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Classic Creamy Pea Salad

This Classic Creamy Pea Salad with bacon, cheese, and onions in a sweet and tangy dressing is quick, easy, delicious, and a perfect side dish for spring and summer (or any time of the year)!

Make this colorful green pea salad for your next picnic, barbecue or get-together, take it to a potluck, serve it with lunch or dinner, and watch it disappear…because it’s sure to be a hit!

So the weather has (finally!) been gorgeous here this past week, and it immediately made me crave all of my favorite summer picnic food…burgers, hot dogs, grilled chicken and steaks, and especially all the yummy sides and salads.

And this retro pea salad is most definitely one of them!

Sure, it might sound a little weird. I’ll admit that when I first came across the recipe – which I found in one of my mom’s old church/community cookbooks – I thought there was no way it would be good.

But I decided to try it anyway, and it totally exceeded all of my expectations!

The peas are sweet and crisp-tender. The salty bacon, sharp cheddar cheese, and red onions add great flavor and texture. And the simple dressing made with sour cream, mayonnaise, and a little sugar and vinegar brings it all together.

To make things super quick and easy, we’re using thawed frozen peas (that’s right…no need to cook them). Then we just fry some bacon, make the dressing, and toss everything together. In about 20 minutes, this old-fashioned pea salad is done.

Put it in the fridge for a couple of hours to chill and let all of those flavors meld together, and then it’s ready to enjoy…and enjoy it, you will!

bowls of the ingredients needed to make classic creamy pea salad: peas, bacon, cheese, onions, sour cream, mayonnaise, sugar, apple cider vinegar, salt, and pepper

Ingredients you need:

Note: Ingredient amounts are in the recipe card below.

  • Bacon
  • Sour cream
  • Mayonnaise
  • Sugar
  • Apple cider vinegar
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Frozen peas
  • Sharp cheddar cheese
  • Red onion

Here’s a look at how to make Classic Creamy Pea Salad:

Note: This is just a quick overview of the steps. Scroll down to the recipe card for the full recipe with detailed instructions.

2 images; one of cooked bacon pieces on a paper towel lined plate with the pan in the background with text that says cook bacon until crisp, drain on paper towel; the other of the dressing in a bowl with a spoon with text that says in a large bowl, mix together the sour cream, mayo, sugar, vinegar, salt, and pepper
2 images; one of the remaining salad ingredients added to the bowl with text that says add the bacon, peas, cheese, and onions; the other of the salad being mixed together in the bowl with a spoon with text that says toss gently until well combined
2 images; one a graphic of a refrigerator with text that says cover and refrigerator for at least 2 hours before serving; the other of the pea salad in a serving bowl with a spoon on the side with text that says enjoy

Tips & Tidbits:

  • The easiest way to thaw the peas is to place them in a colander and run them under cold water until they are thawed. It should only take a few minutes. Or you could thaw them in the fridge overnight.
    • After the peas are thawed, try to remove as much water from them as you can so that your salad doesn’t end up watery.
  • I love using petite frozen peas, as they tend to be sweeter.
  • Don’t substitute canned peas in this recipe. The flavor, texture and color are not the same.
  • If you happen to have fresh peas that are young, sweet and tender, go ahead and use them right out of the pod. It’s absolutely incredible and the best version of this salad I’ve ever had!
    • If you’d prefer not to eat the peas raw or if the peas are larger and a bit older, give them a quick blanch for 2 minutes in boiling salted water, then immediately place in an ice water bath until cooled. Drain and use in your salad.
  • You can cube the cheese instead of shredding it if you’d rather.
  • Want less-potent onions? Let them sit in very cold water for 10 minutes, then drain and add to your salad.
  • This recipe makes about 6 cups of salad (about 12 half-cup servings), but it is easily halved if you don’t need quite as much.
  • Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. The sooner you enjoy it, the better, as things can start to get a little soggy the longer it sits.
    • This salad is not freezable.
close up of a spoonful of classic creamy pea salad being lifted out of the serving bowl

So simple, yet so incredibly delicious!

Not a fan of peas? I’m telling you, just take one bite. You might be very pleasantly surprised (and this is coming from a formerly very serious pea-hater!).

I hope you try this Classic Creamy Pea Salad recipe and love it as much as I do. Thanks for visiting today!

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If you make this recipe, I’d love to know how it went. Please leave a star rating and comment below. Thanks!

classic creamy potato salad in a white bowl with a spoon in the backgound

Classic Creamy Pea Salad

This Classic Creamy Pea Salad with bacon, cheese, and onions in a sweet and tangy dressing is quick, easy, delicious, and a perfect side dish for spring and summer (or any time of the year)!
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Author: Michelle / Now Cook This!
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 8 minutes
Chill Time: 2 hours
Total Time: 2 hours 18 minutes
Servings: 12 (about ½ cup each; recipe makes about 6 cups total)
Estimated Calories: 135

Ingredients

  • 8 slices bacon, chopped into ½-inch pieces
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • ¼ cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
  • salt, to taste (I start with ½ teaspoon and adjust if needed)
  • pepper, to taste (I start with ¼ teaspoon and adjust if needed)
  • 4 cups frozen peas, thawed
  • ½ cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese, yellow or white
  • ¼ cup diced red onion

Instructions

  • In a large skillet, cook the bacon over medium-low heat until crisp (or to your desired level of doneness). Remove the bacon from the pan to a paper towel-lined plate to drain off the excess grease.
  • In a large bowl, mix together the sour cream, mayonnaise, sugar, apple cider vinegar, salt, and pepper until well-combined.
  • Add the cooked bacon, peas, cheese, and onions to the bowl; gently toss until well-combined and everything is evenly coated with the dressing.
  • Taste and adjust seasoning, if needed.
  • Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving to chill and to allow the flavors to meld.

Notes

  • The easiest way to thaw the peas is to place them in a colander and run them under cold water until they are thawed. It should only take a few minutes. Or you could thaw them in the fridge overnight.
  • Try to remove as much water as possible from the thawed peas so that your salad doesn’t end up watery.
  • You can use fresh peas instead of frozen. If your peas are young, sweet and tender, go ahead and use them right out of the pod. It’s absolutely incredible and the best version of this salad I’ve ever had!
    • If you’d prefer not to eat the peas raw or if the peas are larger and a bit older, give them a quick blanch for 2 minutes in boiling salted water, then immediately place in an ice water bath until cooled. Drain and use in your salad.
  • Since there is dairy in this recipe, don’t leave it sit out at room temperature for longer than 2 hours (if it is very warm out, even less than that).
  • Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. The sooner you enjoy it, the better, as things can start to get a little soggy the longer it sits.
  • This salad is not freezable.
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