Habitant French Canadian Pea Soup

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The History Of Soupe Aux Pois

Habitant Québécois Yellow Pea Soup Recipe

This soup is so fundamental to the French-Canadian identity that one of the nicknames for Quebeckers is “pea soupers”.

It’s the perfect dish for long Canadian winters – dried peas, salt pork, root vegetables and dried herbs could all be stored for long periods of time, making it possible to cook up a big pot of soup even in the darkest, coldest days of the year.

Nowadays, most Canadians prepare their pea soup by cracking open a can of Habitant soup. I’ll admit that you can’t beat the yellow can for speed and convenience, but it’s still worth the effort to make your own.

All you need to do is sautee some onions, then stir in the rest of the ingredients and slowly simmer for about three hours until the peas fall apart and the ham has infused the soup with a rich, smoky flavour.

Some folks insist that whole dried peas must be used if you want to make the real deal. However, many recipes opt for split peas instead, because they cook up faster.

That said, whether you’re using whole or split, you must use yellow peas!

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Homemade French Canadian Pea Soup

Sure, you can’t get *proper* summer savory in Minnesota – but you CAN beg friends to bring some back from vacations on Canada’s east coast!

This makes a LOT of French Canadian pea soup. Because soup isn’t an everyday kind of thing to make, I like to make a large batch, and freeze most of it – it freezes / thaws beautifully.

This version is a bit easier than the 100% traditional way, which uses a ham bone in it. Feel free to add a ham bone in with the water, pulling it out as the mixture gets thick, though.

I just find it convenient to use the small, boneless ham chunks for this!

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Thick French Canadian Pea Soup Or Not

As you can see by the photos in this post, you can make this soup in various different viscosity levels.

Sometimes Im in the mood for a nice, smooth pea soup.

Other times, Im in the mood for a very thick pea soup – almost more of a pease pudding – that you can stand a spoon up in.

If you want it thick, cut the liquid a bit to start. You can add more later, but you cant really take it away!

Canadian Chef Traces Habitant Pea Soup 400 Years Back To French Explorer Samuel De Champlain

Habitant® French

Chef Marc Miron busy in the kitchen at his Cuisine & Passion gourmet shop.

Cuisine & Passion

Canada’s capital city Ottawa has been commemorating the 400th anniversary of French explorer Samuel de Champlain’s mapping expeditions along the Ottawa River.

That chapter of history inspired Ottawa chef Marc Miron to wonder what Champlain and his crews were eating back in 17th century. The early French explorers may have relied on hardy ingredients brought over on the trans-Atlantic voyage including salt fish, cured meats, and dried peas and beans. Those ingredients make possible a traditional favorite in Canada, Habitant Pea Soup. The recipe for Habitant Pea Soup, an easy to make, hardy meal that Miron says Champlain probably ate, has been handed down over 400 years.

To carry on the French Canadian cooking traditions, Miron offers cooking demonstrations at his Cuisine & Passion gourmet shop in Ottawa. Nowadays, he prepares Habitant Pea Soup with dried yellow beans, ham hocks, and herbs but its still the hearty, stick your ribs, soups that fortified the 17th century founder of New France.

Here’s his recipe:

Makes: 6 to 8 servingsPreparation time: about 40 minutes

1 lb dried yellow split peasHalf a medium white onion, finely chopped2 stalks celery, finely chopped1 small carrot, finely chopped1 tbsp canola oil9½ cups ham stock 2 tbsp fresh thyme, finely chopped1 cup ham hock meat Salt and pepper to taste

Ham Stock Makes: about 10 cups Preparation time: about 2 hours

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A Warming Soup From People Who Understand The Cold: French Canadian Pea Soup

This traditional Quebecois soup turns dried yellow peas, smoked ham hock, aromatics and broth into a simple, comforting meal. Recipe below.

When I was a kid in Detroit, our family was all about practical home cooking from fresh ingredients. One of the few prepared foods that was a regular part of the rotation came in a can: Habitant French-Canadian Pea Soup. And, you know, all these years later, I still love this soupand, wonderfully, it still tastes the same: hearty, soothing, and delicious. Its still a part of our lives, even though now, to buy it, we have to drive to Canada.

Since we live in Chicago, this is not a practical approach. But of course you know what is: making it ourselves.

This soupsometimes called Quebecois penicillinhas been a staple of Canadian cooking for centuries. Its simple to make, economical, healthy and very tasty. Aube Giroux, on her wonderful blog Kitchen Vignettes, writes about her mother preparing this soup. Her mother actually grew an array of heritage peas over many years, trying to find the ideal soup pea that captured the flavor she remembered from her own childhood. She eventually did find it: Darlaine peas, a variety that is still available from some specialist growers.

Soupe De Pois Casss Jaune

This year marks the 350th anniversary of the founding of Sault St. Marie. The Culinary Historians of Ann Arbor reached out to me regarding French Food Ways of the St. Lawrence and Great Lakes. French Canadian cuisine played a significant role in the history and development of Sault Ste. Marie and given my French Canadian heritage and culinary interests, I welcomed the opportunity to write this article on my version of traditional French Canadian Yellow Split Pea Soup.

French Canadian Yellow Split Pea Soup was a staple food and has its Sault Ste. Marie roots established in the voyageur trading routes, which extended from Montreal through the Great Lakes all the way through to the Grande Portage. Peas were a crop easily grown at trading posts such as Sault Ste. Marie and this made restocking of supplies possible. During the fur-trading era, the waterways were the roads and canoes were the means of transport. The Voyageurs made the difficult 12 to 16-week journey to deliver their trading goods. One needs to understand the physical characteristics and demands on these men, and why their diet was so important. Voyageurs were required to be short in stature because the space in the canoe was needed for cargo. They had to be young, strong and healthy to endure the very fast-paced paddling, harsh conditions related to the weather or the terrain and their dawn-to-dusk workday.

