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Red Cowpeas

Red cowpeas are fast-growing, heat-tolerant herbaceous annual legumes.

Growing red cowpeas is beneficial in many ways. First, it gives you a steady supply of nutritious food. Red cowpeas are also great as ground cover and it helps in weed suppression. It is also used as forage for livestock. They help make the soil rich. Their vines can be baled as hay. Red cowpea is drought tolerant and provides high yield and high seed production.

In 2016, an article was published in the Journal of the Saudi Society of Agricultural Sciences discussing the characteristics of red cowpea and black cowpea. The red cowpea is superior to the black cowpea in terms of sphericity, 1000-seed weight, surface area, water uptake ratio, hydration capacity, swelling capacity, hardness, and chewiness. Black cowpea is better than red cowpea in terms of bulk density, faster cooking time, and adhesiveness. There is no significant difference in terms of texture between the two cultivars.

Classification Information:
Kingdom: Plantae  
Order: Fabales
Family: Fabaceae
Genus: Vigna
Species: V. unguiculata

Red Cowpea Trivia

  • We call them cowpeas but in truth, it is a bean, not a true pea (Pisum sativum).
  • Humans have been growing cowpeas in the last five millennia.
  • Cowpeas came to the United States in the 1600s.
  • Because of their ability to enrich the soil, cowpeas are a favorite in crop rotation, planted after corn or cotton.

Red Cowpea Buying Guide

Red cowpeas are sold in groceries, supermarkets, or the local farmers market if local growers are growing red cowpeas for sale. Check the quality of the red cowpeas. Check if there is any discoloration, bad odor, or even insects. Check if the red cowpeas have holes that suggest that an insect is feeding on them.

Red Cowpea Production & Farming in Texas

Growing red cowpeas require sunlight and high temperature. If they wither and die, it is probably due to waterlogged soil and very cold temperatures. The ideal rainfall for red cowpea plants should be between 750 to 1,100mm. They can survive places where rainfall is down to 500mm. They can also survive places with rainfall reaching 2,000mm, but this increases the chances of the plant succumbing to fungal diseases. Texas is a great place to grow red cowpeas because the average range of rainfall in Texas is 500mm in its western regions and nearly 900mm in the rest of the state.


These are the common pests that attack red cowpea plants: bean fly, Heliothis, aphids, mirid bugs, green vegetable bugs, flower thrips, lucerne seed web moth.

  • Bean fly – To address the problem of bean flies, spray the soil with imidacloprid simultaneously with the sowing of the crop. Repeat after 7 days, and again a week later after that if bean fly infestation is severe.
  • Heliothis – Farmers and growers resort to using integrated pest management (IPM) approach when dealing with Heliothis. The use of insecticide that contains ingredients such as flubendiamide is recommended. 
  • Aphids – Kill aphids using neem oil, insecticidal soap, or horticultural oil. You can also use the pesticide malathion, which is the most commonly used organophosphate insecticide in the United States, or rotenone, a selective, non-specific insecticide typically used in home gardens for insect control.
  • Mirid bugs – An organic approach to controlling mirid bugs means using natural predators to rid the plants of mirid bugs. Predators that target mirid bugs include damsel bugs, big-eyed bugs, assassin bugs, ants, and certain types of spiders.
  • Green vegetable bugs – Use pyrethrin insect spray.
  • Flower thrips – To kill thrips, there is a wide array of options to choose from: horticultural oil, insecticidal soap, anti-parasite spray spinosad, or pyrethrin pesticides with piperonyl butoxide.
  • Lucerne seed web moth – Use insecticide but note that it is only effective on adults. It cannot kill the larva. 


Red cowpeas are hardy plants that are capable of thriving in harsh climate conditions. This is one of the reasons why many communities around the world plant red cowpeas, allowing them to have a regular source of food. Different countries all around the world grow red cowpeas. India and Africa are two places where red cowpeas are commonly used. It is a common type of food here.


Red cowpeas are sold in plastic packs, sealed vacuum plastic packs, and also in cans. Packaging should include a label that provides you with information regarding the red cowpeas you are buying.

Enjoying Red Cowpeas

When you eat red cowpea, you will notice its distinct nutty flavor and the firmness of its texture as you eat it.


Uncooked red cowpeas should be stored in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight.


Red cowpeas are known to hold up well during cooking, especially for long cooking, primarily because of their firm texture. If you are thinking of cooking red cowpeas, consider making a soup. If this is your first time using red cowpeas to cook, you can try cooking them along with those that complement the taste, aroma, and texture of red cowpeas, such as yams, plantains, tomatoes, onions, and chilies. 

Use red cowpeas when making a traditional Ghanaian stew, or cook it with curry and vegetables. Another India-inspired recipe using red cowpea is the red cowpea masala sundal. Another recipe that highlights red cowpeas is Vanpayar Thoran or red cowpeas coconut stir-fry). And who can forget the New Year dish Hoppin John? Yes, you can use red cowpeas when you make this dish. 

Red cowpeas are great especially if you are making a vegetarian dish since red cowpeas can provide the minerals and nutrients you usually expect to get from red meat.   

Nutritional Benefits:

Red cowpea is a delicious, nutritional legume. Here are the nutritional benefits of red cowpeas: protein, Vitamin B, Vitamin C, calcium, iron, selenium, and folic acid.



  • Serving Size: 1 Serving
  • Calories: 198 10%
  • Carbs: 35.5g 27.31%
  • Sugar: 5.7g
  • Fiber: 11.1g 29.21%
  • Protein: 13.22g 26.44%
  • Fat: 0.91g 2.6%
  • Saturated Fat: 0.2g 1%
  • Trans Fat 0g 0%
  • Cholesterol 0mg 0%
  • Sodium 0mg 0%
  • Vitamin C 0.7mg 1%
  • Vitamin A 25.8IU 1%
  • Calcium 41.3mg 4%
  • Iron 4.29mg 24%
  • Potassium 478mg 14%
  • Vitamin E 0.5mg 2%
  • Vitamin K 2.9mcg 4%
  • Vitamin B6 0.2mg 9%
  • Folate 358mcg 89%
  • Thiamin 0.3mg 23%

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