have gotten through 3 bowls if my folks didn’t make me eat a ham sandwich…

  11. Cheap Eats Editor Says:

    stan – yeah, I am thinking of making it again actually… but first I need to find a spare hambone. Anyone feel like donating one?

    jo – that’s a great story about the record number of bowls of pea soup. I have been wanting to try Anderson’s ever since I’ve seen these signs. The sign advertising really “worked” on me, I guess. That is a long trip you are going on. Maybe you should pack some bowls of pea soup for the road, hehe.

  12. Alex Says:

    I live about 40 miles outside of San Francisco, and there’s another Anderson’s in the tiny, tiny, tiny town (well…maybe it’s not so much a town as it is a truck stop) of Santa Nella. It’s along Interstate 5, a little north of the turnoff for Los Banos. Their split pea soup is good, but even better is their pot roast. The best mashed potatoes and gravy I have ever tasted, no lie.

  13. Cheap Eats Editor Says:

    alex – i’ve heard of santa nella, i can’t remember where though. Maybe while driving up I-5 on the way to Frisco? This one isn’t related to the buellton one, is it?

  14. Katya Says:

    I am a Southern Cali native myself but transplanted to another state. (for shame) I still remember fondly the road trips up from Long Beach to Sacramento and seeing those Andersons signs. I never ate the split pea there because I hate it but the rest of my family surely did. I do remember the rest of the food was great. It was fun browsing through their store and I usually bought the bag of blue sugar free mints to hold me til we made it to the capital.


  15. Lorrie Says:

    I have made pea soup many times with the green split peas…but I went to a little restaurant once where they had the yellow pea soup…I don’t know if it was the way it was made but it was the best I had ever eaten..I use to run a cafe and had split pea soup a lot and everybody liked it..

  16. artmommy Says:

    Does anyone have the list of toppings you can choose from at Andersons? I’ve been making my version of their soup for years since we don’t live too close to one. I’m hosting Mah Jong at my house this week and making it, and remembered they had a tons of toppings on the menu, but can’t find it.

  17. Jim Adams Says:

    Hi: Do you have locations in other than in Buelton, I thought there was another one on hwy 5 in central California.
    Thank you.

  18. Cheap Eats Editor Says:

    katya – I feel a bit out of it, as I’ve lived in Cali all my life but never had this soup yet!

    lorrie – i need to try the yellow peas out one of these days.

    artmommy – pea soup at a mah jong party? Sounds neat.

    jim – I’m not affiliated with them… however, I looked online and I found the following info. No idea how current it is though:

    850 Palomar Airport Rd. Carlsbad, CA 92008, 760-438-7880 Hrs. 6:30 am-10 pm
    376 Avenue of the Flags, P.O. Box 19, Buellton, CA 93427, 805-688-5581 or 1-800 PEA-SOUP
    Best Western Pea Soup Andersen’s Motel 12411 S Highway 33, Santa Nella, CA, 209-826-5534
    Pea Soup Andersen’s, Selma, CA, 209-891-7614

  19. Matt Says:

    The Carlsbad Pea Soup Andersen’s locations ceased operation many years ago – If I remember correctly, it was sometime around 1999. The old PSA restaurant was turned into a TGI Friday’s, and the hotel became (reverted to?) a Best Western.

  20. Maria Says:

    I’ve just made a pot of yellow split pea soup with barley (I’ve made so many soups that I don’t use a recipe– just the “holy trinity” of onion, celery and carrots, diced and sauteed in olive oil or butter, plus garlic, a couple of diced potatoes, dried thyme, the peas and water. Today I threw in a bowl of leftover barley. I season w. salt from the beginning, and sometimes add a spoonful of sugar later on, if it seems like it needs something I can’t quite define! Noting the comments about ham above, though, I wanted to suggest Liquid Smoke as a great vegetarian substitute. I often use it when I make the green variety– my mom always used a ham bone, and the smokiness is nostalgic. Can’t say I miss the ham, otherwise. I also used to make a great Canadian Pea Soup from a real recipe– it used most of the above w. yellow peas, but included diced turnip, and added a couple of tablespoons of vinegar at the end. Really good, and the tanginess was an interesting change.

  21. patty Says:

    You can also use bacon in the yellow split pea soup if you do not have ham .. This is the way my german grandmoher used to make it , and she also sometimes added a parsnip .. hope this helps ..

  22. Rachel Says:

    I just made a pot of this stuff… it’s excellent! I added cubed ham instead of a bone and threw in some mushrooms, and the flavor is still plenty rich and filling. I’ve been craving a bowl ever since I watched the Rescuers Down Under as a kid, but the snot color seems to turn most people off. Unfortunate :)

  23. dave Says:

    I used to have great split pea soup recipe from a book called “Hot and Spicy,” but I seem to have misplaced my copy. Internet searches don’t seem to help much…already looked at over 100 recipes and they just don’t sound right. I remember it had cumin and cayenne pepper in it, giving it a pleasantly warm spice. Anyone ever hear of something like this?

