In Memory Of Karen Nicole Smith, 1972 - 2016

Turn Leftover Ham Bone Into A Comforting Caribbean Soup.


As my family and friends enjoy the blistering heat of the Caribbean sun, I have to settle for temperatures which are starting to dip below the freezing point and it will only get colder as we move into January and February. However, with a huge pot of ham bone soup simmering away on the stove, nothing brings me more comfort and memories of the sunny Caribbean. Ham bone soup is one of those meals I look forward to after the holidays… not only is it very delicious and easy to make, it helps me forget how cold it is outside as we get set for the shorter days and frigid temperatures.

Soup is a traditional “Saturday” dish on the islands and it’s one of those traditions we take with us wherever we may  now call home. Go to any West Indian market on a Friday evening or early Saturday morning and see people busy shopping for salted meats and ground provisions. No  joke.. I even saw two women almost fight for the last ‘hand’ of green fig (banana) a few years back at a West Indian store.

This is one of those soups where you put everything in the pot and allow it to do it’s thing as it takes about an hour and a half to cook. Ham bone soup is an excellent one pot meal when you don’t feel like staying hours in the kitchen and it’s very delicious and filling.

You’ll Need…

1 Ham Bone (or any smoked bones)
1 1/2 cup coconut milk
1 1/4 tablespoon salt (see note below)
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 habanero or scotch bonnet pepper
1 large onion
1 large carrot
3 large potatoes
3 cloves garlic
4 sprigs thyme
2 scallions
2 cups dry yellow split peas
1 1/2 lb butternut squash
2 tablespoon olive oil (or veg)
10 cups water

Optional – (flour dumplings)
1 1/2 cup   all purpose flour
pinch of sugar
water

Notes. If you don’t have a ham bone, you can use ham hocks and if pork is not your thing, smoked turkey or beef bones would work just as well. I used about 1 1/4 tablespoon salt, but since your tolerance for salt will be different than mine, start off with a tablespoon and adjust accordingly. You can certainly use stock instead of the 10 cups of water I mentioned, but I like to get the true flavor of the ham bone, so I try not to overpower it with any sort of stock.

We’ll start off by peeling and chopping all the ingredients. With the squash, carrots and potato,  be sure to leave them in huge pieces so when they cook down they won’t totally melt away.

 In a large pot, heat the olive oil on a med/high heat, then add the sliced garlic and onion and cook for a couple minutes (until they’re soft and edges start going brown). Now add the black pepper, thyme (I left the thyme on the sprig as I love the extra flavor from it – at the end of cooking I can remove the sprigs), cubed potato, cubed quash and carrot. Give the split peas a good rinse with cool water, drain and add it to the pot as well. Give everything a good stir.

Since I had some leftover meat with my ham, I stripped what I could off the bone and gave it a rough chop (cubes). Now add the coconut milk and salt  to the pot and give it a good stir.

Add the pieces of ham, the ham bone and the scallions (rough chop them) to the pot and stir as best as you can (it may be difficult with the huge ham bone).

Now is when you add the water (make sure everything gets covered) and place the habanero (or any hot pepper you have available) whole, to the pot. By adding the pepper whole, we’ll get some flavor and not the heat. However if heat is your thing, you can chop the pepper before adding or burst it later on in the cooking process as I did.

Turn up the heat and bring the pot to a boil. As it starts to boil you’ll notice some frothy stuff at the top, skim that off and discard. Now turn down the heat to a gentle simmer, cover and allow to cook for one and half hours. Remember to stir things every 15 minutes or so. You will notice that as the split peas become tender the soup itself will get very thick… this is when it’s important to stir as the peas can stick to the bottom of the pot and burn.

After 1 hr and 15 mins the split peas should be close to being fully cooked and there should be a wonderful scent throughout your kitchen and home. It’s now time to make the dumplings. In a bowl add the flour and a pinch of sugar, give it a stir with a fork, then start adding water to form a dough. In the video below you’ll see how I did it. Basically you’re looking for a soft, smooth dough. After the dough is made, pinch off pieces (about the size of a large marble) and form into a large cigarette and add to the pot. Basically all you do is… roll the dough between both hands to form the shape of the dumplings.


After adding the dumplings, allow it to cook for another 15 minutes, then it’s all done. Check for salt as I’m sure your tolerance for salt will be a bit different than mine. Now is when you would fish out the habanero pepper and the sprigs from the thyme we added earlier in the cooking process.

This is a huge pot of soup, so why not make it a family affair and invite some relatives and friends over. If not, put the remainder in a freezer container and freeze for a couple months at least. All you do is thaw, add some water in a pot and reheat. Additionally, this soup will get VERY thick when it cools down, so if you’re reheating on the stove, do add about 1/2 cup of water to thin it out a bit.

Before you go I invite you to leave me your comments below.. even if it just to say hello. It’s always appreciated. And don’t forget to join us on facebook and do check out the cooking videos.

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22 Comments

  1. RAYMOND
    January 2, 2018 / 11:37 am

    i MADE IT. IT CAME OUT JUST GREAT AND TASTY

  2. March 5, 2017 / 4:03 pm

    this looks very hearty and will go into my recipe file. thank you for a different take on split pea soup. keep up the great work.

  3. Angela
    May 11, 2015 / 7:05 pm

    I made a huge pot on Sunday. Thanks for bringing home cooking back to me

  4. Margaret
    February 15, 2015 / 3:09 pm

    Made this soup today, delicious perfect with all the snow piled up outside. Do remember having this every Saturday while growing up in Trinidad brings back such good memories.

