31 Days of Vegetables

Peas: The Best Ways to Pick Them, Cook Them, and Eat Them

updated Jul 19, 2020
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Credit: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn; Food Stylist: CC Buckley/Kitchn

I’ll never forget the first time I grew English peas in my garden. They were so plump and fresh-tasting, the most romantic vegetable I’d ever eaten. Of course, most of the time peas are not so romantic: They are frozen from a bag, or found in fat pods at the grocery store. Any which way, though, peas are such a treat. (And hello, frozen peas are such a treat, right?) Here’s everything you wish you knew about peas, including how to pick them and cook them so you can love them even more.

The Pea Top 5

Sweet pea facts and tips for those who, like me, are in love with little peas.

Are Peas Legumes?

Peas are not, botanically speaking, vegetables. They are actually legumes: seeds that grow in pods. But they are culinarily treated as vegetables, primarily cooked in savory side dishes and other preparations that use vegetables. So we speak of them as vegetables.

Chicken and Snap Pea Stir-Fry

Types of Peas

There are many types of peas, but the most common sorts we find in the grocery store and at the market are snow peas, snap peas, and regular common green or garden peas. Snow peas are the flat pods with minuscule seeds inside that you most often see in stir-fries and other cooked dishes. Garden peas are primarily eaten for the peas themselves, within the pods. Snap peas (or sugar snap peas) are a cross between the other two types, and have a juicy pod with small pea seeds inside. These are sometimes sautéed but are also often eaten raw with dip.

How to Choose the Best Peas

Look for pods that are plump and shiny, and bright green. Store in the refrigerator and eat quickly, within a week.

How Much Protein Is in Peas?

In 100 grams (about 2/3 cup) of fresh green peas there are 5 grams of protein or about 10% of your recommended amount. So as a vegetable peas are relatively high in protein, and a big dish of peas is a solid source of vegetarian protein.

Are Peas Keto-Friendly?

Peas are not the most keto or low-carb-conducive vegetable, with about 9 grams of net carbs in 2/3 cup or 100 grams. Other vegetables, such as broccoli and Brussels sprouts, come in at less than half of that. That doesn’t mean that peas aren’t extremely good for you — just that they might not be the best choice for those choosing to live on a limited carb budget.

The Best Ways to Cook Peas

Peas can be steamed, boiled, or simply stirred into a hot dish as it is being cooked, like risotto or pasta. The heat of the dish will quickly cook peas.

Can Dogs Eat Peas?

Why yes they can, according the American Kennel Club. Peas are quite a healthy snack for dogs, provided they are unseasoned and eaten in moderation. As always, if you have questions about feeding your pup people food, ask your veterinarian.

No Fresh Peas? What to Substitute

No fresh peas for a dish that calls for them? Frozen is always a great substitute. Peas freeze beautifully, and while I love popping those frozen treats right off my kid’s high chair tray (they’re a family dinner hero!), they are also good in grown-up dishes.

Plus …

The Best Ways to Use Up Leftover Peas

Have leftover peas? Just throw them into your next pasta dish, or munch them straight from the bowl with a little shake of garlic salt.

Our Top 15 Pea Recipes

What’s your favorite recipe or use for peas? Any favorite way to cook it?

31 Days of Vegetables: How to fall in love with vegetables in 31 days. How many of these splendid veg have you eaten this month? Take a look at the whole list and take our July challenge to eat every single one!