My frugal Mom would cut every bit of usable meat off the bone and then use the bone to make the broth for the soup. Sometimes, she’d freeze the bone if there was a reason she could not use it right away. But she never threw it out without getting another meal out of it.
I’ve continued that tradition. We don’t eat ham a lot in our family, or much of any meat at all for that matter, but whenever I do buy one, I make sure to put split pea soup on the menu.
Other options for using leftover ham or a ham bone are things like Dirty Rice or Lentil Soup.
But this soup is also excellent as a vegetarian option, which is actually the way we eat it most of the time now. We may have started eating vegetarian meals for budget reasons as a struggling young couple years ago, but we now try to minimize our meat intake primarily for health, environmental, and ethical reasons.
So we focus on getting our needed protein from plant-based sources, such as legumes, like split peas, instead of animal-based ones.
That approach has paid big dividends to us in terms of our excellent physical health and well-being - a case once again of a frugal lifestyle providing benefits beyond the pocketbook.
It’s also one of the most economical ones you can make, even with leftover ham. Of course, that assumes that you bought the ham on sale. Around here, we can get very good deals on a big ham roast, particularly around Easter – as low as 69¢ a pound, so I will sometimes buy a couple of extra and freeze them.
I hope that you're checking the store flyers and planning your menus for at least a week ahead so that you can garner these kinds of savings, too. Check out my blogs on how to do that here and here.
NOTE: If you eat this soup as leftovers, it will probably thicken up quite a bit overnight. If that happens, then just add a very small amount of water before reheating it.
For an individual portion, a couple of teaspoons should be enough to start, and for a pot, 1/2 cup will probably do. It will become more liquid as it warms, and you don't want it to get too thin. So start with a small amount. You can always add more, if needed.
Here’s the recipe:
Makes about 8-10 servings
Prep Time – Approx. 25-30 minutes
Start to finish time – Approx. 60-90 minutes
(or less than 30 minutes if you use a pressure cooker/instant pot)
Total recipe cost – Approx. $5-9 (depending on whether meat is used)
Total per person meal cost with salad, bread and croutons – Approx. $1.00-$1.50
Ham bone and ½ teaspoon of salt (or to taste- ham can be quite salty, so you may not want any extra salt at all)
2-3 vegetarian or chicken bouillon cubes
7 cups water
1 pound of dried split peas (green or yellow)
4-5 large carrots
3-4 large stalks of celery
1 medium onion
3-4 large potatoes
½ teaspoon pepper (or to taste)
½ teaspoon salt (or to taste)
1-2 cups diced ham meat (optional)
Recipe continues after photos.
- If you are using leftover ham bone, remove as much ham as possible from the bone and cut off any extra fat, gristle, or tough bits. Cut the meat into approximately ½-¾ - inch pieces and set aside. If using leftover boneless ham or ham meat, cut it into approximately ½ inch pieces and set aside.
- Wash and scrape or peel the 4-5 carrots. Slice them in half lengthwise and cut them crosswise into pieces about ¼ -½ inch thick.
- Wash the 3-4 celery stalks and slice them lengthwise in half. Cut them crosswise into pieces about ½- inch thick. You can include the leaves.
- Peel and dice the onion.
- Wash and peel the 3-4 large potatoes. (This is one of the times I actually do recommend peeling potatoes over just washing and scrubbing them.) Cut them into chunks about ¾-1-inch in size. Give them a final rinse in a bowl of water.
- Wash the split peas in a colander.
- Pour the 7 cups of water into a large pan.
- If you are using boneless ham or making the soup vegetarian, then add the 2-3 bouillon cubes to the water and heat the water until they are dissolved. Then add all the other ingredients, including the split peas. Skip Step 9 and continue to follow the directions beginning with the second part of step 10).
- If you are using a ham bone, then put it in the water and add the carrots, onions, celery, potatoes, salt, and pepper, but NOT the split peas. Bring the broth to a boil and reduce the heat to medium low and continue simmering for about 30 minutes.
- Remove the ham bone from the broth. Add the split peas to the broth once the ham bone has been removed and stir them in well.
- Turn the burner to medium. Bring the broth back to a simmer and reduce the heat to medium low again. Cover the pot and continue simmering until the split peas are tender and somewhat dissolved. This will take about 40-45 minutes.
- Stir the soup frequently to make sure that it is not too thick or sticking on the bottom. Add water in ½-cup increments as necessary to prevent sticking, but without making the soup too thin. You are looking for a thicker, stew-like, but liquid consistency.
- When the split peas are done, stir in the cut ham and allow it to heat through for about 5 minutes.
- Serve the soup with a tossed salad and optionally, fresh bread and/or croutons.