vintage pea salad

This is that ubiquitous salad. That one with the mayonnaise and the cheddar cheese cubes. The one that probably showed up at hundreds of church potlucks and picnic tables. Sometimes I just crave these things that are supremely sentimental and simple. I loved those church potlucks. Mostly the food, but always the choices! I always took too much food (isn’t that what kids are supposed to do?) and I loved the way the dressing from my ambrosia would melt into the sliced ham and fried chicken. I think that was the origins of my sweet/salty obsession, and my NEED for honey on crunchy chicken skin. 

So here we are, no potluck in sight, but this salad takes me back. 

I love to think about picnics. Not really the place or the lawn games, or even who is there (is that rude?) I just think about the food. Salads, green, fruit, meat and otherwise, are my favorite for eating out of doors. Chicken salad? Yes. Fruit salad? Oh yea. Pea salad? Hell yea. I could go on and on. This salad is simple, classic, and tasty. It’s got a little too much dairy to rightfully be a “healthy” salad, but peas DO have protein…. so that counts, right? 

Let’s get this potluck food on the road! 

We chop up the things that need chopping and defrost the things that are frozen (namely, the peas). Aaand we scoop out some mayo. It’s necessary! 

vintage pea saladMake the dressing: use part of the mayo you think you’ll need, and then add the lemon juice, dill and pepper. Take a sip of coffee and channel your grandmother. 

coffee steam
Then add the onion and water chestnuts. 

vintage scene with table
Now add in the peas.

vintage pea salad
Add the cheese.

vintage pea saladPresto. Pea salad like the church ladies made. 

vintage pea salad

Vintage Pea Salad
Recipe Type: Salad, Snacks
Author: Sugar Pickles
Prep time:
Total time:
Serves: 5 cups
  • Dressing:
  • 1/4- 1/3 cup mayonnaise (depending on your taste)
  • Juice from 1/2 a large lemon
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh dill, chopped
  • Pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • Salad
  • 1/4 of a medium red onion, chopped or minced
  • 1/4 cup water chestnuts, chopped
  • 1 bag frozen peas, thawed
  • 6 oz mild cheddar cheese, chopped into 1/2” cubes
  1. Set all your chopped ingredients aside.
  2. To a medium bowl, add about half the amount of mayonnaise you are using. Save the other half for the end, when you can adjust the amount of mayonnaise. This prevents the salad from ending up with too much dressing.
  3. Add the lemon juice, chopped dill and some freshly ground black pepper to the mayonnaise. Stir in the sugar and taste. Does it need more pepper? More lemon? Don’t proceed until it tastes good to you! When you’ve made your adjustments, stir in the chopped onion, water chestnuts, and dill.
  4. Dump in the peas and carefully toss. Add in the cheese when the peas are mostly mixed and continue to toss everything together.
  5. Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours or overnight. This is lovely eaten over the next few days, or taken to a picnic to get gobbled up.