Prepping · Recipes

Great Depression Era Recipes – Split Pea Soup

Walking back into time is cooking this recipe. I can see my Mom cooking in the kitchen. She made a version of this recipe at least once a month growing up.

She really loved soup, and for good reason. It fed many people, and could be stretched easily to feed more. It often tasted better the second day. And my Dad could take a Thermos mug of hot soup on jobs, on cold winter days. She had soup on the stove at least once a week, and would heat up leftovers for lunch every day.

This is a classic recipe you would have found in the Great Depression years, printed in local cookbooks by other women. And it stuck around a long time after, because well….split peas are about as hardy a food as you can find. And you can load it with ham, or use it sparingly, depending on what you can source. The only real difference from the original recipe I found is I added a lot more carrots. I just like carrots, like my Mom did. The original recipe only called for ¼ cup carrots…which is less than half a carrot. I often double to quadruple all vegetables called for in recipes.

Now then, I doubled the water from the original recipe. You want enough water that the split peas have time to break down, which leads to a thick soup. Adding the extra water at the start worked perfectly.

With the ham, no need to salt the soup, nor to use broth. The ham gives a lot of flavor.

Split Pea Soup


  • 2 Tbsp oil
  • 1 large white or yellow onion, peeled and chopped
  • 1 pound ham steak, cubed*
  • 5 large carrots, or about 2 cups peeled and diced
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • ½ tsp ground black pepper
  • 8 cups water
  • 1 pound split peas (2 cups)


Spread the split peas on a rimmed baking sheet and pick over them, looking for twigs, debris or hard looking peas (ones not split). Place in a fine mesh strainer, rinse well.

In a large stockpot, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add in the onion and ham, saute until the onions are golden.

Add in the carrots and garlic, cook for another couple minutes.

Pour in the water, bring to a boil.

Add in the black pepper and peas, stir well.

Cover and return to a boil. Lower heat and simmer mostly covered over medium-low heat, stirring periodically for 45 minutes. I stirred it about every 5 minutes to ensure no scorching as the peas cooked.


A pound is generous for the ham. Does it need that much? No. In the Great Depression they would have used ham hocks for flavor and tiny bit of meat. But since I had it on hand, by all means use plenty. You could also cook bacon with the onion, pull out the bacon, and cook the peas, then add the bacon, chopped up, back in at the end.

Adding in potatoes, cubed, would make the soup even more heartier as well.