Pea soup and pancakes on Thursdays

The tradition of serving pea soup on Thursdays has a long history in Sweden. Common accompaniments include roast pork and pancakes, with punsch as a drink. Serving pea soup on Thursdays is probably based on the Catholic tradition of fasting on Fridays.

Location: Nation wide

Tallrik med ärtsoppa.

The traditional Swedish pea soup is made from yellow split peas and salted pork. Other common ingredients include onion, marjoram, thyme, and ginger. It is often served with mustard as a condiment. Pancakes are a later addition to serve alongside the soup. The Swedish pancake is a thin, crêpe-style pancake made from eggs, milk, and wheat flour. It is usually served with jam and whipped cream. Hot punsch is mainly drunk on special occasions by various groups or student organizations. Besides being served as a family meal, many restaurants also serve pea soup and pancakes on Thursdays.

Peas with pork as a side dish has medieval origins, as does the Catholic tradition of serving the dish on Thursdays. Historically, the field pea was a staple in Swedish cuisine and was grown in much of the country. The peas were boiled in water or broth, and were eaten in a bowl with cold milk. When the yellow split pea was introduced in the mid-19th century, it was considered to have a less bitter taste and replaced the field pea. Pancakes were first served alongside pea soup in the 18th century. Drinking punsch became popular in the 19th century, and was mainly introduced by the upper class.

In Sweden, pea soup has strong associations with the military and the Swedish Women’s Voluntary Defense Organization. Pea soup is easy to cook in large quantities, and dried peas last for a long time, making them suitable for long journeys and transportation in the field.

Today, the tradition of serving pea soup and pancakes on Thursdays remains in various social settings. As interest in vegetarian food has grown, so has the popularity of legumes such as split peas. Pea soup is easy to prepare as a vegetarian dish by simply omitting the pork. Readymade pea soup can be bought in most grocery stores, and dried yellow split peas are also readily available.

Fotografi med tre personer runt ett dukat bord i trädgården som höjer punschskålarna mot varandra.

Photo: V. A. Deshayer/Vänersborgs museum (CC BY-SA).