Lemon Green Pea Salad

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This delicious Lemon Green Pea Salad is made with frozen peas, red onion, sharp cheddar cheese, diced celery and maple bacon that's tossed in a light and creamy lemon dressing! 

It's traditionally served chilled as a flavorful side to a baked ham at Easter, or at events from baby showers to backyard barbecues. My lemony version lets the sweet and tangy dressing shine through!

Green Pea Salad being lifted out of a white bowl with a spoon.
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Why You'll Love It

  • Lighter Version - the addition of fresh lemon juice brightens up this creamy dressing and thins it out so it's not overpowering.
  • Quick & Easy - simply mix and serve in 15 minutes.
  • Make Ahead - make it ahead up to 2 days in advance. 
  • No Cooking Required - beat the heat with this no-cook dish.
  • Budget Friendly - affordable side to many meals.

Old fashioned pea salad brings back fond memories of Easter dinner and family gatherings. There wasn't an Easter ham that came out of the kitchen without creamy green pea salad at Grandma's house!

You'll love my version with a lemony twist that will be welcomed at family reunions and potluck dinners. With the addition of fresh lemon juice, this recipe creates a lighter salad that's refreshing for spring!

Bowls filled with lemon slices and green pea salad.

You may have heard this vintage dish called English Pea Salad, or Sweet Pea Salad, which are just two of its traditional names.

The sweetness of the peas makes it an easy dish to serve any time of year, but it's especially delicious alongside Baked Jerk Salmon or Salmon on the Smoker!

I also like to serve this recipe as a summer salad plate with other favorite sides like Southern Macaroni Salad, Redskin Potato Salad and Creamy Coleslaw. It brightens up whatever you're serving!

Two spoons dishing out green pea salad with lemon slices on top.

Ingredients

  • frozen petite green peas - thaw overnight in the refrigerator and rinse before use
  • celery - dice into small pieces to add extra crunch
  • red onion - a little bit of red onion goes a long way
  • sharp cheddar cheese - the sharper the better for great flavor
  • crispy bacon - use cooked maple bacon, or add bacon bits if desired
  • mayonnaise - I use Duke's, but you can also use plain Greek yogurt or sour cream
  • sugar - just a little bit of sugar makes the dressing stand out
  • fresh lemon juice - use the real thing because bottled lemon juice isn't the same. Add more if you like it extra lemony!
  • salt - enhances the flavor of this dish
  • garlic powder - a small amount of garlic powder balances out the dressing
  • black pepper - use a little or a lot depending on your preference
All of the ingredients needed to make Green Pea Salad with lemon.

How to Make Green Pea Salad

1. In a large bowl, combine green peas, diced celery, diced red onion, cheddar cheese and cooked bacon. Save some diced bacon to sprinkle on top of the salad after it is mixed together. Set aside.

Five ingredients needed to make recipe.

2. In a separate small bowl, whisk mayonnaise, sugar, fresh lemon juice, salt, garlic powder and black pepper until well blended.

Dressing ingredients in a bowl.

3. Pour dressing over mixture and toss gently.

Lemon dressing being poured over green pea salad.

4. Stir together and serve immediately, or store in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

Salad being stirred with dressing.

5. For extra crunch and flavor, serve with more diced bacon on top, and garnish with fresh lemon slices.

Maple bacon crumbled on top of green pea salad with lemon.

Variations

There are many different ways to add your own signature flair to this dish. Try these ideas if you're looking for something new...

  1. Add Mint: Simply toss with a light vinaigrette made of olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and chopped mint leaves.
  2. Go Greek: Combine with diced cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, red onions, crumbled feta cheese, and Kalamata olives.
  3. Tex Mex: Mix in diced avocado, chopped red onion, cherry tomatoes, and fresh cilantro. Dress it with lime vinaigrette.
  4. Caprese: Mix with cherry tomatoes, fresh mozzarella balls, chopped basil leaves, and balsamic glaze.
  5. Change the Dressing: if you don't like mayonnaise, try using sour cream, greek yogurt, or dijon mustard as a substitute.
Spoon holding up green pea salad.

What to Serve with Green Pea Salad

Lemon Green Pea Salad pairs well with a variety of dishes!  Here are five entrees you can serve with this dish:

  1. Dutch Oven Pork Tenderloin: This dish complements the savory taste of pork tenderloin perfectly. 
  2. Meat Lovers Quiche: Serve with a slice of quiche for a delightful brunch or lunch combination. 
  3. Jerk Salmon: Baked salmon fillets make a nutritious and delicious main course.
  4. Honey Glazed Pork Chops: You'll love the tangy flavor of these pork chops alongside this dish.
  5. Old Fashioned Salisbury Steak Recipe: What goes better with green peas than salisbury steak and mashed potatoes?
Green Pea Salad ready to serve in a large bowl with sliced lemon.

