I'm all about recipes that allow you to riff based on what you have on hand in your kitchen. Pantry pasta? Yes, please. A free association salad? Sign me up. My current seasonal favorite is a really simple pea soup that takes different forms based on whatever ingredients are hanging out in my crisper drawer.
The general formula is simple: sauté some alliums, add some stock and peas to the pot, swirl in something a little creamy and gently flavor with some herbs or zest. Let the whole thing simmer until you're ready to serve, preferably along with some fresh, crusty bread or toasty croutons.
Well, what are you waiting for? Grab a spoon — and let's dive into why this combination of flavors works well.
Alliums include ingredients like onions, garlic, scallions, shallots, leeks and chives. They all have that kind of slightly biting, verdant and funky flavor — typically with a little sweetness and umami if caramelized just enough. They're the workhorses of the kitchen, which is why so many recipes use them as a base ingredient.
Related: Gives peas a chance? It's time for their turn in the "it vegetable" spotlight
While I wouldn't use a super "meaty" stock, such as beef or mushroom, the only requirement for the one used in this soup is that it tastes good. Splurge (if you can) for the "nice" boxed stock or simply make your own. Either chicken or vegetable stock would be delicious.
Behold, the star of this recipe! Both fresh or frozen shelled peas work beautifully here.
Dairy (or non-dairy) cream
Basically, you want to add just a hint of creaminess to this recipe. You can, of course, use actual cream or half-and-half, but there are some delicious alternatives, too. A dollop of sour cream or yogurt adds a really pleasant tang to the soup, while coconut milk and oat milk also add additional depth of flavor.
Herbs or zest
Peas pair really well with a variety of herbs, including tarragon, dill, sage, mint, chives (pulling double duty as allium and herb!) and parsley. A modest handful makes a big difference to a pot of soup. Similarly, a tablespoon or two of zest — either lemon or lime — can brighten the flavor.
Some of the best combinations I've tried include:
- 4 minced scallions, 4 cups vegetable stock, 4 cups peas, 1/2 cup full-fat coconut milk and 1 tablespoon lime zest
- 2 minced shallots, 4 cups chicken stock, 4 cups peas, 1/2 cup cream and 1 tablespoon minced tarragon
- 1/2 cup chopped leeks, 4 cups chicken stock, 4 cups peas, 1/2 cup sour cream and 2 tablespoons chives
- 1 cup chopped white onion, 4 cups vegetable stock, 4 cups peas, 1/2 cup cashew yogurt, 2 tablespoons chopped mint
- 4 cloves minced garlic, 4 cups chicken stock, 4 cups peas, 1/2 cup oat milk, 1 tablespoon lemon zest
Like most soups, the longer you let the pot simmer, the more flavorful the end result will be. That said, if you have 30 minutes to let this soup cook, that's more than enough. For the sake of a 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 this a staple that you can carry along with you into the early summer.
Want more great food writing and recipes? Subscribe to Salon Food's newsletter.
More of our favorite simple weeknight recipes:
- The viral feta pasta dish everyone's raving about is even better without pasta
- A chocolate sandwich tastes exactly as comforting as it sounds — and it's sublime
- This riff on a classic Southern pie is comfort in a bite — and the leftovers taste great for breakfast
- French-inspired lentils are the easiest cure for your winter blues — and they're impossible to mess up
Salon Food writes about stuff we think you'll like. Salon has affiliate partnerships, so we may get a share of the revenue from your purchase.