Cowpeas are beans of different colours with a great nutty flavour. Colours could be marbled, green, red, brown or white. The red and brown varieties are more common. They are legumes and very rich in protein and other nutrients. Botanically referred to as Vigna unguiculata.
They may not be popular in the West as 70% of the world’s cowpeas production comes from Sub Saharan Africa, especially Nigeria.
They were introduced to the Caribbean and North America during the slave trade. As the slaves longed for the food, they were familiar with from Africa. It is no wonder then, that many of the beans or pea recipes look similar to their West African counterparts. Cooking may be different, but as humans, we adapt to what is available where we live and make the most of our circumstances and still enjoy great food.
Cowpeas are legumes and are a great source of protein, about twenty-five per cent protein. They have a low glycemic index and contains soluble and insoluble fibre. Hence, they fill you up for longer. They do not contain trans-fat but contains beneficial fat, have no cholesterol—great food for weight loss.
They contain calcium, vitamin A and a group of vitamin B (thiamine – vitamin B1, riboflavin – vitamin b2, niacin – vitamin B3), as well as vitamin C, all necessary for maintaining good health and fighting diseases.
They are also rich in folate, iron, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, zinc and selenium. If you are vegan or have some meatless days during the week, you should consider including legumes as a nutritious meat alternative. The National Heart, lung and blood institute recommends between 3-5 servings a week depending on your gender or calorie goal.
Like other legumes, cowpeas with rice alone would provide a highly nutritious balanced diet that can wipe out many malnutrition diseases seen in developing countries. Cowpeas is widely cultivated in Africa, hence, affordable to very poor people. But the good news is, they are not poor in nutrient!
Cowpeas have a nutty flavour and taste. They often take on the flavours of any sauce you cook them in. Cowpea flavour can be improved by adding chillies, garlic, tomatoes and onions. Incorporate them in salads and sandwithces.
For excellent results and less energy, soak it in a bowl or pot over night. Drain and rinse thoroughly before cooking. See our basic recipe page first for a detailed basic cowpeas recipe. Then, try the following cowpeas recipe:
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