crushed peas with smoky sesame dressing

I’m not really a pea-eater. 99 percent of pea dishes do absolutely nothing for me, no matter how buttery, minty, creamy or how close they come to winning a Top Chef honor. I enjoy them in Indian food and I won’t leave them on the rim of a bowl of pasta, but you’ll never catch me hoarding a bag of them in the freezer, waiting to meet their end on my stove.

peas in pods and then more pods

But all of this changes when I can find them fresh. Fresh peas, at least for this pea-ambivalent, are a whole different animal: they’re bright and sweet and they have the most wonderful crunch that’s impossible to retrieve from a freezer bag, where they always seem to defrost with a sigh and then a slump. The labor involved in shelling them is virtually nothing — no ends that need to be snipped, as with sugar snaps or slipping from skins, as with favas; they get from field to table with the pop of a pod, sweep of your finger and a quick roll off the counter and onto the floor — d’oh! — because like most cute things, they are also troublemakers.

many peas

I was intent this year in coming up with a dish that would allow fresh peas to keep their texture as much as possible, while hanging out with complimentary flavors. I went with smoky and lemony to contrast their sweet, springy flavor and tried to keep it mellow enough that the peas would still get to shine. What I ended up with is akin to a crushed pea hummus — just awesome on pita wedges and guaranteed not to make it to dinner time. Mission accomplished.

crushed smoky peas on pitas

One year ago: Springy, Fluffy Marshmallows and Spanikopita Triangles
Two years ago: Breakfast Apricot Crisp and Dead Simple Slaw
Three years ago: Crepe Cake

Crushed Peas with Smoky Sesame Dressing

1 1/2 pounds fresh peas in pods or about 1 1/2 cups already shelled or frozen and defrosted
1/4 cup plain yogurt
2 tablespoons tahini (sesame seed paste)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons water
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon paprika, smoked if you have it
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 scallions, thinly sliced
Toasted pitas, cut into wedges, for serving

Cook peas: Have ready a colander and an ice bath, and bring a medium pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Blanche peas for 30 seconds (if you like them with a real residual snap) to 1 minute (for a slightly more yielding pea) and drain them, then immediately shocking them in the ice water. Drain the peas again and pat them dry on a large towel.

Crush peas: Using a potato or egg-masher (and hopefully not an annoying one like mine, with holes the exact size of peas!), muddler or meat pounder (be gentle!), lightly crush the peas. Aim for mixed textures, some left whole, most in halves and a few a little more broken up. Put them in a large bowl.

Make dressing: Whisk together tahini, yogurt, lemon juice, water, cumin, paprika and salt. You might be tempted, as I was, to swap the water with olive oil but don’t do it — it makes a horrible curdled mess you will be sad to have to toss.

Assemble: Mix peas with about 3 tablespoons of the dressing, to start, then add more to taste. Sprinkle with scallions. Heap pea mixture on toasted pita wedges.

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149 comments on crushed peas with smoky sesame dressing

  1. Sharon

    This recipe sounds great! I love your website and have made tons of the recipes (most recently the Austian Raspberry Shortbread, which all my coworkers loved.) I have a big bag of peas from my CSA so this recipe came at just the right time. Thank you so much for provided such lovely kitchen inspiration!

  2. amy

    agree about your pic of baby Jacob! so CUTE!
    I love peas and all green veggies (any recipes w/snap peas or string beans?) so am glad for your recipe!
    I’m also looking forward to baking your peanut chocolate cake & icebox cookies this weekend! thanks so much for posting tasty recipes and fun anecdotes!

  3. J.

    If you could tell me where to find fresh peas in Los Angeles I would be happy to try this and any other recipe calling for fresh peas. I just can’t seem to find them here. I’ve even been thinking about growing my own. sigh…it sounds like such a good dish too…

  4. Oh, no – that’s the exact potato masher I have! Oversized fork, it is. This sounds like something I could make for a weekend lunch, all for myself. Pita bread is so easy to make at home, the entire thing will be delicious and healthy.