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Ham Hock Vs Leftover Ham Bone

There’s really no wrong answer here.

I’ve written this recipe to use a store-bought ham hock, since that’s what I use when I don’t have a leftover ham bone kicking around. You can find ham hocks in the meat counter of some grocery stores, or at a well-stocked butcher shop.

That said, I can vouch for the fact that a good-sized meaty ham bone left over from Easter dinner will do just as well .

And if you’re not a fan of pork for whatever reason, a smoked turkey thigh or drumstick is also a great choice.

Whatever you do, don’t leave it out altogether – that meaty bone is essential to giving the soup a deep, rich, smoky flavour that belies its relatively short list of ingredients.

Note: This post was updated with new text and photographs in February 2020, but I’ve saved one of the original photos below for the sake of posterity.

More About Habitant French Canadian Pea Soup Recipes

A Taste of French-Canadian Habitant Soup

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  • In a very large heavy-bottomed pot set over medium-high heat, sweat the onions and carrots in butter for 5-7 minute, or until onions are soft and translucent.
  • Stir in water, split peas, ham hock, bay leaves, thyme and savoury. Bring the soup to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to low and simmer, covered, for about 2 1/2 to 3 hours, or until the peas are soft and begin to fall apart into a puree.
  • Remove the ham hock. Pull the meat away from the bone, and shred or chop into small dice. Set ham aside, and discard the bone. Remove bay leaves and discard these as well.
  • Taste soup, and adjust seasoning as needed with salt and pepper. For a very smooth soup, use an immersion blender to puree completely, or leave as-is for a chunkier texture. Stir chopped ham back into the soup, and serve immediately.











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Canadian Yellow Split Pea Soup With Ham

Creamy yellow pea soup studded with bits of ham, carrots, celery, and thyme. There is nothing like this one on a cold day! I am a Canadian now living in the US. and cannot get Habitant® soup anymore, so I came up with this version. I think it is as good as the real thing, if not better, because it is homemade.

Provided by channyharte

2 ½ cups yellow split peas
1 ham bone with some meat
4 carrots, diced
½ large Spanish onion, diced
5 stalks celery, diced
1 pinch ground black pepper, or to taste
8 cups water, or as needed


  • Place split peas, ham bone, carrots, onion, celery, thyme, bay leaf, salt, and pepper into a large pot pour in water. Bring mixture to a boil and skim off any foam with a spoon. Reduce heat place a lid on the pot slightly ajar to allow some evaporation. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until peas are tender and soup is thick, about 3 hours.
  • Remove ham bone from soup strip meat from ham bone, chop meat, and return it to the pot.

Nutrition Facts : Calories 171.8 calories, Carbohydrate 31.9 g, Fat 0.1 g, Fiber 1.1 g, Protein 11.8 g, Sodium 995.1 mg, Sugar 3.1 g

How Long Does Unopened Split Pea Soup Last


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French Canadian Pea Soup

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French Canadian Pea Soup

Traditional French Canadian Pea soup is easy to make, feeds a CROWD – cheaply – is tasty, filling, and a great way to use up leftover ham!

Ah, pea soup. I love French Canadian Pea Soup – loved it when I was a kid – especially when served at Festival du Voyageur activities in my hometown!.

I loved it when I first moved out on my own, living on the cheap, and buying the “Habitant” canned stuff like it was going out fo style.

Now, as an expatriate Canadian.. I may love it even more!

Unlike many of the other homeland foods I adore, this one is easily made, with almost all of the ingredients being available locally.

French Canadian Yellow Split Pea Soup

Habitant French

CHEF TALK: This French Canadian Yellow Split Pea Soup is easy to make, and can be quickly put together and simmering away in a Dutch oven or crockpot. It is nutritious, flavourful and inexpensive to make, which in these times of ever-increasing food costs is a most welcome component to any menu plan. It is a soup that I make all year round, particularly when I have a ham bone available. The ham bone is placed into the pot while the soup is simmering away, allowing the little bits of ham still clinging to the bone to add even more flavour to the rich broth.

CHEF TIP: Once the soup is finished cooking, remove several ladles full of the chunkier bits and set this aside . Puree the remainder of the soup and ladle a portion into large heated soup bowls. Then garnish the soup with the chunky half of the soup. Sprinkle with fresh parsley as well as a drizzle of good olive oil. Place crispy bacon or pancetta on top and serve hot! This French Canadian Pea Soup is now elevated to special occasion status! Serve the soup with bannock, biscuits or potato scones.

Gluten-Free version: omit the croutons.

Vegetarian version: omit the ham, and substitute vegetable stock or mushroom stock for the chicken stock.

Yield: 6 8 servings

To Finish:

  • 1 2 Tbsp. lemon juice or vinegar
  • A drizzle of Olive Oil


  • Stir in the broth, ham and the yellow split peas.
  • Remove the bay leaf. Remove half of the soup and set aside.
  • Puree the other half of the soup with an immersion blender.

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    Split Pea Soup: Quebec’s Cure For Whatever Ails You

    If chicken soup is Jewish penicillin, then this is the Quebecois version.

    It’s exactly the kind of food I crave when I’m under the weather. It’s smoky and hearty, with a subtstantial warmth that coaxes me back to some semblance of humanity when I’d rather huddle under the covers in a miserable ball of snotty self-pity.

    Best of all, it’s easy to make a really big batch, and the leftovers freeze beautifully. I can always manage a quick defrost-and-reheat sort of meal, no matter how miserable I am.

    No matter what it is you might be suffering from, I guarantee that a couple of bowls of this soup are sure to set you right.

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