Southern Purple Hull Peas

Once you learn how to cook and season Southern purple hull peas, you will be surprised how simple it is to get great flavor from these Southern beauties! This Southern staple is delicious and so easy to make!

These seasonings and techniques also apply to Blackeyed, Cream, Zipper, Crowder and Lady Peas.

Purple hull peas in white bowl.

Purple hulls are absolutely delicious even when prepared with minimal seasonings. The creamy texture and flavor is a bit different from its cousin, the black-eyed pea. Whenever possible, get some purple hulls and freeze them for later!

And don’t forget the sliced fresh tomato and homemade cornbread! Peas and cornbread are a Southern staple that’s a meal in itself!

Why you’ll love this recipe!

  • Easy with minimal ingredients or effort
  • Delicious as an entree or side dish-serve it up with a sliced tomato and some homemade cornbread
  • Healthy, all-natural and good for you!

Here’s what you’ll need:

Sometimes, simple is better. With a few basic seasonings, you can cook just about any type of Southern pea and it will be delicious!

Visual ingredient list
Once you learn how to season and cook purple hull peas, you can apply this method to just about any type of pea for delicious results every time!

Two slices of bacon, onion and garlic powder, chicken broth or water, salt & pepper..oh… and some peas, of course!

Here’s how to make it:

Most Southerner’s season their peas with cooked bacon, a smoked ham hock or smoked turkey leg. 

  • If you’re using bacon, cook it in a big stock pot first; you can either remove the bacon pieces or leave them in the pot, but definitely leave grease in the pot; if you’re using a ham hock, put it in with the rest of the ingredients then
  • Add peas, water/broth, onion and garlic powder and bring to boil for 10-minutes
  • Reduce heat to low; cover and cook
  • Season with salt and pepper last

Difference between purple hull and black-eyed

Also called “cow” or “field” peas, the black-eyed and purple hull are cousins. Black eyes are pale in color and have a dark black “eye”, where purple hulls are a little greener in color and have a tiny pink ring around their purple eye.

There are several varieties and, depending upon where you live, they may be called different names. Over the years, pea crops have co-mingled, so it’s not uncommon to find a variety grown and served together on a Southern table.

While both are delicious, black-eyes are pale white and have a somewhat grainy texture.  Some claim they’re not quite as flavorful as their pink-eyed, purple cousin.

Purple hulls are a pale green and are less grainy than the black-eyed–they have the texture of a “cream” pea.

Unfortunately, they’re available only in the summer, so if you love them and want to eat them year-round, you’ll want to buy a bushel and freeze them.

Purple hull peas in pink colander

Expert tips:

Seasonings

Southern cooks usually put a salty piece of pork in the water or broth while they’re cooking, such as a smoked ham hock, bacon, fatback or ham.

Add a little salt, pepper and garlic and/or onion powder and allow the delicious flavor to shine!

Liquid

Use either water, chicken broth/stock or vegetable broth/stock. Just make sure you have enough liquid to cover the purple hull peas by about 2″-inches.

Vegetarian alternative seasonings

Another way to ramp up the flavor for vegetarians is to cook them in a seasoned vegetable broth with sauteed onion, celery and bell pepper, (also known as “The Holy Trinity” in the South) and add a few teaspoons of Liquid Smoke. This gives a “smokey-meat flavor” without using animal products.

Cooking fresh peas

If you’re lucky enough to have fresh, cooking them is a breeze! Now days, most farmers mechanically shell their crops, but if yours are still in their shells, you’ll want to shell and rinse them first. 

Stove Top Method

Shell and rinse

Add them to a large stockpot with your choice of meat (bacon, ham hock, fatback, ham),

Fill the stockpot with water or chicken broth and bring to a rolling boil.  (If a foam forms early in the cooking process, don’t worry! It’s just water soluble proteins released from the peas. You can either scoop it off or leave it–it will seep back into the pot.)

Reduce heat to low, cover and allow to cook for 1 1/2 to 2 hours; be sure to check the liquid level and add more if needed

Season with salt, pepper and a little garlic and/or onion powder

Slow Cooker Method

Add all ingredients into crock pot and cook on low 5-6 hours. Double check the liquid level frequently.

InstantPot Method

Place fresh peas, 2 1/2 cups of water or broth and seasonings in instant pot. Set timer to Manual for 20 minutes; allow steam to release. (total time=about 40 minutes)

Cooking frozen peas

Cook and season frozen Southern peas the same way as fresh, but rinse the frozen ones prior to adding them to the stockpot in order to remove any ice crystals.

Storage

Refrigerator

Store fresh and frozen cooked peas in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to three days.

Freezer: Freezing Fresh, Uncooked Peas

If you buy fresh,shelled peas and want to freeze them, you’ll need to blanch them first.

  • Wash shelled peas and bring a pot of water to boil
  • Blanch in water  for 2 minutes then place them in a bowl of ice cold water until they are no longer warm
  • Drain and place them in airtight plastic bags; don’t fill the bag all the way up; leave about 2 inches of space
  • Reduce air in bag, zip the bag, label the package with the date, and place in the freezer
  • Store up to 6 months

Variations for Cooking and Seasoning

Once you’ve mastered how to cook and season Southern purple hulls, you can experiment with variations!

  • Vegetarian/Vegan: use vegetable broth or water, add a few splashes of Liquid Smoke® as a substitute for the meat flavor
  • Add Fresh or Frozen Okra: 

Okra and Southern Peas go great together and many cooks add okra to their purple hulls

Bring the cooked peas back to a boil 

Add whole or chopped, fresh or frozen okra 

Allow to boil 2-5 minutes until okra is tender

NOTE: okra is a thickening agent; after adding the okra, you might want to add more liquid

Most Southerners serve Hoppin’ John on New Year’s Eve for Good Luck. It typically consists of black eyed peas, rice, bacon, chopped onion and bell peppers. Substitute purple hull or pink eye purple hulls for the black eyed.

Where to purchase

You can usually find these at a local farmer’s market; however, if you don’t live near one, here are a few resources for ordering:

Sides Pea Farm: Canton, Texas

Farmer’s Market of Grapevine: Grapevine, Texas

Ed Lester Farms: Coushatta, Louisiana

When to purchase

Purple hulls are in season from June to early fall…sometimes as late as October, but I never bet on that. I buy a bushel of peas in June and freeze them so I can have them all year long!

How much does a bushel yield?

A bushel of peas yields about 32 quarts.

Now that you know how to season and cook purple hull peas, you can apply these methods and techniques to cream or blackeyed peas!

Purple hull peas in white bowl.

Since we’re talking Southern peas, if you’re in the Southeast, you’ve probably heard of Greasy Cut Short Beans…Debi at Quiche My Grits has a wonderful recipe and article about how to season and cook these beauties! Be sure to check it out!

Purple hull peas in white bowl.

Purple Hull Peas Recipe

Purple hull peas are similar to black-eyed but with less granular texture and much more flavor!
5 from 76 votes
Print Rate
Course: Entree, Side Dish
Cuisine: Southern
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 2 hours
Total Time: 2 hours 5 minutes
Yield: 8 cups
Author: Anecia Hero

Ingredients 

  • lbs. purple hull peas shelled and hulled
  • 7 cups chicken broth , or water
  • 1 smoked ham hock, or 2-3 slices of bacon (optional: see recipe notes)
  • ¼ teaspoon onion powder
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
  • salt & pepper to taste

Instructions 

  • Rinse and drain fresh or frozen peas
    1½ lbs. purple hull peas
  • If using bacon, cook bacon in large stockpot
    1 smoked ham hock, or 2-3 slices of bacon
  • Add peas and water or broth to the stockpot with the bacon and grease; add enough liquid to cover peas
    7 cups chicken broth
  • If using ham hock, add it to the pot now; add garlic and onion powder
    ¼ teaspoon garlic powder, ¼ teaspoon onion powder
  • Bring to boil for 10 minutes; if a foam appears, either scrape it off or leave it; (it will dissolve)
  • Cover, reduce heat to low; allow to cook for 1½-2 hours
  • Once tender, season with salt and pepper to taste; remove from heat and allow to sit for about 10 minutes;
    If you want to add okra, do it now: bring the pot back up to a rolling boil, add okra, allow to boil for 2-5 minutes: cover and allow to rest for 15 min
    salt & pepper to taste
  • Serve with cornbread and sliced tomatoes

Notes

  • Rinse first
  • You can substitute chicken or vegetable broth for water
  • Store fresh and frozen cooked peas in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to two days.
  • If you want to freeze cooked peas, use a freezer-storage container and store them up to six months.
Freezing Fresh, Uncooked Peas
If you buy fresh shelled, you’ll want to freeze them, you’ll need to blanch them first. 
  1. Rinse shelled peas and bring a pot of water to boil
  2. Blanch peas in water  for 2 minutes then place them in a bowl of ice cold water until they are no longer warm
  3. Drain and dry; place in airtight plastic bags; don’t fill the bag all the way up; leave about 2 inches of space
  4. Reduce air in bag, zip the bag, label the package with the date, and place in the freezer
  5. Store up to 6 months
Variations for Cooking and Seasoning Southern Peas
  • Vegetarian/Vegan: use vegetable broth or water, add a few splashes of Liquid Smoke® as a substitute for the meat flavor
  • Add Fresh or Frozen Okra: 
    • Okra and Southern Peas go great together and many cooks add okra 
    • Bring the cooked peas back to a boil 
    • Add whole or chopped, fresh or frozen okra 
    • Allow to boil 2-5 minutes until okra is tender
    • NOTE: okra is a thickening agent; after adding the okra, you might want to add more liquid 
  • Hoppin’ John:
Most Southerners serve Hoppin’ John on New Year’s Eve for Good Luck. It typically consists of black eyed peas, rice, bacon, chopped onion and bell peppers. Substitute purple hull or pink eye purple hulls for the black eyed.

