I’m all about recipes that let you riff on what you have on hand in your kitchen. Pasta in the pantry? Yes please. A free associative salad? Sign me up. My current seasonal favorite is a very simple pea soup that takes on different shapes depending on the ingredients lying around in my vegetable drawer.
The general formula is simple: sauté some alliums, add broth and peas to the pan, stir in something a little creamy, and flavor gently with herbs or zest. Let everything simmer until ready to serve, preferably with fresh, crusty bread or toasted croutons.
Alright, what are you waiting for? Take a spoon and see why this flavor combination works well.
Alliums include ingredients like onions, garlic, scallions, shallots, leeks, and chives. They all have this sort of slightly biting, leafy, funky flavor – usually with a bit of sweetness and umami if caramelized just enough. They are the workhorses of the kitchen, which is why so many recipes use them as a base ingredient.
Related: Give peas a chance? It’s time for their turn in the spotlight “it’s vegetable”
While I wouldn’t use a super “meaty” broth, like beef or mushroom, the only requirement for the one used in this soup is that it taste good. Splurge (if you can) for the “pretty” boxed stock or just make your own. A chicken or vegetable broth would be delicious.
Here is the star of this recipe! Fresh or frozen shelled peas work wonderfully here.
Dairy (or non-dairy) cream
Basically you want to add just a hint creaminess to this recipe. You can, of course, use real or half and half cream, but there are also delicious alternatives. A dollop of sour cream or yogurt adds a really nice flavor to the soup, while coconut milk and oat milk also add an extra depth of flavor.
Herbs or zest
Peas go great with a variety of herbs, including tarragon, dill, sage, mint, chives (double action as allium and herb!) and parsley. A modest handful makes a big difference in a pot of soup. Likewise, a tablespoon or two of zest — lemon or lime — can liven up the flavor.
Some of the best combinations I’ve tried include:
- 4 chopped green onions, 4 cups vegetable broth, 4 cups peas, 1/2 cup whole coconut milk and 1 tablespoon lime zest
- 2 shallots, chopped, 4 cups chicken broth, 4 cups peas, 1/2 cup cream and 1 tablespoon chopped tarragon
- 1/2 cup chopped leeks, 4 cups chicken broth, 4 cups peas, 1/2 cup sour cream and 2 tablespoons chives
- 1 cup chopped white onion, 4 cups vegetable broth, 4 cups peas, 1/2 cup cashew yogurt, 2 tbsp chopped mint
- 4 minced garlic cloves, 4 cups chicken broth, 4 cups peas, 1/2 cup oat milk, 1 tbsp lemon zest
Like most soups, the longer you simmer the pot, the tastier the end result will be. That said, if you have 30 minutes to cook this soup, that’s more than enough. For the sake of classic texture (and aesthetics), I like to blend the final soup using a small food processor or immersion blender – but that’s honestly optional.
Bonus: Pea soup is one of the few soups that works well both hot and cold, making it a staple you can take with you at the start of summer.
Want more food writing and recipes? Subscribe to the Salon Food newsletter.
More of our favorite simple weekday recipes:
Salon Food writes about things we think you’ll like. Salon has affiliate partnerships, so we may get a share of the revenue from your purchase.