  5. Susan

    Fresh peas are such a treat, it seems ashame to muddy them with anything. But once those first of the season tastes get satisfied, this looks perfect. (I used to do novel things like this when my kids were little, just to get veggies in them as a snack..and also for me, so as not to have the dinner table vegetable nag-athon! I do hope, when the time comes, that you let Jacob experience rolling peas into his mouth off a dinner knife. It’s a rite of passage!

  6. Deb,
    These look great! We are big pea-eaters in my family. My daughter loves them with grilled onions, mixed into her mashed potatoes! I have to say, they’re pretty tasty like that. Did you ever try that? ;-)
    I also love them in pasta with red sauce. My Dad used to make us “pasta n peas” all the time.
    I will definitely try this. I looks YUMMY!

  7. I totally agree with you – I don’t love frozen peas but can’t get enough of fresh ones. I actually like just eating them straight out of the pod, raw! Oddly enough, it’s a snack I can’t stop eating. Sure beats potato chips.

  8. Donna Sue

    I’m a lover of peas of any ilk, and this recipe looks so, so delicious. It will be made this weekend! :) Thanks so much for sharing.

  9. that looks great! And I totally agree, they are completely different when fresh. Kind of like beets are horrid jellied but great roasted. Whenever I get a quart of them from the CSA I eat them raw before I ever get around to putting them in a meal.

  10. I make my own green pea hummus by mashing peas with ricotta, lemon zest and lots of freshly ground black pepper. If it’s for a special ocassion, I’ll add a tangle of caramelized red onions on top. I can’t wait to try your method though!

  11. Laurel

    Unlike you I absolutely love all peas, especially frozen (it came from loving them as a kid). Can’t wait to try the recipe, thanks.

  12. linda

    great, healthy recipe…simple, easy & making for father’s day…
    & the photo of jacob having a blast is a blast…

  13. Your kinda-sorta pea and tahini hummus looks fantastic! I am a huge fan of peas. I’m going to make it this weekend! I bet it is awesome stuffed into a soft pita with some shredded lettuce and grilled eggplant for take-to-work lunch too.

  14. Gretchen

    Thank you for solving my “what to serve at my World Cup party” problem! This is totally going on the menu. :)

  15. Deb this looks AMAZING. I’m just praying there will still be peas at the greenmarket when I get there in a few hours so I can make this!

  16. Ms. S

    Gosh dang! That is an awesomely cute picture of your little shnookums. Those chubby splayed legs! Pure delight. And the pea photos are really pretty too. I have a favorite easy-peasy summer barbeque salad that’s a hit wherever I bring it … it’s maybe a lil’ bit trailer park, but scrumptious. Cold peas, chopped scallions, chopped fire roasted red pepper (or pimento), chopped celery, and Tillamook cheddar chopped in little pea-sized cubes. Bind with a little mayo/sour cream combo and then right before serving throw in some crisply-fried chopped bacon. Oh my!

  17. pam

    looks fabulous! and until i tried Trader Joe’s frozen peas, i wasn’t much of a pea fan either. But fresh…..oh lawdy…have mercy!

  18. This is brilliant, as it is basically hummus, as you say. Chickpeas transmogrified to peas. This is what cooking is all about. I just walked in the door with a pound of fresh peas from the farmer’s market, and am now inspired.

  19. Renee

    Excellent timing. We’ve had peas the past two weeks from our CSA and I’m hoping for more in my basket tomorrow. So delicious!!!!

  20. Oh man, I love peas! But I usually buy them forzen… I have a feeling I wouldn’t love them as much if I had to put so much work into getting them out of the pod!

  21. jen

    Yum, I just made this for dinner. I also have your potato masher, but found the flat side of my chef’s knife did the trick.

  22. I recently fell in love with Mario Batali’s Spring Peas with Mint recipe, and it was so good with the fresh peas, I was curious as to how frozen would hold up. They really weren’t bad if you can’t get fresh ones, but there was a big difference.

  23. NicM

    I only get excited about fresh peas too and I’m always bummed by how short the fresh pea season is. I love to eat them raw but this seems quick enough that I *might* be able to make it before I eat them all! Here’s hoping the farmer’s market has some tomorrow.

