My wife and I were vacationing in southern Manitoba a few years ago and for part of the trip stayed in a yurt at Spruce Woods Provincial Park.
We had a small camp stove with us to prepare our meals in the park, and in one of the local grocery stores found a large can of Habitant Pea Soup.
We both love split pea soup, so I bought the can of Habitant and later heated it up for a quick lunch. It wasn’t “homemade” good, but for a canned soup it tasted much better than I expected. And everything tastes better when you’re cooking and eating outdoors.
I had made split pea soup many times before, but it was always Swedish style, where split pea soup is a national institution. In Sweden, pea soup can be found on tables across the country on Thursdays, when it is traditionally served. I later learned that pea soup has a history in French-Canadian cooking, where the hearty soup has long been served in kitchens and restaurants across Quebec.
What makes the French-Canadian version so tasty is the use of savory, a very underrated herb that doesn’t get the attention in the States that it does across the northern border. And where I would use a piece of ham for Swedish-style pea soup, for the Habitant version I use salt pork. Because this recipe uses water and not broth or stock, it stands up to heavier doses of dried herbs for flavoring.
How to make Habitant Pea Soup, French Canadian-style
1 pound yellow split peas (there is no difference in flavor between yellow and green split peas, but yellow peas are traditional in Quebec)
1/2 pound salt pork, cut into 1/2-inch dice
2 quarts water
1 medium onion, diced
2 carrots, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon dried savory
1 teaspoon dried thyme
Salt and freshly cracked pepper to taste
- Rinse the peas under cold water and put them into a large Dutch oven or soup pot and cover them with cold water and allow to soak overnight
- Drain the peas and rinse again
- Place the salt pork pieces at the bottom of the Dutch oven/soup pot
- Add the onion, carrots, celery and peas
- Sprinkle savory over everything, add water and bay leaf
- Bring to a boil then reduce heat to simmer and cover partially for 1 hour
- Stir occasionally and skim off any foam with a slotted spoon
- Remove cover and cook for another 45 minutes to 1 hour, until peas are tender (add more water as needed)
- Season with salt and pepper and serve
If you want to finish the soup with flair, try a bit of chopped fresh parsley and/or a sprinkle of red wine vinegar.
I would love to hear from anyone with French-Canadian roots who grew up eating this soup. Maybe you have an heirloom recipe that beats them all!
Looking for the perfect pot to cook up your next batch of soup? I recommend the Lodge Enameled Cast Iron Dutch Oven. It comes in 11 different colors and is an excellent value for the price.
I love this soup . It’s the ONLY pea soup I like. I live in northeast New York and just learned that my local store (tops at zip 12972) no longer4 carries this . . . I wonder if its available in the NYS area ? near Plattsburgh (12901) area???
Hi. I agree – for a canned soup, the Habitant Pea Soup is one of the best and has a very distinctive flavor and texture. After a bit of research, it appears that Campbell’s is no longer distributing the soup to the United States. That leaves you with two options – either purchase online from a seller on Amazon or cross the border (into Quebec in your case) to buy the soup. It’s very expensive on Amazon – roughly $13/can and on up. There is an IGA in Lacolle, Quebec (https://www.iga.net/fr/recherche_de_magasin/magasin/0379?utm_source=G&utm_medium=lpm&utm_campaign=SobeysMontreal) that’s less than 1 hour drive – straight north on Interstate 87 – from your zip code. You can find the real deal there (https://www.iga.net/en/product/soupfrench-canadian-pea/00000_000000006321131111) for about $2/can figuring in the current US-Canada exchange rate. Grab a big shopping bag and cross the border to stock up!
My mother was French Canadian and we ate lots of this soup!
However true French Canadian pea soup uses WHOLE Yellow peas. Habitant brand pea soup also uses WHOLE yellow peas. Otherwise the soup turns to mush
You’re absolutely right. Whole yellow peas are the way to go, if you can find them. I like to use Lars Yellow Peas – they are whole peas used for a similar soup that’s very popular in Sweden. In fact, it’s something of a tradition in the country to have pea soup on Thursdays. They work great for French Canadian Pea Soup, too!
My paternal grandparents emigrated from Canada-my dad loved this soup-always had it in our house-I loved it too-used to get for under $2 a can at my local market-haven’t been there since Covid so don’t know if they still carry it-Vermont Country Store had it also-very expensive-all their goods are-not there anymore-will try this over the weekend-need the savory-have all else-thanks
As far as I know, the Habitant brand of French Canadian Pea Soup is no longer available at retail grocers or stores in the U.S. It is still being distributed in Canada by Campbell’s (https://www.campbellsoup.ca/product/habitant-french-canadian-pea-soup/#) , but I haven’t found a source to buy direct. If you travel to Canada in the future, I would recommend stocking up! Until then, I hope you enjoy the recipe I provided. Let me know how it turns out.
Love your recipe! I am a French Canadian from just south of the border in Clinton County, NY. Our family emigrated from Chambly, Québec in 1837– after the failed uprising inLower Canada. Mimère (grandma in English) made her own: very similar to yours, except she used both salt pork and either a ham bone or a large ham hock, depending on what we had. You must use whole peas for authenticity. Yellow is traditional but green works just fine.
Unfortunately here we in NM FINDING WHOLE PEAS IS HARD; SO I USE SPLIT PEAS ALIVE WITH THE RESULTS; good but not « habitant »
Thanks for your post.
Hi William. Thanks for your comment and glad you like the recipe – your grandmother’s recipe sounds very good too! It can be difficult to find whole yellow peas. Since you’re in New York, you might consider ordering from here. Best regards.
Habitant pea soup does not contain celery