Coconut Black-eyed Pea Curry

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I’ve been blessed with several mother figures in my life. Growing up, my relationship with my own mom was a little … ambivalent, as many are. But as I got older, I think we came to understand one another better. Unfortunately I lost her when I was just in my early 30s, and it left a void in my life. My mother-in-law is 99 years old and a joy to be around.

In my first marriage, we lived close by to my in-laws and so I got to know Pauline well. While it wasn’t always smooth sailing for us, we remained close long after the marriage fell apart, until her death a few years ago. She was a petite, feisty woman who always spoke her mind. Her parents lived close by as well and became the grandparents I never had. They migrated here from Oklahoma and so, brought along a few southern traditions.

The one I still practice today is eating black-eyed peas on New Year’s day. It’s thought to bring prosperity and good luck in the coming year. Traditionally in the form of Hoppin’ John, I always made 15 bean soup instead (which included black-eyes) using the ham bone from the ginormous whole ham my employer gave out at Christmas. Here’s a link for more information on eating black-eyed peas on New Year’s day.

The soup is just not the same without the ham, so I’ve once again re-invented the tradition. This is my favorite black-eyed pea recipe, and while it’s an Indian dish, I serve it with corn bread for a little southern flair. This one I found in one of my favorite cookbooks, Vegan Eats World.


  • 1 large yellow onion, peeled and chopped
  • 1 one inch cube ginger, peeled
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 2 teaspoons garam masala
  • 3/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 4 teaspoons vegetable oil
  • 4 cups cooked black eye peas. You can use frozen, canned or dried.
  • 2/3 cup water or vegetable broth
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 cup coconut milk, regular or reduced fat
  • 2 teaspoons lime juice
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped cilantro


  1. In a food processor pulse together the onion, ginger, garlic, garam masala, cayenne pepper, cardamom, and salt to form a smooth paste. Heat the oil in a wok or stainless steel skillet over medium heat until it ripples, then stir fry the the onion mixture for 2 minutes. Add the beans, water, bay leaves, and coconut milk and increase heat to high, stirring occasionally.
  2. Bring mixture to an active simmer for 5 minutes, then reduce heat to medium and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. If a thicker consistency is desired continue to simmer the beans. When the desired consistency is reaches, turn off heat. Remove bay leaves and stir in lime juice and cilantro. Let beans stand for 10 minutes before serving. Serve over rice.

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