  24. Norah Says:

    Help . . . my peas didn’t soften!!!
    I’ve been cooking this in my crock pot since yesterday noon – put it in the fridge over night & back on this a.m. – came home from work expecting “mushy” peas & there are still little green pellets taunting me :(

  25. Cheap Eats Editor Says:

    matt – we almost went to the santa nella one awhile back. that’s too bad about the carlsbad one.

    maria – oh yeah, liquid smoke can be a good sub-out for ham…

    patty – I’ve used bacon with success before. I think it’s a good idea to get rid of some of the bacon fat though, before making the soup. Believe it or not I’ve never had a parsnip (that I know of)

    rachel – too bad indeed for them. more pea soup for us!

    dave – I haven’t heard of that recipe, though it sounds interesting

    norah – very strange, no idea why the peas wouldn’t soften. you put water in it, right? that is very strange.

  26. Norah Says:

    Thanks for the reply & yes, I did add both water & vegetable broth. Didn’t measure, but I would say 6 to 8 cups.
    I ended up pouring the mixture (less the meat) into a pan on the stove & boiling it for 15 ~ 25 minutes, then mashing it, re-added the meat & simmered slowly for another 45 minutes. It came out great!!
    I think the “high” heat on my slow cooker is gone (or going).

  27. Derek Christensen Says:

    Pea Soup Andersen’s….I just read the history of the company from the Buellton restaurant website

    When I was a child (60′s / 70′s) I would see the signs from the freeways, but couldn’t get my parents to stop there (though they said they had been there in the past.)

    Many Years later….I stopped at the Santa Nella location. Well worn from years of continuous service without a remodel, the food (though plain, “comfort” food) is good and central-valley fresh.

    Actually, “PS Andersen’s” and “Solvang, CA” are both Danish (not “Dutch,” but I digress.

    I believe that the locations (Buellton, Selma, Carlsbad and Santa Nella) were at one time all owned by one entity / group (so far as I can tell) but that perhaps (in the late 1990′s) they were sold-off as separate, non-affiliated restaurants.

    Friday after Thanksgiving 2006, I stopped by the Santa Nella (I-5) location for breakfast (bought a case of their Tomato Soup which I prefer over their Split-Pea) then drove across to the “99″ at Merced. In Merced they have a restaurant (affiliated with the Santa Nella restaurant) named “PS Bistro.” (Here is the Santa Nella location’s website:

    The Buellton restaurant does not seem to be affiliated with the Santa Nella restaurant. The Selma location (on the “99″ just south of Fresno) was sold-off to Holiday Inn and though it still maintains a Danish-Theme, is no longer a “Pea-Soup Andersen’s” (since 1998.)

    I guess the Carlsbad location must have been sold-off too.

    The “Andersen” family sold the restaurants in 1965. The next owner (Vince Evans) his wife and 21-year-old daughter (after owning/expanding for 15-years) died together in a small-plane crash near the Santa Ynez Airport in 1980.

    After that, not sure who owned/owns the restaurants now. I believe the grandson of the original Mr. Andersen retains the rights and continues to produce / sell the canned versions of the soup.

    If anyone out there knows what happened to cause the sell-off / break-up, I’d sure like to know.

  28. Olli Says:

    I live in Finland and here split pea soup is traditionally served every Thursday. I think the tradition exists in Sweden and maybe other Scandinavian lands too.
    Many lunch places serve pea soup on Thursdays and the military has pea soup on every Thursday (I heard this is originally because on Wednesdays soldiers have evening leave and there’s no one around to peel potatoes for next lunch).
    Many people here dislike pea soup, especially schoolchildren, as it is served every week and especially in schools it is often rather bad. Personally I’ve always liked it.
    By the way, the tradition here also is to eat the pea soup with a tablespoon or so of mustard mixed in on your plate. It changes the consistency of the soup in an interesting way and adds a nice sting to the flavour.
    The wikipedia article also has a nice amount of information.

  29. Brian Says:

    For the vegetarian variation of the soup use a little vegetable stock and a dash of “liquid smoke” as well as all the other ingredients. This will give the illusion of the smoked ham hock. If using a smoked hock get the butcher to “crack” the hock into about 4 pieces. In a crock pot mix all items together and add water to cover. Set to medium and let cook all day long. To add just a bit to the thickness of the soup add a little diced potatoes and let the heat break down all the peas and potatoes into a thick mix. enjoy.

  30. Daracha Says:

    I couldn’t resist responding to this blog’o’pea soup…I indeed have had a hambone in my fridge for the last week since chrismas. (those that host, get the hambone……I host christmas EVERY year…) :-) I read the starting recipe (LOVE the price included!!!) and decided I HAD to have split pea soup for myself and my kids….but, GASP I had NO SPLIT PEAS in the house. Oie Vay! So listen up, I used a whole bag of navy beans, and just went from there. Hmmmmm lets see what else I have in the fridge after I boiled the ham bone: well, since I live in MN, threw in some wild rice, brown rice, then mushrooms, celery, onion, one potato, carrots and garlic (sauteed of course first) and got creative with adding a can of diced tomatoes with green chilies, a bunch of spices, including a couple squirts of hot sauce, and why not! We are not shy apparently! It is still brewing at this very moment, but I had each child (ages 9, 11 and 13) test the broth for starters and they LOVED it, so I’m sure it’ll be a hit. Just need some crusty french bread, another foot of snow, and MAN are we set for the new year. :-) Nice to hear all your recipe ideas, and I wish you all a very satisfying new year. Salut!

