Ham and Pea Salad is an American recipe I love. It’s a delicious side for barbecues, and a fantastic way to use up any leftover ham.
This is not one of my traditional Irish recipes. It’s one I’ve learned to throw together since I first arrived in America. Over the years I’ve tasted and enjoyed many pea salads at different shindigs I’ve attended.
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The Many Types of American Pea Salad
Texas is where pea salads are truly embraced. I often ordered a side of pea salad with my lunch sandwich when I lived there. However, in Dallas this salad was usually called English pea salad.
At first I thought this might have been an English recipe I was unaware of. Remember Irish and English cooking share many recipes and have quite a bit in common.
I eventually figured out that the term English in my pea salad was referring to the type of pea used, rather than the country of origin for the recipe.
In Texas English pea salad usually included English garden peas, cubed cheese bits, chopped hard boiled eggs, red onion, and bacon bits. Everything was combined with a creamy sour cream and mayonnaise dressing to create a creamy pea salad.
I then discovered variations including Amish pea salad when I moved to Kentucky. This pea and ham salad includes ham and/or bacon bits. It’s an old fashioned, classic pea salad that may or may not include onion.
You’ll also find recipes for Southern pea salad which I was introduced to in Florida. It usually includes peas, ham chunks, cheese and hard boiled eggs. Sometimes chopped celery pieces were included.
Chunky Ham and Pea Salad
Today’s recipe is my trusted friend for using up leftover ham at Easter, Christmas or any other time of year when I love to serve ham. If you’re looking for a leftover ham recipe then this may be the one for you.
Pea salad with ham is also a great recipe to take to potluck get-togethers and comes together in minutes - limited cooking required.
When I envision an Irish version of ham salad I think of a pub salad plate with three slices of deli ham rolled and served on the plate.
This American chopped ham and pea salad is a far cry from my Irish salad plate. All of the ingredients are combined in a creamy ranch dressing.
Over the years I’ve played around with different combinations of ingredients to find the perfect mix for my Irish palate.
As you can gather, there are many, many ways to assemble a pea salad. Today I’m going to share the recipe I’ve concocted over the years. It’s my take on this American favorite.
Ingredients for Ham and Pea Salad
Here’s what I include:
Peas: You can use fresh English garden peas which are my favorite. If you cannot find them simply thaw a packet of frozen peas. Smaller sweet peas are best. You might be tempted to try canned peas in this salad, but I do not recommend them. Their texture just isn’t right and they turn this salad into a big mush.
Ham: This recipe uses up leftover cooked ham. Cut it into large diced pieces. You can make the ham pieces as chunky as you like. However I like to keep them about a ½ inch wide per piece, so not too big.
Bacon: Inspired by the Amish pea salads of Kentucky I use ham and bacon bits for this salad. You can use premade store bought bacon bits if you’re in a hurry, but I find it best to make my own. Simply cook some slices of bacon until crisp. Drain them on paper towels and when cooled, chop them into pieces. I love the crunch the bacon bits add to this dish.
Cheese: My favorite cheese for this salad is cheddar. I’m Irish and we love cheddar cheese, especially the tangy Irish varieties like Dubliner cheese. You can even buy cheddar cheese cubes if you wish to cut out a step. You can grate the cheddar cheese yourself, or you can cut it into cubes. You can also buy pre shredded or cubed cheese if you need to make things easy.
Onion: I love to add chopped red onion to salads and this one is no exception. However, my other half does not like onions so when I’m making this salad for the whole family I omit the onions and simply sprinkle my serving with some chopped green onions. You can use chopped shallot if you prefer a milder onion flavor.
Ranch salad dressing: I use a simple buttermilk store-bought dressing for this salad when making it for company. This creamy dressing compliments this salad beautifully. However, when I’m making it for my Irish family I use Irish salad cream. It has a strong vinegar profile, so I stick to ranch dressing for American guests.
Salt and black pepper: I only add a little salt and pepper to my recipes, but feel free to season this salad to your liking.
Directions for Ham and Pea Salad
As my granny would say, this is hardly a recipe at all, at all.
It’s one of those easy, throw it all in one large bowl, add the dressing and stir, kind of dishes.
Now I do recommend that you let this salad sit in the fridge for a while before serving. That’s when all of the magic happens and the flavors combine.
Be sure to cover it with a tight fitting lid or plastic wrap before adding it to the fridge.
This salad does not freeze well. But you can store leftovers in the refrigerator for up to 3 days, just so long as it is in an airtight container.
This recipe is delicious served with quiche, or as a side for a barbecue.
Printable Recipe for Pea and Ham Salad
Here's the printable recipe if you wish to add this dish to your kitchen recipe files.
You can decide whether or not to save the step-by-step photo instructions.
Ham and Pea Salad
- 12 ounces frozen peas 1 package thawed
- ½ pound cooked ham diced
- 8 slices bacon cooked and chopped
- 1 cup sharp cheddar cheese shredded
- ½ cup red onion finely chopped
- ⅓ cup ranch salad dressing
- ⅛ teaspoon salt
- ⅛ teaspoon black pepper
Nutrition Information is estimated based on the ingredients and cooking instructions as described in each recipe and is intended to be used for informational purposes only. Please note that nutrition details may vary based on methods of preparation, origin and freshness of ingredients used.
And there you have it - my take on the classic American pea and ham salad - perfect for using up leftover ham after Easter.
If you're interested in traditional Easter baking recipes from Ireland and the UK you might like to explore these recipes.
You may also be looking for some other side dishes and salads to mix up your weekly menus. Here are some of my favorites...
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Slán agus beannacht,
(Goodbye and blessings)
Mairéad -Irish American Mom
Pronunciation - slawn ah-gus ban-ock-th
Mairéad - rhymes with parade
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