English Pea Soup with Lemon Creme Fraiche

Spring Pea Soup with Lemon Creme Fraiche

When I hear the words pea soup, two things come to my mind: split pea soup, and baby food. This isn’t to say all split pea soups (or all baby foods) are bad, but let’s just say I’m not a huge fan.

This soup, thankfully, is neither of those things. Far from it — it’s light, bright, and packed with fresh pea flavor (think super sweet peas picked straight off the vine). And that color? Totally au-natural. No photoshop was used in the making of that forest green shade, I promise.

Spring Pea Soup with Lemon Creme Fraiche

As many of you who follow along with my kitchen endeavors have probably noticed, I haven’t been doing much cooking lately. There are two reasons for that. First, the heat has finally arrived here in Michigan, which means I’ve been subsisting mostly on cold things (such as this soup, which is great warm or cold), and carry out. But there’s another reason, too. A reason I am far, far too excited about.

If you follow me on Instagram or Twitter, you have undoubtedly seen me geeking out over the pottery classes I’ve been taking these past few weeks. Those bowls that lovely green soup is resting in? I made those. With my own two hands, a hunk of clay, and some kind of crazy witchcraft known as a pottery wheel. I’m still pinching myself. I can’t even begin to put into words how cool it is to take what is basically a hunk of dirt, put your hands on it, and watch it transform into something right beneath your fingers. Playing in the mud hasn’t been this much fun since I was in diapers.

Handmade Ceramics

I’ve always admired handmade ceramics, but the moment I set my eyes (err, hands) on a pottery wheel, I became completely obsessed. Like, staying up until three AM watching pottery videos on youtube every night, obsessed. I’ve been so consumed, I can hardly think about anything else.

Except food, because, duh.

This soup was inspired by a Thomas Keller recipe, which I had the pleasure of tasting a few weeks ago at a friend’s private event. First I was struck by the color (I mean, come on), then I tasted it, and knew I had to make it for myself. (Just as soon as I finished watching ALL OF THE POTTERY VIDEOS.)

Spring Pea Soup with Lemon Creme Fraiche

This recipe is my own take on things, but it still retains Keller’s killer technique for blanching the peas in boiling water with lots of sugar and salt. That quick boil introduces the most incredible flavor to the peas, and is pretty much the only seasoning this soup needs.

Then there’s the lemon creme fraiche drizzle, which not only highlights that pea flavor, but is just about the easiest way to make people think you have mad skills, without actually needing to have mad skills. Just stir, drizzle, and serve. Easy peasy!

You see what I did there? Eh? Seriously though, this whole soup is a snap to make. It’s sure to peas. It’ll put a spring (pea) in your step. Okay, okay, I’m done…

Spring Pea Soup with Lemon Creme Fraiche

All I’m saying is give peas a chance.

Okay, now I’m done.