Nutrition Estimate

Serving: 8oz.Calories: 81kcalCarbohydrates: 13gProtein: 6gFat: 1gSaturated Fat: 1gCholesterol: 1mgSodium: 757mgPotassium: 372mgFiber: 4gSugar: 5gVitamin A: 651IUVitamin C: 48mgCalcium: 34mgIron: 2mg
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30 Comments

  1. I love Purple Hulls and have some in the freezer. However, I will be cooking them in an Instant Pot. Do you think you could update your recipe to include using the IP?

    1. Thank you for your comment about the Purple Hull Peas. I write my recipes based on my experience and research. I don’t use the instant pot for peas, so I would not be able to comment on that cooking method for this recipe. I presume you could use the same ingredients for a shorter cooking time.

  2. 5 stars
    One of my favorite dishes! Mama always had some fresh cantaloupe, cucumbers in vinegar, usually collard greens to add to the fresh sliced tomatoes, cornbread, sweet onions, etc. with peas ( purple hull, of course!) No meat required with this hearty meal!

  3. 5 stars
    Wow! What a wonderful, thorough, and beautifully simple recipe. I got home with my purple hulls only to realize I did not have the last ham hock I thought was in the freezer so I was looking for a recipe with a bacon alternative and found this one. I was so impressed with how thoughtfully this recipe’s insights and alternatives were described. I am trying to get through a bag of yellow onions so I small diced and cooked them in the bacon fat. No complaints! This recipe is 100%

  4. 5 stars
    Love these with fresh tomato and a slice of cornbread! Great seasonings and alternative seasonings for vegans!

  5. 5 stars
    Best purple eye pea recipe ever. I used low sodium chicken broth and I think that’s what makes it so good. I put a ham bone with some ham in it. I didn’t have to add any salt or pepper. I had frozen peas from this past summer I used.

    1. Thanks, Connie! I sometimes think “less is best” as in the case of seasonings purple hull peas… you were lucky you had some frozen peas! I’m all out!!! Take care,
      Anecia

  6. I have never seen or had purple hull peas but I’m intrigued. I’ll have to pay attention when I’m in the store to look for them.

    1. Thank you, Ellen!
      Typically, you’ll find them fresh from mid-June through maybe September. I buy a bushel, divide them and freeze them.
      When they’re raw, they are green-like cream peas-not brown, like black eyed peas.
      Sweet-Pict has purple hulls frozen, but I don’t believe they’re purple hulls…( the color, taste and texture is NOT that of a purple hull, so if you see that brand, don’t buy it. My local butcher has a freezer of purple hull peas… you might call around your area— ask for purple hull or pink-eyed peas. They’re creamy and delicious with a ripe tomato!!

  7. I grew top pick purple hull pink eyed peas this past summer in Michigan. I picked them in late October, and dried them for three weeks in my attic with good ventilation. I rarely read anything that deals with either the drying of these particular peas, or prepping them for cooking as DRIED peas. Soak overnight or not. I harvested nearly three quarts from my backyard “victory garden”, and am now getting ready to feast. I am thinking of preparing them as I would dried black eyes.

    1. Thank you, John! You’re lucky you have good soil to grow them in…we don’t where I live. I usually get fresh peas and freeze them, but I have seen dried blackeyed and purple hulls at the store…I bet yours are gonna be delicious!!!

      1. 5 stars
        Purple hull peas do not use great soil. They grow well in pretty much any soil. The last picking till them into the soil. It’s a great nutrient for soil.

  8. Love, love, love PEPH peas! I love them so much that I actually grow them in my small yard. I have several spaces that I grow them in so I can do successive planting and get them all the way up until November depending on when we have our Frost. They’re great ground cover that you can eat / devour 🙂 don’t throw away the hulls, turn them into jelly. Depending on the hulls and the Pea type, they taste like grape or apple or honey… can you tell I love them?

  9. The peas in the picture are not purple hull peas, they are black- eyed peas. There is a big difference, totally different taste, in my opinion purple hull are much better. I’m sure the blanching process is the same.

    1. Sorry, Peggy…but those peas in the picture ARE purple hulls; in fact, all the peas featured on the post are from the same batch of purple hulls I bought at Sides Pea Farm in Canton, Texas. Granted, they look darker (like black-eyed peas) after they’ve cooked, and also, I’m not a professional photographer, so that could be why they look like black eyed peas. I haven’t had a black-eyed pea in 20 years. I agree purple hulls are much better…

      1. 5 stars
        Thanks for referencing the farm.
        I live in Tyler (30 min) so I’m going to have to ck them out!! Using your recipe today, can’t wait! Happy New Year 2022!

  10. 5 stars
    What an amazing tutorial on how to cook purple hull peas. I hope I can get my hands on some so I can try them. Thanks for your expert tips!