  24. WOW that looks good, and I agree with you entirely on the subject of frozen peas vs. fresh. I’d NEVER use frozen peas in my own kitchen.

    This looks like a great recipe and I’ll have to try it with this bunch of sweet peas I got from a friend at church this week. :-D

  25. jenny

    omg, I am a pea FANATIC. love, love, LOVE peas. the sad thing is that I haven’t gotten good fresh peas since moving to boston. (I guess it’s hard to compare any peas with the peas I helped my mom grow when I was a kid in florida.) may have to try this with the petite frozen variety anyway–it looks fantastic!!

  26. Jennie

    Hey Deb, I think it’s your birthday or just was your birthday or very soon will be your birthday — happy birthday! Thanks for all the awesome recipes!!!!

  27. stephanie

    oh god, i hate peas. not as much as soggy greens, but still. boyfriend looks at me with a “really, please?” when i do pick the four peas out of my mexican rice at a restaurant and line them up away from the rest of the food. i love love LOVE pasta primavera but rarely get to have it out because they shove it full of peas. same with cabonera.

    buuuuuut, i did figure out i really like snap peas and peapods and whatnot. (i also love pea soup, but lets face it, they’re cooked to death & for texture and the rest is ham and chicken stock, so.)

    same way i discovered asparagus actually tasted good – when you could get the skinny super fresh stuff and cook it properly! god forbid anyone even show me the canned variety of either ;)

  28. monica

    Oh my armpit! Love it! Frozen peas are the enemy! And later I’ll write a post about the dish if I actually bother to make it and I’ll just hope I’m not out of exclamation points! And by the way, the raspberry-oatmeal squares were a dismal failure!

  29. Funnily enough in England we often prefer the frozen ones because the fresh peas have to be absolutely JUST picked otherwise they are tougher than the frozen ones which are obviously frozen just after picking. As a result you don’t see the fresh ones that often. I do adore them though and of course the shoots too.

  30. VSE

    In praise of frozen peas: Not for eating, but for keeping a bag of them in the freezer to tie around sprained ankles. Bliss at a painful moment. Even two bags, to switch them off once the one thaws. I agree, though, about the delights of fresh peas for eating.

  31. Jacob is so cute! I’d come over an monkey proof your place, except our dog of all people has learned how to get into more things (like stuff on counters) and I’m doing all I can right now to puppy proof our home.

    I do tend to use frozen peas, because even as a vegetarian I find that I am not getting to my vegetables fast enough unless I buy them the day I’m using them. I will have to try this the next time I see fresh peas at the market just to reacquaint my tongue to the differences in fresh and frozen peas.

  32. Susan

    recipes looks yummy but i want to see the baby pics!! how come i don’t see them on this post yet others are commenting?? love, love , love your site!!!!

  33. Ooooo! Fresh peas! The tell-tale sign of early summer! What a lovely, healthful and delicious sounding dish. Sadly, I just got back from the farmer’s market WITHOUT peas. I did, however score some incredible squash blossoms for 25 cents each! I’ll have to bookmark this for next week’s trip!

  34. Travels4Food

    Fresh peas are a revelation. Truly – so sweet and green-tasting. Someone wrote an essay on picking the peas, sliding them from their shells while still warm from the sun, and just barely heating them, swirled in a pan with a pat of salted butter, and since then I have swooned over this humble and evanescent crop.

  35. I love fresh peas but its hard to find a dish that keeps their integrity and seems worth shelling all those little buggers. This is the perfect solution! Even if I am not planning to cook anything I love to check in on this site and feel inspired by what you’ve got cookin’. Nice work!

  36. Beth

    I used to have the same problem with my potato masher being used on beans and peas (less mashing action because of the orbs slipping through, because I have the same one as you), but then I found an awesome refried bean masher at a Mexican grocery store near my house, and it works perfectly for this sort of thing. I know they sell different styles of potato mashers, but it’s fun to have a tool made specifically for mashing round things, I don’t know why.

