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Mar 20, 2011 04:52 PM

What exactly is a pigeon pea?

I've seen lots of different peas called pigeon peas. Some look like black-eyed peas. Others are round yellow peas. Still others are brown. Do they all taste the same? Are they all related?

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    1. re: chefj

      Pigeon peas figure into Hispanic cuisines. I had a Puerto Rican neighbor who grew some. They are unique being a bushy perennial. The bush lives for a few years. IIRC his died off after 4 years so then he planted more

      All other peas and beans I know off.....the plant grows....your harvest the beans and then it dies so you plow it under.

    2. Pigeon peas are often used in Indian cooking as a split dried pea. They are known as Toor (Tur) Dal. Google it. They are great as a cooked bean. Another use is as a spice in a powder blend. A goog example is Kandi Podi
      I've only used them in Indian food...can't wait to see what others do with 'em.

      12 Replies
      1. re: hypomyces

        Used all over the Caribbean Islands and in African cooking.

        1. re: hypomyces

          Thanks. I just cooked toor dal. But nobody has answered my specific question regarding the vast difference in appearance among whole "pigeon peas." Here are pictures of peas referred to as pigeon peas.

          1. re: sushigirlie

            Did you read the Wiki page? I really do not think you will get a more thorough explanation than what is printed there.

            1. re: sushigirlie

              There may be regional differences as to the physical aspect of the bean (taste as well). Indian dals are husked, so mabey the big difference is with the whole bean
              ChefJ said they are used all over the Caribbean and in African cooking as well....There may be a difference between the bean found in Africa and the bean in the Caribbean..I do not know...
              So I guess I've not 'Bean' much help!

              1. re: hypomyces

                OOOOh. Bean puns ( - :
                As I said above there is a great explanation on the Wikipage, If is is not enough info for Sushigirli I am sure she can do a search herself and find tons more.

                  1. re: chefj

                    I read the WIki page before I posted here. It doesn't answer my questions.

                  2. re: hypomyces

                    I think you're right that part of the difference is some are skinned. I think the tan ones that look like black-eyed peas still have the skin on, and the green ones are skinned. But here's what I can't figure out: Toor dal is yellow, but I have yet to see a whole yellow pigeon pea. I've searched Google Images. The only whole yellow peas called "pigeon peas" that I've found are mis-named chickpeas.

                    Edit: It may be that the green ones have skins as well; that they're just a different color than the tan ones; and that pigeon peas aren't commonly sold skinned and whole.

                    1. re: sushigirlie

                      The skinned version is toor daal, whereas the whole pigeon pea is a different color because it retains its skin.

                      For this same reason, black daal (urad) is black in its whole form and cream colored when skinned and split.

                      1. re: nafrate

                        Will you shed more light on the two varieties of pigeon peas you mention below? What makes them different, what cuisines are they used in, etc.?

                        1. re: sushigirlie

                          I've used them primarily in Indian cooking. From what I know, the differences are just aesthetic and the two varieties can be used interchangeably.

                  3. re: sushigirlie

                    First link looks like the uncooked pigeon peas where I buy them. Second is what they look like when I've cooked them. Third...I'm not sure...they look like uncooked pigeon peas, but they call them lentils, which is not how I would describe them.

                    My absolute favourite pea/bean. Delicious as a side with vegetables!

                1. It depend on whether they're whole or split, and if they are skinned.

                  Whole pigeon peas look like the black eyed pea type usually. The split skinned variety look like split mung beans kind of. Here's a picture comparing whole vs split:


                  Also, there are 2 different varieties of the same species of pigeon peas, which is why there are different looking whole pigeon peas.

                  1 Reply