French Canadian Pea Soup

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For those not in the know, Canada is a bilingual country where our two official languages are French and English. Most of the Francophones live in the province of Quebec and some families can trace their roots to the first settlers in North America.

English and French Canadians are similar yet different. I won’t get into Canadian politics but French-Canadians are a unique bunch. Did you know that advertisers have to devise totally separate campaigns for Quebecers? They do have varying tastes: prefer Pepsi to Coke, a strange love of corn dogs, a sweet spot for rich snack cakes (Mae west) and they like to spread pork fat (Creton) on toast.

Beyond some of their quirky eating habits, the Quebecois also have a rich history of loving food and of having a wonderfully delicious local cuisine.

One of my favourite French-Canadian soups is the the Split Pea Soup. It’s a very simple dish but it requires one quality ingredient…a smoked ham hock.

At first, you wonder if this dish will amount to anything good but allow the simmering of the ham to extract all it’s flavour. This is one of my favourite soups for it’s ease in preparation, high taste factor and very comforting.

French-Canadian Pea Soup

1 smoked ham hock
one 16oz. package of yellow split peas

2 carrots, thinly sliced
1 medium onion, chopped

7 cups of water

1/2 tsp. ground allspice

1 tsp. ground pepper

1 bay leaf

salt to taste

  1. In a large pot, add the water, ham hock, split peas, allspice, onions, carrots, peppercorns and bay leaf.
  2. Bring to a boil then cover and reduce to a simmer. Cook on medium-low heat for approx. an hour.
  3. Remove the ham hock and bay leaf from the soup. Adjust seasoning of the soup with salt and pepper. Using your hand blender, puree the soup to the consistency of your choice (I left some peas in tact).
  4. Using a fork and knife, scrap the meat off the bone and flake the meat into bite sized pieces. Add your ham meat back into the soup, stir in and serve hot.

© 2008,
Peter Minakis

. All rights reserved.

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22 Comments for “French Canadian Pea Soup”

Happy cook


Soup looks delicious.
When i make peas soup i use bacon. When my MIL makes the peas soup she used pig trotters etc…..and i run a mile when she tells me to taste it :-)



That loos soooo good! I haven’t had a good split pea soup since the last time my mother made it…and I still lived in the U.S. Can’t get the ham hock here, and a substitution just wouldn’t be the same. Maybe I’ll make one at my sister’s next month. BTW, not far from where I grew up the local summer festival was ‘Pea Soup Days’.



I’m an avid reader of your blog and altough I’m an exiled french canadian, I love preparing soup aux pois for the family or for guests.

Even if it takes more time, I prefer to prepare the ham hock stock separately. If prepared ahead of time and chilled, a lot of the fat can easily be skimmed off the top of the stock. Also, working with ham hock halves (and thus exposing more of the bones to the stock) will allow you to extract more of the collagen (and hence more flavour) from the bones. When chilled, the stock should appear as a glob of gelatin if collagen has been well extracted (it will become liquid again once heated).

I usually use a huge stockpot and 6 ham hock halves to make a large amount of stock and then freeze it for the cold season. I’ve used this stock to make pea soup, “ragout de patte de cochon” or ham hock stew (another french canadian favorite) and even a black bean soup.



Three cheers for Quebec! :) We devour this soup in copious amounts in the spring during our ‘sugaring off’ season.
Looking good!

Bellini Valli


We used to have this soup a great deal when we were kids..unfortunatley mom served it out of a can for ease of preparation…but even Habitant Pea Soup is better than no pea soup at all..

Gato Azul


Ah Peter… try and find some ham with the bone in… it’s become so rare. As for the cretons, the tourtières, the ragoût de pattes de cochon, the pork is so lean that… it just doesn’t taste the same. But then, we now have electric heating and I guess we don’t need the same kind of foods our ancestors did. Now should I object to the qualification that we are quirky? And what are corn dogs?

Peter M


Happy cook, nothing from the pig gets wasted.

Katie, I suppose your could still make a good soup with quality ham?

Christian, thanks for reading my blog and getting in depth on “soup aux pois”. I’ll have to try the long road to soup heaven too!

Aimee, I’m pleased the Quebecers are not objecting to my soup.

Val, I recently opened a can of Habitant and it was Blech! At least it motivated me to make this soup.

Louise, I buy bone-in hams from delis of Slavic origins…look there. As for corn dogs, I believe they are also called POGO’s…quirky indeed! ;)



Oh, Peter, this looks like heaven in a bowl…Smoked ham is rare around here, and split peas? Well, fuggetabadit. Would you mind shipping me a serving, please? Split pea is one of my very favorite soups. :)



I was raised with family in the hills of Kentucky and ham hocks were added to all of our bean and pea dishes. You are right, it gives the soups so much savory flavor. One thing I have not added to my pea soup is allspice. I will definately try that addition next time!



Is it the allspice that makes this French Canadian, or is all split pea soup with ham hock Quebecois? I never knew…

Peter M


Kat, I believe the Quebecois prefer yellow split peas to green and the quality bone-in ham is important too.

As for the allspice, this particualr recipe called for it the aroma is amazing!

Gato Azul


Actually, Lisa, the reason why the food coloring was removed from the margarine is that there was a question that it might cause cancer. Having some overlapping governmental food control has some side benefits. As for the allspice, traditionally, we use ground cloves (as in most pork simmered dishes in Quebec). Oh, and Peter, I don’t do pogos ;-)but when I was working for the local English schoolboard, we had a dickens of a time getting the parents to agree to get them off the cafeteria menus.



I’m definitely with Quebecers here!!! what a wonderful soup! It does look comforting… mmmmmm and here is the magic ham, to help with the flavour!!!!

Peter, I’m thinking about buying one of these iron black casseroles, cocottes, to do this kind of cooking. Do you have one? Do you use it for simmering stews/soups…? Do you recomend it?



If you simmer it for 3 to 4 hours, the peas, carrots and onion will pretty well dissolve, leaving a thick, wonderful soup. Smells great in the house all day, too!

Peter M


Nuria, the enamel coated pots (french) are a good investment as they a good quality, and can be used on the stove or in the oven.

In N.America, a slowcooker has become popular too.

Marjie, if time allows, your method would be the ultimate.



I’m of Canadian descent, family is from Montreal. When I make this soup, I use what’s called a picnic ham. Not sure why it’s called picnic, but it’s got a great unique flavor. Once the ham has been served, I save the bone with some meat left on it, and freeze it, when I want pea soup, I visit my freezer. Another way to serve this great ham is to cook it with cabbage, turnips, carrots and potatoes, all in the same pot. When I cook it with cabbage, I don’t use it to make pea soup, the cabbage is too overpowering. Well, just thought I’d put my 2 cents in!! Right now I’m making ragout pate de cachon (pigs feet). Yep, another french dish!! YUMMO!



growing up in Detroit my mom always used the Habitant yellow pea soup. I didn’t even know there was such a thing as green pea soup. And she always served it with corn muffins. we’d accidentally let some of the corn muffin drop into the soup , loved it, but my dad frowned on that. What does Habitant mean anyway?