Difference between: black-eyed peas and purple hull peas

Confession: This was  a difficult Difference Between – I couldn’t find a lot of information on purple hull peas. Although, what I did find was quite favorable.

In the interest of today being New Years Eve – I do love seasonal posts! – I did want to write about black-eyed peas, a Southern staple and longtime good luck New Years food. 

So, here’s what I found with the difference between black-eyed peas and purple hull peas.

Black-eyed peas and purple hull peas both:

  • Are types of cowpeas.
  • Are actually beans, not peas.
  • Are high in protein and fiber.
  • Are available dried or fresh.

Cowpeas are believed to be native to Africa, and came to America via the slave trade. They can flourish in poor soil conditions, including very sandy soil, as can be found in the South. And, they enjoy hot weather and are tolerant of droughts.

As we can see, the cowpea is quite versatile. What was once considered an easy-to-grow food for the poor, cowpeas are now a significant staple of the southern food culture.

Purdue University has a great post listing different kinds of cowpeas, including browneye, crowder, etc. Interestingly, black-eyed peas are listed with “purpleeye peas,” which I can only take to be another name for purple hull peas.

It says, “The seeds are white with a black eye round the hilum. The ‘eye’ can be other colors, purple or shades of red being common. The seeds are not tightly packed or ‘crowded’ in the pod and are kidney or oblong in shape.”

Similarly, Wikipedia lists the purple hull pea as a type of black-eyed pea.

Given the above information, we could almost deduce that black-eyed peas are virtually identical to purple hull peas, although there is a difference in color, with purple hull having a greenish tint (when dried).

However, I found several bloggers insisting that purple hull peas are favorable over their black-eyed counterparts – this would suggest that there must be a difference, and further, a winner between the two beans.

As we can see from the first picture in this post, blogger Liz, a self proclaimed food snob, post a caption with her purple hull peas that describes them as, “Similar to black-eyed peas, except 10,000 times better.”

Blogger Kristi says that purple hull peas “look like black-eyed yet are tastier and prettier.”

And, ProduceExpress.net finds a “common perception [that] purple hull peas are creamier, smoother, and more delicious than their cousin, black eyed-peas.”

Based on my findings, I would conclude that purple hull peas are preferable, flavor-wise, over black-eyed. Admittedly, I have yet to try either, so I can’t proclaim purple hull’s superiority based on personal experience. But, this seems to be a consensus among foodies.

What makes purple hull peas taste better is a mystery for now, but I do believe it’s safe to say that black-eyed peas and purple hull peas can be swapped out for one another in recipes.

11 thoughts on “Difference between: black-eyed peas and purple hull peas

  1. No, you cannot swap out the two different peas in a recipe. That is if you are serving to a true Southerner. The pink eyed pea is much tastier and has more character. The black eye peas were originally raised to feed livestock. During Civil War the Union Troops confiscated the livestock and stored food crops, including pink eye peas and left the black eye peas, because they discovered that the pinkeye was delicious, and the black eye peas weren’t “fittin” to eat.. The Southerners would have starved if they had not eaten the peas they normally fed their livestock, and it has since become a tradition to eat black eyed peas on New Year’s Day for good luck.

    1. I totally agree. Pink eye s are much more delicious. I bought some last year and can not find any around New Orleans area this summer.

  2. Erin! You have never tried them?? You are missing a treat! I just cooked a pot of black-eye peas for dinner today, and they were delicious, along with turnip greens and pickled beets. I have a simple but tasty way that I cook them. I use frozen peas and cover them in hot water along with about a tablespoon of canola oil, bring to a boil then let them simmer until they begin to soften. I then add a couple of cubes of Massel brand beef flavored bouillon and half of an onion, chopped. I then add cayenne pepper during the last few minutes of cooking. Oh, and I also added pieces of a smoked turkey leg that also added to the great flavor.

  3. Found a farmer in southern Georgia selling U-pick “peas” recently. Of course it didn’t dawn on me that it might be something other than of the sweet/english variety and boy was I happily wrong. Sometimes I forget I’m in the south. Not only did he have pinkeye purple hulls, he also had an heirloom variety of crowders that hasn’t been around in 30 years or so. They were his grandfather’s favorite and just happened to find some viable seed laying around. After picking a 5 gallon bucket of pinkeyes for $7, yielding about 5 pounds of beans, he gave me enough for a pot of the heirloom crowders, which I will be trying in a few days. Simmer a ham hock, chopped celery, and a chopped onion in a pot of water for an hour. Add some olive oil, fresh sage, chopped garlic, and some fresh tomato chunks and the pinkeye beans. Simmer for another hour, smoosh the ‘maters, add salt 15 minutes before done. add black pepper at the end. Rest for 10 minutes. Serve with cornbread. You’re welcome.

  4. Purple hull are the BEST!! I was raised on them. I didn’t like them when I was younger but learned to love them. I plant them twice a year, my grandmother would be proud, and I’ve just blanched abt 5-7 quarts, I’m letting them cool. 😀

    Let the hull get VERY purple, they’re easier to hull. If this a yearly thing, invest in a pea sheller!! You’ll get glad you did!

  5. I grew up eating purple hull peas and I prefer them over black eyed peas. They have a slightly firmer texture and I perfer their taste.

  6. I have never seen purple hull peas dried like Black eyes. In the DFW area we only get them frozen at grocery store or fresh and/or frozen at farmers market from local growers. They are quite easy to grow & hull. I don’t know a soul that doesn’t prefer purple eye to black eye peas. They are exceptionally good !

  7. Purple-hulled peas are definitely better. I dragged my feet about trying them because I hated black-eyed peas and thought the purple-hulled peas would taste the same but I was actually pleasantly surprised by their flavor. My favorite way of making purple-hulls now is to add some whole okra to it while it’s cooking.

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