How to Peel Black Eyed Peas For African Dishes

You want your kosai, your akara, your moi moi to be smooth and perfect. But you don’t know how to peel black eyed peas without spending hours in the kitchen! 

Do you really need to get rid of every last peel? What is the best way to do it with the least amount of headache?

Let’s look at some different ways to peel black eyed peas, so you can make your best West African food.

You may call them peas, or you might call them beans. I will be using peas and beans interchangeably in this article.

Why Do Black Eyed Peas Need To Be Peeled?

If you want to have authentic kosai, akara or moi moi, you need to peel the beans!

Sure, you can skip the time consuming step of removing the peels from the beans. This might even give you some extra fiber and nutrition. But you will lose the smooth texture and light airiness of these dishes. 

Peeling beans for Nigerian dishes is like childbirth. When you get to hold the finished product, you kind of forget about all the pain.

Are Peeled Beans Still Nutritious?

Yes, peeled beans are still providing plenty of fiber and protein. There is some talk online that you lose ALL the fiber and nutrition when you peel your beans. This is simply not true. 

Look at the label for a popular brand called Oloye Peeled Bean. Nutrition information per serving is 1 gram of fiber. But the serving size is only 16 grams, which is less than a tablespoon. If you eat ¼ cup of the beans, you are getting 4 grams of fiber. And ¼ cup is still a very small serving when we are talking about akara or moi moi. 

Peeled beans are also a good source of protein, which is contained in the bean itself, not in the peel.

So nutritionally, I would not worry about peeling my beans. Kosai and moi moi do not make up your entire diet! Make sure you are eating a variety of other fiber-rich fruits and vegetables, and use unpeeled beans sometimes to prepare other dishes.

How Long Should You Soak Black Eyed Peas for Peeling?

A glass bowl of black eyed peas soaking in water.

Everyone has a different opinion on how long to soak black-eyed peas for peeling. You will hear everything from 3 minutes to a long, overnight soak.

From the Crocodiles: Recipes from the International Women’s Club Kaduna, Nigeria talks about skinning beans. They say “It is easier if the beans do not soak too long and swell to match the swollen skins.” 

This makes sense, as the skins will absorb the water first, and then the bean. 

I have tried both short and long soaks, and I find that which to use depends on your peeling method. If you peel your beans by rubbing them between your hands, a shorter soak definitely makes it easier.

If you plan to use a blender, it also makes sense to soak the beans for a shorter time, because you want the skins to be loose so that you can crack them off easily without pureeing the beans.

However when I use my lava stone mortar, it seems like the skins slide off more easily when I have soaked the black eyed peas overnight. 

There is really no wrong answer here, which is probably why everyone has a different opinion. If soaking overnight works well for you, do that. Try a shorter or longer soak to find out which works for you with your peeling method. 

When you forget to soak your beans the night before, or are using the traditional hand or the blender method for skinning, just do a short 30 minute soak.

What About Water Temperature?

For a short soak, use hot tap water. It doesn’t have to be boiling. The hot water speeds up the process of expanding the peel. If you plan to soak the beans overnight, the water temperature does not really matter.

The Traditional Way to Peel Beans

The traditional way to peel black eyed peas is to cover them in water, which can be the same water you used for soaking. Take a handful of peas and rub them vigorously in between the palms of both your hands. The peels will slide off with the friction.

KeliGrace demonstrates the traditional way of peeling black eyed peas on her YouTube channel.    

This method works, but can take a while, especially if you are preparing a lot of beans. Maybe it doesn’t fit into our lifestyle today to be spending an hour or more at the counter laboriously rubbing beans between our hands. 

As much as we love to stay true to tradition, there are some faster and more modern ways to peel beans.

Two Easier Ways to Peel Beans

The Blender Method

Put a cup or two of beans in your blender. This depends on the size of the blender, but you want to have plenty of room for the beans to circulate around the blades. 

Add enough water to cover the beans. Put the blender on the lowest setting, and pulse the motor five or six times. 

