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Thai Curry Split Pea Soup

This soup is mind-blowingly, amazingly delicious.

Even if split pea soup is not really your favorite thing, I urge you to give this a try anyway. It's soooo flavorful, and split peas are so good for us.

Plus, they aren't as hard to come by, at least online, as some other dry goods these days (see below for buying tips).

I'm really proud of this recipe, and I'm so excited to share it with you!

The easiest way to make this soup is in your Instant Pot.

If you don't have one yet, you can get one on Amazon.

This is an affiliate link, as are some of the others on this page, which means I'll get a tiny commission if you buy through my link (at no additional cost to you), and I really appreciate your support if you do this!

But if you don't have this magical little appliance yet, don't worry!

You can also make it on the stove in a regular soup pot. Scroll down for stovetop instructions, as well as for an ingredient buying guide, and substitution suggestions for items you can't get your hands on.

Ingredients

See below for a buying guide with tips on where to find these items.

  • 1 cup dry split green peas
  • ½ cup urad dal (or other small dry lentils of choice)
  • ½ cup brown rice 
  • 1 large shallot, diced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • A 2-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled & minced
  • 2 Tbsp Thai green curry paste
  • ¼ cup unsweetened shredded or flaked coconut
  • 2 large handfuls of fresh cilantro leaves (about a cup, loosely packed)
  • 1.5 cups of water
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 qt. (32 oz) low-sodium vegetable stock
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • ½ tsp ground black pepper
  • 3 more cups of water

Instructions

1. Measure a cup of dry split green peas. Sort through them and inspect them visually to make sure they don't contain any small stones that could break a tooth.

Rinse and drain them several times, until the rinse water runs clear.

Tip: Do this rinsing step a few hours before you begin cooking, and then soak the dry split peas in water for a couple of hours before you cook them. This will help make them easier to digest, and if you're cooking this soup on the stove, it'll help cut down on cooking time because the peas will cook more quickly if they've been soaked first. Pre-soaking is optional and not necessary.

2. Measure the half cup of urad dal (split black lentils, which are actually white), again looking for any stray stones. Rinse and drain these, too, until the water runs clear and no longer looks sudsy. Set aside.

3. Peel and mince your shallot, garlic and ginger.

4. Remove two large handfuls of fresh cilantro leaves from their stems. This will be about a cup of volume, loosely packed.

Rinse the leaves and set aside.

5. Measure a half cup of brown rice. Rinse, drain and set aside. In the photos I'm using a brown rice blend. See below for ingredient notes and suggested substitutions.

6. In a blender, combine the cilantro leaves, minced ginger, shredded coconut, 2 Tbsp Thai green curry paste, and 1.5 cups of water.

Blend until smooth.

7. Turn your Instant Pot on the Sauté function. Warm a tablespoon of olive oil, then add the minced shallot and garlic. Sprinkle with a dash of sea salt, and stir. Let the shallots brown slightly.

8. Add the quart of low-sodium vegetable stock to the Instant Pot.

9. Add the rinsed, drained split peas to the pot.

Then add the urad dal (or other lentils) and the brown rice.

10. Add the blended cilantro + ginger + coconut + Thai curry to the pot, too.

11. Add the 3 cups of water to the pot. Pro tip: Put the water in the blender bucket first, before adding it to the pot -- that way the water will pick up any leftover ingredients from the blender bucket, and add more flavor back to the soup.

 12. Add 1 tsp of salt and ½ tsp ground black pepper.

13. Close the Instant Pot. Make sure the valve is set to "Sealing." Hit "Cancel" to turn off the "Sauté" function, and then press "Manual" (this is labeled "Pressure Cook" on some Instant Pot models). Press + or - until the digital display reads 20. Cooking will begin automatically within a few seconds; you don't have to press Start.

14. The Instant Pot will take some time to come to pressure, it'll hold the pressure and cook the soup for 20 minutes, and then it will take more time to come back down to ambient pressure.

Once the time is up and the Instant Pot beeps, you have a choice: You can wait for the machine to return to normal room pressure. Steam will slowly exit the valve and the IP will keep your soup warm until you're ready to eat.

