Split Pea Soup with Barley and Ham

Fact: Before this recipe, I had never made (or tasted!) split pea soup, nor had I ever bought the dried little peas from the supermarket, cute as they may be.

Fact: Before this recipe, I had never made (or tasted!) anything with barley in it, nor had I ever bought the hearty stuff from the supermarket.

Fact: I was nervous about this soup. Very, very nervous. I had “dinner plan b” all set out and ready to go in case of failure.

Fact: I have been heavily converted to split peas and barley. Oh my. This soup is incredible! Thick and hearty, bursting with homey flavor, it is a creamy, nearly stew-like consistency loaded with salty bits of ham and the wonderful texture of the chewy barley. The peas (which you already know if you are a split pea aficionado) dissolve into a creamy, silky concoction that melds all the components together. It all comes together so perfectly that my hesitation and concern over potential weirdness had no foundation. No weirdness, only yumminess.

Fact: It is healthy. You should love me for that fact alone. Granted, it may not be the most photogenic of all soups, but it is nutritious. And delicious. Did I mention that?

Fact: If you are hesitant about split peas and barley (like I once was!), I guarantee you’ll love this. Chock full of vegetables and other wonderful goodness, this is the perfect solution to winter weather (the same winter weather that obviously hasn’t received my memo to skedaddle promptly).

Fact: Last one, I promise. It’s a cinch to prepare. We are talking minutes. Then a few hour bask in the slow cooker and you are ready to devour.

What To ServeA really, great dinner roll (for homemade, I’d suggest French Bread Rolls or Buttery Cornmeal Crescents)
Fresh fruit or a light fruit salad like this Honey Lime Fruit Salad
Sliced cheddar cheese

One Year Ago: Hawaiian Haystacks – Chicken Sauce Reinvented
Two Years Ago: Sweet and Sour Meatballs
Three Years Ago: Classic Buttermilk Waffles…with Cheese!

Split Pea Soup with Barley and Ham {Slow Cooker}

Yield: Serves 4-6

Split Pea Soup with Barley and Ham {Slow Cooker}


  • 1 cup dry split green peas
  • 1/2 cup medium pearl barley (not quick-cooking barley)
  • 2 cups chopped ham
  • 3/4 cup chopped carrots
  • 3/4 cup chopped yellow onion
  • 3/4 cup chopped celery
  • 5 cups water
  • 2 chicken bouillon cubes (or 2 teaspoons chicken bouillon granules)
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 bay leaf


  1. In a medium bowl or liquid measure, combine the water, bouillon cubes and spices and whisk to combine (it’s ok if the bouillon cubes don’t completely dissolve).
  2. In a medium round slow cooker (about 4-quart), layer peas, barley, ham, carrots, onion and celery. Do not mix. Pour in the water/spices mixture and add the bay leaf to the slow cooker. Don’t stir! Cover the slow cooker and cook on high for four hours or on low eight hours, until the peas reach the desired creamy, soft texture. Remove the bay leaf, stir well, and add salt and pepper to taste, if needed. Serve immediately. Upon sitting and/or refrigerating, this soup thickens considerably. Simply add water or chicken broth to thin the soup to the desired consistency before reserving.

Recipe Source: adapted slightly from my friend, Lesli D.

83 Responses to Split Pea Soup with Barley and Ham {Slow Cooker}

  1. Megan G says:

    I made this in the Instant Pot tonight and wanted to share my experience. I put the water and bouillon in and turned in the saute function while I chopped the other ingredients so that it would come to pressure quickly. Once everything was in, I tried what was suggested before: 10 min on the soup function. For some reason this want nearly long enough. My barley and peas were still really tough. I ended up doing two more sessions of 8 minutes each on the manual setting and that was perfect. Very close result to the slow cooker version. So for anyone else who wants to try, I’d actually recommend doing the manual setting for at least 25 minutes. It sure is delicious!

  2. Tammy says:

    Hi Mel,
    This is one of my favorite soups! Have you ever tried this in the Instant Pot? I was thinking of experimenting with it but figured I would ask you first.

  3. Heidi says:

    the perfect recipe to throw in the crockpot before work, I’ve made it twice now, SO good and i feel like its healthy too! Thanks for another great recipe!

  4. Angela says:

    So I just put this all in the crock pot….BUT I didn’t read the directions!!! Stupid me!
    I stirred it all together before cooking!! Hope it will be ok!!

