Learn how cook dried black eyed peas to prepare them for use in recipes. No need to use canned; black eyed peas do not need to pre-soak, they are one of the easiest beans to prepare! This post will walk you through the process step-by-step, including easy storage and freezing techniques.
Black-eyed peas are culturally and historically significant during the celebration of the New Year for both Sephardic Jews and those living in the American South. The Jewish tradition comes from the Babylonian Talmud in which Abaye lists nine foods that should be eaten during Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. Each food listed is representative of a wish to come in the New Year. The black-eyed peas are said to be a symbol for good fortune for several reasons. In Hebrew and Aramaic they are called “rubiyah” and in Arabic “lubiya”, both related to Hebrew words “l’harabot” and “harbeh” meaning “to increase” and “many.” When you eat black-eyed peas at the Rosh Hashanah Seder, you are inviting wealth and fortune in the coming year. Black-eyed peas are also a reminder to multiply your mitzvot (good deeds) in the coming year.
In the South, black-eyed peas have been a symbol of good fortune since the Civil War. This American tradition originated in West Africa, where black-eyed peas were domesticated over 5,000 years ago. They made their way to America on slave ships, and were planted in the colonies in the early 1700’s. Known then as cowpeas, the plant became an important part of the slave’s diet. During the Civil War, when William Sherman’s troops swept in, destroying and stealing the majority of Southern crops, the black-eyed peas were left behind. Though they may not have been anyone’s first choice, black-eyed peas proved to be an important source of nutrition for the starving Confederate soldiers. Here, black-eyed peas are often eaten with other foods that symbolize growth and wealth. For example, golden cornbread and greens that swell when they are cooked representing both paper money and wealth.
It is possible that these Sephardic and African American traditions commingled during the 18th century, when many Jewish homes in the South had African American cooks. The dish is now popular during both New Year’s Day and Rosh Hashanah celebrations.
Beans and legumes are a great source of fiber, protein, fiber, iron, B vitamins, potassium, magnesium and many other beneficial nutrients. I prefer dried beans over canned for several reasons. They are more economical than canned beans and do not contain the unnecessary additives like sodium. Cooking black-eyed peas is a little different than cooking other dried beans because they don’t require an overnight soak, which can be a great benefit if you are pressed for time. The method below uses a ratio of 10 cups of water per pound of dried black-eyed peas, if you plan to use a different amount, please adjust accordingly using this ratio.
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How to Cook and Freeze Dried Black Eyed Peas
1 hour 30 minutes
DescriptionLearn how to cook dried black eyed peas to prepare them for use in recipes. Includes storage and freezing techniques.
- 1 lb dried black-eyed peas (please refer to instructions below if you plan to cook more or less)
- 10 cups water, plus more for quick soaking
- salt (optional)
You will also need: large pot with lid, colander, freezer bags or containers (optional)
1 pound (16 ounces) of dried black eyed peas = 2.8 pounds (45 ounces) cooked beans, or a little over 5 1/2 cups of cooked beans.
- The method below uses a ratio of 10 cups of water per pound of dried black-eyed peas, if you plan to use a different amount, please adjust accordingly using this ratio.
- Quick soaking your black-eyed peas isn't a must, but I recommend it for speeding up the cooking process. Place your dried peas in a large pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil for 2 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat and allow the peas to soak for 1 hour. You may notice that the water level has decreased and the peas have grown in size, indicating that they have absorbed some of the water. This is a good sign!
- After soaking, drain the peas and give them a good rinse.
- Place the beans in a large pot and cover again with the same ratio of fresh water. It is important to use fresh water for boiling; the soaking water contains oligosaccharides, released from the beans during soaking, that can lead to digestive discomfort. Add salt to the cooking water if desired to give the beans more flavor (I use about 1 tablespoon salt for every 10 cups of water). Place on the stovetop and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Simmer for 30 minutes, or until you reach desired tenderness. I recommend stirring the beans a few times throughout the cooking process so that the beans at the bottom of the pot don’t soften before the beans at the top.
- Drain the peas in a colander. They are now cooked, prepared, and ready to use in recipes or however you'd like.
- If you plan to freeze the beans, allow them to cool first. You can speed up this process by rinsing them with cold water. Then transfer them to a freezer safe container, I recommend resealable bags, and freeze until needed. I like to measure out 1 ¾ cups of beans in each bag, which is equivalent to the amount in a standard sized can. They will keep in the freezer for up to 6 months.
- When ready to use your frozen black-eyed peas, remove them from the freezer and thaw. They can be reheated on the stovetop, added to soups and stews or used however you would use canned black-eyed peas.
Black-Eyed Pea Recipe Ideas: