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What Are the Different Dishes with Pigeon Peas?

By Eugene P.
Updated Feb 19, 2024
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There are a number of dishes from around the world that use pigeon peas. They are present in many cuisines, including Latin American, Indian and African. The legumes can be used in soups and stews, served with rice or soaked in coconut milk. They can be mixed with other legumes in a salad, or cooked in a pot with meat. There are a variety of dishes that employ the versatile, nutty flavored beans known as pigeon peas.

Pigeon peas are very popular in Latin American and Caribbean cooking. One of the most popular dishes is pigeon peas and rice. It has many names but is most commonly known as arroz con gandules. The dish is very simple, involving sofrito and diced ham in addition to the rice and beans. Even though this is the national dish of Puerto Rico, several other countries have their own variations.

In Trinidad and Tobago, pigeon peas and rice is known as peleau. It uses brown sugar, chicken and pumpkin as flavorings. A version from the Bahamas uses salt pork and bell peppers. The base recipe of the beans and rice is strong enough to support nearly any combination of ingredients.

A Caribbean use of pigeon peas results in a type of soup. It involves potatoes, cumin and hot peppers along with the peas and spices. The Jamaican take on the rice-and-peas dish adds unique ingredients such as ginger and Scotch bonnet peppers and cooks the beans in coconut milk instead of water or stock.

Indian cooking uses pigeon peas in a range of dishes. They are an important part of some Indian vegetarian diets. Tur daal is the name of both the peas and an easy dish in India. Tur daal is a blend of spices, pigeon peas and tomatoes combined and cooked to make a thick soup-like meal.

Other Indian dishes include a five-daal soup that combines the peas with other types of beans. There also is a simple preparation that involves the peas, onions and garlic cooked together with turmeric and other spices. Shahi daal pairs the peas with a number of spices, including cinnamon and cardamom.

An African version is known as mbaazi wa nazi. This is a Swahili dish in which the peas are cooked in coconut milk. When ready, they are added to fried spices and served over rice. In Ethiopia, the leaves and other soft areas of the plant from which the beans come are eaten with the peas.

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Discussion Comments

By jonrss — On Aug 27, 2011

I always keep some dried pigeon peas in my cupboard and I have really enjoyed experimenting with all the different uses for this incredible legume.

In general my experiments work out. Pigeon peas are a really versatile food stuff and they pick up the flavors of the things around them really well.

But I did once make a disastrous dish where I tried to incorporate pigeon peas into an Italian recipe. I cooked them up with tomatoes, eggplant, onions and lots of Italian spices. I'm not sure exactly what went wrong but the dish was horrible. I'm talking like walk to the trash and spit it out horrible. Pigeon peas are usually so great but I guess they are not universally great.

By backdraft — On Aug 26, 2011

My wife is from the Caribbean and every time that we go to visit her parents her mom makes a big pot of pigeon pea soup.

At first I wasn't crazy about it but over time it has grown on me and now I enjoy our trips to the islands as much for the cooking as for the beautiful scenery.

By gravois — On Aug 26, 2011

I took a trip to Puerto Rico a few years back and had pigeon peas for the first time in my life. They are, to say the least, incredible. I can't believe that these are not more common hear in the states because their flavor is incredible and they are so cheap and easy.

I always keep a bag of dried pigeon peas in my cupboard and I always go out of my way to prepare them when I am cooking for friends and guests. What I love about pigeon peas, in addition to their flavor, is that they are so versatile. You can literally make almost any dish with pigeon peas whether it be savory, spicy or somewhere in between.

They are almost always a hit with my guests and I frequently get asked where people can find pigeon peas in the states. You can find them at specialty food store but I usually buy mine online. You can find a greater variety on the internet and the price is usually cheaper too.

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