Snow peas can be eaten raw or cooked. Cooking snow peas enhances their flavor and makes them softer and easier to chew. However, cooking too long can make them mushy. Brief cooking methods like steaming, sautéing or blanching are best for preserving texture while bringing out flavor. Raw snow peas make a nice crunchy addition to salads and slaws.
Do You Have To Cook Snow Peas?
Snow peas, also called Chinese pea pods, do not need to be cooked to be edible. In fact, snow peas are often consumed raw in applications like:
- Salads – Thinly sliced or whole snow peas add crunch to leafy green, pasta or grain-based salads.
- Spring rolls – Snow peas are commonly used fresh and uncooked in rice paper spring rolls.
- Sides – Whole raw snow peas make a nice fresh veggie side next to dip.
- Slaws – Shredded raw snow peas pair well with napa cabbage in Asian-style slaws.
The edible pods have a crunchy texture and sweet, mild pea flavor when raw. They maintain a high level of crispness when served chilled or at room temperature.
So snow peas certainly don’t require cooking. However, cooking does offer some benefits:
Benefits of cooking snow peas
- Enhanced flavor – Cooking concentrates the sweetness of the peas and brings out their flavor.
- Softer texture – Heat softens the fibrous pods so they’re easier to chew and digest.
- Vegetable melding – Cooking snow peas with complementary ingredients allows the flavors to mingle.
- Warming effect – Hot cooked snow peas provide comfort on cold days or with hearty meals.
- Increased digestibility – Heat breaks down fiber and anti-nutrients like phytic acid.
For these reasons, snow peas are very commonly cooked before being eaten. But it’s not an absolute requirement for edibility.
Best Cooking Methods for Snow Peas
When cooking snow peas, the goal is to heat them while preserving their bright green color, crunchy-crisp texture and fresh pea flavor as much as possible.
Some suitable cooking methods include:
Steaming is one of the best techniques for cooking snow peas. The moist heat quickly penetrates the pods to heat and soften them, while the short cooking time preserves their color and crunchy texture.
Steam snow peas for just 1-2 minutes until bright green and heated through but still crunchy. Season with a little salt, pepper, butter or oil after steaming.
Stir-frying in a wok or skillet is a fast, hot cooking method well-suited for snow peas. Cook for 1-3 minutes over high heat while tossing and flipping constantly.
To stir-fry, heat a small amount of vegetable oil in the pan until very hot. Add snow peas and stir-fry until they turn bright green. Season as desired.
Sautéing snow peas in a pan with a small amount of oil or butter concentrates their flavor. Sauté over medium-high heat for 2-4 minutes until crispy-tender.
Blanching involves briefly boiling snow peas in salted water for just 30 seconds up to 2 minutes. Then shock them in ice water to stop the cooking. This helps enhance their color and flavor while maintaining a crisp bite.
Roasting brings out the natural sweetness of snow peas. Toss whole pods with oil and roast at 400°F for 7-10 minutes, flipping halfway through. Watch closely to avoid overcooking.
How Long to Cook Snow Peas
Snow peas cook very quickly. Different cooking methods call for slightly different cooking times:
- Steaming: 1-2 minutes
- Stir-frying: 1-3 minutes
- Sautéing: 2-4 minutes
- Blanching: 30 seconds to 2 minutes
- Roasting: 7-10 minutes at 400°F
Regardless of technique, take care not to overcook snow peas. They quickly go from tender-crisp to unpleasantly mushy and soggy if cooked too long.
You can tell snow peas are done when they turn bright green and are heated through but still retain a crunchy bite. Taste as you cook to monitor texture. Err on the side of slightly underdone when uncertain.
Can You Eat Snow Peas Raw?
Yes, snow peas are perfectly safe and edible to eat raw. Their edible pods have a pleasant texture and mild flavor that pairs well with dips, salads, slaws and spring rolls without cooking.
Benefits of eating raw snow peas include:
- Crunchy texture adds interest to dishes
- Fresh pea flavor unaltered by cooking
- Nutrients are retained rather than diminished by heat
- Quick and easy preparation; no cooking required
- Low in calories; good for dieters
To prepare raw snow peas:
- Rinse snow peas under cool water.
- Snap off the stem and “tail” at the ends.
- Leave whole or slice thinly on the diagonal.
