What is the difference between Split Yellow Pea, Split Chickpea and Split Pigeon Pea?

Split pigeon peas or Toor Dal (Cajanus cajan) split-desi chickpea or Chana Dal (Cicer arietinum) and split yellow peas or Matar Dal (Pisum sativum) are commonly referred to as split yellow peas, although they belong to different species in the bean family leguminosae (Fabaceae).

Split Pigeon Pea (Cajanus cajan) aka Toor Dal

Common Names: Toor dal,Togari bele, Congo pea, Angola Pea, Red gram, No-eye peatropical green pea, Gungo pea, Puerto Rico Pea; Pois cajanor or pois d’Angole (French)

Here is a photo of split and whole pigeon pea. The split pigeon peas are always yellow in colour and may be easily confused with split chickpeas (Chana Dal) or split yellow pea (Matar dal, Field Pea).

Pigeon pea is mainly grown for its dried mature seeds which can be sold whole or split. The whole pigeon pea seeds are round to ellipsoid to squarish in shape, 4-9 x 3-8 x 3-6mm in size and can be white, cream, brown, purplish to almost black in colour and plain or mottled.

Nutrition of Pigeon Peas

Pigeon peas contain high levels of protein and the essential amino acids, methioninelysine, and tryptophan, as well as dietary fibre.

Culinary Use of Pigeon Peas

Split pigeon pea is popular in India for making ‘dhal’ or ‘Dal and for making a spice blend called ‘Sambhars.’

Pigeon pea may also be used instead of soya bean to make tempeh or tofu and the seeds can also be sprouted. In Africa, It  is used to make sauces and stews.

Main Producers of Pigeon Peas

The main producer of pigeon pea is India, where it originated, and has been grown and eaten for thousands of years. Other major producers in Africa are, Malawi, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. It’s also grown in the rest of sub-Saharan Africa and Central America.

Split-Desi Chickpea (Cicer arietinum) aka Chana Dal 

Common Names: Split-Desi Chickpea, Yellow Gram, Chana Dal, Bengal Gram, Kala Chana, Chala boot

Here is a photo of whole and split Desi chickpea. The dark seed coat of the Desi-type of chickpea  is removed and the cotyledon is split to produceSplit Yellow Gram or Chana Dahl

There are several processing plants in Saskatchewan, Canada, which dehull and split Desi chick peas (North American Grain Corporation)

Split Desi-chickpea resembles the split yellow pea (Pisum sativum, Matar Dal), it’s almost impossible to tell them apart. It’s used to make dal, (daal, dhal) in India but is also popular in Middle Eastern Cuisine.

Split Desi chickpea is also ground into chickpea flour also called Besan or Yellow Gram Flour.

Split Yellow Pea (Pisum sativum) aka Matar Dal

Below is a photo of whole yellow peas and Split yellow Peaswith the testa (seed coat) removed. The whole yellow peas are husked and split in half.

Yellow Split pea, also known as the Field Pea, Soup Pea, dry pea or Matar Dal, belongs to the species Pisum sativum, together with the fresh garden peasSno-Pea and Sugar Snap Pea.

The field pea (Pisum sativum) is a cool-season crop grown for its  mature dried edible seeds, which can be marketed whole or split or ground into flour. The dried whole peas can be yellow or green in colour.

Split yellow peas have a mild, earthy flavour and soft texture. Since the mature seeds are rich in protein they can be cooked as a vegetable or added to soups and stews

Canada is the world’s largest producer and exporter of yellow and green split field peas.

Both Split Yellow and Split Green Peas are used to make soup. The split green pea is used to make the famous Dutch Pea Soup called Erwtensoep, which tastes better if eaten the next day. The one day old Erwtensoep is called  Snert, according to Inge Worm, who left a comment below

Nutrition of Split Yellow Peas

Split yellow peas are high in protein and low in fat. They contain the highest amount of dietary fibre, with 27 grams fibre per 100 gram portion.

100g (3.5oz) split yellow pea has: calories 370; Fat: 0%; Carbohydrate: 67g (Fibre 27g, sugar 3g); Protein: 27g and provides 25% RDA of iron. (Bulk Barn)

Last Updated: June 23, 2021

Author: Liz

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

35 thoughts

  1. Thanks for the informative article. As a Dutch person, I can’t help but to add to the part about the erwtensoep. As with many soups, it tastes better the next day. While all erwtensoep can be called erwtensoep, it can only be called snert if it’s one day old 🙂 take care!

    1. Thank you so much for more information on erwtensoep. I really appreciate. I have added the information on Snert! And by the way I went to University in Wageningen. I really loved living in the Netherlands and I did eat some erwtensoep during winter and some Oliebollen. I am not so sure the soup was one day old but it was really good and filling!!! Take care!!!!!

      1. Aw thanks for your reply and adding the sitenote 🙂 I actually did a minor in nutrition at Wageningen University! Great atmosphere there, so international. Glad you liked the erwtensoep and the oliebollen!

        1. Yes. I really loved living there and met so many people from all over the world. And the Dutch people were so welcoming. I hope one day I get to visit post-COVID. I Still have some friends in Wageningen that I haven’t seen in years. Take care and thanks for visiting my blog.

