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What are Mushy Peas?

Tricia Christensen
Updated May 16, 2024
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Mushy peas are a very traditional dish in the UK, appearing as a side dish, a late night snack, a popular choice at food stands, and even as a base for other foods. They are made with dried green peas. These need to be soaked overnight, and then they are cooked down until they resemble a somewhat lumpy porridge. Often mushy pea recipes call for salt and sugar during the cooking process, and many recipes add baking soda, since this dish can cause some people a little stomach discomfort. Most also utilize mint as a flavoring.

Very green mushy peas tend to have green food coloring added. Less processed ones may be a lighter green or even gray in color. Many like a vivid green, so they resort to food coloring to produce verdant shades. As a side dish, you’ll see this dish served with different types of pub grub, particularly fish and chips, and pasties.

In different regions of England, mushy peas may form the base for other foods. For instance, residents of Northwest England may serve them with fried eggs on top. Some parts of England pride themselves on mushy pea fritters. The cooked down peas are added to batter and fried to a crisp. You also might see very thick pea porridge spread on toast.

There are a couple or recipes that substitute black peas for the more traditional marrowfat peas. This substitution is most popular in Lancashire, and black or parched mushy peas are usually eaten with salt and vinegar, very much like fish and chips are eaten. Regular mushy pea recipes usually add butter, and salt and pepper instead of vinegar and salt for seasoning.

Marrowfat peas can be a bit challenging to find in the US, though you can buy imports on the Internet. You can even buy canned mushy peas from either international grocery stores or on the Internet if you don’t want to go to the trouble of making them yourself. Since they’re not a common vegetable side dish in the US, it might be worth giving these a try, particularly if you’re serving something traditionally British like fish and chips.

DelightedCooking is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen , Writer
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a DelightedCooking contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.

Discussion Comments

By anon166556 — On Apr 09, 2011

Thanks UK male, been looking for this recipe for ages. everyone else wants to use frozen peas. Yuck. I will enjoy it tomorrow with fish and chips. I like to add a dash of vinegar at the end of cooking. thanks again.

By anon118977 — On Oct 16, 2010

P.S. He always made them in the traditional fashion; soaking overnight and adding sugar & salt. Yummy!

By anon118976 — On Oct 16, 2010

My late father used to make mushy peas, Saveloys and mashed potato. Delicious! I am about to attempt to replicate the recipe. Fingers crossed.

By anon37073 — On Jul 16, 2009

Mushy peas are great on the side with Irish Potato wedges (Helmann's mayo's Ireland site do a good version of them). You can get Batchelors Marrow Fat peas all over NYC and the tri-state area in Irish grocery and import shops. If they don't regularly stock them, try asking shopkeeper to order them for you. Oisin, From Ireland (presently on Long Island)

By UKmale — On Mar 12, 2009

*Do not, I repeat do not* consider tinned mushy peas as mushy peas, they are horrible, over sweet with sugar and far too green(almost luminous). For good mushy peas you need either Lockwoods frozen ones or make them yourself using dried Marrowfat peas soaked in water with a teaspoon of bicarbonated soda over night, then drained and boiled in water, approx 1" above the peas in the pan, cook for about 45 mins and stir constantly as they thicken, do not let them burn, they will then taste awful and the washing up will take an age. If you can not do this *do not consider the tinned ones, they are a sad and sorry excuse for mushy peas.*

Tricia Christensen

Tricia Christensen


With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a DelightedCooking contributor, Tricia...
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