  31. Amy Says:

    Crockpot Split Pea Soup — Be sure to soften the peas first by briskly simmering with water only on the stovetop for 10 minutes before putting into the crock pot. Can be blended in a blender after slow crock pot cooking is done, or can use an immersion blender. Ummm …

  32. mike prichard Says:

    How much salt in a bowl of Pea soup?


  33. raylene Says:

    Help i have just made a pot of pea soup and its too salty, do you know how to tone it down a bit .
    Thanks Raylene.

  34. Marilyn Marble Says:

    If your soup is too salty try adding brown sugar. I found this worked much better than adding a potato.

  35. Nicola Says:

    Hi, I’m a teacher and I want to use this recipe in the classroom, I would like to know roughly how many servings this recipe makes, so that I know how many times to multiply it so that we get enough ingredients to make enough for at least 16 students. I’ve looked at a lot of other recipes and feel this one would be the best. Many thanks.

  36. christocc Says:

    Another great, cheap way to make pea soup is with a smoked ham hock and a pig’s foot (at about half a buck apiece). The smoky flavor from the hock adds a little more complexity to the soup, and the gelatin in the foot makes the soup incredibly thick and rich. And the meat from both is absolutely delicious. While the overall cost goes up, the richness of the soup means you’ll eat less, getting more servings out of the same recipe and thereby reducing the overall cost.

  37. Leon Panneton Says:

    I make a great tasty split pea rice soup with out the ham bone. Soy sause dose the work of a ham bone. Chopped ham is just as good with the Soy

  38. Sylvia Says:

    This whole ‘as thick as pea soup’ dialogue was
    so fun to read!!! I’m making yellow split pea
    soup with ham hocks right now.

  39. Robby Andersen Says:

    Derek Christensen… you did well with the history.. and the spelling.. must be the ‘SEN’ in your name that sees that sort of thing..

    I’m the third Generation of the Pea Soup Andersens.. the restaurant was started by my grand parents in 1924.. my parents took over the operation in 1940.. I was born in 1942.. my Dad was big on the highway signs had them as far away from Buellton as Denver.. think he stuck one in New York.. in the ‘ANDERSEN COOK BOOK’ there is a picture of the Denver sign.. the soup was first frozen then canned by my folks from 1949-1952.. it was then sold to Heublin .. then to Tilly Lewis.. Tilly was bought by Real Fresh Foods and is canned in Visilia CA..

    my folks sold Buellton to Vince Evans.. today there are two locations.. Buellton and Santa Nella.. and owned by one owner..

    I live in the Denver area and partnered with the late Jack Mendenhall of Buellton on a dragster that was sponsored by Andersen’s in the 50′s and 60′s.. my wife and I took it on the road from 1996 thru 2000 doing a car show circuit.. we gave away soup where ever we went.. the restaurants and Jack felt that the car needed to be closer.. it now is back in Buellton..

    you can find the soup in cans at Safeway.. Kroger.. they have the SKU#.. you may have to lean on the manager.. you can also find it at Long’s Drug Stores.. a little known secret..

    Robby Andersen.. bobandersen251 at hotmail

  40. Doris Joslin Says:

    We moved to the higher altitudes in NM [6350'] some years ago. Since moving here I have been unable to make split pea soup turn out. No matter how long I cook it or pre soak it the peas remain hard and do not desolve. Does anyone have any answers or suggestions

  41. Darlene Says:

    What can you do to take out the salty flavor in Split Pea soup?

  42. Martha Irvin Says:

    Do you have any other locations besides Buelton or Carlsbad. We are going to take a trip up the coast in a couple of weeks and would like to stop at the Anderson’s restaurants.


  43. Carolyn Street Says:

    I remember liking Anderson’s split pea soup in (Buellton, near Danish-themed Solvang) as a child but do not like it now because it’s porkless, with no smoke flavor. It may even be vegetarian. On the side they serve cold cubed ham, along with other toppings such as grated cheese and onions.

    My parents say Anderson’s soup never had meat (except on the side) and was never any good, but I don’t think this is true. The Wikipedia article has lots of traditional Danish and other Scandinavian recipies, all with meat. I make split pea soup using the recipe on the side of the bag, with ham hocks or sausage (yum), sometimes throwing in a can of Campbell’s split pea soup with it.

    For the meal-in-minutes version, mix a can of Trader Joe’s split pea soup with Campbell’s split pea soup (adding water per the instructions), neither of which are as good separately.

    Perhaps the scion of the Anderson family can tell me if there was every meat in their soup. My parents claim (I think wrongly) that there was never meat (except on the side) and that I liked the soup just because the signs were fun and effective and I liked to stick my head through the photo sign thing.



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