Creamy Pea Salad with bacon, cheese, and an easy homemade dressing is one of the best summer side dishes to take to a potluck or cookout! The slightly sweet peas, salty bacon, and savory cheese make an irresistible combination and is the perfect cool salad to serve at your next barbecue!
When the temperatures rise and we don't want to spend a lot of time in the kitchen, side salads are the hero of the day, especially when you are getting ready for a party! If you're planning a summer cookout, some of our other favorite easy recipes are Creamy Grape Salad, Classic Potluck Broccoli Salad, and Classic Frog Eye Salad!
I love summertime. The long, lazy days are filled with time spent outside enjoying the sun and lounging by the pool or watching the kids run through the sprinklers. And we love having backyard barbecues with friends where we grill burgers or chicken and load up on all of the cool, refreshing side salads that can be a meal all on their own.
Whether you are heading to a 4th of July or Memorial Day cookout or getting together with relatives for a family reunion potluck, side salads are where it's at! Sure potato salad and macaroni salads are always popular, but if you haven't tried this creamy pea salad it really needs to be the next way you make for whatever gathering you are going to.
The texture of the peas with the crunch and sharp taste of red onion go so well with the creamy cheese and chewy-crisp bacon. And the creamy, easy dressing ties it all together so that it just works! I'm always happy to load up a plate with some of this creamy pea salad with a slice of watermelon, corn on the cob, and baked beans. Cookout foods are the best!
This salad has hardly any prep beyond quickly thawing frozen peas and cooking some bacon. And it can be made a couple of days in advance if needed, but is easy enough to throw together last minute if you didn't plan ahead.
Pea Salad Ingredients
- Peas: If you have a garden with tons of fresh peas, you could blanch them in boiling water for 2 minutes, then rinse under cold water. But we always just use frozen peas that we thaw under cool running water for a couple of minutes.
- Cheese: I like cubed colby jack cheese best, but you could use cheddar, mozzarella, pepper jack, gouda, etc. Pretty much any kind of cheese you like. You can even grate it if you prefer that to the larger chunks!
- Bacon: You can use regular cut or thin cut bacon - whatever you like best! I like to make our bacon in the oven and cook the whole package so I have some on hand in the fridge for BLTs, burgers, or salads throughout the week.
- Red onion: If your family is sensitive to onions and complains about them being to strong, you can soak the chopped onions in cold water for 10 minutes, then drain well to reduce the bite a bit.
- Mayo and sour cream: I like to use a combination of real mayo and full fat sour cream to make the dressing, but you could sub in greek yogurt for the sour cream or use all mayo if you prefer.
- Sugar: Just a little bit of sugar in the dressing compliments the natural sweetness of the peas and provides great contrast to the other savory and salty elements of this dish.
- Salt and pepper: These two keep all the flavors lively so the salad isn't bland.
Pro Tip: Buy colby jack cheese sticks to make dicing the cheese even easier! You can even purchase precooked bacon if you really want to skip some steps to make this salad.
How to Make
- Prep the ingredients: Start out by cooking the bacon until crispy, then chop into bite-size pieces. Rinse the frozen peas under cold water in the sink to thaw quickly and go ahead and chop the onion and dice the cheese into small cubes. Add everything to a a large bowl and toss to combine.
- Make the dressing: Combine the mayo, sour cream, sugar, salt, and pepper in a medium bowl and whisk together. Pour the dressing over the other salad ingredients and toss to combine. I like to transfer the salad to a nice serving bowl and sprinkle a few extra bits of chopped bacon on top for presentation.
- Storage: Keep the creamy pea salad covered with plastic wrap in the fridge until ready to serve. It is best the day it is made, but will keep well for up to about 3 days. Be sure to toss the salad just before serving since the dressing will settle towards the bottom of the bowl. Never leave this salad out for longer than 2 hours at room temperature because of the mayo in the dressing.
Is it safe to eat frozen peas?
Yes, frozen peas are totally safe for consumption without cooking them first. When my kids were small, frozen peas were one of their favorite snacks. Even now they sneak into the freezer and snack on them when they think I'm not looking! I understand sneaking cookies, but peas? Kids are so funny sometimes.
What to serve with pea salad
This is such a great side dish for spring or summer, especially when the temperatures start creeping up and you want something cool. Plus, the slight sweetness of the salad from the dressing and peas with the bite from the red onion go so well with grilled main dishes. These are some of our favorites:
- Grilled Cilantro Lime Chicken Thighs
- Sriracha Mayo Marinated Grilled Lamb Chops
- All-American Hamburgers with Crispy Onion Strings & Burger Sauce
- Perfect Grilled Pork Chops with Sweet BBQ Pork Rub
More Potluck Side Dish Recipes
- Greek Pasta Salad
- Classic Macaroni Salad
- Deviled Egg Potato Salad
- Fruit Salsa with Cinnamon Chips
- Classic Potluck Broccoli Salad
- Cottage Cheese Jello Salad
- BLT Pasta Salad
- Raspberry Pretzel Salad
Did you make this recipe?
Let me know what you thought with a comment and rating below. You can also take a picture and tag me on Instagram @houseofnasheats or share it on the Pinterest pin so I can see.
Creamy Pea Salad
- 2 pounds frozen peas thawed and drained
- 1 ½ cups cubed Colby Jack cheese
- 8 slices bacon cooked and crumbled
- ½ cup red onion finely chopped
- ⅔ cup mayonnaise
- ⅓ cup sour cream
- 2 teaspoons granulated sugar
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- Add the thawed peas, cubed cheese, crumbled bacon, and red onion in a large bowl.
- Whisk the mayonnaise, sour cream, sugar, salt, and pepper together in a small bowl to make the dressing.
- Add the dressing to the other salad ingredients and toss to coat evenly. Transfer to a serving bowl, if desired, for better presentation, then refrigerate until ready to serve.
- Make-Ahead: This salad is best served within 2-3 days and should be stored in the fridge when it is not being eaten.
- Variations: You can add ½ cup of roasted sunflower seeds for some additional flavor and crunch. Chopped hard-boiled eggs or shredded cheese instead of cubes are also a good idea. Fresh dill or chopped parsley make for an herby addition.
- Substitutions: Cheddar, Monterey Jack, or even mozzarella cheese can be substituted for the Colby Jack. Leftover ham, canadian bacon, or diced ham steaks from the store can be used in place of the bacon.