5.0 from 3 reviews
English Pea Soup with Lemon Creme Fraiche
Adapted from Thomas Keller's French Laundry Cookbook
Serves: makes 2 regular servings, or 4 small servings -- recipe can easily be doubled or tripled
  • 3½ lbs fresh peas, shelled (or 3 ½ cups frozen peas)
  • 3 quarts water
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ½ cup kosher salt
  • ½ cup water, plus more as needed
  • 4 oz. creme fraiche
  • Zest of one lemon, plus 1 TBSP juice
  • drizzle of good quality olive oil, optional
  • Pea shoots for garnish, optional
  1. Bring water, sugar, and salt to a boil in a large pot. Add half of the peas, and boil for 6-8 minutes for fresh, or 4-5 minutes for frozen, or until tender.
  2. Fill a large bowl with water and ice, and have it standing by when the peas are done cooking. Remove the peas from the pot with a skimmer or slotted spoon, and place them directly into the ice bath. This will stop the cooking, and help preserve their bright color. Return the water to a boil and repeat with the rest of the peas.
  3. Drain the cooked peas from the ice water, and add them to a blender or food processor. Add ½ cup fresh water, and puree until completely smooth. If the mixture is too thick to blend, add more water as needed.
  4. Pass the puree through a tamis or fine mesh sieve. (This step is optional, especially if you have a really powerful blender, but I prefer the consistency of the soup once it's been sieved). Use a scraper or rubber spatula to press all the liquid through.
  5. Taste, and adjust the seasoning if necessary. If the consistency is too thick, add more water to thin as needed. Optionally, stir in a TBSP or so of good quality olive oil, to enhance the velvety texture of the soup and add flavor.
  6. Soup can be warmed on the stove, or chilled in the fridge before serving. I like it both ways depending on my mood, so try it hot and cold and see which you prefer.
  7. When you're ready to serve, whisk together the creme fraiche, lemon zest, and lemon juice. Serve alongside the soup, or drizzle it over to garnish (you can thin the creme fraiche with a bit more lemon juice, or water, to create a drizzleable consistency). Serve as is, or garnish with fresh pea sprouts.
English peas, or garden peas, are great when they are in season and at their peak (and if you happen to grow your own, this soup is the perfect way to use them). If you don't have access to fresh peas, though, or would rather not shell them, you can easily use frozen peas instead. Since they're flash frozen at the peak of freshness, they still make for a very good soup!

In Keller's original recipe, he uses truffle oil to give a more savory quality to this soup. Personally, I'm not a big fan of truffle oil, and find that it can overpower the delicate pea flavor very easily (no offense to Keller). Instead I chose to keep things as simple as possible with just a bit of olive oil, but you could easily use other oils (like toasted walnut oil, or garlic oil) to add your own flavor twist.


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25 Responses to English Pea Soup with Lemon Creme Fraiche

  1. cynthia June 18, 2015 at 10:55 pm #

    This soup is so stunning, Willow! Those swirls on top are gorgeous — lemon creme fraiche sounds like the perfect pairing for pea soup. So lovely.

  2. Thalia @ butter and brioche June 18, 2015 at 11:43 pm #

    I definitely am making this recipe. I love a classic pea soup and the fact that this is complimented by a lemony creme fraiche topping is just beautiful. Gorgeous photography too!

    • Willow Arlen June 20, 2015 at 11:13 am #

      Thank you! I hope you do make the soup, it disappeared immediately here!

  3. movita beaucoup June 20, 2015 at 9:50 am #

    1. This soup looks amazing.
    2. I like split pea soup. But only with lots of smoked hamhock.
    3. I am envious of your pottery making and wonder if you have reenacted the scene from Ghost whilst in class. Or has it been banned? {https://youtu.be/o4pKELhJL3I}

    • Willow Arlen June 20, 2015 at 11:20 am #

      1. This soup IS amazing.
      2. I feel like the title should reflect the amount of ham in it — “split pea soup” is deceiving, and I’m always slightly shocked at how meaty it tastes. Perhaps if my expectations weren’t so off, I would like it?
      3. No one has mentioned whether it’s been banned or not. I think I would need a willing partner to reenact it with, though, which would be challenging, awkward, and perhaps illegal considering the number of children in the class…

  4. Lauren @ Lauren Caris Cooks June 21, 2015 at 6:50 am #

    This is so beautiful!! Also, I am STILL so excited that you made those bowls! I think i am going to have to find some kind of pottery class here in Basel. Would love to have some homemade food props!

  5. shannon @ a periodic table June 28, 2015 at 1:09 pm #

    aarrrghh that is the most ETHEREAL photo of pea soup i’ve ever seen, and it completely blows out of the water all of my own reservations about pea soup. Much like you, when i hear those words, my mind immediately conjures images of flat-green baby food, or a hefty – almost surly – soup, or ketchup (my grandparents used to love to add ketchup to pea soup, which resulted in an indescribable color and god knows what sort of flavor). i know.

    but THIS though…this is brilliant. and so fresh-looking, and sounding, and all swirly and pretty and not at ALL like the pea soups of my past. That you made those bowls? EVEN MORE EXCITING. i love that you’re doing pottery work now – i think that was my favorite part of art class in high school, and i’ve missed it ever since. beautiful on all counts, Willow.

