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Black-eyed peas – the food, not the band (common mistake) – are a soulful bean with a nutty, earthy, savory flavor. They can be eaten on their own or used to complement other tasty dishes. You can buy uncooked, dried black-eyed peas and canned black-eyed peas.

Although they originated in West Africa, black-eyed peas eventually ended up becoming a favorite food in Asia and a staple in many parts of the South. While many people eat black-eyed peas with ham hocks on New Year’s Day to help ensure they receive good luck during the coming year, you don’t have to limit yourself to eating them just one day a year. This nutritious, unique bean deserves to make a regular appearance on your menu, and you can use these tips to get started.

Prepping Black-Eyed Peas for Cooking

Compared to the many other kinds of beans, black-eyed peas have a unique appearance that sets them apart. They have a cream-colored skin with the famous black spot, or “eye,” which gives them their name.

While you typically don’t have to soak the dried beans overnight as you would with other kinds of beans, it doesn’t hurt to give them a quick soak in hot water. Doing so can shorten the cooking time. First, sort through the bag of dried peas, picking out any debris, gravel, and bad or split peas. Bring the peas and hot water to a boil and cook them for 2 to 3 minutes. Remove them from the heat and let the peas sit for 60 to 90 minutes.

How to Cook Black-Eyed Peas

While boiling is the best, no-fuss way to cook black-eyed peas, you have a few other options as well; you can use the Instant Pot, oven or slow cooker. To boil them, start by placing the dried peas in a pot. Cover with water, add some salt and place a lid on the pot. For extra flavor, you can add some bacon fat, some sort of cooking oil or a ham hock.

Bring everything to a boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer with the lid tilted, so some steam can escape. Let them simmer for an hour if you soaked them beforehand in hot water. If you didn’t, simmer for closer to 2 hours. Cook a smaller batch of the peas for around 30–35 minutes, or until tender.

How to Cook Canned Black-Eyed Peas

To heat your canned peas on the stovetop, place a 4–8 quart stockpot on the stovetop and warm them on medium-low heat.

Add the black-eyed peas along with your choice of seasonings. If you use multiple cans to create a large batch of black-eyed peas, double up on your seasonings. Include a piece of ham hock, bacon, or a tablespoon or two of olive oil, along with 1 or 2 tablespoons of salt for flavor.

Once the pot begins to simmer, reduce the temperature to low. Check the peas every few minutes and stir them to ensure they don’t stick to the bottom. Let the peas simmer for 30 to 45 minutes, or until completely heated and flavored. You can also prepare your peas in the crockpot.

Nutritional Value of Black-Eyed Peas

Like many beans, black-eyed peas pack a lot of nutritional benefits. For example, 1 cup alone provides 20 percent of your daily required amount of magnesium, calcium and iron.

But that’s not all – they also are a source of fiber, which helps those suffering with diabetes by helping keep their blood sugar balanced. Additionally, black-eyed peas are high in Vitamin A, folate and manganese, a useful antioxidant.

Eating black-eyed peas daily is a great way to sneak in some extra protein, which is especially useful for vegetarians who can’t rely on meat. Black-eyed peas provide women with 9% of their minimum daily requirement of protein, and 11 percent of men’s.

Popular Black-Eyed Peas Recipes

This Southern favorite goes well with dishes such as rice and cornbread. One such popular recipe, called Hoppin’ John, calls for black-eyed peas and ham hocks. It’s a simple, flavorful recipe that includes not only the ham hocks, but onions and spices as well. Cook it around 2 hours, depending on the recipe.

Black-eyed peas also regularly make appearances in soups and salads, and you can even use them to prepare a hummus-like spread.

Black-eyed peas go very well with spicy ingredients. For example, you can curry black-eyed peas and serve them with shrimp and grits.