Pea Salad with Lemon Parmesan Dressing

This Pea Salad recipe is a quick, easy, fresh, make-ahead friendly year-round side smothered in bright, light Lemon Parmesan Dressing!

This Pea Salad is light, bright, refreshing and a delicious addition to any meal, potluck or holiday.  It boasts the winning trifecta of sweet peas, crispy, salty bacon and chunks of Gouda cheese along with juicy tomatoes and zippy red onions, all doused in showstopping tangy, creamy Lemon Parmesan Dressing.  It’s one of the most pleasing flavor-texture combos; so simple, so refreshing, so perfect. This pea salad recipe can be thrown together in minutes, or made days in advance, is easy to double/triple, and goes with practically everything! We love serving this side with grilled chicken, cedar plank salmon or marinated flank steak in the summer and garlic butter pork tenderloin or oven fried chicken in the winter.

Salads are the perfect side for every occasion! Some of our favorites include: Grape Salad, Garden Salad, Caesar Salad, Apple Salad, Strawberry Spinach Salad, Grilled Corn Salad, Light Coleslaw and Outback Copycat Wedge Salad, and Southwest Salad.

HOW TO MAKE Pea Salad REcipe VIDEo

up close of pea salad with bacon showing how creamy it is
tossing pea salad together in a white bowl with green peas, bacon, tomatoes, red onions and bell peppers

Ingredients in Pea Salad

The base of this creamy pea salad requires just six basic ingredients. The dressing is a simple stir-together number that takes all of a few minutes to prepare. The end result is an easy but flavor-packed pea salad that pairs well with any entrée or side dish! Here’s everything you’ll need to make the pea salad: 

For the Pea Salad: 

  • Frozen peas: You’ll need two 16-ounce packages of frozen petite peas to make this recipe. Let the peas thaw overnight in the fridge, or place in a colander and run cold tap water over them to thaw quickly. Do NOT use canned peas or mature peas – they are mushy!
  • Cherry tomatoes: Use ripe cherry tomatoes for the best texture and sweetness.
  • Bacon: The more, the better! Please use thick cut bacon so the bacon doesn’t get lost and retains its meaty texture when enveloped in the creamy dressing. You can cook the bacon chopped or in slices, on the stovetop or bake it in the oven.
  • Cheese: I love Gouda cheese in this recipe but you can also use sharp cheddar. Gouda classes up the salad and tastes divine with its mild, buttery sweetness.  I suggest young Gouda for its milder flavor and softer texter as opposed to aged/smoked Gouda, but it’s totally up to you!   Chop the Gouda into small cubes, about ¼-inch so it’s evenly dispersed throughout the salad.
  • Red onion: If raw red onion is too strong for your taste, rinse the cut onion under cold tap water and then pat dry before adding to the salad. It’s a trick I use to remove the sharp bite from red onion. 
  • Bell pepper: The bell pepper adds another dimension of sweet crunch. Stick with red, orange, or yellow for their sweetness as opposed to green which is more earthy.

For the Dressing: 

  • Sour cream: This adds a delightful tanginess to the dressing and makes it much lighter than using all mayonnaise. 
  • Mayonnaise: This is the creamy base of the dressing and binds all of the ingredients together. Even if you don’t like mayo, I don’t suggest skipping because it prevents the dressing ingredients from separating – and your dressing will not taste like mayo! Please use real mayonnaise and not Miracle Whip. 
  • Parmesan cheese: Freshly grated is best! Please avoid using the powdered cheese in a shaker which is dry, doesn’t disperse as well and lacks flavor, in my opinion. 
  • Lemon juice and zest: Be sure to wash your lemon under warm tap water before zesting it. You’ll need just 2 tablespoons of lemon juice, or roughly half of a juicy lemon. 
  • Red wine vinegar: Just a tablespoon enlivens the flavors with its fruity tang but won’t make your salad too tangy. Please don’t substitute with white vinegar or the flavor profile won’t be the same.
  • Dijon mustard: Another tablespoon of Dijon cuts through the richness of the dressing with a subtle depth of flavor without making the dressing taste even remotely like mustard. 
  • Fresh herbs: A combination of parsley, dill and chives infuses the dressing with fresh flavor. You may substitute with dried herbs if needed; you will need roughly one third the amount.
  • Spices: Onion powder, garlic powder, salt, pepper, and a pinch of sugar round out the dressing.
top view showing how to make pea salad by adding green peas, tomatoes, cheese, bacon, bell peppers and red onions to a big bowl

How to Make Pea Salad

It doesn’t get any easier than this frozen pea salad! Let’s take a closer look at how the recipe comes together (see printable recipe card at the bottom of the post for the complete recipe): 

  • Step 1: Make the dressing. Whisk together all of the dressing ingredients, then cover and refrigerate until ready to use. The dressing is best after the flavors have had time to mingle. 
showing how to make pea salad recipe by making the dressing with mayonnaise, sour cream, Parmesan, dill, chives and parsley
  • Step 2: Assemble the salad. Add all of the pea salad ingredients to a large bowl, except the bacon.
showing how to make pea salad by adding peas, cheese, bacon, onions to a bowl
  • Step 3: Add the dressing. Add the dressing to the prepared salad and stir to evenly combine.  
showing how to make pea salad recipe by tossing peas, bacon and cheese together with the dressing in a bowl
  • Step 4: Chill the salad. The salad is best if allowed to chill for a few hours before serving. Again, you want to give the ingredients and flavors time to mingle! 
  • Step 5: Add the bacon. Toss in the bacon and serve.
showing how to make pea salad recipe by adding bacon
tossing pea salad together in a white bowl with green peas, bacon, tomatoes, red onions and bell peppers
showing how to make pea salad recipe by tossing peas, bacon, cheese, onions, and creamy dressing together in a bowl

Pea Salad Commonly Asked Questions

Can Pea Salad Be Frozen? 