  5. Nickie smith says:

    I have made this soup countless times and just love it. We are now, unfortunately, gluten free and therefore need to forego the barley. Do you think, or have you heard of anyone using, rice would maybe be a good barley sub? Sigh…

  6. Ruth says:

    This soup is so homey, comforting, hardy, and good. It is just perfect for a cold winter night……or lunch! My husband actually asks for it. I just love that it is so easy to prepare. Thanks to you, we enjoy it often.

  7. Kelley says:

    I had a lot of leftover ham. I love homemade split pea soup, and figured I could make something similar work with the lentils I had in the pantry. I trust all of your recipes and this one seemed modifiable especially after reading the comments. I layered the ingredients as you suggested (subbing the lentils and leaving out the barley). I also increased the liquid by a couple of cups. Since I had the ham bone with bits still stuck to it, I nestled it in after adding all of the other ingredients. I cooked it on low for almost 10 hours. Since I only had quick cook barley, I waited until the last 2 hours to stir it into the pot. It was delicious! Both the lentils and barley turned out great. Next time, I will likely follow the recipe more closely, but I love being able to use what I have on hand.

  8. Gail says:

    When I make split pea soup in the crock pot, I use an immersion blender to make a creamy soup. With barley, this cannot be done. Will the soup have a creamy texture without the blender?

  9. Andreya says:

    How would you substitute chicken broth for this soup instead of bullion cubes? Would that decrease the water?

  10. Tara says:

    Made this for dinner tonight and it was absolutely delicious!!! I even made one pot vegetarian and it was SO good! Thanks for the great recipe!

  11. Thomas D says:

    I cooked a Costco ham and cut up fresh pineapple which was added on top of the ham held in place with toothpicks after re-heating for 2 hours in the oven. Putting the cooked pineapple with ham flavor in the pot just seemed totally logical and adds a pinch of sweetness to the recipe. Also added soy sauce, cumin & sage. Used a 12oz beer for part of the liquid. In addition to the 1/2 cup of barley, farro peralto (like wheat berries) 1/2 cup added. Very hardy soup.

  12. queenann says:

    I’ve made this several times in the last year or so. Turns out the “barley” I’ve been using in it was actually wheat berries. (I am such a whole grain expert!) Just so you know, it turns out delicious with wheat berries, too!

    Making it today with actual barley!

  13. Split Pea Soup with Pretzel Bites says:

    […] Recipe Source: Mel’s Kitchen Cafe […]

  14. Tawnya O. says:

    Delicious! Delicious! Delicious!

  15. Michelle S says:

    Oh yeah, just to clarify, I didn’t pre-cook the instant barley. I just dumped it in after 3 hrs of the soup cooking.

  16. Michelle S says:

    So, I tried it with the instant barley and thought I would post back my results. I made this the first time with the normal pearl barley and loved it, but when I went back to the store for more barley, I could only find the instant stuff. Not to be detered, I thought I would try it out. I followed the directions in the recipe as stated (ok, so maybe I was a little more liberal with the celery, carrots and onion,and I like using a layer of bacon [4 or 5 slices] instead of the ham–so heavenly!– but I used the exact amount of water, etc posted and followed the layering technique, minus the barley). Then I put my crockpot on high for 4 hours. After 3 hours of cooking, I went to dump the instant barley in and freaked out about the amount of water I was seeing in the crockpot, so I added 1.5 cups of uncooked instant barley. I let my slow cooker go on high for another 1 1/2 hrs and then checked. Everything was WELL cooked, in fact, maybe even on the slightly too mushy side, and ALL of the liquid had been soaked up by the barley and the peas. Thus, it became split pea mush, and it still tasted great, but I should not have freaked out. The next time, I think I would try maybe 3/4 c of instant barley, but I don’t think I would do more because it will soak up all of your liquid. Hope this helps anyone else who wants to use instant barley!

  17. Laura says:

    Just made this and the whole family loved it. Being so healthy and tasty, it will definitely be integrated in the regular meal rotation around here. Thanks!

  18. Herb says:

    Fabulous recipe! Have tried many pea soup recipes – this is the best I’ve ever had. The barley is a great addition – it tastes good and feels good on the tongue. For the ham I used leftovers from another of Mel’s recipes – Maple Brown Sugar Ham in the Slow Cooker. The sweet ham in the normally not sweet pea soup – FABULOUS! I keep all of my recipes on my computer: Now there’s a folder named Mel’s Recipes. I can’t stand the thought of mixing them up amongst all the others.

  19. Dani B says:

    This was absolutely delicious! I researched a bunch of split pea recipes, and this was the BEST by far – I LOVED the barley addition especially. The only major change I made was to use 2 ham hocks instead of chopped ham. I think the smokiness of the ham hocks added a lot more yummy flavor. Maybe not as much meat, but it was still great!