Then enjoy them crisp and fresh in items like:
- Spring rolls
- As crudités
- Stir fries
Chilling raw snow peas helps them retain maximum crispness. Their delicate texture stands up well to lighter dressings, like squeezed citrus, vinaigrettes and tahini.
So feel free to enjoy snow peas raw or cooked to suit your recipe and preferences! Brief cooking brings out their flavor, but isn’t essential for edibility if you prefer them crunchy.
Snow Pea Nutrition
Snow peas are low in calories and pack a nutritious punch, whether eaten raw or cooked.
One cup (71g) of raw snow peas contains (1):
|Vitamin A||15% DV|
|Vitamin K||22% DV|
Snow peas also contain antioxidants like carotenoids and phenolic acids (2).
Steaming snow peas for a very short time (1-2 minutes) helps retain most of their moisture-soluble vitamins like vitamin C and B vitamins. Longer cooking diminishes these heat-sensitive nutrients (3).
So for maximum nutrition, enjoy snow peas raw, steam lightly or stir-fry briefly to preserve nutrients. Overcooking degrades both texture and nutrition.
Selecting Snow Peas
Look for snow peas that are:
- Green and crisp looking
- Free of brown spots, yellowing or mushy areas
- Slender and flat with small seeds inside
- Firm with ends and tips still attached
Avoid snow peas that are limp, pitted, bruised or excessively thick and rounded. Thinner pods tend to be more tender.
Choose organic when possible to minimize exposure to pesticides. Refrigerate unwashed snow peas in an air-tight bag for up to 3-5 days. Rinse just before using.
Preparing Snow Peas
Rinse snow peas under cool running water. Gently rub to remove any dirt or debris. Pat dry with a towel.
Use a paring knife to snip off the stem and “tail” at both ends of the pea pod. These are often stringy.
If using in salads, stir-fries or slaws, slice snow peas on a diagonal into thin strips. Leave whole for steaming or roasting.
Some recipes call for quickly blanching snow peas in boiling water for 30-60 seconds, then shocking in ice water. This helps set their green color before further cooking.
Snow Pea Recipes
Snow peas shine in these recipes:
Raw Snow Pea Salads and Sides
- Snow pea salad – Toss sliced snow peas with shredded carrots, sesame seeds, sliced almonds and orange sesame vinaigrette. Let marinate before serving over baby spinach.
- Spring rolls – Fill rice paper wrappers with raw snow peas, carrots, cucumber, mint and vermicelli noodles. Serve with peanut dipping sauce.
- Snow pea slaw – Mix matchstick-cut snow peas with shredded napa cabbage, ginger and rice vinegar dressing. Top tacos or bowls.
Steamed and Stir-Fried Snow Peas
- Sesame snow peas – Steam briefly, then toss while hot with toasted sesame oil, tamari, garlic and sesame seeds.
- Garlic snow peas – Stir-fry with olive oil, minced garlic and a pinch of red pepper flakes.
- Ginger snow peas – Blanch then stir-fry with canola oil, ginger and soy sauce.
Other Snow Pea Dishes
- Snow pea soup – Simmer chicken broth with snow peas, shredded chicken and scallions for an easy soup.
- Beef and snow peas – Stir-fry marinated flank steak strips with snow peas and teriyaki sauce for a quick meal.
- Snow pea pasta – Toss blanched snow peas with whole wheat pasta, lemon, olive oil, basil and parmesan.
With their versatility, mild flavor and crunchy appeal, snow peas are a handy ingredient to keep on hand. Enjoy them raw or cooked to add nutrition and texture to an array of savory dishes and snacks.
Snow peas offer a pleasant crunch and sweet pea flavor either raw or cooked briefly. While cooking via steaming, stir-frying, sautéing or other quick methods brings out their flavors, snow peas can also be eaten raw.
Raw snow peas make a nutritious, low-calorie addition to salads, spring rolls and slaws without requiring any cooking.
Regardless of whether you eat them raw or cooked, snow peas provide vitamin C, A, K and manganese, along with protective antioxidants.
When cooking snow peas, steam, stir-fry or sauté for just 1-4 minutes until bright green and still crisp. Overcooking causes them to become unpleasantly mushy.
Select fresh, green, slender snow peas free of yellowing. Store chilled and rinse just before using. Trim ends before slicing or leaving whole.
With their versatility for cooking or eating raw, snow peas are a tasty and nutritious ingredient to always have on hand.