The 7 Best Substitutes For Pigeon Peas

Have you ever been in the middle of cooking dinner, only to realize you’re missing a crucial ingredient? For those who have found themselves in this predicament with pigeon peas, don’t worry, we have got you covered.

There are various alternatives that can easily substitute pigeon peas in different dishes. For rice dishes, black-eyed peas, lima beans, pinto beans, and fava beans are great options. When it comes to soups and curries, navy beans and chickpeas are the best substitutes. And for salads, Edamame is the perfect alternative.

In this article, we’ll explore these substitutions and which dishes they work best in. Additionally, we will also answer some frequently asked questions regarding pigeon peas and beans, both dried and canned.

What are Pigeon Peas?

Pigeon peas are a type of bean that originates from Africa and is grown in tropical climates. With a history dating back to 3,500 years, these peas are also referred to as congo peas, angola peas, and red gram, depending on the region.

High in protein, pigeon peas make for a satisfying appetizer. In addition to being a nutritious food source, these peas are beneficial to have in the home garden. They are nitrogen-fixing, helping to improve the soil, and the roots of the plants are said to deter pests like rats. In optimal conditions, pigeon pea plants can grow up to fifteen feet tall and resemble trees.

Best Substitutes For Pigeon Peas

Yellow-Eyed Peas

Yellow-eyed peas have a background similar to black-eyed peas and are widely used in African and Indian cooking. These creamy colored legumes are small and have a yellow spot instead of a black one. Chefs love their non-greasy but fatty flavor, making them a great complement to soups and meats.

They can be enjoyed with various ingredients such as celery, smoked ham, carrots, and onions. Yellow-eyed peas are a rich source of iron and other important vitamins and minerals for overall health. It’s recommended to store them in a dry place and soak them prior to cooking for optimal taste.

Baby Lima beans

Lima beans originated in South America and thrive in temperate and tropical climates. These oval-shaped legumes can be used in a variety of dishes, taking on an almond-like flavor when cooked. In India, they are a popular ingredient in curries and are sometimes used as a substitute for pigeon peas.

Lima beans have a creamy texture and are relatively low in sugars and fats. Dried lima beans need to be soaked prior to cooking, while fresh lima beans do not require soaking. Baby lima beans can also be used as a substitute for mushrooms in many recipes.

Black-Eyed Peas

Black-eyed peas originated in Asia and were brought to North America in the 17th century through trade. These oval-shaped legumes are beige with a distinctive black spot, resulting in their name. With a sour and salty flavor, they are commonly used in Indian cuisine.

They can be mashed into a paste, made into flour for frying, or added to salads with vinegar or tomato sauce. Dried black-eyed peas are the most popular and need to be soaked prior to cooking for 2-6 hours. Black-eyed peas can also be made into a sweet dessert by combining them with sugar and coconut milk.


Chickpeas are oval-shaped beans that are bright green when fresh and light brown when dried. They have a creamy, sweet flavor when cooked and can be used in a variety of dishes, including soups, stews, hummus, and curry. They can also be grilled and consumed as a snack or turned into chickpea flour.

Before cooking dried chickpeas, it is recommended to soak them overnight. As a replacement for pigeon peas, they are suitable for various recipes, including soups and stews, and can also be used as a substitute for cremini mushrooms. Chickpeas are a good source of protein and fiber, but keep in mind that brown chickpeas may contain more fat and less protein.

For best results, store chickpeas in the refrigerator for up to three days. For longer storage, it is best to purchase dried chickpeas.

Fava Beans

Fava beans, also known as broad beans, are popular for their sweet and nutty flavor. Fresh fava beans can be eaten raw, making them a great addition to salads, while cooked fava beans can be used in soups, stews, and rice dishes. They can even be grilled or sautéed while still in the pods.

Archaeological evidence has shown that fava beans have been used for centuries, dating back to ancient times in Israel. They are rich in starch, which gives them a creamy texture and sweet taste when cooked, as well as in fiber, promoting digestion and blood oxygenation.

Pinto Beans

Pinto beans are a common, affordable and flexible alternative to pigeon peas. They can be used in soups or as a component of a rice dish, and are best cooked by boiling on low heat.

Fried pinto beans can be used as a condiment, or ground into a spice to add flavor to any dish. Both fresh and dried pinto beans can be used, but dried beans are usually preferred and should be soaked prior to cooking to eliminate any bad ones.


Lentils come in a variety of colors, including brown, yellow, and red, that are dependent on growing conditions. Each color of lentil has a slightly different flavor, but all of them are sweet and aromatic.

Lentils are a common ingredient in curries and go well with meats and rice. They have an earthy taste that becomes softer when cooked, and can be ground for frying or baking. Lentils offer similar health benefits to pigeon peas.


If you’re in a pinch and don’t have pigeon peas on hand, don’t worry! There are plenty of other beans that can be used as substitutes. No matter if you’re making a delicious curry or a hearty stew, you can easily find a suitable bean to use.

In this article, we’ll highlight some of the best alternatives to pigeon peas, so you can make a tasty meal even without this key ingredient.

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