Jupiterimages/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images

A warm cup of split pea soup with a helping of ham is just the ticket on a cold day. And it’s not just comfort food, it’s also healthy food. Odds are that you won’t experience digestive gas after eating split peas, but there are a couple of tricks that might help if you do.

Split Pea Facts

Dried peas and beans are an inexpensive alternative protein source and a great source of fiber, iron, potassium, folate and complex carbohydrates. They’re low in sodium and fat and may lower cholesterol and decrease the risk of heart disease. One cup of split peas has about 230 calories, 16 grams of protein and only one gram of fat. High-fiber foods like beans and peas may help you lose weight because you feel fuller, longer.

Split peas and lentils, while similar in size and shape, are different. Lentils are green, brown or red legumes, whereas split peas are dried peas, skinned and split in half.

Tip

Yellow split peas have a milder flavor than green split peas, and cooking methods for both are the same.

Do Split Peas Need to Be Soaked?

Oligosaccharides – a type of carbohydrate – present in beans and peas sometimes creates gas in humans because beans and legumes aren't digested until they reach the intestine, where bacteria break them down, causing gas in the process. According to the Iowa State University Extension, split peas and lentils don’t need to be soaked.

If you find that you’re particularly sensitive, rinse the peas several times to remove some of the oligosaccharides. You can also try the quick-soak method to reduce the risk of gas. Put the peas in a pot, cover with water and bring to a boil. Let them boil for a couple of minutes, remove from heat and cover. After an hour, drain the peas and cook in fresh water.

Keep in mind that peas cook more quickly than beans, so you need to adjust the cooking time if you’ve used the quick-soak method. Boiling the peas may also change the flavor, and some of the nutritional value can leach out.

Prepare the Split Peas

Rinse the peas and inspect them for small stones, shriveled peas or bits of soil. Use 1.5 cups of liquid to cook every cup of split peas. They can be added, uncooked, to soups and stews as long as the water-to-pea ratio remains the same.

To cook the peas for use in other recipes, bring water or broth to a boil. Add the peas and return to boiling. Reduce the heat and partially cover the pot. Simmer for 30 to 40 minutes, or until the peas are tender. This may take longer at higher altitudes.

Add the cooked peas to soups, salads, snacks or main dishes.

Split Pea Recipes

Split Pea Soup: Simmer peas in broth with diced or shredded carrot, chopped onion, salt and pepper. Add a smoked ham hock for a meaty flavor. For creamed soup, remove the ham hock and use an immersion blender to puree the cooked peas. Top with a dollop of sour cream, Greek yogurt or crème fraiche.

Slow Cooker Pea Soup: Combine split peas, diced onion, shredded or chopped carrots, garlic, salt and pepper with chicken stock. Add a smoked ham hock or a ham bone and cook on low for five to six hours.

Split Pea Hummus: Combine cooked split peas with tahini, vegetable broth, garlic and lemon juice in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until the mixture is smooth. Serve chilled with pita chips or vegetable sticks.

Crunchy Split Pea Snack: Soak yellow or green split peas for several hours. Drain and pat dry. Coat a large, heavy skillet with oil and add half of the peas. Cook until the peas are crunchy and golden brown, stirring frequently. Remove from the pan and sprinkle with salt, garlic powder or onion powder while the peas are still warm.

About the Author

Meg Jernigan

Native New Yorker Meg Jernigan stayed in Washington, D.C. after attending the George Washington University, and worked in the tourism industry with the National Park Service for many years. She’s a dedicated foodie with an extensive cookbook collection and years of experience in the kitchen. Jernigan’s recipes have been published online and in magazines like Southern Living.