Classic Pea Salad Recipe

4.78 from 9 votes
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Craving a delicious side salad that’s easy to make and bursting with flavor? Look no further than my easy pea salad recipe, which features sweet peas, crispy bacon, and a creamy dressing.

Creamy pea salad recipe made with crispy pieces of chopped bacon.

Recipe Science

  • Using fresh or thawed peas in the salad provides a naturally sweet and tender texture that complements the other ingredients.
  • Mixing peas with mayonnaise creates a creamy dressing that binds the ingredients together, providing a cohesive and rich texture.
  • Adding ingredients like onions and cheese introduces contrasting flavors and textures, enhancing the overall complexity and appeal of the salad.

Why It Works

This green pea salad is my go-to side dish for picnics, special occasions, or barbecues. It’s the perfect fresh and flavorful vegetable recipe that can be prepared in advance. What’s not to love about sweet peas, bacon, and cheddar cheese tossed in a creamy dressing?

If fresh peas are in season, especially during the springtime, add them in! However, to make this recipe year-round, grab a bag of frozen peas. They come pre-cooked, so just quickly defrost them and add the other delicious ingredients. This refreshing salad is excellent to pair with grilled chicken or salmon or for brunch with quiche or savory crepes.

Ingredients You’ll Need

Ingredients necessary for this pea salad recipe.
  • Peas: For convenience, use frozen sweet peas. Defrost them in cold water or the microwave using the defrost setting. Fresh peas can be used but should be cooked before adding them to the salad.
  • Bacon: They add a smokey and savory taste.
  • Cheese: Use medium or sharp cheddar cheese. Cut them into ¼ inch cubes, or use shredded cheese as a quick substitute.
  • Onion: Use finely diced red onions or shallots for a more garlicky taste.
  • Creamy Sauce: A combination of sour cream, mayonnaise, honey, apple cider vinegar, salt, and pepper.

See the recipe card below for all ingredients and measurements (US and metric).

Ingredient Substitutions

  • Add chopped boiled eggs for extra creaminess and protein.
  • Add diced ham, turkey, or chicken instead of bacon.
  • Substitute Greek yogurt for sour cream.
  • Stir in some homemade ranch dressing for an herbaceous flavor.
  • Add fresh herbs like dill, tarragon, chives, or green onions.
  • Use other types of vinegar like distilled white, white wine, red wine, or rice vinegar.

How to Make Pea Salad

Step 1: Defrost the Peas

Thaw frozen peas either in the microwave or submerged in cool water. Drain the well, shaking off any excess moisture.

Four strips of bacon sizzling in a cast iron skillet.

Step 2: Cook the Bacon

For the recipe, I use regular strips of bacon. I cook them on the stovetop until crispy, about 3 minutes per side, depending on the thickness.

Chopped pieces of bacon on a wooden cutting board.

Drain and let them cool down, then chop them into smaller bits.

Pro Tip: Alternatively, you can cook a larger tray of bacon in the oven. Bacon bits are a good substitute if you’re short on time; you’ll need ¾ cups.

Sour cream, mayonnaise, and seasonings in a bowl.

Step 3: Make the Dressing

What makes this green pea salad such a hit is the creamy dressing. It’s made with six simple ingredients: sour cream, mayonnaise, honey, apple cider vinegar, salt, and pepper.

Whisking ingredients in a bowl to make a creamy salad dressing.

The dressing adds a velvety and rich coating that clings to the ingredients’ surfaces.

Green peas, chopped bacon, and cubes of cheddar in a bowl.

Step 4: Assemble the Salad

In a large serving bowl, add the defrosted peas, chopped bacon, cheddar cheese, diced red onion, and creamy dressing.

Tossing the pea salad with the creamy dressing.

Once the dressing is prepared, add it to the mixing bowl. Toss the ingredients together to evenly distribute.

Bowl of classic pea salad.

Step 5: Ready to Serve

Serve at room temperature or let it chill to let the flavors meld together before enjoying. What’s great is you can make this salad several days ahead to save on prep time the day of serving. Store leftovers in the refrigerator for up to four days. It tastes even better the next day!

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I use frozen peas for the salad?

When fresh peas are unavailable, frozen peas are the best option for taste and texture. They have already been blanched, so no additional cooking is required—defrost before using.

Can I use canned peas for pea salad?

Canned peas are a quick substitute for frozen or fresh. Drain the peas well before using them. They do not need to be cooked. The canning process dulls the peas’ green color and softens their texture.

