How to Cook Zipper Peas: The Ultimate Guide
how to cook zipper peas

Zipper peas, also known as Southern peas or cowpeas, are a type of legume that is a staple in Southern cuisine. They are often used in dishes such as Hoppin’ John, a popular New Year’s Day meal, and black-eyed peas, a classic side dish. 

Zipper peas are a great addition to any diet because they are low in fat and calories, high in protein and fiber, and contain important nutrients like iron and potassium.

This article will explain how to cook zipper peas, with additional tips for seasoning and serving them. Whether you’re a seasoned cook or a beginner, you’ll be able to make delicious and nutritious zipper peas with the tips and recipes provided in this article.

Buying and Storing Zipper Peas

black eyed peas

If you’re thinking about learning how to cook zipper peas, you’ll be able to find them in most grocery stores, usually in the dried bean or canned vegetable aisle. If you have access to a farmers’ market or specialty store, you may be able to find fresh ones. 

When selecting fresh zipper peas, look for green pods free from blemishes or discoloration. The peas inside the pod should be firm and plump.

If you are buying dried zipper peas, look for packages that are free from tears or holes because they can let in air and moisture causing the peas to spoil. It’s also important to check the expiration date on the package to ensure the peas are fresh.

To store fresh zipper peas, place them in a plastic bag or airtight container and put them in the refrigerator. They should last for up to five days. 

If you have dried zipper peas, store them in a cool, dry place like a pantry or cupboard. They are packed well enough to last for up to six months.

Preparing Zipper Peas for Cooking

The first part of knowing how to cook zipper peas is to wash them before cooking. Start by removing the peas from the pod by breaking off the stem end and pulling the string down the side of the pod. Rinse the peas under running water to remove any dirt or debris.

You can also check out how to clean your vegetables with vinegar.

You can also soak the peas in water for a few hours before cooking. This can help soften them and reduce cooking time. Simply place them in a large bowl and let them soak in water for at least two hours, or leave them overnight. After soaking, rinse the peas again and remove any bad peas or debris. 

How to Cook Zipper Peas

There are several ways properly learn how to cook zipper peas, including boiling, using a pressure cooker, and using a slow cooker. Each method has its advantages and disadvantages, so choose the one that works best for you.

If you are a beginner, check out the important steps and things to remember while cooking.

Boiling Zipper Peas

Boiling zipper peas is a straightforward method. Here’s how to do it:

  • Place the cleaned and rinsed peas in a large pot and cover them with water.
  • Bring the water to a boil over high heat.
  • Add a ham hock or a piece of bacon to the pot for extra flavor.
  • Reduce the heat and let the peas simmer for about 30-45 minutes or until they are tender.
  • Drain any excess water and season the peas with salt and pepper to taste.
  • If you’re using fresh peas, they may cook faster than dried peas, so check them after 20 minutes.

Using a Pressure Cooker

Using a pressure cooker can speed up the cooking time of zipper peas and help retain their nutrients. Here’s how to cook zipper peas in a pressure cooker:

  • Place the cleaned and rinsed peas in the pressure cooker pot.
  • Add enough water to cover the peas by about an inch.
  • Diced onion or a clove of garlic can come in handy to lift the flavors.
  • Lock the lid in place and set the pressure to high.
  • Cook the peas for about 15-20 minutes.
  • Release the pressure manually or let it release naturally.

Using a Slow Cooker

If you are looking forward to something that has the richest taste and is tender when ready, you can go ahead with the slow cooker method. Here are the steps for how to cook zipper peas in a slow cooker:

  • Place the cleaned and rinsed peas with added water in the slow cooker pot.
  • Add any seasonings or flavorings you prefer, such as a ham hock, bacon, onion, or garlic.
  • Cover the slow cooker and cook the peas on low for about 6-8 hours 
  • Add other vegetables like carrots, celery, or bell peppers for a more flavorful dish.

Seasoning and Flavoring Zipper Peas

Now that you know how to cook zipper peas and they’re cooked to perfection, it’s time to add some flavor. 

A classic way to season them is with a little salt and pepper, starting small and adjusting to your taste. For a richer and more savory flavor, try adding some bacon and onions to the pot while cooking. 

Get creative with your seasonings – garlic, thyme, or bay leaves are all delicious options to add to the pot. You can also get some tips about making homemade ranch dressing from this guide.

If you’re feeling fancy, try serving your zipper peas with a squeeze of lemon juice or a drizzle of olive oil for some extra zing. The possibilities are endless.

Serving Zipper Peas

Traditional southern side dishes

There are many ways to serve zipper peas. Here are a few ideas:

  • Alone as a side dish: Cooked zipper peas can be served on their own as a tasty side dish. Try them with grilled chicken, fish, or steak.
  • Soups and stews: Add cooked zipper peas to your favorite soup or stew recipe for a protein-packed and flavorful dish.
  • Salads: Toss cooked zipper peas with fresh greens, tomatoes, and a vinaigrette dressing for a healthy and delicious salad.
  • Other recipes: Zipper peas can be used in many other recipes, such as dips, casseroles, and even pasta dishes.


Learning how to cook zipper peas is easy. Whether you boil them on the stove or use a pressure cooker, you can enjoy these healthy and nutritious legumes in many ways.

By following the steps outlined in this guide on how to cook zipper peas, you can enjoy a delicious and nutritious meal that is packed with flavor and texture. 

Don’t be afraid to experiment with different seasonings and flavorings to find your favorite recipe. With the tips and ideas in this article, go ahead and cook zipper peas like a pro.

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