  20. Kacy says:

    I love your site! I have made several of your recipes and every single one of them has been a hit! Thank you

  21. Ellen says:

    We looooooooooooove this soup. I love how fast and easy it is to throw together. I work one evening a week, and it’s great that I can throw it together at 1:30, eat at 5:30, and my husband and kids can eat it at 6:00. I serve it with crusty garlic bread, and everyone is happy. And this stuff sticks to your ribs, too. I usually get the snackies 2 hours after I eat dinner, but not after a bowl of this. (I use 2 teaspoons of “Better than Boullion” Chicken Base) and the flavor is great. Another winner, Mel!

  22. Christine says:

    Wow! Split pea soup is a favorite of mine…and an old mushroom and barley stew was my decadent go-to specialty soup. One that combines both of those? How could I resist? Slow Cooker…well now…color me happy!! This will be cooking during football this sunday. Thanks!!

  23. Tara says:

    beautiful! And I love slow-cooker meals that are actually so easy they don’t take a ton of prep ahead of time. Excellent recipe. I didn’t have split peas, so I used lentils (dal) instead and it was wonderful. I only used 1/2 cup though, and it was a good thing cuz lentils really soak up the water. A very thick, hearty soup. I also didn’t have ham, so I used cooked gammon. Next time I’ll add a dash of hot sauce, but it was wonderful as is. Thank you!

  24. Katie says:

    This soup is amazing. If it was an article of clothing, it would be a pea-green, hand knit sweater. It is warm, cozy, and hearty. I don’t have a suitable slow-cooker, so I made it on the stove. It was just as easy (minus occasional stirring to keep it from sticking to the bottom of the pan) and turned out perfect. This soup is definitely making a regular appearance on our dinner table this winter. Thanks!

  25. Liz says:

    I was skeptical of my husband’s request to make split pea soup with our leftover ham. He got a recipe from his mom, but I searched your blog and figured I’d try this instead.

    Thank you!!!

    I’ve made it three times in the past 6 or so months. And each time, my toddler (20 mos old) has demanded thirds! That’s right, 3rds! And demanded! He loves it, and grumbles the cutest “mmmm” after each bite. He’s a total mess afterward, but at least his belly is full of veggies!

  26. Mel says:

    Hi Darci – I think I have the Wymer’s brand of chicken granules in my cupboard right now. The ratio is 1 teaspoon/1 cube for each cup of water. Hope that helps!

  27. Darci says:

    Mel, what kind of bouillon do you use? The kind I use on a regular basis makes 2 cups of broth per cube. I wanted to see if your brand used the same ratio or if yours was 1 cup per cube, so I can adjust the recipe accordingly. Thank you! 🙂

    I really look forward to the next rainy day so I have an excuse to make this. I love soup!!

  28. Meghan says:

    This recipe was great! I love split pea soup, and this was a great variation. The barley makes it very thick, but it is a wonderful wholesome addition. I will probably use this recipe instead of my traditional split pea recipe from now on!

  29. Lorraine says:

    Mel, this soup was amazing. Next time I will cut the addition of salt out because the type of ham I use is salty enough. But yumm…very easy and very satisfying.

  30. Deb says:

    This is how I used the last of the leftover ham from the Slow Cooker Maple Brown Sugar Ham and I think it was the best use of said leftover ham all week. The flavor was amazingly deep with so few ingredients/manipulation of ingredients. Came together really quick and made the house smell great all day. I doubled the recipe and it fit perfectly in my 6 quart slow cooker (about 2/3 full). I had skeptics in the house…split peas, barley, what? But, even the kids wolfed it down. I served it with the Massaged Kale Salad and congratulated myself for eating so healthy with a half dozen Christmas cookies 🙂

  31. Nikole says:

    Just made this last night for my dinner group and it was wonderful! I had to triple the recipe, and only had 2 crock pots, so I cooked one batch in the oven. I put it in a cast iron pot for 2 hours at 325 degrees, and it turned out great! Thanks for the delicious (and easy! ) recipe.

  32. Elaine says:

    Hi Mel….just found your fab site from littlebirdiesecrets. Do you soak your dried barley and split peas overnight like it says on the packet or can you skip that part and just put it in the crock pot to cook? I would love to make this soup..sounds great. Thanks, Elaine

  33. Lee-Anne says:

    Thanks! I have a large oval one, so I think I will try to double it!!

