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How Do I Cook Black-Eyed Peas?

Lee Johnson
Lee Johnson

To cook black-eyed peas, boil them in water for 45 to 90 minutes. They do not need to be pre-soaked, like many other dried beans, and it is not advisable to cook them in a pressure cooker. Black-eyed peas are traditionally cooked on New Year’s Day in a dish called Hoppin’ John. They are also commonly included in salads and in rice dishes. Boil them in a saucepan to cook, or alternatively, they can be cooked in the oven.

Originating from Africa, black-eyed peas are related to the cowpea. They first reached America in the 17th century, and are believed to have first appeared in Virginia. They take their name from the black, eye-shaped oval that appears on each pale yellow bean. As with other dried beans, they swell when cooked, which is believed by some to symbolize prosperity. This had led some people to believe that black-eyes peas are a lucky food.

Assorted beans, including black-eyed peas on the lower right.
Assorted beans, including black-eyed peas on the lower right.

Most dried beans are cooked in the same way, by boiling them in water for around an hour. Several types of beans, such as butter beans, garbanzo beans and cannellini beans require soaking prior to cooking. Black-eyed peas are not included in this group, which makes cooking them a more simple process than that for many other beans. To correctly determine the amount of dried beans to include in a recipe or dish, the chef should remember that dried beans roughly triple in size when cooked. One dried cup of beans will become three cups of beans when cooked.

Boiling is the most common method of cooking dried beans such as black-eyed peas. Cooks are advised to use a cast aluminum, stainless steel or cast iron pan to cook the beans. The beans can be placed into a pan filled with cold water and then put over the heat. When the water begins to boil, the chef should turn the heat down and allow them to simmer for around an hour. Foam often appears on the surface of the water when beans are cooked, and this should be skimmed off before a pan lid is added.

Black-eyed peas sometimes cook after 45 minutes in the simmering water, so the chef is advised to check the consistency of the beans at this point. When cooked, a dried bean will mash easily between the fingers or underneath a fork. If there is resistance, the chef should allow them to cook for an additional 15 minutes and check again. Beans should never be seasoned with salt prior to boiling, as this can slow the cooking process.

Discussion Comments

This wouldn't apply to someone who is vegan or vegetarian, obviously, but I've never seen or heard of black-eyed peas cooked without using a little "side meat." That can be a piece of bacon, ham hock, pork knuckle or similar, but this gives the peas a smoky flavor that nothing else does. I’m surprised the article didn’t even mention it as an alternative flavoring method. You brown it in the pot in a little oil before you add the water and peas.

And, there is a lively debate on whether adding salt before boiling does delay cooking. I don't see how it could, but some cooks swear it does. Of course, if side meat is added, then the salt in it would also add some salt to the peas.

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    • Assorted beans, including black-eyed peas on the lower right.
      By: tfazevedo
      Assorted beans, including black-eyed peas on the lower right.