Sweet (or garden) peas are a quick and easy family favorite and something you can always have to hand in the form of frozen or canned peas.
But the question is, although frozen and canned peas are easy to store and have a long shelf-life, does this come at a cost when it comes to nutrition, or are they just as good as fresh peas straight from the pod?
The short answer is that fresh peas are higher in most vitamins and minerals than frozen and canned peas, and they also have more sugars, making them sweeter in flavor. The next best option is frozen peas, which retain more nutrients than canned peas.
The differences between the three kinds of peas are interesting if you see them compared side-by-side, so read on to see exactly why fresh is best when it comes to peas.
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Fresh Vs. Canned & Frozen – Nutritional Comparison
Starting with the nutrition comparison and to keep things as consistent and accurate as possible, I’ve used data from the USDA FoodData Central (links to the source data are at the bottom of this page).
The kinds of peas I’m comparing are cooked fresh and frozen peas and drained canned peas, all of which have no added salt, sugar, or fat (although some brands of canned peas do contain sugar and/or salt).
The comparison is weight-for-weight using data for 100g of each kind of pea.
Although fresh, frozen, and canned sweet (or garden) peas are all kinds of the same pea, surprisingly, each one has a different calorific value.
UDSA data confirms that fresh peas are slightly higher in calories at 84kcal per 100g, followed by frozen peas, which contain 78kcal and canned peas, which have 69kcal.
|Sweet/Garden Pea Type||Calories Per 100g|
Why is There a Calorie Difference?
This difference is due to a few factors, including water content and carbohydrate content. Fresh peas are higher in carbs, sugars, and fiber which all contribute to them being slightly higher in calories while also being higher in vitamins and minerals.
Fresh peas are firmer in texture and contain the least amount of water of the three at 77.7g of water per 100g, followed by frozen peas, which contain 79.5g, and canned peas, which contain 81.7g of water.
This confirms that sweet peas’ freezing and canning process leads to some water absorption into the pea.
The table below shows the nutritional comparison between fresh, frozen, and canned peas, and as you can see, nutrients reduce the more processed the peas become.
Fresh peas retain more nutrients than frozen and canned peas, including carbohydrates, sugars, fiber, and protein. However, in most categories, there isn’t much difference between fresh and frozen peas, making frozen an excellent alternative to fresh.
Because of the way canned peas are cooked and processed, they contain fewer carbs, sugars, fiber, and protein than fresh peas.
|Nutrition Type||Fresh Peas||Frozen Peas||Canned Peas|
|of Which are Sugars||5.89g||4.4g||4.16g|
|of Which is Saturated Fat||–||–||–|
Vitamins & Minerals Comparison
The table below shows that fresh peas contain higher amounts of vitamins and minerals than canned and frozen peas in most categories; however, frozen peas are higher in some nutrients and retain more vitamins and minerals than canned peas.
This shows that the more processed the peas become, the more vitamins and minerals they lose along the way.
|Vitamin/Mineral Type||Fresh Peas||Frozen Peas||Canned Peas|
*mcg = microgram (1000th of a milligram) / mg = milligram (1000th of a gram)
Fresh Vs. Frozen and Canned Peas Uses Comparison
Fresh, frozen, and canned peas can all be used as an alternative to each other as a side vegetable dish.
If you’re using peas as part of a recipe, then frozen peas can easily replace fresh peas in any situation, although you might need to cook them first.
Canned peas don’t always work as a replacement in fresh or frozen peas recipes because they have a different flavor and higher water content. It’s also worth checking added ingredients such as salt and sugar because this might alter the recipe or finished flavor of the dish.
Fresh, Frozen, and Canned Peas Preparation Differences
Each kind of pea requires different preparation and cooking times, each of which is covered below:
Fresh sweet (or garden) peas are generally sold in the pod to keep them as fresh as possible, which means they require more preparation before cooking than frozen and canned peas.
Each pea pod will contain an average of 5-7 peas (sometimes more or less), so if you’re looking for enough peas to feed a family, you will need many pea pods to yield enough peas. This means that extra preparation time is required compared to frozen and canned peas that are ready-prepared.
Podding peas is a relaxing and rewarding kitchen task if you have the time, especially if you’ve homegrown the peas yourself.
Fresh peas only take around 2-3 minutes to cook in boiling water, and the less they’re cooked, the more vitamins and minerals they will retain.
Frozen shelled peas don’t require any preparation and can be tipped straight into a pan of boiling water from frozen.
In most cases, frozen peas are quickly pre-blanched before freezing to make them easier to cook when you’re ready to use them.
Because they’re so cold, frozen peas will drop the temperature of the water in the pan, so once it’s boiling again, the peas will take around 2-3 minutes to heat through properly.
Like frozen peas, canned peas require little preparation and just need to be drained before heating through.
Canned peas are already cooked, so they just need to be warmed through in a pan of water or a microwave.
Storage & Availability
Although fresh peas are delicious, they’re not always available because they’re seasonal and aren’t stocked in all grocery stores. This is why frozen and canned peas are a useful alternative if peas are a staple vegetable in your household.
When it comes to storage, fresh peas can be stored in the refrigerator for up to a week depending on when they were picked, whereas frozen peas can be kept in the freezer for 12 months, and canned peas can be stored up to their use by date which is around 2-3years.
So for storage length, canned peas are the winner, followed by frozen peas and then fresh, although fresh peas can be blanched and frozen to make them last up to a year.
Best for Flavor/Texture
When it comes to finding out the best kind of peas for flavor and texture, this is a personal preference that can only be discovered by holding a poll to get a general public opinion.
Please help us out by voting for your favorite kind of sweet/garden peas (fresh, frozen, or canned), and once you vote, the winner so far will be revealed.
We’ve had a lot of pea comparisons and data to digest, so here’s a summary of the main points from this article:
- Fresh peas contain the most calories per 100g, followed by frozen peas and canned peas, which contain the least.
- Fresh peas contain the most vitamins and minerals, followed closely by frozen peas and canned.
- Frozen peas make an excellent alternative to fresh peas because they’re nutritionally similar and easy to use.
- Fresh peas in the pod require the most preparation; they’re seasonal and not always widely available.
- Frozen and canned peas are better options for long-term storage and quick preparation.
- Canned peas taste a little different from fresh and frozen peas and have a higher water content, which means they might not be suitable for some recipes.
So it really depends on your needs; fresh peas are slightly better nutritionally, whereas frozen peas are a better option for ease of use and storage while being more similar to fresh peas than the canned version.
More Fresh Vs. Frozen & Canned Peas FAQs
According to USDA data, fresh peas contain slightly more vitamins and minerals than frozen peas in most nutritional categories. However, the difference is small and frozen peas still make a great alternative to fresh peas and are easier to prepare.
Frozen peas can be substituted for frozen peas in most situations, although you might need to defrost and dry them before use for some recipes.
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References Used for this Article
To ensure the nutritional information used in this article is accurate, I have used data from The UDSA FoodData Central; the links below contain the source information: