Split Pea and Barley Soup Recipe - Pamela Salzman Skip to content

Split Pea and Barley Soup Recipe

Photography By Erica Hampton

St. Patrick’s Day is approaching and I am here to tell you that you do not need to make corned beef and cabbage to be in the spirit.  Make anything green — spinach risotto, kale salad, a mint chip smoothie — and you’re good in my book.  I actually discovered recently that split pea soup can have Irish roots.  Who knew?  So this might be a nice way to have a healthy and delicious St. Patrick’s Day dinner without a lot of fuss.

My husband loves soup of any kind and split pea is one of his favorites.  It’s really hearty and earthy, a very peasant-y dish.  His grandmother used to make it often with potatoes, but he’s come around to this recipe which is adapted from California Pizza Kitchen, the national chain of restaurants which is more famous for their pizzas than their soup.  Classic split pea soup is usually cooked with a hambone or a piece of pork. I don’t eat pork and still think this tastes rich and flavorful.  What this soup has that I think is different and delicious is the addition of barley — a fiber-rich grain with a silky texture.

Split peas contain about 16 grams of protein per cup and a whopping 16 grams of fiber.  In addition, they are rich in B vitamins (especially folate and thiamin) and manganese. When I make this soup, it is a full meal which I might complement with a side salad.  If you really want to go all out, you can whip up a homemade Irish Soda bread and serve it warm out of the oven with this soup and I think you will be very popular.  At least I was when I served both together a few weeks ago!

This year St. Patrick’s Day falls on a Friday, which would make this soup Lent-appropriate since it is meat-free.  I’ll post the recipe for the Irish soda bread before St. Patrick’s Day, not to worry!

5.0 from 4 reviews
Split Pea and Barley Soup Recipe
Serves: 4-6
  • 1 pound dried split peas, sorted and rinsed
  • ½ cup semi-pearled barley (I use Bob's Red Mill or Arrowhead Mills*)
  • 2 quarts water
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 Tablespoon shoyu or tamari
  • 1 Tablespoon chopped fresh thyme leaves (or ½ Tablespoon dried)
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • ½ teaspoon rubbed dried sage
  • large pinch ground cumin
  • 1 ½ cups diced carrots
  • ⅔ cups minced onion
  • ⅓ cup finely diced celery
  • optional: ¼ cup thinly sliced green onion tops
  1. In a large pot, combine peas, barley, water, bay leaves, salt, shoyu, thyme, garlic, sage and cumin. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to a low simmer, cover and cook for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  2. Stir in carrots, onion, and celery. Cover and simmer until vegetables are tender, another 25 to 30 minutes, checking periodically and adding small amounts of additional water if needed.
  3. Discard bay leaves. Ladle soup into warmed soup bowls and garnish with green onion tops, if desired.
*They are labeled "pearled" but they are really semi-pearled.


Related Recipes



  1. Can you make this in the insta pot?

    • Totally! You can add all ingredients to the instant pot and cook on high pressure for 12-15 minutes. Perform a quick release and test for tenderness.

  2. We got a spring snow today in the desert, making this a perfect day for a hearty soup. I use my Instant Pot for soup so I rinsed the split peas and barley, added them to the pot with the spices, garlic and water and set it for 15 minutes, followed by a quick release. Into the pot, I grated a big carrot, the onion, half a zucchini, a medium-sized cubed potato plus a chopped celery stalk then cooked at pressure for 3 minutes. (These times are for high elevation)

    This soup is fantastic!!! Thank you so much!

    • Oh, I love knowing the IP time, thank you!! Love all your additions, too. Thanks!

  3. what can I substitute the barley with, I have quinoa, can that work ? Miss u tons !! Xox Jen Raines

    • I added cooked farro that I had left over at the end and let it come back up to temp. It was wonderful!

      • Perfect!

  4. Hi Pamela! I like a pea soup puréed. What do you think about doing that with this recipe? It’s on the stove now and smells amazing!

    • Why not?!

      • I thought because of the barley.. but I didn’t purée it, and it was so so good!!!

        • Great!

  5. While Foods and Vicente Foods are out of dried peas. Can I double the barley and use my one can of Le Sueur sweet peas? Thank you.

    • Hi! Not quite the same, but you can try. I would saute the onions, carrots and garlic to start the recipe. I would add the peas at the end, when the barley is tender, since they’re already cooked. Or swap lentils for the split peas. Or, what I would do is make this barley soup: https://pamelasalzman.com/mushroom-barley-soup-with-kale/

  6. Do I have to cook or soak the green peas before following the recipe?

    • Have to? Nope! But you can if you want to. Reduce the cooking time a bit if you soak them 6+ hours.

  7. Could I substitute split peas with red lentils? And how much sould I use? I also have mungo beans, but I can’t find split peas and I’m really keen to try this recipe tomorrow!

    • You can sub red lentils for the split peas, but it’s a different flavor and obviously a different color. Sub one for one.

  8. Can I use chicken stock instead of water?

    • Absolutely! If the stock has salt, lower the added salt in the recipe. 🙂

  9. I love the look of the rolls you served with this soup, did you make them yourself? If so I would love the recipe. The soup is just delicious, I will make it again and again. Thank you.

    • So glad you enjoyed it. My husband asked me to make the soup again for watching football on Sunday! I made a whole wheat Irish soda bread shown in the pictures. The recipe is on my website 🙂

  10. I just made this…YUM!!! Thank you so much for the recipe. I made it with quinoa since we are GF.

    • Great idea! Thanks for sharing 🙂

  11. This was a great soup on Friday and for St. Patrick’s Day. I have never used split peas before and they were so easy to cook. The flavors were just perfect. I brought some to my mom’s house and I made my mom try it. She liked it even though she said she didn’t like split pea soup. I made the Irish Soda bread too. I am not the best baker but it came out ok. I want to try it again. My family thought it was really good. Thank you for another no meat/lent meal.

  12. Although I have made various types of soup with barley, I had never used split peas until I tried your wonderful recipe. The soup is so warm and comforting, not to mention delicious, especially on a cold, rainy day. My husband prefers a “soupy” soup, so I did add more liquid as you recommended. Of course he really enjoyed it. I make many different soups during the winter, and this one is definitely a winner! Thank you so much!

    • Thanks, Mia. There’s still plenty of chilly weather left for us to enjoy this soup. Glad you gave it a go!

  13. I did this recipe it came super delicious and made me full for long time.. Thank you

    • I replace the thyme with fresh mint at the end it comes very good

  14. What is a good grain substitute for the barley – for those with gluten free diets – like us!

    • Try brown rice or even GF whole oat groats. They may take longer to cook, though.

    • Because says (at top) of hat she used quinoa since they are GF … might give that a try

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Rate this recipe:  

Signup to receive updates about new recipes and more

I come from a large Italian-American family with 28 first cousins (on one side of the family!) where sit-down holiday dinners for 85 people are the norm (how, you might ask – organization! But more on that later …).

Some of my fondest memories are of simple family gatherings, both large and small, with long tables of bowls and platters piled high, the laughter of my cousins echoing and the comfort of tradition warming my soul.

Buy on Amazon
Buy on Amazon