This classic pea salad is made with crisp tender sweet peas, crunchy red onion, salty bacon, creamy cheese cubes, and a sweet and tangy dressing. It’s the perfect side dish to bring to a spring/summer potluck, holiday or a family dinner, and it’s easy to make ahead as well!
This is one of my Side Dish recipes I know you’ll want to keep on hand!
Now that it’s nearly Spring, even though I’ll miss the cooler weather, I’m ready for the warm weather foods. To me, Spring means potluck foods like potato salad, pasta salad, and more!
Plus, with Easter coming up, this pea salad recipe is absolutely perfect for holiday gatherings.
Pea salad is one of those classic side dishes that people have loved for decades… especially in the Midwest and Southern states.
Even if you’re not a huge fan of peas, I bet you’ll still love this salad. Plus it’s SO easy, it practically makes itself!
What do I need to make this recipe?
- Peas – we prefer to use baby or petite sweet peas.
- Red onion – red onion adds crunch and a mildly sharp sweet flavor.
- Bacon – adds a salty crunch to the salad, as well as cutting through the sweetness.
- Cheddar cheese – sharp cheddar gives a really good flavor.
- Mayonnaise – adds creaminess.
- Sour cream – adds a subtle tang as well as creaminess.
- Apple cider vinegar – the vinegar offsets the sweetness of the dressing.
- Granulated sugar – mixes with the vinegar for that sweet and tangy flavor.
- Salt/Pepper – the salt enhances the other flavors, and pepper adds a nice flavor.
How to make pea salad?
This is just an overview; the full ingredients and directions are in the recipe card toward the bottom of this post.
- Make the dressing. No need for anything fancy, just a bowl and a whisk.
- Add the pea salad ingredients. I usually add them right on top of the dressing, so I’m only dirtying one bowl.
- Stir and chill. Cover the bowl and refrigerate for an hour or two.
For this recipe, halfway thawed frozen peas work best. If they’re fully thawed, or canned, they can get a little mushy. I find leaving the bag of peas sitting on the counter while I prep the other ingredients (for about 15 minutes) is the perfect amount of time for them to thaw halfway. Of course, this time will vary, depending on the temperature in your house, etc.
Variations of this recipe
- Peas – frozen petite or baby peas are the best option for this salad, but any frozen peas will work. You could also use fresh peas, they’d just need to be shelled, blanched/steamed, cooled and dried. Canned peas don’t work very well.
- Cheese – we love using cubed sharp cheddar cheese, but you can use cubes of other varieties of cheddar, colby, colby jack, etc. You could also use shredded cheese if you prefer.
- Eggs – try dicing up some hard-boiled eggs and adding them to the mix.
- Bacon bits – to save yourself some time, you could use bacon bits in place of cooking the bacon. I would recommend the bacon bits that use real bacon, as opposed to the hard bits.
- Greek yogurt – for a lighter dressing, try swapping the sour cream for greek yogurt.
- Ranch – if you’re a ranch fan, you can substitute the dressing in this recipe for about a cup of prepared ranch.
I don’t recommend using canned peas, they didn’t do well during the testing for this recipe. Canned peas are softer, and have a more muted color. The softness can lead to mushiness, and the bright vibrant green is more appealing.
Nope, that’s the beauty of pea salad. Frozen peas are blanched before being frozen, so they’re technically already partially cooked. Just letting them thaw for about 15 minutes is perfect.
Making pea salad ahead of time
This recipe is a natural make ahead recipe since the salad needs to chill in the refrigerator for about an hour or so, to really let all the flavors really meld together.
However, it can also be made and chilled for 1-2 days ahead of time. Just give it a good stir before serving, as the dressing may have settled on the bottom of the bowl.
How to prep ahead for this recipe
- Bacon – the bacon can be cooked, crumbled, and stored in the refrigerator for a few days.
- Onion – the onion can be diced/minced, and stored in the refrigerator for a few days.
- Cheese – the cheese can be cubed and stored in the refrigerator for a few days.
- Dressing – the dressing can even be made and stored in the refrigerator.
Leftover pea salad should be stored in an airtight container and enjoyed within 3-4 days.
I don’t recommend freezing this recipe. The peas would get mushy and the dressing would most likely separate.
I love these mixing bowls for two main reasons: the non-slip bottoms make mixing easier, and the airtight lids mean you don’t have to transfer the contents to another container to refrigerate!
Did you make this? Be sure to leave a review below and tag me @the_chunky_chef on Facebook and Instagram!
- 1/4 cup mayonnaise
- 1/4 cup sour cream
- 1 Tbsp granulated sugar
- 1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 1/4 – 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 20 oz frozen peas thawed halfway
- 1 cup crumbled cooked bacon
- 1 cup sharp cheddar cheese cubed
- 1/2 cup diced red onion
- fresh parlsey for garnish (optional)
- Cook bacon in whichever manner you like. I like to bake mine at 350°F for about 20-30 minutes, or until crispy.
- In a large mixing bowl, add the mayonnaise, sour cream, sugar, vinegar, salt, and pepper. Whisk to combine well.
Assemble the salad
- To the bowl with the dressing, add partially thawed peas, crumbled bacon, cheese, and red onion. Stir well to combine.
- Cover the bowl and refrigerate for about an hour for the best flavor (but it can be served right away).
Garnish and serve
- Stir well, garnish with fresh parley if desired, and served chilled.
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- In place of apple cider vinegar, you can use white wine or red wine vinegar.
- 20 oz of frozen peas equates to around 4-5 cups.
- I’ve estimated this recipe serves around 12, but feel free to divide the recipe up into as many servings as you’d like.
The Chunky Chef is not a dietician or nutritionist, and any nutritional information shared is an estimate. If calorie count and other nutritional values are important to you, we recommend running the ingredients through whichever online nutritional calculator you prefer. Calories can vary quite a bit depending on which brands were used.