When you’re in a need of a quick green side dish, frozen peas are a delicious and easy option. These sweet morsels add a pop of color to your plate and have a nice crisp texture — that is, when cooked correctly. If you’re like us, sometimes those peas end up mushy, bland and sad-looking. That’s why we spoke to a top chef for his secret to perfect peas every time. Even better? It actually saves you time! Plus, we have five ways to flavor up your cooked peas that even the pickiest eaters will love. Here’s how to cook frozen peas so they’re tender and tasty rather than bland and mushy.
Why frozen peas reign supreme
For enjoying peas at their peak year-round, frozen peas are the way to go. They are blanched and then flash-frozen right after being picked so they maintain their sweet and slightly crisp texture. Plus, key nutrients like fiber and protein stay within the peas even when frozen, both of which work together to boost digestion, heart health and satisfy your appetite. Compare that to canned peas, which tend to be mushier and have fewer nutrients due to more processing.
What makes frozen peas mushy when cooked
A plate of dull, mushy peas isn’t an ideal side dish, which it’s best to minimize the culprit: water. Cooking peas in tons of water causes them to absorb the liquid and become super soft. Peas are also more prone to losing their sweet flavor, vibrant color and nutrients, especially if boiled. This is why chef’s suggest methods like steaming, microwaving or sautéing as they enhance the flavor and texture of frozen peas with very little water needed.
Why thawing frozen peas isn’t a necessary step
The beauty of frozen peas is that they don’t need to be thawed before cooking. Jay Weinstein, chef-instructor of Plant-Based Culinary Arts at the Institute Culinary Education, explains that this is because the peas “were blanched before freezing” — allowing the veggie to cook thoroughly even if it’s straight from the freezer. So, for busy weeknights, grab that bag of frozen peas and get right into cooking them to tender perfection.
How to cook frozen peas
Cooking frozen peas isn’t one-size-fits-all as each method has its own perks. Below, Sarah Johnson, founder at BigAirFryers.com, describes three methods that consistently yield tasty results for your desired amount of peas:
1. For the whole bag: how to steam frozen peas
This method is great if you’re making the full bag since a larger pot means all the peas are exposed to a consistent flow of steam that allows them to cook evenly.
- Open the bag and pour frozen peas into a steamer basket placed over 1 inch of boiling water.
- Steam over medium-high heat for 5 to 7 minutes, until the peas have a tender yet crisp texture.
- Carefully pour the cooked peas into a serving bowl and season with salt and pepper.
2. For half of the bag: how to microwave frozen peas
If you’re cooking peas for 1 or 2 servings, microwaving is speedy and mess-free option.
- Place frozen peas in a microwave-safe dish with 1 to 2 Tbs. of water.
- Microwave on high for 4 to 5 minutes, stirring halfway through.
- Once cooked, remove the dish and allow it to cool for 2 minutes before seasoning.
3. For a buttery texture: how to sauté frozen peas
Sautéing peas in oil or butter adds a rich flavor to the veggie, whether you’re making a small or large portion.
- Heat 2 to 3 Tbs. of olive oil or butter in a skillet over medium heat.
- Add your preferred amount of frozen peas to the skillet and cook for 3 to 5 minutes, until they’re tender and heated through.
- Season with salt and pepper before serving.
5 ways to dress up cooked peas
Plain cooked peas are a blank canvas for a variety of flavors and seasonings. Try these five yummy ideas to turn this simple veggie into a household favorite side, plus keep scrolling for a bonus fun appetizer recipe.
1. Herb Butter Peas
Toss the cooked peas with a mixture of melted butter and chopped herbs like parsley, thyme or mint to add a fresh, earthy flavor to the dish.
2. Lemony Peas
Add a touch of zingy by tossing the peas with a drizzle of olive oil and ¼ tsp. lemon zest. Finish with a sprinkle of salt and pepper if you haven’t seasoned them already.
3. Parmesan Peas
Sprinkle the cooked peas with grated Parmesan cheese and a dash of black pepper for a sharp and tangy twist.
4. Toasted Almond Peas
Mix the peas with a handful of toasted chopped almonds for an extra crunch and a nutty taste.
5. Peas With Crispy Bacon and Onions
Stir cooked peas with crispy bacon bits and caramelized onions for a salty and sweet flavor contrast. (Click through for how to make quick caramelized onions.)
Bonus: Minty Pea and Goat Cheese Crostini
Frozen peas make easy work of these crostini, which get their bright flavor from minced fresh mint leaves
- 18 slices French bread
- 3 Tbs. fresh goat cheese, at room temp.
- 1 tsp. minced fresh mint
- 1 tsp. minced scallions
- 1 cup frozen peas, cooked, cooled
- Active: 15 mins
- Total time: 20 mins
- Yield: 6 servings
- Heat oven to 350°F. Coat baking sheet with olive oil cooking spray. Arrange bread on baking sheet; coat lightly with cooking spray and season lightly with salt and pepper. Bake 5 min. or until lightly toasted. Let cool.
- Spread each toast with ½ tsp. goat cheese. In bowl, lightly mash together mint, scallions and peas; season to taste. Divide mixture evenly over crostini. Garnish as desired.
Keep reading for more tips and tricks for cooking for your favorite vegetables: