Simple Peas and Onions

I wasn’t always a lover of peas. When I was a kid, on the days peas were being served for dinner, my siblings and I would jockey for a particular seat at the dining room table. This spot had a secret drawer in the table. (Well maybe not so secret, but good enough to not catch the notice of our unsuspecting parents.) The trick was to take a spoonful of peas, cover your mouth as if you were wiping something away, extricate the peas from your mouth into your hand (or as dad would say, “one of your grubby little paws”), slyly open the drawer, and place the peas in the drawer. Yes! Mission accomplished! “See mom and dad, I finished my peas!” I think they finally caught on one day when cleaning the table they came across some shriveled up old peas, but the ruse was good while it lasted.

Thank goodness I outgrew that. These days I always like to keep at least one bag of frozen peas in the freezer. Not only do they make a great impromptu ice pack if you need one, but they cook up in a flash and go with practically anything. Simple is best. And if I have a spare minute I’ll snip a leaf or two of mint from the yard, slice it thin and add to the peas.

Simple Peas and Onions Recipe

  • Prep time: 5 minutes
  • Cook time: 15 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 4.


  • 1 pound shelled peas, fresh or frozen
  • 1/2 onion, chopped fine
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock (use gluten-free stock for gluten-free version, and vegetable stock or just plain water for vegetarian version)
  • Black pepper
  • Salt
  • Pinch of sugar (optional)


1 Heat 2 tablespoons of butter in a sauté pan over medium-high heat. When the butter foam recedes, add the chopped onions. Sauté the onions for a few minutes until they just begin to brown.

2 Add the peas and the chicken stock and bring to a rolling boil. Taste for salt and add if needed (you might not need to add salt if your stock is already pretty salty.) If you want, add a pinch of sugar to highlight the sweetness of the already sweet peas.

3 Stir the peas and onions often – you want the stock to reduce by about half without overcooking the peas. When the stock has reduced, turn off the heat and add the remaining butter and some black pepper. Serve at once.

If you want, sprinkle on some sliced fresh mint.

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Italian ground beef, peas, and onions from Spinach Tiger
Fresh peas with green onions, basil, and Parmesan from Food and Paper
Onion fried rice with peas from Frugal Cuisine


  1. Rossella

    Hi there! we commonly add a little guanciale or smoked bacon (thinly sliced!!) to counterbalance the sweetness of the peas (exp. if they are fresh, springtime peas). Let the bacon cook with the onions, then add the peas. Makes a great dinner with some thickly sliced fresh home-made bread and Asiago cheese…and a glass of cold white wine, of course! :)

    Love the idea of some smoked bacon or guanciale, yummmmm. ~Elise

  2. Karin

    This is really odd: I hated peas the 30 first years of my life! If not finishing them, we were punished by sitting at the back door, with our plate. That was great, ’cause I could shoot them of my plate right into the lawn (never to be found). I’m 43 now, and still not hot over peas, maybe it’s time to give them another go (with carrots or so).

    Is it something most of us naturally outgrow? I hope so. Love peas now, can’t get enough of them. ~Elise

  3. Catherine

    I make this the same way but add any sort of small pasta and a bit of Parmesan to make it an entre.

  4. Chandrika


    Nice pea recipe! While growing up, I always loved peas. In winter/fall season (when peas are very cheap) in India, my parents always stir-fried peas with onion and tomato and little cumin powder. I looked forward to that evening snack…it was just delicious.

    But, in US I find peas are little sweeter to my taste. Now when I make the stir fry, I squeeze a little lemon juice to balance out the sweet flavor.


  5. Tracy

    It is a great dish. Underrated, too. We use pearl onions and a mix of extra virgin olive oil and butter. Love it at room temperature.

  6. Val from PA

    Too funny!! My brother and I had a similar spot underneath our table where we would stick food we didn’t like (liver – ugh!), balled up in a napkin of course! The only thing is that the table had a see-through glass top, so when the placemats were moved, Mom always caught us. . . but she didn’t tell Dad! Good times!!

    Anyway, I have been making peas like yours for a while now, and other vegetables as well (green beans, broccoli, edamame, etc.). Sometimes I’ll use canola or olive oil rather than butter or margarine, and a little water instead of broth. I also usually add some garlic (I love the frozen chopped garlic from Trader Joe’s!).

    This method of cooking is so much better than boiling – which, for me, means water-logged veggies. . . Thanks for putting this simple recipe out there, Elise!!

  7. Karen

    Mmm! I love to make a little bechamel sauce for the peas and onions too..

  8. Steve-Anna

    Oh, I love this post and it has only partly to do with how much I love fresh peas!!

    These childhood stories remind me that my sister was the one who tried to spit her veggies into a napkin to get out of eating them. I always busted her, and then threatened to tell my parents unless she did the dishes for me. Good times, indeed ; )

    I’m also happy to hear I’m not the only one who makes a meal out of buttered peas – I add fresh dill to mine.

  9. Randi

    Hahaha. As kids there was a hole in the floor under a small carpet in the dining room (renovations). my sister and I would manage to get food we didn’t like down the hole. We were too young to realize that we should have cleaned it up. Dad was pretty angry when he found the pile of mummified food.

