This creamy Southern pea salad bursts with flavors of the South, blending tender fresh or frozen peas with sharp cheddar cheese, smooth mayonnaise, and tangy sour cream. Its’ quick and simple preparation, with a unique combination of ingredients, creates a delightful summer salad that captures the essence of a Southern potluck. Refrigerating overnight brings all the flavors together.
Have you been tasked with bringing a salad to a potluck or cookout and need a fresh idea. Wait until you try this spruced up classic pea salad. It might sound boring, but it’s nothing but. Sharp cheddar cheese cubes, paprika and Worcestershire give it a flavor boost that everyone will be raving about at your next family gathering.
A pea salad is a Southern favorite, (almost as popular as a macaroni salad) that you can find at any cookout or potluck. It’s inexpensive and easy to make, but it can be a little bland. Not this pea salad! It’s fresh and light but also so creamy with a very flavorful dressing. Hot paprika and a little bit of hot sauce add an extra spicy kick.
If you love flavor but want something less creamy, try an antipasto salad with marinated vegetables, or a parsley pesto salad. And if you love your veggies, add a carrot and raisin salad for a little sweetness or a broccoli slaw with mangoes.
This classic side dish could not be easier to put together and is the perfect side dish for sharing. Everything comes together in one bowl, and if you have a mixing bowl with a lid, you don’t even need to dirty another container. This recipe is so fast you don’t even need to thaw the peas – they’ll thaw as they sit in the refrigerator.
While fresh English peas are a treasure when you can find them at the farmer’s market, most of the time I have to make this with frozen peas. This means you can make an old fashioned pea salad all year round and have a fresh and summery salad in the middle of winter!
What are English peas?
English peas are a common variety of garden peas also called sweet peas for their sweet flavor and bright green color. In American grocery stores the terms are used interchangeably.
Why you’ll love this recipe for Pea Salad
- Quick and easy: This simple side dish comes together super quickly and is a great option for a last-minute side dish.
- Simple ingredients: Pea salad only needs 6 main ingredients and a few pantry spices to make a fabulous dish.
- Extra flavorful: This salad includes Worcestershire sauce, roasted red peppers, and onions, as well as spices to add interest and keep the salad from being bland.
- Make ahead of time: This dish can be made in advance and kept in the refrigerator until you’re ready to serve it. It only gets better the longer it sits.
Southern Pea Salad Ingredients
- Green Peas – Fresh peas work for this recipe if you can find them, but frozen peas are perfect also. Look for English or Sweet peas in the freezer section. I would not recommend using canned peas as they will be mushy.
- Sharp cheddar cheese – Sharp cheddar cheese adds sharp flavor and a nice textural contrast from the peas. Any semi-firm cheese could work for this, like mild cheddar, Colby, or Monterey Jack.
- Onion – Onion adds crunch and flavor to the salad.
- Roasted red peppers – Jarred roasted red peppers can be found in the grocery store near the olives and pickles. Make sure you drain them first.
- Mayonnaise – Mayonnaise is tangy and creamy and is the perfect base for the dressing. I like Hellman’s mayonnaise, but Duke’s is another popular brand around here.
- Sour Cream – Sour cream adds additional creaminess and tang to the dressing. You can substitute it with Greek yogurt if you prefer.
- Spices – Hot paprika, pepper, salt, and hot sauce. You can substitute the hot paprika for sweet, or use a pinch of cayenne pepper. It doesn’t make the dish spicy, but it does make it a little more tangy and interesting.
Green Pea Salad substitutions and variations
There are so many ways to turn this Southern classic into something all your own. You can add cooked proteins like bacon or ham, and other vegetables like diced bell peppers, or cherry tomatoes. You can also add cooked pasta to make it into a macaroni salad.
How To Make Pea Salad
Step 1: Prepare the salad ingredients.
Finely chop the onion and cube the cheese. Drain the roasted red peppers and chop finely.
Step 2: Mix the dressing.
In a large mixing bowl, add the mayonnaise, sour cream, salt, pepper, paprika, and hot sauce. Whisk thoroughly to combine. Mix in the onions and peppers and stir to coat.
Step 3: Toss the salad.
Add the cheese and the peas and fold them into the dressing.
Step 4: Chill and serve the salad.
Cover the bowl with a lid or plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour before serving for the best flavor.
Can pea salad be made ahead of time?
Pea salad is a great choice for making ahead of time because it only gets better as it chills. I recommend letting it sit for at least an hour before enjoying it, but you can make it the day before and allow it to chill overnight. It’s amazing no matter what, but it really improves the taste to let it all marinate together.
What to Serve with Pea Salad
While a green pea salad might not sound spectacular, the flavors will have everyone coming back for seconds.
Southern Pea Salad Storage
Pea salad should only be stored at room temperature while it’s being served. The mayonnaise and sour cream can spoil if left at room temperature for too long. Store the salad in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to five days.
This salad should not be stored in the freezer, since the freezing and thawing process can negatively affect the flavor and textures of the dressing.
How long is pea salad good for in the fridge?
Pea salad will stay fresh in the fridge for 3-5 days.
Classic Pea Salad FAQs
Frozen peas can be used without cooking them beforehand.
You can let peas thaw in the refrigerator overnight. If you are in a hurry, they won’t take long to thaw sitting on the counter.
Yes, you can substitute the mayonnaise with Greek yogurt or extra sour cream. It will not have the same flavor but will still delicious.
To add a kick of spice, increase the amount of hot sauce or hot paprika or include a pinch of cayenne pepper to the dressing. You could also add a diced jalapeno for a fresh spicy hit.
Adding a protein to pea salad can make it a heartier option. Cooked bacon or ham are a great addition.
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Creamy Pea and Cheese Salad
- 3 cups peas about 1 lb, fresh or frozen
- 8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese cut into small cubes
- 1 onion small, about ½ cup diced
- ½ cup roasted red peppers 4 ounces, drained and diced
- ½ cup mayonnaise
- ½ cup sour cream
- 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- ½ teaspoon hot paprika
- ½ teaspoon pepper
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon hot sauce
- Finely chop the onion and cut the cheese into cubes about the same size as the peas. Chop and drain the roasted peppers.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, sour cream, Worcestershire sauce, paprika, salt, pepper and hot sauce.
- Add the onions and roasted peppers to the sour cream mixture and stir until combined.
- Fold in the cheese and peas until evenly coated.
- Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight or for at least an hour.
Barbara’s Tips + Notes
- You can use fresh or frozen peas.
- Do NOT use canned peas.
- If using frozen peas, you don’t need to thaw them.
- Try to refrigerate for at least an hour, overnight is even better.