You are not trying to puree the beans, you only want to crack them enough to loosen the skins. Turn the water and beans into a large bowl and begin the process of straining off the peels.

You can see the blender method demonstrated at Navinas Kitchen YouTube channel.   You can also see this method used at Tolulicious Kitchen.  

The Mortar and Pestle Method

A lavastone mortar with black eyed peas that have the peels ground off.

Process your beans in small quantities of about ½ cup, or more if you have a bigger mortar. You will want a mortar and pestle that has some resistance. My lava stone mortar works perfectly. There is also a wooden mortar with a flat-bottomed pestle that has little knobs to scrape at the bean. 

I have used a meat tenderizing mallet with spikes to scrape at the beans and break up their skins.

Again, you are not trying to puree your beans. Apply gentle pressure and sideways scraping action just to break off the skins. It is ok if the beans break up a bit. If you soaked your beans overnight they are probably very soft, so a light touch goes a long way.

You can see the wonderful Flo Chinyere preparing black eyed peas in a mortar at her YouTube channel.     

After you process each batch, transfer them into a big bowl. Now you are ready to strain off the peels.

A white bowl of black eyed peas with the peels removed, but not strained off yet.

To see L&M Cakes and Cuisine prepare Koki Beans with a hand-cranked grinder and a large traditional wooden mortar and pestle, visit her YouTube Channel.    

How to Strain off the Peels

Put a fine strainer or sieve in your sink. Your peas should be in a large bowl covered with water. Agitate them by swirling with your hands and shaking the bowl from side to side. This makes the lighter peels rise to the surface.

Tip the bowl slowly over the strainer and let the peels pour off with the water. If a bean or two gets swept along, don’t worry, you can always pick it back out of the strainer. 

You will repeat this process over and over until all of the black dots have been poured off and you are left with white beans.

You might need to go in with your hands and remove more of the peels that got missed when you were grinding or rubbing them off.

Saving Water

You can reuse your water. Just put the strainer over another large bowl, and keep on transferring the water back to the original bowl. 

Now you are ready to roll with your recipes! You should have a bowl of creamy white peeled beans.

A glass bowl containing peeled black eyed peas.

What Should You Do With the Skins?

A sieve with strained black eyed pea peels.

Don’t forget about the compost heap! All of those skins will decompose down beautifully.

I have heard suggestions of drying the skins, blending them up to a powder and adding them to other foods as a fiber source. I haven’t tried this, but if it sounds appeeling to you, then go for it! Let me know how it turns out.

Strategies to Make it Easier to Peel Black Eyed Peas

  • Peel black eyed peas in small batches. This is a lot less overwhelming. 
  • Divide the peas up and hand them out to other people so they can help.
  • What about that show you have been wanting to binge-watch? Why not do it with a bowl full of beans in your lap.
  • When you have the time, peel a lot of beans and pop them in your freezer. You can keep them there for a few months.
  • Just buy your beans already peeled. There are a number of companies selling these now. (I don’t recommend using bean flour. This will produce a really dense product.)

H2: Final Thoughts

If you want to prepare authentic West African kosai, akara or moi moi, removing the peels from the black eyed peas is an important and necessary step. It is also a process that feels like it will never end.

Don’t worry about losing all of the nutrition in the peels. Peeled beans still contain plenty of fiber and protein. You are also eating a lot of other foods with these nutrients. 

First, soak your beans. If you are using the hand or blender method, soak them for 30 minutes in hot tap water (not boiling). If you are using a mortar, an overnight soak might work better.

The traditional method of peeling beans is either with a giant mortar and pestle, which we don’t have, or rubbing them together between your hands to scrape off the skins.

You can get the skins off more quickly by using a blender or a smaller mortar and pestle.

After your beans are peeled, strain off the skins by floating them to the top of the water and pouring it off through a sieve.

You can conserve water by pouring it into a bowl and reusing it. Bean peels can go into the compost heap.

Now you are ready to make your delicious small chop dishes! You can also pop peeled beans in the freezer and keep them for a couple of months.

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