Recipe FAQs

Can I use fresh peas instead?

Fresh peas have a sweeter and more vibrant flavor compared to frozen peas. If fresh peas are in season, consider using them instead. If not, frozen peas work great in this recipe!

How can I make the dressing creamier?

If you want more fat in the dressing, add ¼ cup of sour cream to the mixture, or mix in more mayonnaise. This will create a creamier version which is what Grandma used to make. My dressing is thinner with the addition of lemon juice which adds a brighter flavor.

Can green pea salad be frozen?

No, this dish does not freeze well and should be eaten shortly after it's prepared for best results. Chill it in the refrigerator for even better flavor.

Can I make this dish with canned peas?

You can, but it won't turn out as fresh and vibrant. The canned varieties of vegetables contain a large amount of sodium which affects their color and taste.

Spoonful of lemon green pea salad raised over a bowl.

Helpful Tips

  1. Be sure to rinse the peas before using: To make sure that veggies are free of bacteria, be sure to rinse them well under cool water in a colander before using.
  2. Keep the Crunch: If you don't like celery, make sure you use something crunchy like roasted almonds, pecans or walnuts. Also, bacon bits can be substituted for real bacon if desired. 
  3. Change the Dressing:  If mayonnaise is too heavy for you, this dish can be dressed with light vinaigrettes. Experiment with different dressings to find the flavors you love most!
Spoon of lemon green pea salad with cheese and bacon.

Make Ahead and Storage

By following these storage tips, you can ensure that your green pea salad stays fresh and delicious for as long as possible.

  1. Use an Airtight Container: Transfer leftovers to an airtight container with a lid. 
  2. Refrigerate Promptly: Place the airtight container in the refrigerator as soon as possible.
  3. Eat Right Away: It's best eaten within 3-4 days of preparation. 
  4. Avoid Freezing: This dish does not freeze well, because the texture of the peas and other ingredients get mushy when thawed.
Spoon stirring green pea salad with lemon.

Recipe Card

Green Pea Salad being lifted out of a white bowl with lemon slices on the side.

Lemon Green Pea Salad

This delicious Lemon Green Pea Salad is made with frozen peas, red onion, sharp cheddar cheese, diced celery and maple bacon that's tossed in a light and creamy lemon dressing! 
5 from 4 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Salads, Sides
Cuisine: American
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 0 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes
Servings8
Calories: 255kcal

*See notes in blog post for detailed tips, photos and instructions.

Ingredients

Green Pea Salad

  • 16 ounces petite green peas (frozen and thawed completely)
  • 2 stalks celery (diced into small pieces)
  • ¼ cup red onion (diced into small pieces)
  • 4 ounces sharp cheddar cheese (cubed into small pieces)
  • 4 strips maple bacon (cooked and diced)
  • lemons for garnish

Dressing

  • ½ cup mayonnaise (I use Duke's, but you can substitute greek yogurt or reduced fat mayonnaise)
  • 1 Tablespoon sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon juice (freshly squeezed)
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • teaspoon garlic powder
  • teaspoon black pepper

Instructions

  • Thaw the peas in the refrigerator overnight, then rinse in a colander with cool water.
  • In a large bowl, combine green peas, diced celery, diced onion, cheddar cheese and cooked bacon. Save some diced bacon to sprinkle on top of the salad after it is mixed together. Set aside.
  • In a separate small bowl, whisk mayonnaise, sugar, fresh lemon juice, salt, garlic powder and black pepper until well blended.
  • Pour dressing over pea salad and toss gently. Sprinkle salad with extra bacon on top if desired.
  • Serve immediately, or chill in the fridge for even better flavor. Store in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

Notes

  • Green Pea Salad can be eaten right away, or chilled in the refrigerator for even better flavor. Stir gently before serving.
  • Make sure to use the juice from a fresh lemon or the flavor will be too strong otherwise.
  • Always mix the dressing separately and fold it into the green pea mixture to keep the peas from breaking open. If you prefer a creamier dressing, add ¼ cup sour cream to the mix. 
  • Store leftover pea salad in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to 3 days. 
  • Freezing is not recommended for this dish. 

Nutrition

Calories: 255kcal | Carbohydrates: 11g | Protein: 8g | Fat: 20g | Saturated Fat: 6g | Sodium: 338mg | Potassium: 213mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 5g | Vitamin C: 24mg | Calcium: 122mg | Iron: 1mg

Nutrition info is an auto generated estimate.

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3 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    What a lovely vibrant and tasty looking salad, I love it and will make it soon.

  2. 5 stars
    Love this fresh green pea salad with lemon added. What a nice touch! I squeezed even more lemon over mine to make it extra tart. Thanks for sharing this lighter version.

5 from 4 votes (2 ratings without comment)

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