  2. the food box that school sent home recently contained 5lbs. yellow peas i have never used them. the site was very helpful . the discussions are very good. thank you.

    1. I am so glad you found the article useful. Thank you very much for the feedback. I hope you enjoy cooking the yellow peas. Have a great week and stay safe!

  3. So refreshing to see such an informative blog with so many reference links. My new go to for food information. Have wondered about yellow split peas for so long.

    1. I am so glad you found this article helpful. I love writing about food especially plants. You have made my day have a lovely day and stay safe!

  4. Hello, I was vaguely aware that these were different so it’s good to get clarity. Really good article – thanks!

    I thought your question about whether Dal means ‘split’ etc is a good one. I don’t have the answer – sorry. But it seems to me that, if the chickpea (chana), pigeon pea and yellow pea are all ‘dal’ when split, this might be the pattern.

    I’ve also seen chana spelled channa.

    Thanks again, Helen

    1. I don’t know whether this is truly of Indian origin, but yes Dal refers to split while the whole is referred to as Gota/ Sabut or sometimes the lentil without dal as a suffix (e.g. Moong vs Moong dal, Urad gota vs Urad dal). I’m sure other cultures using lentils may have their own nomenclatures as well. After all, food is highly interconnected across cultures.

      1. Thank you. I have learnt something new today-Gota. I only knew Sabut. Food and culture has undergone so much transformation and it keeps on evolving. Have a great weekend!

  5. Hi Liz,

    I am surprised to see Sambhar being referred to as African dish. I appreciate the effort taken to clarify the difference between the beans, but I hope the facts are well researched before posting it.

    Sambhar is an Indian stew and very close to the hearts of every South Indian.

    1. Hello Chandra

      I did not refer to Sambhar as an African dish. You did not read the paragraph properly. I have edited it to make it more clear.

      But for your information there are many Indians living in East Africa, especially in Kenya and they use Sambhar to make dal. I grew up in Africa.

      I am also a trained Plant Taxonomist. I worked with an International project that Published this book- PROTA 1, 2006. Plant Resources of Tropical Africa. vol. 1. Cereals and pulses. ed. by M. Brink & G. Belay. Wageningen, PROTA Foundation – Backhuys – CTA. 298 p.

      Thank you for visiting my blog and stay safe….

  6. Hello! Thank you for the information. I have a diabetic dog and have been making him a homemade stew for the past three years using chana dal. Today I opened the Amazon package as it’s time to make the food again and noticed they sent me toor dal instead. Nutrition wise, and glycemic index wise, do you know if they are the same? I have to make the food by tomorrow so I don’t have enough time to order the correct ones. If you can’t answer or don’t feel comfortable, no worries! Thank you 🙂

  7. I have a recipe which calls for “yellow lentils” and instructions to cook for 20 minutes. Which of the above are yellow lentils?

    1. none of these are yellow lentils. Yellow Lentil is called Moong Dal ( the ones which are green (not black or grey) as whole, tiny kidney shape beans, the broken and testa removed version is Yellow Lentil. Its very light on stomach to digest.

      1. Thank you for chipping in. In botanic terms however, we call Moong Dal – the green one Vigna radiata and the black one Vigna mungo.
        But in India- all split pulses are called dal? or are all split pulses called lentils? I would be happy to know. Thanks

  8. I’d like to echo Umesh’s sentiment! I don’t think I’d ever seen whole arhar/toor daal ie pigeon pea, so I was feeling less than confident in my assertion that lentil only refered to masoor – thanks for providing the picture that proves arhar/toor is not “yellow lentil”

    The note under the top picture was slightly confusing to read “….split yellow peas … are commonly referred to as split yellow peas” 🙂
    I think I finally understand that you’re saying that all three are commonly (?!!) referred to as split yellow peas, even though all three belong to different species under the leguminosae/fabaceae family!

    1. Yes Mailika you are right. In this article there are three species; Pigeon pea/toor dal (Cajanus cajun), Chickpea/chana dal (Cicer arietinu) and Spit yellow pea/ Matar dal (Pisum sativum) and all of them are commonly referred to as split yellow peas. I am glad the article help you understand. Thank you and wish you all the best!!!

  9. Hi Liz,
    Thanks for putting together such clear and well researched information!
    I need a low FODMAP diet and apparently split chick peas can be cooked to leach the fructans out but yellow split peas are high in fructans so I needed to find out whether there was a difference – and your blog was perfect!
    Thanks again,

    1. Hi Bridget
      Omg I am so glad this information helped in your decision making. And thanks for giving me me information about fructans. I shall do more research on that an probably write an article. I wish you all the best and thank you for the feedback!!!

  10. I ate all of these different kinds of “dal” growing up in India, but didn’t understand the difference as an adult. Until now! Thanks for clarifying the differences so well while also connecting with the Indian culture.

    1. Thank you so much for the feedback. I am glad you found this information useful. I really, really love Indian food. It’s awesome!!!!

    1. Ha ha. I cook them all, so I know them. Canada grows a lot of pulses (lentils, beans and peas and is the worlds largest exporter of lentils and peas!
      Virtual Hugs

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