Pea salad DSC6017

What’s in your English pea salad?

I was sitting with a group of food writers from the Northeast the other day (I would playfully call them Yankees, but as it was gently pointed out to me, they wouldn’t call me a Confederate so I should be careful with my adjectives). They asked me if there was something that we Texans eat that I was reluctant to write about and I didn’t blink before I said, “Pea salad.” (If you’re a fan, please do not take offense. Instead, bear with me. )

We didn’t often eat pea salad often in my family and for me it was always the strange-looking dish holding court next to the lime congeal at the church potluck or in the cafeteria line.

I can guarantee that you would never see it here in New York City, and, well, because it’s been out of sight, it’s also been out mind. (I know, I know—how could I forget about pea salad? I hear it all the time: I’ve lived away from Texas too long!) But when a reader requested that I post a recipe, saying, “We always eat it around Easter,” I figured it was time.

Pea salad is a Texan classic and yet it changes as much as the weather on a spring day.

Pea salad | Homesick Texan

Take my grandmother’s recipe: she makes hers with peas, cheddar, mayonnaise, and pickles. But I also know people who make their pea salad with boiled eggs and bacon, not to mention those that make theirs with pickled onions and pimento cheese. And let’s not forget those other weighty questions: Do you go with canned Le Sueur peas, frozen or fresh? Do you shred or cube your cheese? Do you add other vegetables such as carrots or celery? And how do you feel about the inclusion of macaroni or almonds?

As you can see, pea salad is the font of much debate and deliberation. .

I decided that in order to decide how best to eat it, I’d just have to make my own.

I love peas and bacon together, so that was simple decision. And since I’m the kind of person that eats mayonnaise by the spoonful, I was definitely including that. When it came time to add cheese, however, I was flummoxed. Of course, in Texas you add yellow cheese—most typically Longhorn cheddar (unless you prefer Velveeta or American). But the combination of peas and bacon reminds me of northern Italian food, and so I thought that Parmesan shavings would be tasty.

In the end, however, tradition won out over experimentation. I realized that pea salad can be found all over the place, but it’s the yellow cheese, preferably Longhorn cheddar, that marks pea salad as Texas pea salad (that is, unless you make it with hard-boiled eggs, but I’m just confusing myself).

Pea salad | Homesick Texan
And while I couldn’t remember the last time I had this classic Southern side dish, when I took my first bite I was pleasantly surprised as it was soft, sweet, crunchy and spicy. It was good. I wouldn’t try to overanalyze pea salad—if you dissect its parts you’ll probably be put off of it. But when you add all the ingredients together, you have a refreshingly cool spring salad that is certain to please most everyone.

So, what do you put in your pea salad?

Print
5 from 1 vote

English pea salad

Servings 6
Author Lisa Fain

Ingredients

  • 4 cups English peas, fresh or frozen
  • 4 pieces bacon, cooked and crumbled
  • 1/2 small yellow onion, finely diced
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint
  • 2 ounces sharp cheddar, cubed
  • 1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • Pinch cayenne pepper
  • Salt

Instructions

  • Rinse the peas (do not cook, either fresh or frozen) and then mix with the bacon, onion, mint, cheddar, white wine vinegar, mayonnaise, and cayenne. Add salt to taste. Chill for at least 4 hours before serving.

Notes

Like all salads, this is just a guide and you can jazz this up any way you see fit, such as using ham or chicken instead of bacon, adding pimientos or jalapenos, or maybe adding a dollop of mustard to give it some tang.

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply to Little Raven Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published.

Recipe Rating




111 Comments

  1. I got struck with a sudden yearning for pea salad as I put a bag of frozen peas in the shopping cart this afternoon, so I picked up a red onion and some longhorn co-jack to boot. I knew you'd have a recipe, and sure enough…

    I did what I always do and pickled the chopped onions for a bit in the vinegar before I put the rest of the salad together. I went with one commenter's advice to go half mayo and half MW, which was exactly right, and I went with shredded cheese instead of cubed just out of laziness. (It's really hot in Boston this weekend.) Also, I went with a big pinch of smoked paprika instead of cayenne, just because smoked paprika makes everything better. Went wonderfully with tonight's pulled pork sandwiches.

    We never did either hardboiled egg or pickles in ours. Some small chopped cornichons might be nice, though…

  2. Kathleen from Austin says:

    Am I the only one who puts sliced green olives with pimientos in?? I'm a native Texan and grew up eating pea salad. I like the LeSeur tiny peas, Hellman's mayo, cubed sharp cheddar, and the olives. I add a little bit of the olive juice for extra flavor. Fold gently so as not to mush the peas. I'm not sure if this was how my grandmas made it; my sister thinks there were pearl onions and pimientos but no olives. And apparently Velveeta. It was always a favorite at all my work's potlucks—got to where I'd make a little extra to keep at home since there were never any leftovers!

  3. coccinelle says:

    Reminds me of my mamaw- she's up in heaven now for 5 years!

  4. Anonymous says:

    Yay, Kathleen from Austin! I also use green olives. Mayo, onion, dill pickles (hamburger slices chop nicely if you stack them), cubed or slivered cheddar, no eggs. For canned peas, drain and chill. Mix everything else together first, then gently fold in the peas. They won't get squashed so much. Dust with paprika. Please not Velveeta, it's much too salty and it's not even cheese.

    Everyone in my family makes it the way they like, of course, but we had it frequently, not just for holidays. We called them "sweet peas," as opposed to black-eyes, cream, purple-hull, crowders, etc.

    Was starting to think I was the only one who liked stuffed green olives in my pea salad! If I'm making a big batch, I run the pickles, olives and onions through a food chopper (meat grinder-type) using the coarse disc. The chopper works great for the pickles and onions when making gallons of tartar sauce for Fish Fries, too. Have fun in the kitchen!

    Mary near Moffat

  5. VegasDude says:

    Anyone who says they can eat Mayo with a spoon is a friend of mine !! lol
    I’m a Mayo Fiend.. Dip my fries in it.. add a dollop to lentil soup, and to my scrambled eggs.. Mmmmm

    OMG… LOVE Pea Salad.. I’m actually making a batch today.. I have SO many variations now..
    Just finished making Dill Pickle Pasta Salad too.. to have a couple choices in my fridge.
    Now, when I make pea salad I usually make “a base” and 2-4 recipe variation options to add per bowl.
    bacon/egg.. cashews… balsamic vinegar.. water chestnuts, etc… I debated trying the balsamic. but it’s Amazing…

    Trying out a new recipe today I found Intriguing… From Sustainable Cooks…
    MAKE AHEAD SMOKY PEA SALAD WITH GREEK YOGURT
    with Cumin, Green Onions, Water Chestnuts, Smoked Almonds

    It’s Paleo… which means.. I’m nixing the Greek Yogurt.. and USING MAYO !!!
    I will try your recipe next.. The Mint, and Cayenne sounds Intriguing… Always have Jalapeno’s to roast too..