Cumin and Aleppo pepper scented Armenian yellow split pea soup

Last weekend Vancouver, BC was covered in a haze misty blanket of grey fog. Fine sea-mist like dew lingering in the air, the entire town, perhaps weary of the latest hockey craze, welcomed the quiet solitude of a peace-filled weekend.

The weather reached to only a mere 16 Celsius. We’re in mid-June and I can’t believe that I’m still wearing a sweater! I can see the temperature has plans to climb next week – hopefully lending me another week of roof-down driving – but in the meantime, what to do to nurture the moist-coolness of a coastal-rainforest-like Vancouver grey eve?

You got it! Soup always feeds the soul. So I decided to make a batch of one of my all-time favorites – one that I enjoyed repeatedly for many years – Armenian yellow split pea soup.

The key technique for this soup is to sauté the spices once the onions become translucent. This helps release and intensify the spice mixture base for the soup. Then to sauté this base with the tomato paste and sauté until all moisture is release. The adding the lemon juice will deglaze and add a nice level of acidity. Then sauté the split peas, brown basmati and bulgur in this base, until, once again, all moisture has been evaporated. At this point, when you’re ready to add the water or stock, you’ve created a rather intense-aromatic base that the peas and rice will absorb as they bloom during cooking. Lastly, bring to boil (B2B), and then simmer gently until split-peas are tender. This nice ‘n slow method of cooking the soup will further intensify the flavor profile.

By far, one of the most satisfying soups you’ll enjoy.

Cumin and Aleppo pepper scented Armenian yellow split pea soup

2 tbsp olive oil

1 lg onion, small dice

3 garlic cloves, de-germed, grated

2 tablespoons paprika

1/2 tsp Aleppo pepper*

1 tsp ground cumin, to taste

1 tsp ground coriander, to taste

1 tsp ground turmeric

1-1/2 cups yellow split peas

1/4 cup brown basmati or other long-grain rice

1/4 cup fine-grain bulgur or couscous

4-5 tbsp tomato paste

Juice of 1 lemon

9 cups water or chicken stock

In a large heavy pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic. Cook gently until onions become translucent.

Add in the spices, continue cooking to release aroma.

Add in the yellow split peas, brown basmati and bulgur. Stir to mix and coat thoroughly.

Add in the tomato paste and lemon juice, au sec.

Add the water or stock; B2B over high heat. Then turn heat down to medium, and bring soup to a gentle but healthy simmer, cover, and cook until split peas are thoroughly tender.

Makes a hearty batch serving 8.

Several garnishes pair perfectly with this soup: Yogurt or labneh, cumin, Aleppo pepper, paprika, dry mint, cilantro, drizzle of evoo – and if you’re up to extra carbs, go for pita chips brushed with evoo and light cumin dust.


* Aleppo pepper is made from moderately hot red chilies from Northern Syria and Turkey. They are sun-dried, seeded, then crushed. Also known as Halabi pepper, it is the quintessential authentic pepper used in most Mediterranean and Middle Eastern dishes. It’s hot, sweet, smoky with a delectable aroma. You can purchase Aleppo pepper in Middle Eastern specialty food stores.