11 Substitutes For Black Eyed Peas [Healthy Options]

It happens to the best of us. You are starting your recipe, getting ready to cook a delicious meal for your family, when you realize…you are out of the black-eyed peas. These distinctive peas are an essential ingredient in traditional southern recipes such as Hoppin’ Johns and are famously eaten at New Years and other auspicious events. 

Black eyed peas (which are actually a bean, not a pea) are originally from West Africa, and were brought over to the U.S. with enslaved people who used it to feed their families. Black eyed peas have a distinctive black mark on the rounded part of the bean, which looks somewhat like an eye.

This is where the name comes from. Even today, Black Eyed Peas are eaten at important events across West Africa and the American South. 

Ultimately, black eyed peas are a bean, and there are many substitutes that you can use that will give the same flavor and texture as black-eyed peas, although without the distinctive marking. Whether you are looking to make Hoppin’ John, Cowboy Caviar, or a refreshing salad, there are many legumes that you can easily substitute to make a delicious meal for your family. 

Hoppin’ John

Hoppin’ John is a southern dish traditionally eaten on New Years day. The dish is meant to symbolize good health, prosperity, and good tidings for the new year. Because this dish has roots in West African Traditions, it is typically made with some kind of cowpea, the type of legume that black eyed peas are.

While you can make it with any kind of bean, if you can get your hands on any of the cowpea varieties below, your dish will have that extra Southern charm. 

1. Purple Hull Peas 

Purple hull peas are probably the closest in appearance and texture to the black-eyed pea. A white pea with a dark “eye” in the center, they are distinct from black-eyed peas because the eye is more purple looking than black.

Creamy and tender, the less discerning guest may not notice the difference between purple hull peas and its black-eyed counterpart. The distinctive eye marking makes it the perfect swap if you are concerned about the striking visual element of the dish.

2. Southern Pink Lady Peas

These are another great swap for black-eyed peas because they also carry the distinctive “eye on the bean. Southern pink lady peas have a slightly different coloring, though. Their body is a pale green, while the eye is a pinkish hue.

Cooked up with some ham and served with corn bread and greens, these southern ladies will be a real treat on any dinner plate.

3. Crowder Peas 

Crowder Peas are another excellent substitution for black-eyed peas, as they come from the same cowpea family. Pale green hulls with a small white center, their appearance is not as striking as the purple hull peas or the black eyed peas.

Despite that, crowder peas have a very similar flavor to other cowpeas, and are used in many southern dishes. Crowder peas are also a bit easier to find than some of the less common southern varieties.

You can even find canned crowder peas in many supermarkets, making it an easy swap especially if you are not looking to cook the peas yourself. 

Crowder peas are not only easy to find in supermarkets, they are also a very sustainable choice. This is because crowder peas actually give large amounts of nutrients back into the soil, making them an excellent rotation crop and important part of sustainable agriculture.

4. White Acre Peas

These delightful little peas make a great side dish at any southern dinner table. Sauteed up with some bacon grease, onion, and a little parsley, these peas are full of fiber and protein and round out a balanced meal.

White acre peas are bright green in appearance, and look a little closer to the lima bean than the black eyed pea. Despite that, it is a type of cowpea, which makes it an easy substitute for black eyed peas if you can get your hands on it.

You are more likely to find white acre peas frozen than canned though, so be prepared to get cooking if you choose this swap.

In The UK

Though baked beans are a British favorite, most varieties of beans are actually very difficult to grow in the UK due to their damp and cold climate. Many varieties of beans can be quite expensive in the UK because they have to be imported. Black-eyed peas and other southern beans in particular are quite difficult to find in the UK because they are a bit of a specialty item even in the U.S. 

5. Fava Beans

The fava bean is an important exception to the bean problems in the UK. The fava bean has been a British staple for millenia and grows well in the local climate. They are easy to find in any British supermarket, though not as popular as they once were.

Though the fava bean is not traditionally used in southern cooking, they cook up wonderfully with some ham hocks, peppers, and served along with a big plate of greens and bread. It may be an unusual choice, but fava beans can work great as a substitute for black eyed peas.

fava beans

Cowboy Caviar

Cowboy caviar is a popular salsa or dip that originates in the American Southwest. It is traditionally made with black-eyed peas and black beans along with tomatoes, onions, peppers, corn, and cilantro to make a sweet and spicy dip that is perfect for parties and family gatherings.

The two different beans makes for a visually appealing dish. Despite that, there are some easy swaps that will still bring the fun and flavor of Cowboy Caviar without having to hunt down those hard-to-find black eyed peas!

6. Borlotti Beans 

Also known as the cranberry bean, roman bean, romano bean, saluggia bean, gadhra bean, or rosecoco bean. This charming little legume has fantastic stripes and coloring, making it a striking bean that is a great swap for the similarly stunning black-eyed pea.

They cook up in the same way that the black-eyed pea does, making them an easy substitution. Be aware that Borlotti beans may be a bit tricky to find though, unless you are living overseas.

7. Pinto Beans

Pinto beans are an excellent substitution for black-eyed peas in cowboy caviar. They are a popular bean in Mexican and Southwest American cuisine, making them an excellent addition to a Cowboy Caviar recipe.