  37. This looks beautiful and a welcome change from hummus. We have also been eating pea shoots, found at the farmers market. Think watercress with an incredible pea flavor. When I do get my hands on fresh shelling peas, they usually don’t make it home from the market, because I can’t keep my kids away!

  38. Fresh peas from the garden are truly beautiful, but I agree, there is a real lack of pea-inspriation out there in the cookbook world. This recipe sounds delightful.. sort of exotic looking and sounding with the flat bread wedges and tahini. Nice to have a SK original recipe for a vegetable I’m harvesting right now. Many thanks.

  39. I agree with you completely about the fresh peas: I almost detest peas if they have been frozen or canned, but any dish with fresh peas seems to have a life of its own and it is a completely different experience eating it! One of my favorite things to do with fresh peas is make a big batch of soup. :)

  40. Sandra Blackburn

    Mine didn’t turn out as pretty as yours, but it was lovely! Perfect side with husband’s lovely seared duck and mushroom risotto. Thank you, Deb!

  41. Sarah

    I just tried this recipe with the addition of avocado, it was amazing…it’s so good on fresh hot naan! It seems like a very versitle dish, thanks for posting this one!

  42. I made your recipe for marshmallows and thought they were better than ones I had made before. I think the egg whites make a difference. Anyways, we used them for gourmet s’mores for my Dads 75th birthday party and everyone loved them, and this is a tough group regarding food and wine. I posted and linked to you, though I rewrote to simplify.

  43. Beautiful. I love fresh peas and hope that one day (when I am not living on the 36th floor) I will be able to grow them myself. They taste great in a zingy spring greens mixture that I usually put on a mezze plate.

    Another thing I really like about your recipe is that it uses tahini. Often when I buy some to make hummus I have to invent a lot of ways to keep using it so I get through the rest of the jar. :-)

  44. Inge

    I don’t defrost my peas before cooking them for a few minutes, and they’re always nice and sweet with a great crunch. Maybe you want to try that next time, so you can also make this delicious looking recipe when fresh peas aren’t available!

  45. Yay power cords! Jacob is seriously the most adorable baby I have ever seen.

    I’ve never been much of a pea person (like you, I generally only like them in Indian food) but fresh peas really are delicious. I’ll have to stop by the local farmer’s market to see if they have any, and then try this dish. It looks like a great appetizer.

  46. TastesLikeBurning

    After reading this post I literally went immediately to the kitchen and made this dish. Unfortunately I didn’t have yogurt so I used olive oil (even though you advised against again :-) and added some shaved parmesan. It was crazy good! I’m obsessed with fresh peas right now since they have them at my farmer’s market already shelled. I was looking for new ways to use them so this recipe was perfect. First time commenter and I absolutely love your blog!

  47. Laura

    I made this today as fortune would have it, had just purchased fresh english peas from the market!!!!

    Amazing, amazing, oh gloriously amazing!!!!!! I added the wasabi for an extra kick and ooooh keep me from licking the bowl!!!! Again just AMAZING!!!!!!!!!!

  48. Stephanie

    Jenny, you’ve got to get to the farmer’s markets or a CSA–you can get peas in Boston! If you truly can’t find them this summer, I understand you can plant them in August for a September harvest.
    Ours never really make it into a dish, though. I give them to the kids to shell for me, and they eat 80% of them. They don’t know I do it on purpose! If they leave me any when I finally get some, I’ll make this!

    And those Pulkeys!

  49. Valerie

    Hey Deb, these looks totally tempting and I don’t mind eating them all up. I am weird, I love peas even frozen! haha Do you have a guide to shell fava? I heard it is a lot of work but need some guidance.

  50. More than the recipe, the photography is making me drool. In our Indian recipe blog we are trying to get a decent photographer to take a few photos like these. BTW, peas are best taken green and raw, IMO.

  51. Lisa

    I share your opinion of peas, but don’t think I could try this. The peas in the pod look good though.
    Has Jacob found the pretty lights and switches on the computer tower or the surge protector yet?? My little one LOVES to “touch” those!

  52. NicM

    The farmer’s market had the first peas of the season so I tried this out last night and it was fabulous! So quick and easy to make, really tasty, and I love that the sauce overpower the flavor of the peas or render them unhealthy.

  53. Deb, I am a “pea-eater” and I say this looks fabulous! Unfortunately, I didn’t have my act together at pea-planting time this year so I’m missing the pleasure of picking my own. Of course, when I DO pick my own, they never make it to the kitchen!

  54. I’m a strange one- I ABSOLUTELY LOVE PEAS. My friends says it’s a betrayal to our non-pea-loving-generation. whatever, they’re sweet, yummy and creamy. love what you’ve done with them.

  55. Elyssa

    I made this tonight, with just a few minor tweaks:
    1. added 1/2 tsp. sesame oil to the dressing
    2. toasted the cumin and paprika in a skillet for a few minutes before adding them to the dressing
    3. Instead of blanching the peas, I sauteed them in coconut oil with some baby swiss chard, and then I served the whole thing over quinoa.
    4. For a garnish of sorts, I sauteed 1/2 c. of panko with a teaspoon of maple syrup until it got nice and crunchy (then sprinkled it over the peas and quinoa).

    Holy moly, the flavor! Phenomenal. Thanks, Deb!

  56. CCL

    Does anyone know if this will keep overnight? I’m going to an outdoor concert tomorrow after work and would like to make this to take along. I would have to make it tonight though and I’m wondering if it will keep.

  57. Eileen

    I was going to skip this recipe even though I like peas. Then I decided to get rid of a bag of peas that had been sitting in the freezer. My peas were a little old, but the dressing is fantastic, easy and not heavy because of the yogurt…had the smoked paprika, a definite keeper…takes about 90 seconds to make. I used my hand blender on the peas as my potato masher didn’t want to do the job. Thanks for this recipe and the many others that I have tried from this blog. Great site and the photos of your son are always an extra treat. All kids are cute, but it is true, your little guy is way cuter!

  58. Elizabeth E.

    Holy cow, Deb, delish!

    I made a few adjustments that don’t seem to have hurt my version at all:
    1 lb bag of frozen peas (doubled the recipe since this was just about 3 cups of peas)
    I used low-far greek yogurt which made the dressing very thick. So I pureed the dressing in the food processor with the peas and it came out like a thick spread or dip.
    I also doubled up the salt and completely forgot to add the scallions. Oops. Just realized that.
    But, yum!

  59. Elizabeth

    Delish! Make your life easier…use a food processor and take out scoops after a bit of pulsing for the perfect consistency:)

  60. Deb–I made this last night for an Asian-themed party. It was a HUGE hit. So different, but full of familiar flavors. Everyone (especially me) loved it.

  61. Joelle

    Hi Deb,

    Any suggestions for turning this into a full meal? I have a bag from the farmer’s market that I was going to turn into tuna salad, but this has potential…if I can mix it with pasta, or serve it on rice, or with couscous…ideas? Or is it really a pita thing?

  62. I made this for my dad who never touched anything green with a ten foot pole. He loved it and so did everyone else in the house. I made it my first go just as you did. But on my second go I added sliced up sugar snap peas and a bit more green onion. It was a smash. The extra peas made it just that much more cool, crisp, and refreshing. Thanks for the great idea. It’s sure to become a summer staple for me.

  63. Yum. I hate peas, but planted two patches in my garden because everyone says that fresh, they’re so good. I’ll have to try this after the harvest next month. It just might save peas for me.

  64. Sally

    Made this and LOVED it. Elizabeth (#119) – thanks for the great tip about processing the peas – worked wonderfully. I used the leftover dressing for a salad. THANKS!

  65. Beautiful recipe and photos.. {especially the one with all the little peas in their pods} Sounds so good with the spices and sesame flavour YUM!Will have to wait until spring, here in the southern hemisphere, so I can try this with fresh sweet new peas!!

  66. kcsnedah

    I thought I hated peas. No, I hate disgusting tinny canned peas. I love frozen peas in salad and pasta, but fresh are best out of the pod. But this. THIS. Deb, this is ridiculous. How I ever lived my life before this site and recipe, I just don’t know. Thank God that dark dreary period in my life is over.

