I have a fresh spin on the same old Pea Salad for you today! This one is gussied up with crispy golden potatoes, filling lentils, generous bites of crunchy bacon, and fresh chives, then tossed in a warm mustardy bacon dressing.
I’m an adamant (dare I admit to obstinate?) believer that salads and their vegetable side dish counterparts can and should be more than an afterthought or something eaten out of obligation, instead of actual desire.
In fact, I have the most stellar collection of ultra filling, colorful, and creative salads in my upcoming cookbook. While we wait for it to come out, I’ll be continuing to share new, useful, and delicious salad recipes here, this Pea Salad included!
You can serve this decadent-tasting but still healthy pea salad as a side dish with dinner, then take the leftovers with you the next day for lunch. It’s elegant enough to be worthy of an Easter meal, and I have several tasty ideas for the leftovers, including one involving leftover Easter ham, which my family seems to accrue with dividends every year.
The Making of a More Modern Pea Salad
This is not your mother’s pea salad recipe. Unless your mother makes hers with warm bacon dressing, in which case, what time is dinner?
Creamy Pea Salad of the classic Pioneer Woman variety is a Midwest potluck staple. For today’s recipe, however, I was craving something more elevated. Made with no other equipment besides a skillet, this recipe still qualifies as an easy peasy pea salad, but its play of flavors and textures makes it taste like a side you’d order in a restaurant.
How to Make Your Pea Salad a Standout
If the word “peas” triggered bad childhood flashbacks (how many more bites until I can have dessert??), this next-level pea salad recipe will change your mind. Say bye-bye to the scarring canned veggies of youth. This one is an entirely new experience thanks to:
- Lentils. Unexpected yet so stellar paired with peas. They’re creamy, filling, and do a primo job absorbing the bacon dressing, giving you richness in every bite.
- Bacon. A core ingredient in all self-respecting Midwestern pea salads, and the surest way to convince even the staunchest pea skeptics.
The bacon in this recipe is used in three ways:
- Sprinkled on top in big, crispy pieces that your guests will silently try to hog.
- To sauté the potatoes (they’ll cook in the leftover bacon drippings).
- To make a warm dressing for drizzling over the top.
If the very mention of warm bacon dressing didn’t make you want to make this pea salad recipe immediately, then perhaps this next ingredient will.
- Crispy Potatoes. Golden on the outside, creamy on the inside, and cooked until golden in bacon drippings.
- Peas. The essence of spring. You can fuss with shelling your own or do as I do and buy them frozen. They are just as nutritious and a true time saver.
- Grainy Mustard, Chives, and Vinegar. These three work in tandem to balance the richness of the bacon and potatoes and make the salad fresh and zippy.
This pea salad recipe hails from a new (to me) cookbook Dining In by Alison Roman. My savvy blog communications manager, Caitlin, sent it to me for the clear reason of “you must have it,” and she was SO RIGHT.
In addition to the Salted Chocolate Chunk Shortbread Cookies that broke the internet back when the book first came out (if you haven’t tried them, you must!), I’ve cooked three recipes from this cookbook in the span of a week, and none disappoint.
Like this pea salad, the recipes are elevated enough to be something I could find in a restaurant, but none have been overly fussy or difficult. My kind of meal!
Ways to Serve Pea Salad
This pea salad will leave you feeling accomplished. Here are a few of my favorite ways to serve it and to enjoy the leftovers too.
- Warm Pea Salad. Serve it hot, as soon as it’s ready.
- Room Temperature (or Cold) Pea Salad. In addition to being yummy served warm, this salad actually tastes great at room temperature, so it’s ideal for potlucks and buffets.
- Pea Salad with Ham. Cut leftover ham (Easter!) into bite-size pieces and lightly crisp the pieces in a skillet with some olive oil. Stir into the pea salad. We had the leftovers for dinner this way, and it made for a stellar all-in-one meal.
- Pea Salad with Lettuce. Toss the leftovers with greens (arugula would be delicious) and a few extra splashes of vinegar and olive oil to turn it into a hearty entrée salad.
- Vegan Pea Salad. While you will miss the salty somethin’ somethin’ from the bacon, if you’ll be serving this recipe to vegetarian or vegan guests, you can omit it and sauté the potatoes in a generous amount of olive oil instead. Since bacon is salty, season the salad with additional salt. It will still be delish!
More Slam-Dunk Salads That Taste Great at Room Temperature
- Italian Farro Salad
- Mediterranean Chickpea Salad
- Creamy Cucumber Salad
- Arugula Pasta Salad with Goat Cheese and Tomato
- 3/4 cup dried green lentils
- 6 ounces thick-cut bacon cut into 1/2-inch pieces (about 6–7 slices; I recommend buying the strips directly from the butcher case in the meat department versus prepackaged)
- 3/4 pound baby red potatoes quartered (new potatoes that are smaller than a golf ball)
- 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar plus additional to taste
- 2 1/2 tablespoons stone-ground brown grainy mustard
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt plus additional to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper plus additional to taste
- 2 cups peas fresh, or frozen and thawed
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh chives
- Cook the lentils according to the package instructions until al dente, adding a big pinch of salt to the pot as they cook—they should be tender but not mushy and have a pleasant chew. Drain and place in a large mixing bowl.
- In a large skillet over medium-low heat, cook the bacon until it is crisp and the fat has cooked off, about 8 minutes. With a slotted spoon, remove the bacon to a paper-towel-lined plate and lightly pat dry. Leave the bacon drippings in the skillet.
- Add the potatoes, increase the heat to medium, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes are tender on the insides and crisp and golden on the outsides, about 12 to 14 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat, then add the vinegar and mustard. Stir to coat the potatoes in the vinegar, mustard, and drippings, then scrape all of the skillet contents into the bowl with the lentils. Add the peas.
- Stir to combine, then give the salad a taste. Add salt and pepper and/or a splash of vinegar (for more tanginess) as desired. (I added a bit of all three.) Add the chives. Enjoy immediately or refrigerate for up to 1 day. Serve at room temperature.
- Refrigerate leftovers for up to 3 days. Enjoy at room temperature.
- The entire salad can be made 1 day ahead (including the dressing). You can also make the lentils an additional 1 day in advance.
- Source: Adapted from Dining In by Alison Roman, a cookbook I adore and highly recommend.
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