Classic Pea Salad is an easy to make summer side dish! It’s so creamy and loaded with flavor from frozen sweet green peas, crisp onions, bacon, and cheddar cheese. A seasoned mayo dressing holds it all together in the best way. It’s a picnic basket staple! 

pea salad in a bowl

Pea Salad

Pea Salad may be an “old fashioned” side dish just like Grandma used to make but it truly withstands the test of time as a summertime favorite! It’s a cold, creamy salad that’s got a whole lot to love. The sweet peas are balanced perfectly with salty bacon and bold red onions. Cheddar cheese is also mixed throughout and it might just be my favorite ingredient! Holding it all together is mayonnaise that’s made flavorful with just a little bit of salt, pepper and sugar. There’s something so tempting about the slightly sweet and savory combination that I just can’t get enough of! Being from the Midwest, this pea salad recipe is a tried and true one that I’ve loved since childhood.

Enjoy more of the best summer salad recipes like Summer Fruit Salad, Cherry Tomato Salad and of course the classic Perfect Potato Salad

How to Make Pea Salad

  • Prepare the peas. Open your bag of frozen peas and empty them into a colander. Let them thaw slightly on the counter while you’re making the dressing and prepping your other ingredients. 
  • Make the dressing. Mix together the mayo, sugar, salt, and pepper until combined.
  • Toss it all together. Mix the red onions, cheddar cheese and bacon together with the dressing. Gently fold in the peas.  
  • Chill. Chill the salad (covered) in the fridge for at least 1 hour prior to serving. This gives it just enough time to settle and chill all the way through. 
photo collage how to make pea salad

What kind of peas do I use in pea salad?

Pea salad simply starts out with a 16 ounce bag of frozen peas. You can use canned peas instead if that is what you have on hand. Keep in mind that the frozen peas are much more green! They look prettier, have a slight crunch that makes this salad so good, and they hold up a little better than canned. If you use canned peas, I would recommend chilling them for a couple of hours before making this salad so that they don’t become mushy as you stir.

Ingredient Notes

  • Frozen Sweet Peas – Canned peas may be used instead, but the consistency may differ. Frozen peas are definitely preferred if possible! No matter what, do NOT cook the peas. 
  • Bacon – I use bacon bits because they’re convenient and I enjoy the flavor. Real bacon can be used instead if preferred. Cook until crispy and fully drain of excess grease prior to chopping. 
  • Cheddar Cheese – A bag of shredded cheddar works just fine! With that being said, I do prefer to freshly grate my cheddar cheese right off the block if I have the time. The flavor and texture is unmatched. 
  • Mayonnaise – Regular mayo with the full fat content is my favorite to use. You can opt for low fat mayonnaise if preferred, but the conistency of it won’t be quite as thick. 
  • Red Onion – Green onion is a good option if you like a more mild onion flavor. Red onions are the best here because have the most potent flavor which greatly compliments the other ingredients in pea salad. 
photo of pea salad in a spoon



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4.99 from 65 votes

The Best Classic Pea Salad

Classic Pea Salad is an easy to make summer side dish! It’s so creamy and loaded with flavor from frozen sweet green peas, crisp onions, bacon, and cheddar cheese. A seasoned mayo dressing holds it all together in the best way. It’s a picnic basket staple! 
Prep 10 minutes
Chill Time 1 hour
Total 10 minutes
Servings 6



  • Remove the frozen peas from the freezer.  Open the bag and place the peas in a colander.  Allow them to thaw slightly on the counter while you mix up the salad dressing.
  • In a large bowl mix together the mayonnaise, sugar, salt, and pepper with the red onion, cheese, and bacon bits.
  • Add the frozen peas to the salad and stir well, but gently to combine.
  • Chill the salad, covered, for at least one hour before serving.



NOTE:  Real bacon can be used in place of the bacon bits.  Simply cook and crumble 8 slices of bacon and add to the salad instead.
NOTE:  This pea salad can be made 2 days before serving.  Store in the refrigerator in an airtight container.


Calories: 250kcal

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Additional Info

Course: Salad, Side Dish
Cuisine: American
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Hey! Nice to meet you! I'm Nichole!

Welcome to The Salty Marshmallow! I'm a mom, animal lover, photographer, & kitchen mess-maker. Here you will find the result of my decades-long passion for chasing the best flavors in the kitchen, all meant to be cooked by regular people with busy lives just like you and me.

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  1. 5 stars
    Love pea salad, and trying out the multitudes of recipe variations I come across …
    My personal tweak is adding a can of sliced water chestnuts.. drained, and rinsed, I lay them out on a paper towel, place another on top to dry them, then, stack them in 3’s and dice them pea sized.
    The added crunch never gets soggy..

  2. I made the recipe tonight. I only had a 12oz. bag of peas & had to zap some bacon, made some adjustments, it was still delish! It’s one of my husbands fav’s. He was happily surprised. I think I may add small ham chunks next time.