Monday, February 18, 2013


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French Canadian Habitant Pea Soup (made with whole dried yellow peas), Vegan-Style, with some rather smeary smoked paprika

It's unfortunate that it's more and more difficult (at least where I live) to find whole dried yellow peas.  I say that because one of my favorite soups is Habitant Pea Soup, the traditional potage that was basic sustenance for the farmers of Quebec for centuries.

My husband is from Quebec City and he was surprised to hear that when I was growing up in San Francisco, my dad used to buy us the large cans of Habitant Pea Soup (which have been around since 1918):

Disclosure:  I am NOT recommending that you go out and buy this soup!  Unfortunately, this would be vegan except for the addition of lard!  But the image of the can holds pleasant memories for me because we loved it.  (The company was apparently bought out by Campbell's, BTW.)  So, I had to learn to make it myself, and then make it vegan-- and it's even better!

"Habitant" is a French Canadian term for "country dweller" (more or less) and it's easy to see why it was such a staple for French Canadian farmers, being easy and cheap to make with dried yellow peas that could be stored for a long time.  Warming, filling and nutritious, the soup had much to offer these hardworking people during the frigid Quebec winters. 

You will see many recipes for this soup using split peas, but I think that is partly because of the difficulty of finding the whole ones, or just because split peas are more familiar to many of us.  But I like the fact that the whole peas have the skins that float around in the soup (extra fiber) and also the fact that the soup doesn't thicken into a "peas porridge" when cooled.  My husband assures me that whole peas are more traditional, and he likes the slightly thinner quality of the the soup when made this way.

In any case, I hope you will be able to find some whole yellow dried peas and try my recipe.  I have to make it regularly now, because our dog, Pheobe, really likes a little of it on her vegetarian dog kibbles!

WHERE TO BUY: You can order whole dried yellow peas from the farm gate here in the USA, and also order them here.  In Canada, check health food stores, supermarket bulk bins and natural foods markets. NOTE: Whole peas should be soaked for about 8 hours before cooking.

Dried whole yellow peas look a bit whitish because of the skin covering the yellow pea, like this:

Dried whole yellow peas from Purcell Mountain Farms

Printable Recipe
(Adapted from a recipe in my book "The Fiber for Life Cookbook")
Serves 6-8

2 cups dried whole yellow peas
8 cups tasty vegetarian broth
1 large onion, chopped
2 medium carrots, scrubbed and diced
1/2 cup chopped celery (with leaves)
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice  
salt and freshly-ground black pepper to taste
1 teaspoon liquid smoke 
Optional: 1 tablespoon soy bacon bits
or 1/4 cup chopped vegan "ham" or "bacon" or smoked tofu
1 tablespoon dark sesame oil  

Soak the peas in water to cover generously  for about 8 hours, then drain.

Mix the soaked peas in a large heavy pot with the broth, vegetables, herbs and spices, liquid smoke, optional "ham", "bacon" or smoked tofu, and sesame oil.  Simmer for 2 hours.  

With a hand/immersion blender, blend just enough to puree some of the peas, but not all.  Just pulse briefly around the pot.  Taste for salt and pepper.

Serve hot with crusty bread.

No-Knead Crusty Artisanal Bread from my book "World Vegan Feast".




Babette said...

I had no idea that Habitant pea soups were called "French Canadian" soups! I'm a Frenchie and I love pea soup. I actually thought they were made with split peas, since that's all I have ever see in vegan cookbooks (and vegan cookbooks are the only ones I know).

The funny thing is that just last week, I got a bag of dried peas from my CSA share, and I was startled to actually see whole peas. I'll make sure to try out your recipe! Merci!

narf7 said...

This soup rocks my boat Bryanna! I have been eating a lot of soups lately as a way to re-educate myself how to eat "normally" and to minimise the size of my evening meal. Soup is the new black in my life and this one is cram packed full of scrumptious possibilities. With winter coming up I need to transition from lighter Asian style miso broths and thinner veggie soups to heartier thicker pottages and this one is just the ticket :) Thank you for this wonderful gift of a recipe :)

Quiltbug said...

I checked out whole yellow peas today but the ones in the bin looked white and not yellow. Is that what they are supposed to look like. I'm used to yellow split peas which are very yellow in colour

Bryanna Clark Grogan said...

Quiltbug, they do look kinda white when dry because the skin covers up the yellow part inside. Here's a photo: and I'll add it to the blog.

Nezumi said...

This brings back so many memories! I could devore this soup when I was young.
I'll add this recipe to my weekend projects. Thank you, Bryanna.
Does it freeze well?

Higgington said...

This makes me hungry I love it thanks for posting

Babette said...

I tried it last night and it is pretty good. My peas needed more than 2 hours of cooking though, even though they had soaked for at least 15 hours.

Bryanna Clark Grogan said...

They might have been old, Babette-- dried legumes get harder to cook if they are on the shelf for a long time, so try to buy from a store with a good turn-over. I have had a few experiences with kidney beans and pinto beans that just would NOT cook through, even with soaking, regular cooking, and then pressure cooking! "The leading cause of toughness in beans (sounds like I’m about to unveil some scary medical news, huh?) is age. Just because you bought the dried beans from your store last week doesn’t mean they are new. As dried beans age, the pores through which the water enters tend to close and the outer coating may change, too. If water can’t get into the bean, they aren’t going to soften no matter how long you cook them.
My best advice is to try again with beans from a store with a high turnover rate on their dry goods. It won’t do any good to buy the same beans from the same store if they came out of that same shipment from long ago." From

Babette said...