    • Willow Arlen June 28, 2015 at 4:05 pm #

      Thanks, Shannon! That was my goal — to make a pea soup that is NOT what we grew up thinking of as pea soup. (Side note: pea soup + ketchup seems a little… odd. And this is coming from someone who used to put doritos on peanut butter sandwiches, so, odd is kind of an understatement.)

      Pottery is SO MUCH FUN. I’m convinced that taking pottery classes is the most fun a girl can have on a thursday night. Being able to use what I make on the blog is just an added bonus. I highly recommend taking a class or two if you have the chance, I’m sure you’d be great, just like you are with everything else I’ve seen you do!

  6. Valeria August 16, 2015 at 10:51 am #

    Your photography is stunning, Willow! I always find myself coming back to your site to check out your recent creations :)

    • Willow Arlen August 16, 2015 at 11:03 am #

      Thank you so much, Valeria! Your comment made my day!

  7. Sarah @ Champagne Tastes January 25, 2016 at 7:01 pm #

    oh wow.. first, the pots are beautiful!! and I must try this soup. I haven’t had pea soup in years, and it sounds completely delicious.

    • Willow Arlen January 26, 2016 at 12:16 am #

      Thanks, Sarah! This is by far my favorite pea soup (that I’ve tried so far, at least). I hope you try it sometime!

  8. Stacy February 29, 2016 at 7:22 pm #

    Would this recipe work if the sugar is omitted?

    • Willow Arlen February 29, 2016 at 7:57 pm #

      Hi Stacy — I’ve never tried it personally, so I can’t say for certain. I’m sure it would turn out fine, technically, but the sugar and salt really help amp up the flavor of the peas (and very little of the sugar actually gets absorbed into the peas, so I don’t think you end up consuming very much). That said, you’re welcome to try it sans the sugar. I’d love to know how it turns out if you do!

  9. Mary @ Fit and Fed March 21, 2016 at 11:53 am #

    Beautiful! I’m trying it. Lovely marbling effect you got with your creme fraiche and olive oil garnishes! BTW, making pottery is the perfect sideline for a food blogger! I love cool hand-thrown pottery and know a local pottery business that I like to support. Glazes are cool! (Throwing pottery is hard– kudos to you for learning it.)

    • Willow Arlen March 21, 2016 at 12:38 pm #

      Thanks, Mary! I hope you like the soup. And yes, pottery is very fun, and also very challenging. It’s been awhile since I made these bowls, and I’d love to take more classes soon!

      • Mary @ Fit and Fed March 24, 2016 at 1:13 am #

        Hi Willow, I made the soup tonight. My garnishes didn’t turn out as beautiful as yours, but the color is indeed amazing! And the lemony garnish (I used sour cream and lemon juice for various reasons) gave it really good flavor. I did add some really good olive oil (Far North from New Zealand) to both the soup and a little more as a garnish.

        • Willow Arlen March 24, 2016 at 10:20 am #

          That’s awesome, Mary! I’m glad you liked it. Swirling garnishes in soup is harder than it looks — I actually had to practice a few times before taking these photos, haha!

  10. Kelly April 22, 2017 at 9:49 pm #

    Thanks for the inspiration! I made this tonight and it was fantastic! That lemon creme was so good I have been trying to figure out what else to use it on. Yum!

  11. Trineke October 26, 2020 at 6:09 pm #

    Absolutely gorgeous soup! I love how fresh and simple it is. Even my children like it!!!

  12. Trineke October 26, 2020 at 6:15 pm #

    Absolutely gorgeous soup! I love how fresh and simple it is. Even my children like it! And that is an achievement ?


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