Yellow Pea Soup Recipe – Artsoppa, Swedish Pea Soup


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Artsoppa, Swedish pea soup, is the most famous yellow pea soup recipe, although variations exist all over Scandinavia. This is a hearty, stick-to-your-ribs, winter meal.

I grew up with a green split pea version of this soup, but it was not a good memory. For whatever reason, my mom would always oversalt this soup, rendering it so salty as to be inedible. I never did learn why, but suffice to say for decades I hated pea soup.

Then I had my first yellow pea soup. My mom’s adopted family was of Swedish descent, so you’d think that hers would be a Swedish pea soup, but hers was thin and smooth. A proper artsoppa has stuff in it: Vegetables, shredded ham hock, herbs.

My version of yellow pea soup is largely Swedish, but variations exist all over northern Europe, and especially Scandinavia. Some Icelandic versions use smoked mutton or lamb, some use pork or beef ribs, I saw one that uses smoked reindeer, so adding, say, a smoked venison shank would work.

If you’re going to make a yellow pea soup, you need yellow peas. Duh. These are dried, beige peas that are usually sold whole, although they split naturally. I’ve seen them in some supermarkets, and, oddly, they are widely grown in Arizona and Mexico by the Tohono O’Odham.

A bowl of dried yellow peas.

You can also buy yellow peas online, or use the more common dried green peas.

Winter is the time for yellow pea soup. This is a thick, hearty, warming soup that will vanquish the chill when it’s below zero outside, as it often is in a Minnesota winter.

My rendition of artsoppa uses a ham hock, lots of root vegetables, somem herbs and black pepper at the end.

A smoked thing is important for flavor. Smoked pork is most common, but smoked mutton or venison shows up here and there. A more common and modern alternative would be to use smoked turkey wings or legs for your soup.

Making Swedish Yellow Pea Soup

You make yellow pea soup in two stages: The smoked meats and peas, with some aromatics, then use that as a soup base for the finished artsoppa.

This first step, simmering the meat with the peas, along with maybe a slice of onion, bay leaves or some dried thyme, can be done well in advance — up to a week if needed. You simmer until everything is tender, pull the meat and remove any bones, and chop, discard bay leaves and puree the peas.

Everyone purees the peas in Swedish pea soup differently. Some don’t at all, some puree all of them, or, you can do what I do and puree about half. I use an immersion blender and stop when the mixture is creamy looking, but there are still a few peas here and there.

You finish a yellow pea soup with vegetables, usually root veg. I prefer a mix of carrots, celery root and rutabaga, but you could use potatoes, parsnips, parsley root, golden beets, etc.

A bit of fresh parsley and black pepper at the end brightens things up nicely.

Close up of a bowl of artsoppa, Swedish yellow pea soup.

Serving and Storing

You can of course serve Swedish pea soup as a main course, which I do on weeknights. When I do this, I typically will eat it with a slice of homemade rye bread — any nice bread will work.

But if you wanted to make artsoppa part of a wider Scandinavian feast, you might serve it in between a roast and, say, Swedish meatballs, or Swedish potato dumplings. If you wanted to vary things, pike meatballs are a good, lighter option for a starter.

Once made, yellow pea soup keeps for 10 days in the fridge and it freezes beautifully.

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  • Soup Base. Put the peas, bay leaves and the ham hock in a soup pot and cover with water by about 2 inches – you want roughly 2 1/2 quarts of water. Bring this to a simmer and cook gently, partially covered, until the peas are tender and the ham hock is starting to fall off the bone, about 2 hours.

  • Discard the bay leaves. Fish out the ham hock and discard the bones. Separate the meat from the skin. Chop the meat roughly. Mince the skin; use at least half of it, as it adds a lot of body to the soup.

  • If you want, puree some or all of the peas. I use an immersion blender, but you could put some of the peas into a regular blender and puree. Be careful, since blending hot things can be dangerous. Hold down the top on the blender when you puree. (All of these first steps can be done several days in advance.)

  • Finish the Soup. Return the meat to the pot with the peas. Add the optional stock, the thyme, root vegetables, and leek. Bring to a simmer and taste. It might need salt. Simmer this gently until the root vegetables are all tender. It’s OK if a few start to break down – it just makes the soup better.

  • When the vegetables are all tender, add the parsley and black pepper and serve the soup with bread.

Calories: 293kcal | Carbohydrates: 39g | Protein: 22g | Fat: 6g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 3g | Cholesterol: 23mg | Sodium: 151mg | Potassium: 912mg | Fiber: 14g | Sugar: 7g | Vitamin A: 2940IU | Vitamin C: 13mg | Calcium: 77mg | Iron: 4mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

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