If you want to eat right away without waiting for the pressure to release naturally, you can. At the moment the machine beeps, the pressure inside the pot is still very high. You won't be able to open the lid (that's a safety feature). First, you'll need to release the steam from the valve by sliding it left or right. Use a dish towel to cover your hand completely before you slide the valve. Do not stand with your head over it, and do not hold a child near the Instant Pot when you do this.

Steam will rush out the top valve, and when it stops, you'll be able to turn the lid to open the Pot.

Serve your soup, and enjoy!

In the photo above, I made this recipe with diced potatoes instead of rice, and I garnished the soup with chopped almonds and a sprig of thyme before serving.

Ingredient Buying Guide

  • Split peas

You can buy these at just about any supermarket, or online at Amazon.

  • Urad Dal

These are split black lentils (which are white on the inside). They may be difficult to find at regular grocery stores, but you can order them on Amazon. If you can't get them, any small lentils will do (beluga lentils, French green lentils, etc.), or you can add an additional half cup of split green peas to the soup instead.

  • Thai Green Curry Paste

This is usually available in the Asian aisle of just about any grocery store. Look for the Thai Kitchen brand. If you can't find it, you can order some on Amazon (this listing is for a six pack of bottles, but if you buy extra, you can use it to make my Thai Green Curry recipe, too!)

  • Shallots

Shallots are such a staple for me, but I find that many people are unfamiliar with them. They're usually sold in the bulk bins near the onions, potatoes and garlic. They're similar to onions, but they have a much milder flavor.

The image on the left is what they look like with their skins on, at the store. On the right, you see a shallot with the skin removed.

  • Brown Rice Blend

I usually use the California Brown Rice Blend from Trader Joe's. They also have a "Brown Rice Medley" that's very good. If you don't shop at Trader Joe's, you can use any brown rice or brown basmati rice. In general, rice has been a little harder to come by lately, but if you're willing to buy in bulk, you can get a decent deal on this pack from Amazon. Otherwise, see below for suggested substitutions.

The rest of the ingredient list should be self-explanatory, but let me know if you have any questions.

Suggested Substitutions

If you're not able to find:

  • Urad Dal - Use any kind of small dry lentils, or simply add an additional half cup of split peas to your soup recipe.
  • Shallots - Dice half a small onion and use that instead, and give them a slight head start for the sauté, before adding the garlic.
  • Brown rice - Any grain would work here in place of the rice (quinoa, white basmati rice, or buckwheat groats are gluten-free options, or otherwise farro, barley, bulgur, etc.). A pound of any kind of potatoes, diced into half-inch cubes, is also an excellent (gluten-free) choice.
  • Fresh ginger - You could skip the ginger, and add an extra clove of garlic to make up for the flavor loss, and/or you can add a ¼ tsp dry ginger from your spice cabinet when you add the salt & pepper to the pot.
  • Unsweetened shredded coconut - Add ¼ cup full-fat coconut milk to the blender when you blend the cilantro and ginger, in place of the dry coconut.
  • Low-sodium vegetable stock - Add the same quantity (4 cups) of water to the pot when you would have added the stock, and if you have some, also add a vegetable bouillon cube or 2 tsp of Dry Vegetable Broth & Seasoning 

Stovetop Cooking Instructions

After you've prepped the ingredients and blended the cilantro mixture, do the following:

1. In a large soup pot, heat the olive oil.

2. Sauté the shallots and garlic for about 1-2 minutes, or until the shallots begin to brown.

3. Add the vegetable stock, blended ingredients, and water to the pot.

4. Add the split peas, urad dal, and brown rice, as well as the salt and pepper.

5. Bring to a boil, and boil rapidly for about 5 minutes. Then, cover the pot and reduce the heat to a simmer, cooking the soup for about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until the split peas are cooked. (Time may vary depending on the age of the split peas and how long you soaked them in advance. The older they are, the longer they take to cook, and pre-soaking shortens the cooking time.)

6. Taste the soup (carefully) and adjust the seasoning to your taste. Serve and enjoy.

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