Yeah, I know about that. I've had a few batch of canary beans and chick peas that just would cook.

But I got those whole peas last month from some sort of CSA and I assumed they would be quite fresh. Maybe not!

Kerri said...

Thanks for posting this recipe! It's hard to find a French Canadian pea soup recipe that uses whole peas. I live in Ontario, Canada and just bought a 900 gram bag of whole yellow peas this morning in my local Food Basics grocery store.

Anonymous said...

Another source of whole yellow peas (and other legumes) is South Asian (or other Asian) markets.

Jody said...

Thank you for this recipe. :)

I made it exactly as described, and it is good. is not what I was hoping for, exactly. I kept wondering how the celery, carrots, and onion would play into the soup, since Habitant brand pea soup doesn't have obvious bits of any of those things. (Just pureed yellow peas and some whole peas.) Plus, I didn't really understand the "ham" suggestion, since I like the plain pea soup. I accidentally bought the one with ham, years ago, and it was vile. It seems like the liquid smoke is the culprit. The soup smelled great until I added it. Then it smelled like hot dogs. ;)

When I went vegetarian (a few years before going vegan), I reluctantly had to give up Habitant pea soup...possibly my all-time favourite prepared soup...because of the stupid lard.

This recipe is good, and oh, so close. If I try it again (and I only say "if" because of the volume it makes), I will definitely leave out the liquid smoke. That's where my main grievance comes from, I suspect. I mean, this tastes like pea soup with meat in it. I didn't even like that when I ate meat. But the soup is so tantalizingly-close to what I was trying to get...

At the 2hr mark, I blended the soup a bit, of course. I simmered it for an additional hour with the lid off, as it was still too watery for my liking.

The final product is a tasty vegan soup...enough for a baseball team, in the style of Habitant brand pea soup.

I'll check back if/when I make it without the liquid smoke, to see if that works better for me.

Oh, I had no trouble finding whole yellow peas at my first stop, my local Metro grocery store.

Thank you so much for getting me on the right track! I really appreciate it!!

Bryanna Clark Grogan said...

Jody, most certainly flavor it to your own taste! Did you puree some of the soup at the end, as I mentioned in the recipe? This makes it thicker, without being like "peas pudding".

Jody said...

Yes! O... ...M... ...G!

Soooooo... As I mentioned, I liked the soup, but not certain elements of it. (Thank you, so much, for the recipe!)

Starting with the recipe you so generously provided, I pared down the ingredients, to remove what I didn't like from the first go-'round. This latest attempt is really quite close to what I remember Habitant soup tasting like. (Keep in mind that I've been vegan for well-over a decade, and was vegetarian for many more years before that. So, it's been some time since I had that lard-y Habitant soup.) ;)

I just soaked the whole yellow peas overnight, then added them to some (organic) vegetable broth, with the allspice, garlic, and a bay leaf, and simmered. As I do with my lentil soups, I later removed about half the whole peas, and blended the remainder in the pot, using a hand blender. (I DO like "peas pudding"! The thicker the better, for me!) I replaced the whole peas, and let simmer a little more, adjusting salt content.

Seriously. That's it. I skipped everything else, and what I got was pretty darn close to what I remember.

Thank you so much! This recipe is a keeper!! :D

Leona said...

Great recipe very similar to how I make this soup. I add a few whole cloves instead of allspice and a couple of bay leaves. I found a good sized bag of yellow peas in Walmart in Campbell River I've usually had to make it with whole green peas.

Unknown said...

I've just found your website when I googled Vegan whole yellow pea soup and up came your site. I'm looking forward to taking some time to poke through your pages. I live in Quebec and grew up on the Habitant Pea Soup so I needed to try make my own vegan version and this was it. I made the soup minus the smoked ingredients and I just love it. Thank you so much for your delicious recipe. It will be my work lunch for the next few days. Just delicious. Will print it out and keep it in my favourite recipes collection. This one is a real winner.

Unknown said...

French Canadian peas, whole yellow peas are bing grown again in St - Georges Manitoba! These were brought to the area by settlers from Quebec over a hundred years ago.

Tpro said...

Finally someone who has a recipe for whole (not split) pea soup. Frankly I love the NO HAM version of Habitant pea soup. I have made it with split peas and it is just not the same. I too love the white skins of the peas floating around in there. I find the ingredients in your recipe interesting however I cannot stand liquid smoke so would leave it out. It is interesting that the Habitant soup has so few ingredients compared to most recipes I find on line.I will probably try your recipe with a few less items and see how it goes? Lately here in Ontario, Canada I have found the whole peas in several grocery stores which was not the case even a year ago? I read somewhere that Canada grows a lot of yellow peas and is the largest producer of them worldwide.
Thanks for your recipe!!

Anonymous said...

Do you have a recipe for their minestrone soup?

Lalylun said...

I was born in Quebec! Glad I found your recipe
Thanks natalie

Anonymous said...

Just made this soup. I am a die hard Habitant pea soup fanatic. I live in Montreal and my Mom was French Canadian. Canned Habitant was a staple in my house. This recipe is amazing. Thank you so much...

Bryanna Clark Grogan said...

I'm so glad that you enjoyed this recipe! hanks so much for writing!