What’s more, their coloring is pale, which allows you to keep the same color contrast to the black beans typically found in the recipe. Texas style pinto beans are cooked with ham hocks and onions in a similar style to traditional black-eyed peas recipes found in the American South.

pinto beans

Salad

Beans of all sorts of varieties are an excellent addition to salads for their nutritional value. They are high in protein and fiber, making them a great vegetarian option or simply as an add-in.

There are countless salad recipes that feature black-eyed peas, from Mexican flavors with cilantro, corn, and onion, to Mediterranean flavors with olives and peppers. Whatever recipe you are working with, there are many beans out there that can make for an easy swap in salad recipes. 

8. Fresh Lima Beans

Lima Beans, also known as butter beans, are a southern classic. Waxy and creamy, these beans have a distinctive flat shape that looks quite different from the black-eyed pea or other traditional beans. Nevertheless, they cook up wonderfully with some ham hocks and salt and pepper or thrown into a refreshing salad.

They cook up in about 90 minutes and are also commonly sold in the frozen foods section.

9. White Navy Beans

White navy beans are an easy and delicious swap for black-eyed peas in any bean-based salad recipe. The white navy bean is about the same size as the black-eyed pea, but it takes a bit longer to cook, so keep that in mind if you are making the beans from scratch.

White navy beans are easy to find in most grocery stores and actually are more nutritionally dense than black-eyed peas. They may not bring you the same good luck as the iconic southern bean, but they more than make up for it in health benefits.

10. Cannelini Beans

Cannelini beans, also known as white kidney beans are another one that is easy to find in any grocery store, and can make for a simple swap in most bean-based salad recipes. The white kidney bean is a good deal larger than the black-eyed pea, which may change the texture of the dish a bit.

If the size of the bean doesn’t matter too much for your recipe, white kidney beans is a good choice. Bear in mind that kidney beans take about twice as long to cook as black-eyed peas, so you will want to adjust your cooking times accordingly.

However, white kidney beans are also very easy to find in the canned goods section, which makes for a no-cook swap that is easy as pie!

11. Green Beans 

While green beans make for a more unusual swap than some of the other beans on this list, these hearty beans can work beautifully in a pinch especially in a bright refreshing salad. While green beans are a legume, they are not actually a bean at all, they are a vegetable.

They won’t give you the same texture or look as a classic cowpea or other more traditional legume, but they will add a nice bright flavor and freshness to any salad. Green beans are high in folate and other vitamins and minerals, but they do not carry as much protein as black-eyed peas. Make sure to adjust your dinner plate accordingly to accommodate for proper nutrients!

green beans

Frequently Asked Questions

What Beans Taste Like Black Eyed Peas?

Many beans have a similar flavor and texture -creamy and smooth in the middle, mild tasting, slightly nutty. Beans from the cowpea family will have the most similar flavor profile to the black-eyed pea -varieties such as the southern pink lady peas, crowder peas, purple hull peas, or white acre peas will all have a similar taste and texture to black-eyed peas. 

Are Black Eyed Peas The Same As Chickpeas?

Black-eyed peas are not the same as chickpeas. Though chickpeas are a legume, they come from a different family and have a distinctive round shape, and no eye on them. Chickpeas are commonly used in Indian and middle eastern cooking, including in popular dishes such as hummus or channa masala.

Chickpeas are very high in protein and have a nuttier flavor than many popular American beans. They are perfectly acceptable to use a swap for black-eyed peas, though you won’t get the same distinctive shape or coloring. 

What Beans Are The Same As Black-Eyed Peas?

Any cowpea that originates in West Africa is related to the black-eyed pea. This includes the ones referenced in this article, such as the crowder, purple hull, and pink lady varieties. 

What Is Better, Fresh Or Dried Black-Eyed Peas? 

If you can get your hands on fresh black-eyed peas, or really any bean variety, the quality is top-notch. Fresh beans cook faster than dried beans, they are a bit sweeter than dried beans, and they hold up better in cooking.

In other words, their skins do not burst as easily. Fresh beans will give a more floral and delicate aroma, make for a creamier bean, and be an all-around delicious culinary experience.

That being said, there are many cooking tricks you can use to create a delicious bean dish using dried or canned beans. Soaking the beans ahead of time, salting liberally, and making sure that the water is not vigorously boiling will all help you get tender, creamy beans even from the dried kinds. 

Can I Use Lentils Instead Of Black-Eyed Peas? 

Lentils are much smaller than black-eyed peas, and have a slightly more metallic flavor due their high levels of iron. While they are an excellent source of protein, fiber,  and vitamins, they are not the ideal choice to substitute for black-eyed peas.

In a pinch they will certainly work, as nearly any legume can be substituted easily for another, but their size and flavor makes them a less than ideal choice. If you do decide to use lentils, make sure to get a green or black variety, as they hold their shape better than red lentils. 

Final Verdict

Black-eyed peas are a delicious legume with a long history in the U.S. and West Africa. As a legume they are easily swapped with other cowpeas or similarly sized legumes such as cannellini beans or pinto beans. Whatever legume you choose, you are sure to have a delicious and highly nutritious meal to share with your family!

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