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

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

Sugar Snap Peas with Fennel and Pine Nuts

5 from 1 vote
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.
David Leite
Servings4 servings
Calories107 kcal
Prep Time15 minutes
Cook Time10 minutes
Total Time25 minutes


  • 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.


*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.
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Serving: 1 servingCalories: 107 kcalCarbohydrates: 8 gProtein: 4 gFat: 7 gSaturated Fat: 2 gPolyunsaturated Fat: 3 gMonounsaturated Fat: 2 gSodium: 296 mgPotassium: 232 mgFiber: 3 gSugar: 4 gVitamin A: 1025 IUVitamin C: 52 mgCalcium: 49 mgIron: 2 mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

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Recipe © 2019 America’s Test Kitchen. Photo © 2019 America’s Test Kitchen. All rights reserved.

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.

This combination of sugar snap peas and fresh basil encompasses how a summer vegetable should taste! Fresh, sweet, aromatic and delicious! I’m always on the hunt for new ways to prepare a fresh vegetable. When I saw this recipe for sugar snap peas with fennel and pine nuts, I was convinced to try it since sugar snap peas are a staple at my local summer farmer’s market. I’m not a big fan of fennel and was a little hesitant on this addition (plus it was the only ingredient that I did not have on hand) But I went and bought some fennel seeds and I’m glad I did. Once the seeds were toasted with the pine nuts and combined with the other ingredients it was a delicious aromatic addition to the dukkah-like mixture. I would suggest making up the nut and fennel mixture ahead of time because you should to cook the peas right before serving, making this an “easy peasy” vegetable! I would think this delicious dukkah-like mix would be a great addition to many fresh vegetables. This recipe easily serves four, was a thumbs up by my husband and a wonderful accompaniment to a grilled salmon entree.

About David Leite

David Leite has received three James Beard Awards for his writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. His work has appeared in The New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Saveur, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Yankee, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and more.

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