    Can’t wait, as it’s my husband’s favourite and I’ve never tried anything like it!

  34. Lee-Anne says:

    How full does this get in the slow cooker? Or what size slow cooker did you use? I’d like to make a double batch tomorrow (can I freeze this???)!!!!!

    Thanks in advance for any help!

    • Mel says:

      Lee-Anne – I used my average, round 4 or 5-quart slow cooker for this and it was probably half to 2/3 full. If you doubled, I’d try to use a larger crockpot (one of the large oval ones).

  35. Katie says:

    I’m making this soup for the fourth time in 2 weeks! My family loves it (even my son who hates peas)! Seems like the perfect dinner since it is once again snowing in April here in Northern Nevada. Sigh. Thanks for the great recipes!!!

  36. Stacy says:

    making this for our St. Patrick’s Day party/dinner tonight (yes, a day early). I thought it would be fun to have some green food! It was so quick and easy to throw together….I LOVE slow cooker meals!

  37. Lucy says:

    I made this yesterday. It was SO quick to put together. I love the texture the barley adds. Thanks for posting.

  38. Sonya says:

    I made this for tonights dinner and it was a WINNER! I was able to get the peas and barley from the bulk bin, so this meal cost me less than $3.00 for the entire crock pot. So filling and tasty. I loved the barley. Next time I’m going to double the barley!

  39. EmilyL says:

    I made this for dinner last night with the pretzel bites. I don’t think I ever would have dared, except that you said you had never made anything with split peas or with barley before … I haven’t either. That, and your rave review, made me decide to take the plunge (sheesh, split peas and barley are so cheap! I had no idea). Anyway, it was a delicious surprise and I can’t wait to have some for lunch. The flavor is incredible.

    Oh, and the pretzel bites are divine too! My kids devoured them. Keep up the awesome work!

  40. Melanie says:

    This is in my crockpot right now. It smells great, can’t wait to taste it! This is also my first time ever using barley. We’ll see how it goes. Since I bought a whole bag I’ll have to try your Southwestern Chicken Barley Chili next!

  41. Becky Rehme says:

    Just a question…do I use cooked ham or raw ham? Sorry, I feel like this is a really dumb question… Thank you!

  42. Jodie says:

    Very hearty and good soup. Even my husband liked it – and that is quite an accomplishment!

  43. Valerie says:

    We loved this – didn’t have any ham, so we used bacon – just cooked it up a bit before to get rid of most of the fat.

    Yum, yum

  44. Amy says:

    I’ve never had the desire to eat split pea soup…but something about your post made me want to try it. I am so glad I did! We all loved it. Thanks for another wonderful recipe.

  45. Elise R. says:

    I am just as hesitant as you were about split peas and barley…your love for them encourage me! I’ve never liked peas (I found just about every means possible to get out of eating them at dinner), so naturally I’ve never been drawn to split pea soup. But this sounds delicious and oh so easy! The crock pot is a very dear friend. Perhaps it will deliver once more!

  46. Kate says:

    Very yummy. I love split pea soup but didn’t know how I would feel about the barley in it. It was great. My 10 month old and 4 year old both loved it. It is very similar to my lentil soup recipe I make with Canadian bacon. I served it with a dollop of sour cream because we put sour cream on everything around here. 🙂 Thanks.

  47. Pam says:

    THIS WAS SO RIDICULOUSLY FANTASTIC! I LOVE IT! Now that I have that out of my system I will lower my voice. To be fair, my hubby didn’t love it as me and my kids did, because he has texture issues with barley, so next time I think I will add rice. But my goodness! I LOVED this! Thank you!

  48. Cheri says:

    I made this today and it tastes delicious! You can’t go wrong with those ingredients. I added a little bit of Marjoram to the pot and it really finished off the taste nicely!

  49. Lauren at Keep It Sweet says:

    I am a big fan of split pea soup and anything that goes into the slow cooker. It looks really hearty which is perfect!

  50. Amy M says:

    Love that this recipe is one I can gobble up without feeling guilty. I’ve got baby weight to get rid of and a trip to Mexico on the calendar so I’m definately going to make this for my lunches 🙂

  51. Jessica DuRee says:

    Thank you!

  52. Cammee says:

    I laughed when I read your opening remark, because when this popped up in my reader my first thought was, “do I admit I have never made or eaten Split Pea Soup?”. I use and love barley, but split pea scares me! Maybe because peas are not my favorite veggie? I love, love, love bean and ham soup, and after your review I’m thinking I should give split peas a chance. Does it taste pea-ey?