What kind of dressing should I use for pea salad?

For a creamy classic pea salad, mix sour cream and mayonnaise for the base. Ranch dressing is a quick and convenient option. For a more tangy taste, try Italian dressing or balsamic vinaigrette.

Can I make pea salad in advance?

Yes! The salad ingredients hold up well when premade. Cover and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to four days. It tastes delicious, served chilled.

Should I blanch fresh peas before adding them to the salad?

When in season, the sweet taste of fresh peas will add a lovely flavor to the salad. Young fresh peas that have been shelled have a snappy texture. You can eat them raw in the pea salad. Tougher vegetables, or if you prefer a softer texture, can be blanched first. Cook the peas in boiling water for a few minutes until crisp and tender. Chill in an ice-water bath to stop the cooking process. Drain well, then add them to the salad.

More Side Salads

If you tried this Classic Pea Salad recipe, please leave a 🌟 star rating and let me know how it went in the 📝 comments below!

Classic Pea Salad

Delicious pea salad recipe perfect for any occasion! Packed with flavor, this dish combines crisp peas, tangy bacon, and creamy dressing, making it a crowd-pleaser every time.
4.78 from 9 votes
Prep Time15 minutes
Cook Time10 minutes
Total Time25 minutes
Servings 10 servings
Course Side
Cuisine American

Ingredients 
 

  • 4 cups frozen peas
  • 8 slices bacon
  • 1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, ¼" cubes
  • cup diced red onion, ⅛" dice
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon honey, or sugar
  • 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar, or white vinegar
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper

Instructions 

  • Defrost the Peas – Thaw the peas in the microwave or submerge in cool water. Drain the well, shaking off any excess moisture.
  • Cook the Bacon – Add half of the bacon slices to a large skillet and turn the heat to medium. Cook until crispy, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate to drain excess grease. Repeat with the remaining slices. Finely chop into smaller pieces.
  • Make the Dressing – In a medium bowl, whisk together the sour cream, mayonnaise, honey, apple cider vinegar, salt, and pepper.
  • Assemble – In a large bowl, add the defrosted peas, chopped bacon, cheese, and onions. Drizzle with the dressing and toss to evenly coat. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  • To Serve – Transfer to a serving bowl and serve immediately. Alternatively, cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Recipe Video

YouTube video

Notes

  • Recipe Yield: About 4 ½ cups
  • Dressing Yield: About ¾ cup
  • Serving Size: About ½ cup
  • Using Cooked Bacon: Add ¾ cup of cooked chopped bacon.
  • Storing: Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 4 days.

Nutrition Facts

Serves: 10 servings
Calories 249kcal (12%)Carbohydrates 12g (4%)Protein 8g (16%)Fat 19g (29%)Saturated Fat 7g (35%)Polyunsaturated Fat 5gMonounsaturated Fat 6gTrans Fat 0.04gCholesterol 33mg (11%)Sodium 361mg (15%)Potassium 211mg (6%)Fiber 3g (12%)Sugar 6g (7%)Vitamin A 640IU (13%)Vitamin C 24mg (29%)Calcium 109mg (11%)Iron 1mg (6%)

Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000-calorie diet. All nutritional information is based on estimated third-party calculations. Each recipe and nutritional value will vary depending on the brands you use, measuring methods, and portion sizes per household.

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Jessica Gavin

I'm a culinary school graduate, cookbook author, and a mom who loves croissants! My passion is creating recipes and sharing the science behind cooking to help you gain confidence in the kitchen.

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6 Comments Leave a comment or review

  1. Michele says

    I was so excited to make this salad and followed the recipe exactly. I even gently spun the peas in a salad spinner to dry them as much as possible.

    There is just waaaay too much dressing. I chilled the salad for a few hours and was disappointed to find the bottom third of the had been soaking in dressing. The bacon was soggy, the cheese was mush – nasty. I was able to carefully salvage the top layer.

    I will make this again but will pull back on the dressing.

    • Jessica Gavin says

      I appreciate your feedback! If you want to make in advance, I would wait to add the dressing until right before serving so the ingredients don’t get soggy or mushy. Definitely adjust the dressing to your taste preference.

  2. Simone @ In Simone's Kitchen says

    That looks so delicious! I love salads like this and peas are such an easy vegetable to use! And let’s face it: anything is better with bacon right?

  3. Caren says

    Hello recipe is great . Question what if the peas are tough. I made and frozen peas were tough. I had before with canned and not