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The cowpea, also called field pea, is a legume usually cultivated for its seeds.[1]



The bean mutates easily, giving rise to a number of varieties with different sizes, textures, colors, and flavors.[2][3] The black-eyed pea is one of the most common,[1] with a tan base and little black splotch. Red peas also have a little "eye", but their base color is red or orange.[4] They have a more robust flavor and are firmer, holding up better to prolonged cooking.[4] Pink-eyed/purple-hulled peas have purple pods, and the beans have a pinkish splotch on a light green background.[5] Their flavor is slightly grassier.[2][5] Cream peas are light tan, with a creamy texture that makes them good for mashing.[2][6] Crowder peas have a wide range of colors, from solid black to splotched to speckled, and they are rounded and meaty.[2][3][6] The honey bean or oloyin bean is a brown variety with a slightly sweet taste.[7]



The fresh cowpeas are harvested from summer to mid-fall, which is when they will be available to purchase.[1] When dried or canned, they are typically available year-round.

Selection and storage


Cowpeas are available fresh, dried, or canned.[6] Fresh cowpeas can be stored in the fridge for several days in a perforated container. They can also be blanched and frozen. Dried and canned peas can be stored for extended periods of time at room temperature.



Fresh cowpeas cook quickly, requiring a simmer for only 20–30 minutes to become tender.[3][5] The dried beans will take a little longer.

The heartier varieties of cowpea make an excellent flavorful broth, that can be used for sauces and gravies.[3]

Rice and peas is a popular dish in Jamaica and other Caribbean Islands. In the American South, a variation of this dish is called "Hoppin' John", made of black-eyed or red peas cooked with rice and pork.[4] Texas caviar, another traditional dish in the American South, is a salad made from black-eyed peas marinated in Italian salad dressing and chopped garlic. In Portugal, black-eyed peas are served with boiled cod and potatoes, with tuna, and in salads. In Vietnam, black-eyed peas are used in a sweet dessert called chè đậu trắng (black-eyed peas and sticky rice with coconut milk). In Greece and Cyprus, black-eyed peas are eaten with vegetables, oil, salt, and lemon. In the northern part of Colombia, black-eyed peas are used to prepare a fritter called "buñuelo". The beans are immersed in water for a few hours to loosen their skin and soften the bean. The skins are then removed either by hand or with the help of a manual grinder. Once the skins are removed, the bean is ground or blended, and eggs are added which produces a soft mix. The mix is fried in hot oil. It makes a nutritious breakfast meal.




  1. a b c Nast, Condé (2022-06-30). "Your Guide to Finding, Cooking, and Eating Field Peas". Bon Appétit. Retrieved 2024-05-05.
  2. a b c d Severson, Kim (2015-12-29). "Field Peas, a Southern Good Luck Charm" (in en-US). The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. 
  3. a b c d "Field peas: A summertime classic throughout the South" (in en-US). Washington Post. 2023-04-15. ISSN 0190-8286. 
  4. a b c "The Historic Problem With Hoppin' John". Serious Eats. Retrieved 2024-05-05.
  5. a b c "A Guide To The Different Types Of Field Peas". Southern Living. Retrieved 2024-05-05.
  6. a b c "Cowpea | Iowa State University Extension and Outreach Alternative Agriculture". Retrieved 2024-05-05.
  7. "What Are Honey Beans? - Smallkitchenguide". 2021-08-07. Retrieved 2023-11-23.