This easy recipe for Purple Hull Peas transforms tasty legumes into a crowd-pleasing, flavor-packed side dish that will tantalize your taste buds.
These scrumptious peas are a cherished, classic Southern staple and a sought-after delicacy at local farmers’ markets during the summer and fall until the first frost arrives.
If you’re a fan of Southern cuisine, you know that purple hull peas are a must-have and can be savored for any occasion. Even if you have yet to try them, a single taste will reveal why they hold such a special place in the hearts of many.
In this post, you will find a comprehensive guide to cooking and seasoning fresh, frozen, or dried purple hull peas to perfection, whether you are cooking them on the stove, in a slow cooker, or in an Instant Pot.
I’ve also included a short “how-to” video, along with different recipe variations, what to do with leftovers, how to store them, how to blanch them, and what to serve them with.
Why not shake things up and add these flavorful and nutritious legumes to your meal rotation today?
- Ingredient notes and substitutions:
- How to cook and season purple hull peas:
- Top tip:
- What are purple hull peas:
- Recipe variations:
- What to serve with them:
- Where to buy them?
- How many quarts of shelled peas in a bushel of unshelled peas:
- How to blanch peas:
- Recipe FAQs:
- More tips:
- More Southern recipes:
- 📋 Recipe:
Ingredient notes and substitutions:
- Purple hull peas – are the star of this show. Fresh is best but frozen or dried works too.
- Smoked ham hock – adds richness and depth of flavor. Other smoked pork products can be substituted.
- Sweet Onion – Vidalias, if possible, add a sweet and savory flavor that complements the earthy taste of the peas.
- Chicken stock, kosher salt, and pepper – enhance all the other flavors. Chicken stock can be homemade or purchased. Vegetable broth or water can be substituted.
- Olive oil – is used to saute the onions. Bacon grease can be substituted for an additional layer of flavor.
(A complete list of all ingredients and measurements is listed in the recipe below.)
How to cook and season purple hull peas:
- Add olive oil or bacon grease to a large saucepan over medium-low heat. Once the pan is hot, add the onion and cook for about six minutes or until it is tender and translucent.
- Add the peas, ham hock, salt, pepper, and chicken stock. Add water if necessary to ensure the legumes are covered by at least an inch of liquid. Turn the heat up to medium-high until the liquid comes to a boil. Reduce the heat and cook uncovered for 20-30 minutes.
- Start tasting at about 15 minutes to check for seasoning and to see if the peas are tender. The smaller and fresher they are, the less time they will need to cook.
- Once done, remove and discard the ham hock and serve immediately.
Purchase fresh peas during the summer and early fall when they are in season, and freeze them to use throughout the year.
Every year I get frantic calls and emails from disappointed followers who can’t find fresh peas for their holiday meals. Plan ahead!
What are purple hull peas:
Originally from Africa and once used as food for livestock, they belong to the Vigna unguiculate species and are a subspecies of legumes, including field peas and cowpeas.
Also known as Pinkeye Purple Hull, Pink-Eyed, and Purple peas, these Southern Peas have a tender and soft texture with a sweet and nutty flavor when cooked. They range in color from ivory to light green with a unique purple-pink eye, and the hulls range from green to dark purple.
Besides Purple Hull and Black-Eyed Peas, other popular varieties of Southern peas or cowpeas include Field Peas, Pink Lady Peas, Zipper Peas, and White Acre Peas. While all are similar and loaded with protein and fiber, each variety has subtle differences in taste. .
- This versatile recipe can also be used to cook and season any Southern peas.
- You can choose to prepare this recipe on the stove, in a slow cooker, or using an instant pot, and the cooking time will differ depending on your chosen method.
- This recipe calls for adding chicken stock to the pot; however, vegetable broth, water, or a combination of both can also be used.
- I use a ham hock for seasoning in this recipe, but cooked bacon, leftover ham, smoked turkey legs or wings, salt pork, pork belly, and smoked pork chops can all add great flavor and richness.
- Feel free to include sliced okra, diced tomatoes, bell peppers, and celery for added flavor and texture.
- If you want to add some heat, add a bit of hot sauce, cayenne pepper, crushed red pepper flakes, or diced jalapeños.
What to serve with them:
- You will also almost always find Southern peas served with a piece of Southern Cornbread, Old-Fashioned Cornbread, or Hoe Cakes to “sop” up their pot liquor, AKA “pot likker.”
- Because of their high protein content, they are often served with other sides for a meatless dinner, such as Baked Mac and Cheese, Southern Potato Salad, Creamed Corn, Squash Casserole, Fried Green Tomatoes, Tomato and Cucumber Salad, Corn Salad, Collard Greens, and Fried Sweet Corn.
