Sugar Snap Peas with Fennel and Pine Nuts

Sugar snap peas with fennel and pine nuts are a bit of an upgrade from the same-old side dish. Lemon, garlic, and chile flakes round out the flavor profile, giving your dinner a definite touch of the unexpected.

A metal wok filled with halved snap peas, sprinkled with fennel, pine nuts, and lemon zest, with a wooden spoon.

Adapted from America’s Test Kitchen | The Side Dish Bible | America’s Test Kitchen, 2019

Sugar snap peas are a cross between English peas and snow peas. They have sweet, crisp edible pods with small juicy peas inside. To ensure that the pods and their peas cooked through at the same rate, we used a hybrid method to steam the sugar snap peas briefly before quickly sautéing them; the trapped steam transferred heat more efficiently than air, so the peas cooked through faster.

Don’t substitute ground fennel for the fennel seeds in this recipe. You will need a 12-inch skillet with a tightfitting lid for this recipe.–America’s Test Kitchen

Sugar Snap Peas with Fennel and Pine Nuts

A metal wok filled with halved snap peas, sprinkled with fennel, pine nuts, and lemon zest, with a wooden spoon.
Cutting the sugar snap peas in half reduced the cooking time, so the pods retained more of their snap, and as a bonus, the pockets captured the seasonings rather than letting them slide to the bottom of the platter. Sprinkling the snap peas with a dukkah-like mix of finely chopped pine nuts, fennel seeds, and seasonings dressed up this simple preparation with distinct (but not overwhelming) flavor and crunch.

Prep 15 mins
Cook 10 mins
Total 25 mins
4 servings
107 kcal
5 from 1 vote
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  • 3 tablespoons pine nuts*
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest preferably organic
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 2 teaspoons mild vegetable oil
  • 12 ounces sugar snap peas strings removed, halved crosswise on bias
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 garlic clove minced
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil


  • In a 12-inch (30-cm) skillet over medium heat, toast pine nuts, stirring frequently, until just starting to brown, 1 1/2 to 3 minutes. Add fennel seeds and continue to toast, stirring constantly, until pine nuts are lightly browned and fennel is fragrant, 30 to 60 seconds.
  • Move the pine nut mixture to the cutting board. Sprinkle lemon zest, salt, and pepper flakes over pine nut mixture. Chop mixture until finely minced and well combined.
  • In the same skillet over medium heat, warm oil until it shimmers. Add snap peas and water, cover immediately and cook for 2 minutes. Uncover, add garlic, and continue to cook, stirring frequently, until moisture has evaporated, and snap peas are bright green and crisp-tender, about 2 minutes.
  • Remove from the heat, stir in basil and three-quarters of the pine nut mixture. Arrange snap peas on a platter and sprinkle with remaining pine nut mixture. Serve.
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*What are pine nuts?

Has it ever occurred to you? What a pine nut truly is? It’s actually a seed, found inside those little points on pine cones. Right? It’s the nut of the pine tree. That’s also why they can be pretty expensive–imagine having to harvest those tiny little seeds from pinecones. And they’re typically harvested by hand, making it all the more time consuming. After they’ve been harvested, the second, inner shell has to be removed as well. What remains are the small, ivory colored, elongated seeds that have a sweet, buttery flavor. They’re often toasted to bring out more flavor.

Show Nutrition

Serving: 1servingCalories: 107kcal (5%)Carbohydrates: 8g (3%)Protein: 4g (8%)Fat: 7g (11%)Saturated Fat: 2g (13%)Polyunsaturated Fat: 3gMonounsaturated Fat: 2gSodium: 296mg (13%)Potassium: 232mg (7%)Fiber: 3g (13%)Sugar: 4g (4%)Vitamin A: 1025IU (21%)Vitamin C: 52mg (63%)Calcium: 49mg (5%)Iron: 2mg (11%)

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Recipe Testers’ Reviews

This recipe for sugar snap peas with fennel and pine nuts is one of those simple side dishes that really highlight the seasonal vegetables on hand. In fact, I can see this being a delicious ingredient mix for sautéed asparagus, broccoli, snow peas or even sliced zucchini. The snap peas were still a bit crunchy but tender which is wonderful, and the dukkah-like mixture added extra crunch as well as a pop of flavor which was lovely.

This is not your typical sugar snap peas recipe! These sugar snap peas with fennel and pine nuts were gourmet sugar snap peas packed with so many delicious flavors. The toasted pine nuts, fennel seeds and grated lemon zest, gave this dish such a deep, earthy, savory flavor. The toasted pine nuts added a wonderful smoky flavor and crunchy texture to this dish. 

I would have never thought to add fennel seeds to sugar snap peas, but it worked so well. The fennel seeds added a mild licorice flavor, which when combined with the toasted pine nuts and grated lemon zest, gave this dish an Italian like flavor profile. The red pepper flakes added a subtle hint of spiciness. The red pepper flakes and basil combined, created a Thai like flavor profile. This was a very flavorful dish, that was also surprisingly so quick and easy to make.  Can't wait to make this recipe again.

Originally published August 6, 2021


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