Classic Southern Pea Salad

Southern Pea Salad is a timeless dish that graces picnic tables and family gatherings throughout the South. This dish is renowned for its simplicity, combining tender peas with a medley of flavorful ingredients that create a perfect balance of taste and texture. At its core, the salad features sweet peas, which are the star of the show, providing a fresh and slightly sweet base for the other ingredients to complement.

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Classic Southern Pea Salad

  • Author: recipstep
  • Total Time: 20 minutes
  • Yield: 6 servings 1x
  • Diet: Low Fat


A beloved dish in Southern cuisine, Classic Southern Pea Salad combines sweet peas with a rich mix of ingredients like mayonnaise, cheese, onions, and bacon or nuts, creating a delightful balance of creamy, crunchy, and savory flavors. Perfect for any occasion, this versatile salad can be customized to suit various dietary preferences and is as nutritious as it is delicious.



1 (16-ounce) package of frozen sweet peas, thawed (canned peas work too)
2 eggs, hard-boiled and chopped
4 to 6 slices of bacon, cooked until crisp and crumbled (or 1 cup of cooked and chopped ham, optional)
1/2 cup of chopped green onions (substitute with regular onions if preferred)
1 cup of shredded cheddar cheese (feel free to use your favorite cheese)
1/4 teaspoon of black pepper
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/4 teaspoon of garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon of celery seeds (or 1/2 cup of chopped celery)
A sprinkle of cayenne pepper for a touch of heat

1/2 cup of mayonnaise
1/2 cup of sour cream


🌿 Combine the Salad:

In a large mixing bowl, combine the thawed sweet peas, chopped hard-boiled eggs, crumbled bacon or chopped ham (if using), chopped green onions, and shredded cheddar cheese.
🧂 Season:

Sprinkle in the black pepper, salt, garlic powder, celery seeds (or chopped celery), and a dash of cayenne. Stir thoroughly to ensure the seasonings are evenly distributed.
🥣 Dress It Up:

In another bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise and sour cream until they form a smooth mixture. Pour this dressing over the pea mixture and gently stir to coat all the ingredients.
❄️ Chill and Serve:

Cover the salad and refrigerate it for at least an hour before serving. This time allows the flavors to blend together wonderfully.
🍽️ Enjoy:

Serve this Classic Southern Pea Salad as a refreshing side dish at your next barbecue or family gathering. It’s a simple yet satisfying recipe that’s bound to become a new favorite!


  • For a lighter version, substitute mayonnaise with Greek yogurt.
  • Vegan or vegetarian alternatives can be used for bacon and cheese.
  • Can be adapted for Vegetarian, Low-fat.
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 5 minutes (if blanching peas)
  • Category: Salad
  • Method: Mixing
  • Cuisine: Southern American


  • Calories: 280 kcal
  • Sugar: 5g
  • Sodium: 400mg
  • Fat: 22g
  • Saturated Fat: 6g
  • Carbohydrates: 12g
  • Fiber: 3g
  • Protein: 10g
  • Cholesterol: 30mg

Frequently Asked Questions About Southern Pea Salad

Can I use canned peas instead of fresh or frozen? Yes, you can use canned peas, but it’s important to drain and rinse them thoroughly to remove excess sodium and any preservatives. Keep in mind that canned peas tend to be softer than fresh or frozen, which may slightly alter the texture of the salad.

Is Southern Pea Salad suitable for vegetarians? The basic recipe can be easily adapted for vegetarians by omitting bacon or substituting it with a vegetarian protein, such as smoked tofu or tempeh. The wide range of variations allows for flexibility to accommodate dietary preferences.

How long can you store Southern Pea Salad in the refrigerator? Southern Pea Salad is best consumed within 3 to 4 days when stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. The salad’s taste and texture are most enjoyable when it’s fresh, so it’s advisable to make it close to the time you plan to serve it.

Can Southern Pea Salad be frozen? It’s not recommended to freeze Southern Pea Salad because the mayonnaise and fresh ingredients can separate and become watery upon thawing. The salad is best enjoyed fresh or made a day in advance and stored in the refrigerator.

How can I make a lighter version of Southern Pea Salad? For a healthier alternative, consider using low-fat mayonnaise or Greek yogurt in place of regular mayonnaise. You can also increase the amount of vegetables, such as adding diced bell peppers or celery, to boost the fiber content and reduce the calorie density of the dish.