No, I do not recommend freezing this pea salad. The fresh veggies will release water once frozen and thawed and become mushy, and the creamy dressing could split. This is definitely a dish you want to consume within a few days of making it.

How Should I Thaw Peas for Salad? 

You can thaw frozen peas overnight in the fridge or you can transfer the peas to a colander and rinse them under COLD tap water. Either way, be sure to drain and dry the peas thoroughly before adding to the salad. 

Can I Add Frozen Peas Straight to the Salad? 

No, you must thaw the peas first. If you add the peas to the dressing straight from the freezer, the dressing will become watery as the peas release their moisture. It’s best to thaw and drain the peas before adding them to the salad

Can I Use Canned Peas to Make Pea Salad? 

Absolutely not! Canned peas are salty and incredibly soft, which will result in a mushy, lackluster salad. 

Is Pea Salad Best Served Cold or at Room Temperature? 

Pea salad is best served at chilled, but don’t let it sit out more than two hours since the dressing contains dairy.

How Far in Advance Can I Make Pea Salad? 

I recommend making this recipe no more than 24 hours before serving it. However, leftovers will last up to five days in the fridge. 

  • Load up on veggies: You’re welcome to add in any extra veggies you have lying around or swap in your favorites such as carrots, cucumbers, etc.
  • Omit veggies: Keep the salad more traditional and skip the tomatoes and bell peppers.
  • Swap the bacon for ham: I love the combination of crispy bacon, firm peas, and creamy dressing, but leftover holiday ham or a good-quality deli ham will also provide the coveted salty-sweetness like bacon. 
  • Use turkey bacon: for a lighter version.
  • Cheese: So many cheeses would be tasty in this creamy pea salad. Sharp cheddar, Havarti, crumbled feta cheese, crumbled goat cheese or crumbled gorgonzola, to name a few.
  • Nuts and seeds: Add another layer of crunch with nuts or seeds such as toasted sunflower seeds, slivered almonds, pecans, walnuts, or cashews.  
  • Make it dairy-free: Omit the cheese and swap the sour cream for your favorite dairy-free/vegan sour cream substitute. You may also swap the sour cream for additional mayonnaise but it won’t taste as light. Mayonnaise is dairy-free but not vegan as it is made with egg yolks, vinegar, and seasonings.
  • Make it vegetarian: Use vegan bacon or omit it altogether.
  • Make it vegan: For vegan or plant-based, omit the cheese or use dairy-free cheese, use vegan mayo like Vegainase, vegan sour cream or yogurt, and vegan bacon.
up close of pea salad showing how creamy the dressing is


Pea salad is meant to be a crowd pleasing side dish that’s so worth the occasional calorie splurge. If you would like to make it a litter lighter, then there are a few modifications you can try to make it a little healthier:

  • Use olive oil mayo.  Instead of using regular mayo, try using mayonnaise made with olive oil (it will say right on the label).  Olive oil mayo traditionally has half the fat of regular mayonnaise but is still super creamy and tastes better than reduced fat mayo, in my opinion. Of course, you can also use traditional nonfat and reduced fat mayo.
  • Use nonfat Greek yogurt.  Swap the sour cream for nonfat Greek yogurt and it will still be fabulous.
  • Use less cheese or swap cheese.  By using half of the cheese, you save half of the calories!  You can also choose a lower calorie cheese such as feta with 75 calories per ounce verses Gouda’s 100 calories per ounce.
  • Use turkey bacon.   Turkey bacon has about ⅓ less fat than regular bacon, including less “bad’ fats.”  It also has a lower glycemic index. Alternatively, use vegan bacon.
  • Use vegan bacon. Vegan bacon or vegan bacon bits might sound odd, but when done right can be crispy, smoky and work great as a bacon alternative to make a healthier pea salad. There are several vegan bacon options out there made from either tofu (soy), tempeh, eggplant, coconut, or mushrooms. A 2 ounce serving of vegan bacon ranges from .5 grams of fat to 4.5 grams of fat compared to real bacons 22 grams.  If you’re looking to make your own vegan bacon, check out this post by Love and Lemons.


up close of a spoon eating pea salad with green peas and bacon




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  • 2 16-ounce pkgs. frozen petite peas, thawed
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 12 ounces thick-cut bacon, cooked and chopped
  • 6 ounces Gouda, cubed (may sub cheddar)
  • 1/3 cup chopped red onion


  • 3/4 cup sour cream or plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup freshly, finely grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley (or 2 tsps dried)
  • 1 tablespoon minced chives (or 1 teaspoon dried)
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh dill (or 1 teaspoon dried)
  • 1/2 tsp EACH onion powder, garlic powder, salt, pepper, sugar
  • Whisk together all of the Lemon Parmesan Dressing ingredients together in a medium bowl; refrigerate.

  • Add all of the Salad ingredients to a large bowl EXCEPT the bacon. Add the dressing and stir to evenly combine. The salad is best if allowed to chill for a few hours before serving. When ready to serve, toss in the bacon; serve chilled.

Storage:  Store leftover peas salad in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days, noting that the dressing will become slightly watery over time as the vegetables release some of their moisture. 

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