    I love peas now. especially fresh ones.

  10. Greg Walker

    Great story about peas! It is almost identical to my mother’s story, except her dad did not discover the hollow center leg of the table half filled with dried peas until she had moved away for about a decade!

    Too funny! ~Elise

  11. megan

    Hi, this looks fantastic. Do you defrost the peas if you aren’t using fresh?

    Good questions. You don’t need to. The peas will defrost when you add the stock and bring them to a boil. ~Elise

  12. Andrea @ Fork Fingers Chopsticks

    I hated peas – the canned variety in particular. In elementary school, I shoveled them into my empty milk carton.

    Today, it’s fresh or frozen only. I like them served as above, steamed with a drizzle of olive oil or plain. They are a regular add on to my Mexican rice or Puerto Rican arroz con pollo.

  13. Lisa_S

    Oh, these comments are heart breaking. Poor children denied the wonderfulness of fresh peas, destined to eat only canned peas. No wonder why so many kids and adults hate peas. You’ve been traumatized!

    My parents had an organic garden back in the 70’s (before it was called organic and therefore, very cheap). My sister and I had to pick the pea harvest. It was normally “one pea pod for me, one pea pod for the basket” picking. Nothing is better than picking a fresh pea pod, popping it open and running your tongue up the pod for a mouthful of sun-warmed fresh peas. Mom hated that we wouldn’t be hungry for supper after working in the garden, but I love peas.

    The Birdseye Steamer’s frozen sweet peas are about as close to that just-off-the-vine taste as I’ve ever found. Canned peas are just tragic and should be avoided at all costs. Pea-haters should give it a go again and have their taste buds vindicated and resolve your PTSD over peas.

  14. Susan

    I have always loved peas, even as a kid. Lima beans, too! (weird kid, I know) I just made some creamed peas the other night to serve with pork chops. I hadn’t thought of or made them for years. I don’t know what brought the craving on. Maybe Spring?

    Lima beans too? Okay, I agree, you were a weird kid! Just kidding. More like lucky kid. ;-) ~Elise

  15. chandani

    That really is simple. I usually use similar recipe with green soya beans with lots of Asian flavor.

  16. Liza (Jersey Cook)

    Frozen peas are one of life’s great conveniences. I love to throw them into stir-frys and currys in the last 5 minutes of cooking and let the residual heat defrost them.

    Thanks for posting this recipe Elise! I’m going to make it with dinner tomorrow night. And maybe add bacon because it goes so well with these flavors.

  17. Aloix

    Mmmmm peas!

    I too disliked them as a child, because of the nasty canned/tinned ones. I did however happily gorge myself on fresh while in my grandparents’ garden peas, though. And split pea soup was a favorite. Now though, whole cooked peas (fresh or frozen) are a staple in my diet. Too bad I don’t like onions except in small amounts.
    I may try a variation on this though, adding some tomatoes and herbs and such, to downplay the onion and maybe use a shallot instead, or a mild onion from the farmers market in the summer.

  18. John

    I, too, have always liked peas. To Lisa_S… I was not a fan of Limas until I discovered Fordhook Limas. I found a Limas and Mustard Sauce recipe a few years ago that has become a “must have” with ham!

    Basically, the Mustard Sauce recipe is 2 tblsp Mayonnaise, 2 tsp Mustard (we like to use Gulden’s, or a brown mustard of that sort), and 2 tblsp milk. Heat over medium-low heat until warm and smooth. Pour over the Fordhooks and sprinkle with Paprika. UMMM, terrific!


  19. Marcia

    I love peas, beets, lima beans, and other vegetables. My children learned to love them early. But, I do like LeSuer peas, onions, and mushrooms. I keep 2-3 cans on hand for chicken pot pie. I make fresh as part of holiday meals, with those hard to find small white onions.

    Because we had all this fresh from the garden while growing up, we ate it and loved it. I love semi frozen green petite peas in salad, potato salad, and in stir fry.

  20. StephenC

    (Submitted in the chef to chef spirit of sharing.)

    I would reduce the stock before adding the peas. With frozen peas I like to just get them hot so they don’t become mushy.

    Good suggestion, thanks! ~Elise

  21. Rob

    My step-mother adds sliced water chestnuts for a little texture. It’s the only time I ever eat water chestnuts.

  22. courtney

    I love peas, they are so easy right out of the freezer. On nights my husband isn’t home for dinner I will make peas and potatoes for dinner (I cut the potatoes in thin rounds add those and peas to a skillet with some sauteed onions and cooke it until the potatoes are done in chicken broth with some butter and thyme). Great quick meatless meal.

  23. John Gowers

    Why anyone would ever want to ruin this wonderful dish by adding mint is frankly beyond me.

    Aside from that, thanks for this recipe. I like to jazz up my vegetables, and this was a real help.

    Some of us like mint, and for those of us who like both mint and peas, they are delicious together. ~Elise

  24. angela@spinachtiger

    I just now saw the link to our favorite home meal, ground beef and peas. Thanks Elise. Just went to wordpress had no idea. Even peas and onions solo is such a classic side dish that needs not ever go out of style.

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