- Of course, if you want to throw in a serving of Fried Chicken or Oven-Fried Chicken, let’s just say no one would turn it down.
- Not only are they served as a side dish, but they are also frequently used as an ingredient in Hummus, Succotash, Southern Caviar, Hoppin’ John, Soups, and Salads.
Where to buy them?
When they are in season, they are typically available at farmers’ markets during the summer and early fall, depending on your location. They may also be found in the produce section of some grocery stores or even in the frozen food aisle.
Fresh is best, but in a pinch, frozen works too. Sometimes you can find them dried. I do not recommend canned.
They can also be purchased both shelled and unshelled and are often purchased by the bushel still in the shells. Prior to freezing, it’s important to blanch them first.
How many quarts of shelled peas in a bushel of unshelled peas:
According to the University of Georgia Extension office, a 25-pound bushel or hamper of unshelled peas will yield approximately four to five quarts of shelled.
How to blanch peas:
Blanching is an excellent technique to retain peas’ color, taste, and texture before freezing them. Here are the steps:
- Shell the peas, remove any debris or discolored ones, then rinse.
- Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil on the stove. Once the water is boiling, add them to the pot, ensuring they are fully submerged. Boil for two to three minutes.
- While they are boiling, prepare a large bowl of ice water. After blanching, use a slotted spoon to remove them from the boiling water and immediately transfer them to the bowl of ice water. Let them rest in the ice water for two to three minutes until they cool completely.
- Once they have cooled, drain them in a colander to remove excess water. They are now ready to be frozen in plastic freezer bags and are best used within six months of blanching. They do not need to be thawed before cooking.
Cooking time varies depending on the cooking method and the peas’ age. Fresh can take 20-30 minutes to cook, while older ones may take up to an hour. It’s best to taste them periodically until they reach your desired level of tenderness.
Yes, add the peas, water, and desired seasonings to the slow cooker, and cook on low for six to eight hours or until they are tender.
Follow the recipe directions, but cook on manual high pressure for ten to twelve minutes and allow the pressure to release naturally for ten minutes.
Leftovers can be stored covered in your fridge for up to four days or frozen for up to three months.
They can be reheated in the microwave or a saucepan on the stove.
To rehydrate dried peas, place them in a large bowl and cover with three to four inches of water. Let them soak for six to eight hours or overnight. Drain and rinse before cooking.
If you’re short on time, you can skip the soaking step and cook the dried peas directly in water, but they will take longer to cook, and the texture may not be quite as tender.
Frozen peas do not have to be thawed before being cooked and can be added as is.
- All of my Southern pea recipes are interchangeable. In other words, you can also use this recipe for White Acres, Black Eyed, Crowder, Zipper, Lady, and Field peas.
- You can substitute bacon grease for olive oil for added flavor.
- It is common for foam to form when cooking fresh peas, but don’t worry; it’s normal. You can easily remove it by skimming it off the top of the cooking liquid or just leave it; it will dissipate.
- Using frozen chopped onions is a convenient time-saver. I often take advantage of this shortcut when preparing recipes like this.
- You can make this recipe up to 48 hours ahead. Store covered in the refrigerator until ready to reheat. It does reheat well with no loss in quality.
More Southern recipes:
Some friends tease me by calling me a “pea-oligist,” a tongue-in-cheek reference to my love of fresh peas. If you like them as I do, I hope you will check out all my Southern Pea recipes.
⭐ ⭐ ⭐⭐⭐ If you make this dish, please leave a comment and give this recipe a star rating. I would love to know how you liked it!
Thank you so much for visiting Grits and Pinecones; I hope you come back soon!
Easy Peasy Purple Hull Peas Recipe
- 3 cups fresh purple hull peas, shelled
- 3 cups chicken stock, homemade or purchased
- 1 smoked ham hock
- ½ cup minced sweet onion, Vidalia if possible
- 1 tablespoon olive oil or bacon grease
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- Add olive oil to a large saucepan over medium-low heat. Once the pan is hot, add the onion and cook for about six minutes or until it is tender and translucent.
- Add the peas, the ham hock, salt, pepper, and chicken stock. Add water if necessary to make sure the peas are covered by at least an inch of liquid. Turn the heat up to medium-high until the liquid comes to a boil. Reduce the heat and cook uncovered for about 20 minutes.
- Start tasting the peas at about 15 minutes to check for seasoning and to see if they are tender. The smaller and fresher they are, the less time they will need to cook.
- Once done, remove and discard the ham hock and serve immediately.
Perfect. Tastes like my Mamas.
I think that’s the nicest compliment I’ve ever gotten! Thanks so much for letting me know.
I always add a tsp of truffle zest to any peas or beans. Enhances the flavor by 100 percent!!!!