  5. January 6, 2015 / 1:39 pm

    Thanks for the recipe. I was looking for a Jamaican Ham Bone Soup Recipe but so far I’m liking this the best so I’m going to go ahead. I’m using gungo peas & some large white beans. My ham bone’s not as large as your bone but I’ll try to adjust as I go along. Thanks again for all the fab. recipes.

  6. Sparkle Samaroo
    December 20, 2014 / 10:42 am

    I have tried every soup you have made & for the first attempt it was always thumbs up & everyone enjoyed it… Thanks for always being here!!! Trinidad!!!

  7. DinDin
    January 6, 2014 / 7:06 pm

    Excellent soup! Wonderful flavor and texture and so quick to put together. Set it on the stove, did laundry, played with kids, all the while I was “cooking”. Thanks for this!

  8. Sian Beckles
    November 22, 2013 / 10:03 pm

    I made this soup tonight , it’s a cooler rainy night in the Bahamas (80 degrees low 76 ) Any chance we carribean people get to enjoy cooler weather we go all out with the soups ! I used the pumpkin we get here I know whatcha mean Chris ! Also burst the goat pepper as we call it in the Bahamas ! Amazing love your recipes can’t wait to try more ! Also love your videos keep them comin man ! Much love from Nassau Bahamas !

  9. Stephanie
    March 23, 2013 / 7:51 pm

    I love this kind of soup! All my Jamaican relatives have their own version. Yours is missing one (IMO) key ingredient: FRESH GINGER! Mashed up or sliced (you don’t even have to grate it) and thrown in at the beginning, it adds a beautiful spicy flavor.

    Cheers! – S

  10. Chocolate Lady
    February 23, 2013 / 11:51 pm

    I chanced upon your blog completely by accident, and after a quick perusal of the site, discovered this recipe. Knowing I had a hambone in the fridge and a pantry containing all of the necessary ingredients (actually had no scotch bonnet but a jalapeno pepper instead), I proceeded to make this soup. Two and a half hours later, 4 kids and two adults ate the most satisfying, flavor packed complete meal in a bowl. This soup is out of this world delicious!!!! I can't wait to discover what else you have in store. Count me in as a follower. Thank you!!

  11. Esther
    February 9, 2013 / 9:10 pm

    Best recipe I've used for a ham bone soup! And no we are not sharing it – all the leftovers are in
    the freezer! Delicious!!!

  12. davesmall
    February 2, 2013 / 4:20 pm

    I found this recipe while looking for something different to do with a leftover meaty hambone.

    This a very hearty delicious soup. The unburst habanero was hardly noticeable. The coconut milk wasn't discernible either. The flavors melded together and the result was very good.

    The one thing I will do differently, when making this recipe again, is to wait to add the potatoes and squash until the last 30 minutes of cooking time. This time I added them at the beginning and they were beginning to disintegrate or fall apart by the time the soup was finished.

    My local market didn't have yellow split peas so I used the green ones that they did have. I don't think it made a difference. The results were good.

  13. Cheryl
    January 6, 2013 / 12:36 pm

    Making this soup now as comfort food for my husbands return from travels. I know he’ll like it as it is a recipe I’m familiar with my mother making in Trinidad! Thank you!

  14. nikki
    January 5, 2013 / 6:00 pm

    Do you know any of the nutritional content of your recipes?

  15. Kenny
    December 27, 2012 / 11:04 am

    Chris, Thank you for posting this recipe. I made the Trinidad soup yesterday and everybody loved it. We usually make green split-pea and ham soup with the leftover ham bone, but this is definitely another great recipe for working with the ham bone after having a holiday ham. Delicious.

  16. Anika
    October 17, 2012 / 6:43 am

    Hi I am a young chef (19) and i work at a hotel here in Trinidad and I just came across your recipe. I surely will be trying this today seeing that I am in charge or staff lunch this week 🙂 fingers crossed hope they like it.

  17. lisa
    May 4, 2012 / 8:44 pm

    just found this site, been looking at all of your recipes and I'm very excited to find them. I can't wait to try some of these dishes on my family. I collect recipes from as many cultures as I can and make them for my family. I tell them what culture/country were going to visit by way of food and I have been taking them all around the world. They love it and so do I, so thanks for adding to our journey/travels through food. By the way, your instructions at the bottom of this page is cut off. The last thing you can see says, Should you ever need to contact me. Just letting you know incase it was something we need to really see, we can't. Thanks and good-night

  18. Melisa
    April 10, 2012 / 8:27 pm

    Hi Chis

    I made this soup today with the ham bone from Sunday's Easter dinner. Just wanted to let you know it was a Hit!
    So delicious 🙂 I will be making it again for sure
    I also made your Trini Turkey on Sunday as well
    Thank You for the awesome recipes!

  19. Mala
    March 5, 2012 / 6:46 pm

    Hi Chris
    Making your soup tonight. It's cold again so this should hit the spot!

  20. Judith
    February 2, 2012 / 4:13 pm

    Last week I started coming down with a cold and I'm a picky eater when I'm sick. So, I started digging around in the fridge to find something, anything to make a soup. Lo and behold, and to my JOY, I found my leftover ham bone with a generous amount of meat still attached. Never was I so happy to see a ham bone!!!

  21. Mark
    January 20, 2012 / 7:22 pm

    Hey just been cooking up your soup today and it’s just about ready now and it’s tasting great.

    I have been meaning to make this for years now as its always been a favorite of mine so today was the day. Just the smells bringing back so many memories.

    I’ve added your site to my favorites so will be calling back soon.

    Thanks Mark.

  22. Mel
    January 7, 2012 / 12:41 am

    Making this tom. Thanks for posting the recipe. I'm going to market with my Dad in the morning to get all the veges. Ham bone with meat already butchered in the freezer.

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