    People, MAKE THIS.

  67. TuscanyCook

    What a fantastic recipe! I am growing some dwarf pea plants that are small enough to grow well in an indoor pot. I love snacking on fresh, raw peas and I thought that this would be an interesting and fun appetizer to put out when guests come over. (Pick your pea pod, shell it, eat it.) Anyway – if I can grow enough peas I will absoutely make this!

  68. SP

    Perfect last-minute appetizer for guests. I didn’t have yogurt so, subbed olive oil and, it was fine (didn’t curdle at all actually!).

  69. Heidi

    I just planted 800 pea plants in the garden and, as a future newb to fresh pea eating, I realized I need to test drive some recipes! Will try this out with frozen peas first. I figure it will only be more delicious with fresh peas. Thanks much!

  70. Mariam Emneina

    YUM!!!!! I am literallly eating these as I am typing. They are delicious! Found it on Lauren Conrad’s blog!!

  71. Janette

    As a devout pea lover, I had to try this. It was divine! I only had frozen peas, but it was still so light and refreshing; the perfect spring/summer appetizer. I added a little too much lemon juice, but it didn’t hurt it. I served on Trader Joe’s garlic naan (added olive oil to the bread right out of the oven when I forgot the note about oil curdling the dressing, but it didn’t hurt it)…

  72. Jason

    The lesson here I guess is that I need to eat fresh peas already. I eat frozen peas regularly, though like a lot of people I’m not crazy about them. I tried this recipe with a bag of frozen peas and it tasted like…frozen peas with tahini sauce. If I try this with frozen peas again I’ll skip the smoked paprika and scallions and add a ton of garlic. Can’t go wrong with garlic in a tahini sauce.

  73. rob

    out of 136 comments, about 4 people actually made the recipe. i’d prefer hearing people’s experience making and their reaction to eating the dish. friendly chit-chat can be included. tx, rob ;)

  74. Jennifer

    This was delicious. I found it lacking the lemon zing so I added some zest. That was perfect! I was also put of pita so I toasted lavash sprinkled with thyme infused coarse salt. It was great!

  75. I’ve made this recipe many times and love it as is, or lately with a little crispy bacon on top. I just pulled up the last of my pea plants and made a little batch to feature on my own blog (with credit to you of course.) Thanks for this and many other inspirations!

  76. Jess

    I made this on Sunday and it was my first time cooking with fresh peas – I quite enjoyed the shelling process! I only used 1 tbsp tahini as my other half isn’t a huge fan, but it didn’t seem to make too much difference as it was still a really delicious dish with just a hint of sesame! Thanks Deb!

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  78. Kate

    How much does this make? I’m planning to make this for an event I’m hosting and am not sure if I need to double or triple!

  79. Amanda

    I started reading through the comments and realized no one has actually made this?! What a shame! This is such a delightful recipe, even though I felt rather silly while trying to mash tiny peas. The dressing is divine; I could eat it from a spoon. I followed the recipe exactly, except for (very carefully) cooking my peas from frozen. Smoked paprika is a must. I was tempted to add garlic, but I’m glad I didn’t. It’s absolutely perfect as it is.

  80. Bridgit

    Made this with some over ripe sugar snap peas- some needed to be shelled. The ones that didn’t need to be shelled, I chopped on an angle. Served with feta and hard boiled egg for lunch. Delicious.

  81. Molly

    Having read this site for nearly as long as it’s been in existence – and even combed through the archives of the precursor to this site – it’s always a fun to find something new. Plus, your food aversions amuse me to no end (WHEN will you realize beets are delicious?!?). So, to learn today that you’ve never been a big fan of peas is truly shocking. You have so many pea recipes!?! Famous ones even – – the frozen tortellini/prosciutto/pea recipe is truly one for the ages! We’re having it tonight! Maybe you’ve come around to peas over the years. Still waiting for that phenomena to hit with beets. I can’t wait for all your beet recipes once you discover you love them.