  53. Dasha says:

    This looks so good! I love the combination of split pea soup and barley. Do you think quick-cooking barley would work if you just added it later in the cooking process?

  54. Shandra says:

    I loved seeing this recipe on your blog! I have a vivid memory of being about 6 years old and my mom making split pea soup with ham. She made a heavenly looking lemon meringue pie and set it out in front of us kids and said ‘only if you eat your soup do you get pie’. Torture!! After several hours of sitting in front of my bowl and looking at the pie I think I gagged down my bowl.

    So, needless to say I have never attempted this recipe, but with your reviews of it I may have to give it another try. Maybe I will make a pie too and torture my kids–pay back time 🙂

  55. Kate says:

    Hi Mel! Can’t wait to try this! However, what if I only have instant barley? Could I maybe make it as the package directs and mix it into the soup at the end? And how do you think this would change the amount of liquid…?

    • Mel says:

      Kate and Dasha – can I be honest here? I’ve never used instant barley so I have no idea the liquid-to-barley ratio and how it would change things in the soup. If you’ve used instant barley before, I’d say it is worth a try…in the original recipe the barley absorbs a lot of the liquid while cooking so you’ll definitely want to cut down on the liquid, perhaps even by half and then stir the instant barley (that you’ve already cooked up) in about an hour before serving and let it meld with the other ingredients. Just a guess, but anything is worth a try!

  56. grace says:

    that’s hands-down the thickest, heartiest version of split pea soup i’ve ever seen–so impressed!

  57. Barbara says:

    I have a heavenly recipe for a split pea soup but it goes from fabulous to sublime by adding a tablespoon of sherry to each person’s bowl (well, the adults, of course) before it’s eaten. Stir well, and you have a food for the gods. I learned the trick at a restaurant that used it. Amazing flavor.

    Barley goes in all my vegetable beef soups. It wouldn’t be nearly as tasty without it. A great food, barley!

  58. polwig says:

    I love split pea soup even though I never put it together with barley… sounds amazing

  59. teresa says:

    split pea soup is all the rage right now, which it should be because it’s amazing. i absolutely love the barley in there, i absolutely have to try this!

  60. Kim in MD says:

    This looks incredible! I love that you are posting slow-cooker recipes…summer will be here before you know it, and I won’t want to turn my oven on! 🙂

  61. I posted split pea soup yesterday! Love the stuff–and now I want to try your version in the slow cooker!

  62. Sheila says:

    Did your kids love it too? I really want to try this but don’t want to feed them something different.

    • Mel says:

      Hi Sheila – yes, my kids loved this! Granted, they eat a lot of new foods all the time, but even still, they have their picky moments and they all gobbled this up. The barley is like a fatter, chewier rice and so there weren’t any really scary ingredients to them. Plus, we let them crumble up cheese in their soup, which always helps!

  63. Pauline says:

    This is a staple in my home, year around. I stumbled upon the idea of the barley a few years ago and, loving texture in food, loved it. I have also used cooked wheatberries in barley’s place for even more chewiness. This is a great vegetarian soup also, just leave out the ham. And for extra flavor, try adding cumin and grated Parmesan. Yummmm!!!!!

  64. RayC says:

    I will have to add the pearl barley to my next split pea soup. Only suggestion is to add, in addition to the ham, is a “smoked ham hock”. I can’t make split pea soup without some…..

  65. jaesi says:

    This is a “right up my alley” kind of soup. delicious!

  66. Mirien says:

    I love making split pea soup in the crock-pot! My recipe has barley, but no ham. I make it every year on Halloween and serve it in orange “pumpkin” bread bowls and call it witches’ brew. My kids love it. I think I’ll make it again tonight–I’ve forgotten how easy it is. Thanks for the suggestion!

    Also, isn’t barley great? I love adding it to soups. Throw 1/2 a cup into your favorite vegetable soup or stew–it adds a great texture!

  67. Kim says:

    We love Pea Soup, I will try adding barley next time. I have added your blog to my bloglist and hope that you will add me too!

  68. JaNae says:

    It’s like you read my mind. I was walking through the grocery store last week when I passed some split peas. I wished I had a recipe to try them with! Now I do. Thanks! Can’t wait to try it.

  69. Jessica says:

    I’ve been making a very similar soup in the slow cooker lately and love it. I didn’t tell my husband the first time I was making it because I figured he’d revolt from split pea soup. But he loves it and so do I.

    Mine doesn’t have barley but I think that’s a great addition.

    But mine does add a cup of milk shortly before serving which makes it lovely and creamy.

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