Chic African Culture Africa Factbook

Roasted Cowpea Recipe and History of Cowpeas

Roasted Cowpea Recipe and History of Cowpeas

The Cowpea, also known as Vigna unguiculata, has a rich history spanning centuries and has been cultivated in Africa for a long time. Dried cowpeas have a long shelf life and can be stored for an extended period. The first published record of the name cowpea in the United States dates back to 1798.

In 2017, global production of dried cowpeas exceeded 7.4 million tons; 7.4 million tons of cowpeas (black-eyed peas) would provide approximately 11.84 billion meals. This means the global production of cowpeas would provide 1.5 meals per person for the world population of 7.9 billion.

11.84 billion cowpea meals
7.9 billion people

=1.5 cowpea meals per person for the entire global population.

Notably, Nigeria is the largest producer and consumer of cowpeas, commanding an impressive 48% of the production share within Africa and 46% globally. 

Cowpeas have a deep cultural significance.

Cowpeas have deep cultural roots in many societies. Red-Red, a traditional Ghanaian dish, incorporates cowpeas in a spicy bean stew, often served with fried plantains. Akara, a popular Nigerian breakfast dish, is made by grinding cowpeas into a paste and deep frying it into delicious fritters. In Kenya, cowpeas are commonly used in Kunde, a flavorful stew made with cowpeas and leafy greens.

Cowpeas are widely grown in Nigeria, with several popular varieties. Olo 11 is known for its excellent taste and tender seeds. The Drum variety is appreciated for its large seeds and is often used in traditional Nigerian dishes. Sokoto White, or Ife Brown, is popular with white seeds. Borno Brown, or Biuno, is a popular cowpea variety in northern Nigeria.

Roasted Cowpeas

Roasted Cowpeas Recipe


2 cups dried cowpeas

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon salt (adjust to taste)

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 teaspoon paprika (optional for extra flavor)


Start by soaking the dried cowpeas in water overnight. This helps soften them and reduces the cooking time.

After soaking, drain and rinse the cowpeas. Place them in a pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer until the cowpeas are tender but still firm, usually around 20-30 minutes. Drain any excess water.

Preheat your oven to 375°F (190°C). In a bowl, toss the cooked cowpeas with olive oil, salt, black pepper, and paprika (if using). Ensure the cowpeas are well coated with the seasoning.

Spread the seasoned cowpeas in a single layer on a baking sheet. This allows them to roast evenly.

Place the baking sheet in the preheated oven and roast the cowpeas for about 20-30 minutes or until they become golden brown and crispy. Shake or stir the cowpeas halfway through the roasting time for even crispiness.

Once roasted to your liking, remove the cowpeas from the oven and let them cool. They will continue to crisp up as they cool down.

Roasted cowpeas make for a delicious and nutritious snack. Enjoy them on their own, or sprinkle them on salads for added crunch.

Did you know?

In America, the cowpea was initially known as callivance and later referred to as Indian pea, southern pea, southern field pea, and cornfield pea. Approximately fifty varieties of commercial cowpea are cultivated in the United States. Cultivars include Chinese Red, Calhoun, and Red Ripper. The first published record of the name cowpea in the United States dates back to 1798.


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