What is Split Pigeon Pea (Toor Dal)?

Cajanus cajan (L.) Millsp.

Family: Papilionaceae, (Leguminosae)

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

Here is a photo of split and whole pigeon pea. Pigeon pea is mainly grown for its dried mature seeds which can be sold whole or split. The split seeds have a yellow cotyledon.

The whole seeds are round to ellipsoid to squarish in shape, 4-9 x 3-8 x 3-6mm and can be white, cream, brown, purplish to almost black in colour and plain or mottled.

The skinless and 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).

By User: C.L. Ramjohn [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0], from Wikimedia Commons
In Africa and India, the green immature seeds and immature pods of pigeon peas are also used as a vegetable or in sauces.

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


Pigeon peas contain high levels of protein and important amino acids, methionine, lysine, and tryptophan as well as dietary fibre.

Use of Pigeon Pea

Pigeon pea is popular in India for making ‘dhal’ or ‘Dal’ (from dried, de-hulled and split seeds) and for making a spice blend called ‘Sambhars.’

In Africa, the dried seeds are used to make sauces served with accompanying staple foods.

In Central Africa, immature green seeds are canned or frozen and marketed.

In Asia, pigeon peas may be used instead of soya bean to make tempeh or tofu and the seeds can also be sprouted.

Brown Rice with Toor Dal myfavouritepastime.com

The by-products of dhal production (seed coat and broken cotyledons) are used as cattle and poultry feed in India, Kenya and Malawi.

After harvest, vegetative parts of the plant are used as fodder and the seeds may also be used for cattle feed.

Pigeon pea, improves the soil through its extensive root system, nitrogen fixation. The  and the mulch provided by the fallen leaves.

The dried stems are used for fuel, basketry, thatching and fencing.


Pigeon pea is  a perennial shrub up to 4m (13ft) high with roots up to 2m (6.5ft) deep. The stems are hairy and leaves are in threes (trifoliate).

Flowers are red or yellow and the peas are housed in pods, up to 10 cm (4 inches) long. It tolerates drought and low soil fertility so it’s an important crop in Africa in the areas that don’t receive enough rainfall.

Here is a video showing details of the Pigeon Pea plant.

Below are photos of split pigeon pea (Cajanus cajun), split chickpea (Cicer arietinum, Chana dal) and split dried yellow pea (Pisum sativum, Matar Dal).

Pigeon Pea, Chickpea and Yellow Split Pea myfavouritepastime.com


Author: Liz

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

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