Creamy pea salad with cheese and bacon is a classic southern recipe that you'll find at picnics and potlucks all summer long. Sweet peas, salty cheddar, crisp bacon, and mild red onions are blanketed with a simple mayonnaise dressing. Add a little smoked paprika and you're ready to go! My mom's cucumber salad is another summer favorite!
Ingredients List: Frozen green peas, red onion, bacon, sharp cheddar cheese, mayonnaise, sugar, salt, pepper, smoked paprika
No matter where you go in the South if there's a potluck there's going to be a pea salad on the table. There's just something about this summer side dish that people either love or hate - and I haven't met many that hate it.
Maybe it's the way you bite into the tender-crisp pop of the peas, or the way the salty sharpness of the cheese bursts through the sweet dressing. Maybe it's the crunch of the bacon or the sweet-heat of the red onion or, maybe it's just everything all together and the memories that are wrapped up in the bowl right along with the ingredients.
Because if you don't have memories associated with this iconic southern side dish then you soon will.
Cool salads for hot summer days
I think it's because of the heat that life just tends to move at a slower pace here in the summertime. If you wanted to weed the garden or mow the lawn, doing so when it's 115F is a health hazard. Even the air conditioning system can't keep up with that kind of heat so afternoons might be spent reading a book or catching up with a neighbor - certainly not cooking and heating the house up!
Quick main dish
Recipes like this creamy pea salad were developed because they are quick, easy, and don't require much in the way of heat. If you know you're going to make it in the afternoon you'd cook extra bacon in the morning while it was still cool - problem solved.
It even works as a main dish because the peas and cheddar provide plenty of protein.
Here are the most common questions about this classic potluck recipe ...
No. I use frozen peas and just dump them in with the rest of the ingredients while they are still frozen. They stay a gorgeous green color and retain some of their texture. Now, if you were to use fresh peas right from your garden you'd want to steam those until they were crisp-tender. Otherwise no worries.
Please no. You "could" but you would have a bland, starchy, mushy, faded dish that resembles a good southern pea salad about as much as Target resembles Neiman Marcus. Go with the frozen - I promise you'll be glad you did.
Again, you "can" but the results aren't nearly as magnificent as they are when you use tiny cubes of Cheddar. I think cubed cheese looks better and it doesn't get lost in the peas.
You can make it up to 2 days ahead of time but don't put the bacon in until right before serving. Also, I like to keep extra frozen peas on hand so that if it gets a little watery I can add more peas to it on the day of the picnic.
Yes it does. Because it contains mayonnaise you'll want to keep it cold. If you're doing a potluck outside then keep the bowl in a ice chest until you're ready to serve it.
Keep summer cool and meals easy with some of my favorite side dishes!
- Old Fashioned Macaroni Salad has a creamy dressing that's similar to this pea salad recipe. It's full of olives, celery, and love.
- Cowboy Caviar is a Texas recipe that was developed for Neiman Marcus in the 1940s. It's another one of those things that sounds weird but is as addictive as can be.
- BBQ Macaroni Salad is my update on regular macaroni salad. It's creamy and a little spicy.
- Pasta Salad is made with rigatoni and a basic vinaigrette dressing. It's so easy and there's nothing in it that would cause it to spoil in the heat.
- 50 Best Side Dish Recipes is a great resource of all kinds of side dishes!
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There isn't much needed for this easy pea salad recipe other than what you probably all read have in your kitchen but since it's one of those recipes you want to share I'd suggest a cute casserole carrier like this one for taking it with you.
Creamy Pea Salad Recipe
I hope you'll try this the next time you grill burgers or need something last minute to take to a potluck or picnic. It's just so easy and it's never too early or too late to start making great memories.
If you love this recipe please give it 5 stars!
Southern Pea and Cheese Salad with Bacon
- 12 ounce bag frozen green peas, plus one on hand in case you need it
- 1 cup mayonnaise, I suggest Hellmann's
- 1 ½ tablespoons sugar
- ½ teaspoon Kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon pepper
- ½ cup diced red onion
- 1 ¼ cup diced Cheddar cheese, dice small - you can use mild, medium, or sharp.
- 6 sliced bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled
- Smoked paprika, for garnish
- Mix the mayonnaise, sugar, salt, and pepper in a small bowl - set aside.
- Add the frozen peas, diced onion, and diced cheese to a large serving bowl.
- Spoon the mayonnaise mixture over the top and stir gently to coat the ingredients with the dressing.
- Cover tightly and chill for at least one hour or up to 2 days.
- Just before serving stir in the crispy bacon pieces and dust the top with smoked paprika.
- Store leftovers in the refrigerator.