German Pea Soup is a real treat in the colder winter months. Erbsensuppe (as this dish is called in Germany) is a hearty pea stew made from dried split peas or whole peas, vegetables and bacon. It is nourishing, filling and absolutely moreish. Serve it with some German sausages and crusty roll, and you are set up for the colder days of the year.
It is one of my favourite comfort foods. The smell reminds me of Sundays in Germany. In my childhood, our church would make huge amounts of pea soup and offer them to the congregation.
What is German Pea Soup?
“Erbsensuppe” is the word for pea soup in Germany. Another word for pea soup in German is “Erbseneintopf” which translates to "pea stew".
This soup only has 6 ingredients. First, you soak dried peas or split peas in water and then boil them. Once soft you add vegetables such as leeks, potatoes, and carrots. Season the pea soup with sage .
It is a great dish to serve in the winter months when it's cold. You can also cook it when you have lots of hungry bellies to fill, as it is cheap to make but very filling.
What kind of peas should you use?
You can use either split peas or whole dried peas for this soup. However, there will be differences in how you prepare the soup.
How to cook split peas
Split peas are already split and pealed compare to a whole dried pea. This reduces the cooking time. You do not need to soak them the night before and it only takes around 90 minutes to boil in water.
How to cook whole dried peas
You can also use whole dried peas, but they should be soaked 12 hours in advance. They need about two hours to cook in boiling water.
Are green and yellow split peas interchangeable?
Yes, they are. The difference between green and yellow split peas is that green peas have not ripened completely. The yellow peas are fully ripe; most of the sugar has turned into starch. So, if you would like an especially creamy split pea soup, use yellow peas.
Where does pea soup originate from?
Pea soup and split pea soup have been a staple diet in many countries for around 600 years since the times of Ancient Greece and Rome.
Dried peas store so well, hence they were an important food for the sailors. In Germany, it is a symbol of poverty, but also a traditional military dish. (Bundeswehr).
Until 2011 Germany still had conscription, so many Germans associate German Split Pea Soup with their time in the military. There are a lot of recipes for pea soup bylined as "Erbsensuppe Nach Bundewehrart" (pea soup like in the army). This hearty split pea soup made soldiers march for miles.
Which meat and sausages to use for authentic german pea soup?
You would typically use bacon for German Pea soup. The bacon used should be cut from pork belly cooked and pre-cooked. You can substitute the bacon with cooked ham if desired. In Germany, you would use "Kassler" which is smoked ham, similar to gammon in the UK.
Pork sausages are a popular addition to pea soup. Really there is no hard rule. Here are some of the most popular sausage choices
- Frankfurter sausages (hot dog sausage)
- Bockwurst (or any other smoked sausage)
- Mettwurst (smoked, cured sausages)
- Polish sausages work well such as Krakauer
(For my UK readers I always recommend The Sausageman for authentic German sausages)
German Pea Soup Recipes
- Dried split peas - you can substitute with whole dried peas. It does not matter whether they are green or yellow.
- Carrots, Potatoes, a Leek
- Seasoning: One teaspoon sage , 1 bay leaf and fresh parsley
- German Sausages
How healthy is Split Pea Soup?
Yes! Split pea soup is one of the superfoods because it is high in protein has lots of vitamins and is high in fibre.
The NHS says: " They're a cheap, low-fat source of protein, fibre, vitamins and minerals, and count towards your recommended 5 daily portions of fruit and vegetables"
What I love about this soup is that it fills you up, and it is quite cheap to make. Perfect for our family with two boys.
How to store split pea soup?
Homemade split pea soup lasts in the fridge for up to three days. The soup freezes very well and will keep in the freezer for up to three months.
Remember, that you may have to add some water to the soup when warming it up again if it gets too thick.
Trouble Shooting your split pea soup:
My split pea soup is too thin:
If you find that your soup ends up being too thin, and you don’t get this creamy consistency, you might just need to wait. It takes up to two hours for the soup to achieve the right consistency. However, should you find that there is still too much liquid in the soup, you can add more uncooked potatoes into the soup. That should help thicken it up.
My split pea soup is too thick:
Add some more water or broth to the soup. The soup tends to get thicker once it cools down, due to the starch. Feel free to add extra water when warming it up.
If you like this recipe...
you might also like these German Soups
- German Potato Soup
- German Swede and Carrot Soup (Steckrübeneintopf)
- German Goulash Soup
- Roasted Butternut Squash Soup
- Red Pepper Soup with Feta
- Vegan Spinach and Pea Soup
(Please note this recipe was first published in May 2014 and updated in November 2020)
German Split Pea Soup with Bacon
- 250 gr dried split peas 1 cup or 9 oz
- 750 ml water 3 cups or 25 fl oz
- 3 carrots around 250 gr or 9 oz
- 3 potatoes around 150 gr or 9 oz
- 1 stick leeks
- 150 g smoked bacon 5 oz
- 1 teaspoon marjoram you can substitute it with sage
- 1 bay leaf
- salt to taste
Optional to serve
- 4 sausages (frankfurters, bockwurst, any smoked sausage, or some polish sausage)
- 4 slices of bread or crusty rolls
- 1 teaspoon fresh parsley
- Cook the split peas according to package instructions in the water and with the bay leaf. I cooked mine for about 90 minutes.
- In the meantime prepare the vegetables. Peel the carrots and potatoes. Then chop into 1-2 cm cubes. Chop the leaks into 1-2 cm slices.
- Add the vegetables, bacon and marjoram to the cooked split peas and cook for about 20 minutes.
- Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Now add in your sausages if using. Let them warm up in the soup for around 5 minutes. Do not let them boil, as they might split.
- Before serving add the fresh parsley and check the seasoning.
- Serve with a crusty roll or a slice of rye bread.