Cowpea (Black Eyed Pea)

Vigna unguiculata (L.) Walp.

Family: Papilionaceae

Also known as: Black Eyed Pea, Pea Bean, Black Eyed-Bean, China Pea, Bombay Cowpea. Southern Peas, Blackeye Peas, Crowder Peas, California blackeyed peas

Origin: Africa, where a large genetic diversity of the species occurs, throughout the continent. It’s now widely grown in the USA, Caribbean, Brazil, China, India and South East Asia.

Black Eyed Pea (Cowpea) myfavoritepastime.comThe common Cowpea is very variable in colour from creamy white to brown to black or pink. It is kidney shaped or oblong to almost round with a black rim at the sprouting point. It has a thinner skin than many beans and therefore cooks quickly without needing to be soaked. It’s Widely used in Middle Eastern AfricanIndian and Greek cuisines.

Please note that cowpea is extremely variable, both in the wild and cultivated plants.

As a result of human selection in China, India and South-East Asia, cowpea underwent further diversification to produce two cultivar-groups, Sesquipedalis Group (yard-long beans) with long pods used as a vegetable, and Biflora Group, grown for the pods, dry seeds and for fodder

Culinary use

  • Cowpea is grown mostly for its edible dry beans, although the leaves, green peas and green pea pods are also eaten.
  • Cowpea is used as an ingredient worldwide, in various cuisines, to make sweet desserts, fried cakes, soups, sauces and infant food
  • It’s usually served with rice in several countries.
  • In India, it’s cooked like dhal and served with basmati rice, naan or paratha.
  • In West Africa, its cooked with palm oil to produce a thick soup, used as a relish..
  • In the USA it’s used to make ‘Hoppin John’, Texas caviar and other things.
  • In Africa the leaves are sun-dried, stored and used as a vegetable during dry season.

Other Uses

Used as a fodder in West Africa, India and Australia.


  1. PROTA4U Article in Cowpea 
  2. Cowpea: A versatile Legume for Hot, Dry Conditions
  3. Cowpeas Article from Learning-Centre 
  4. Cowpea Recipes 

Black Eyed Peas (Cowpea)

Author: Liz

I love everything food: eating, cooking, baking and travelling. I also love photography and nature.

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