Classic Southern Pea Salad

One of the reasons for its enduring popularity is the versatility of the recipe. Whether it’s a barbecue, a family dinner, or a festive celebration, Southern Pea Salad fits the occasion with ease. The basic ingredients include peas, mayonnaise, cheese, onions, and a crunch from bacon or nuts, but variations are limitless, allowing for personal touches and preferences.

Preparation of this delightful salad is straightforward and requires minimal cooking skills, making it an excellent option for cooks of all levels. The process involves mixing the peas with the diced ingredients and dressing, then chilling the salad before serving to enhance the flavors. This simplicity in preparation does not detract from the dish’s appeal; rather, it adds to its charm.

The nutritional aspect of Southern Pea Salad is another attractive feature. Peas are a good source of plant-based protein and fiber, contributing to a feeling of fullness and offering various health benefits. When combined with other ingredients, the salad becomes a nutritious dish that can complement any meal.

Despite its name, Southern Pea Salad has won over hearts far beyond the Southern United States. Its perfect blend of sweetness, creaminess, and crunch has made it a beloved dish in many households across the country. It stands as a testament to the comforting and unpretentious nature of Southern cuisine, bringing a piece of Southern hospitality to tables everywhere.

Key Ingredients and Variations

The foundation of Southern Pea Salad lies in its key ingredients, which are simple yet capable of creating a rich tapestry of flavors. Sweet peas, either fresh or frozen, serve as the base, providing a vibrant green color and a sweet flavor that is both refreshing and comforting. Mayonnaise adds a creamy texture and richness, acting as the binding agent for the salad.

Cheese is another essential component, typically sharp cheddar, which introduces a depth of flavor and a hint of tanginess. The cheese is usually grated or cubed, allowing it to meld seamlessly with the other ingredients. Onions, often red for a touch of color and a mild bite, add complexity and a slight crunch that contrasts nicely with the softer textures.

Classic Southern Pea Salad

The inclusion of bacon is a common variation that introduces a smoky flavor and additional crunch, elevating the salad to a new level of deliciousness. For those looking for a healthier option or a different texture, nuts such as almonds or pecans can be used as a substitute for bacon, adding a nutty flavor and crunch.

Herbs and spices play a crucial role in customizing the salad to personal tastes. Dill, parsley, or chives can be added for freshness, while salt, pepper, and a dash of vinegar or lemon juice can enhance the overall flavor profile. The versatility of the recipe allows for endless variations, encouraging experimentation and personalization.

Another popular variation includes the addition of hard-boiled eggs, which contribute an additional layer of texture and richness. This ingredient makes the salad more filling and adds a classic touch that many find irresistible. The beauty of Southern Pea Salad lies in its adaptability, making it a dish that can be tailored to suit any palate or occasion.

The Art of Preparing Southern Pea Salad

Preparing Southern Pea Salad is an exercise in simplicity, making it accessible to cooks of all skill levels. The first step involves selecting the peas; fresh peas need to be blanched quickly in boiling water before being cooled in an ice bath, while frozen peas can be used directly after thawing, ensuring they retain their bright color and crisp texture.

Dicing the ingredients is next, with precision in cutting ensuring that each bite contains an even distribution of flavors. The cheese, onions, and any additional vegetables or proteins should be cut into small, uniform pieces. This not only improves the salad’s appearance but also enhances the eating experience by ensuring a harmonious blend of flavors and textures.

Mixing the ingredients gently is crucial to maintain the integrity of the peas and to evenly distribute the dressing. A light hand ensures that the peas remain whole and the salad looks appealing. The mayonnaise, along with any herbs and spices, is then added to bind the ingredients together, creating a creamy and flavorful dressing.

Chilling the salad for at least an hour before serving is a vital step that allows the flavors to meld together. This resting period transforms the salad from a mere mixture of ingredients into a cohesive dish where the flavors are enhanced and balanced. The chill also adds a refreshing element, making it a perfect dish for warm weather gatherings.

Classic Southern Pea Salad

Serving Southern Pea Salad is the final step in the process. The salad is best presented in a large bowl, allowing the vibrant colors and textures

to shine through. Garnishes such as extra bacon bits, shredded cheese, or a sprinkle of fresh herbs can add a final touch of elegance and flavor, making the dish as visually appealing as it is delicious. By serving it chilled, the salad offers a refreshing contrast to hot dishes, making it a welcome addition to any meal.

The Nutritional Value of Southern Pea Salad

Southern Pea Salad not only delights the palate but also offers a variety of nutritional benefits, making it a smart addition to a balanced diet. The peas themselves are a highlight, packed with plant-based protein and fiber. These nutrients are essential for maintaining muscle health and aiding in digestion, respectively. Peas are also a good source of vitamins and minerals, including Vitamin K, Vitamin C, and manganese, supporting bone health and the immune system.

The cheese in the salad contributes calcium and protein, important for bone health and muscle function. While cheese is nutritious, it is also high in fat, so it’s beneficial to enjoy the salad in moderation or opt for reduced-fat cheese to decrease the overall fat content. The addition of eggs, for variations that include them, provides high-quality protein and essential vitamins, further enhancing the salad’s nutritional profile.

Bacon, a beloved ingredient for many, introduces protein and fat, adding depth of flavor and texture. However, for those mindful of fat and sodium intake, using it sparingly or substituting with nuts can offer a healthier alternative without compromising on taste. Nuts add healthy fats, fiber, and a variety of vitamins and minerals, contributing to heart health and overall well-being.

The mayonnaise base, while contributing to the creamy texture that makes this salad a hit, also adds calories and fat. Substituting with a low-fat or yogurt-based dressing can be a healthier option that maintains the creamy consistency while reducing the calorie and fat content. Such substitutions allow for a lighter version of the salad without sacrificing taste.

Incorporating a variety of vegetables into the salad, such as red onions, bell peppers, or cucumbers, can increase its vitamin, mineral, and fiber content. These additions not only boost the nutritional value but also introduce new textures and flavors, making the salad more vibrant and satisfying. By considering these nutritional aspects, Southern Pea Salad can be a wholesome and enjoyable part of any meal.

Cultural Significance and Variations

Southern Pea Salad holds a special place in the culinary traditions of the Southern United States, embodying the region’s hospitality and love for hearty, comforting foods. The salad’s origins are rooted in the simplicity and availability of its ingredients, reflecting the practical and resourceful nature of Southern cooking. Over time, it has evolved from a simple dish to a beloved staple at gatherings, showcasing the versatility and creativity of Southern cuisine.

The salad’s enduring popularity can be attributed to its adaptability to various occasions and preferences. From casual barbecues to elegant dinner parties, Southern Pea Salad seamlessly fits into any menu, reflecting the diverse culinary landscape of the South. Its ability to bridge the gap between casual and formal dining is a testament to its universal appeal.

Variations of the salad can be found across the region, with each family or cook adding their personal touch. Some versions incorporate spicy elements, like jalapeños or hot sauce, to add a kick, while others include sweet relish or apples for a touch of sweetness. These regional differences highlight the salad’s flexibility and the personal connection many have with the dish.

The practice of sharing recipes and variations of Southern Pea Salad is a cherished tradition, fostering a sense of community and continuity. It’s not uncommon for recipes to be passed down through generations, with each adding their unique twist. This tradition enriches the culinary heritage of the South and ensures that the salad remains a relevant and cherished dish.

As Southern cuisine continues to gain popularity beyond its geographic origins, Southern Pea Salad serves as a ambassador of the region’s culinary traditions. Its simple elegance, nutritional value, and comforting flavors resonate with people far and wide, making it a symbol of Southern hospitality and the enduring appeal of wholesome, homemade food.

Innovative Serving Suggestions

Presenting Southern Pea Salad in innovative ways can transform this classic dish into a contemporary culinary delight. One approach is to serve it as a stuffed appetizer, using hollowed-out cherry tomatoes or avocado halves as vessels. This not only adds a visual appeal but also introduces new flavors and textures, creating a more sophisticated and engaging dining experience.

Another creative serving suggestion is to incorporate the salad into a layered picnic jar. By layering the pea salad with other ingredients, such as lettuce, grated carrots, and diced bell peppers, it becomes a portable and visually striking option for outdoor dining. The jars not only make for an attractive presentation but also allow for easy transportation and individual servings.


Southern Pea Salad stands as a cherished dish within Southern cuisine, celebrated for its simplicity, versatility, and comforting flavors. By combining sweet peas with a blend of creamy, crunchy, and savory ingredients, it captures the essence of traditional Southern cooking while allowing for personalization and innovation. Whether served at a casual family dinner, a festive gathering, or presented in a modern, sophisticated manner, Southern Pea Salad remains a beloved favorite. Its ability to adapt to dietary preferences and occasions, along with its nutritional benefits, ensures that this classic dish continues to be enjoyed by generations to come. Embrace the tradition and creativity of Southern Pea Salad, and let it inspire your culinary explorations.

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