Hernekeitto: A Taste of Finnish Comfort

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Hernekeitto, or Finnish pea soup, is a beloved dish known for its simplicity, wholesome flavors, and cultural significance in Finland. This hearty soup has been a staple in Finnish cuisine for centuries, dating back to times when peas were a reliable and nutritious source of sustenance, particularly during the long, cold winters. Today, Hernekeitto remains a popular dish enjoyed by families, often served with a side of crisp, savory pancakes known as “pannukakku.” Let’s delve into the preparation of Hernekeitto to experience its rich taste and cultural heritage.


For the Hernekeitto:

  • 300g dried yellow peas
  • 1.5 liters water
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 1-2 carrots, finely diced
  • 1-2 potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 200g smoked ham or pork shoulder, diced (optional)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

For Serving:

  • Mustard (preferably strong Finnish mustard)
  • Crispbread or pannukakku (Finnish pancake), for serving


1. Prepare the Peas:

  • Rinse the dried yellow peas under cold water, then place them in a large bowl. Cover with water and let soak overnight or for at least 8 hours. Drain and rinse again before cooking.

2. Cook the Hernekeitto:

  • In a large soup pot or Dutch oven, combine the soaked peas and 1.5 liters of water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat.
  • Skim off any foam that rises to the surface. Add the chopped onion, diced carrots, diced potatoes, and diced smoked ham or pork shoulder (if using).
  • Add the bay leaf, salt, and pepper to taste. Stir well to combine.

3. Simmer the Soup:

  • Reduce the heat to low and let the Hernekeitto simmer gently, partially covered, for about 1.5 to 2 hours, or until the peas and vegetables are tender and the soup has thickened. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking.

4. Adjust Seasoning:

  • Taste and adjust the seasoning with more salt and pepper if needed. Remove the bay leaf before serving.

5. Serve Hernekeitto:

  • Ladle the hot Hernekeitto into bowls. Serve with a dollop of strong Finnish mustard on top.
  • Accompany with crispbread or slices of pannukakku (Finnish pancake) for a traditional Finnish meal experience.

Tips for Success:

  • Pea Soaking: Ensure to soak the dried yellow peas overnight to reduce cooking time and improve texture.
  • Variations: Some recipes may include a smoked ham bone or use bacon instead of diced ham for added flavor.
  • Mustard: Strong Finnish mustard is traditional and adds a unique tangy flavor to the soup.

Nutritional Benefits:

Hernekeitto is not only delicious but also nutritious, rich in protein from the peas and essential vitamins from the vegetables. It’s a wholesome dish that provides warmth and sustenance, making it ideal for chilly Finnish winters or any time you crave a comforting bowl of soup.


Hernekeitto, with its blend of tender peas, vegetables, and savory meats, exemplifies the heartiness and simplicity of Finnish cuisine. Whether enjoyed as a weekday meal or part of a festive dinner, Hernekeitto invites you to savor the flavors of Finland’s culinary heritage. By preparing this soup at home, you can experience the warmth and tradition that Hernekeitto brings to Finnish dining, making it a delightful addition to your repertoire of comforting soups.

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Written by Robert Zelesky

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