Indian Style Black Eyed Pea Rice (Pulao Recipe)

Indian Style Black Eyed Pea Rice (Pulao Recipe) Recipe

Feeding a vegetarian crowd isn't as difficult as it may seem. I usually pair a legume with rice, which is the perfect balance for a vegetarian diet. I've been getting fresh black-eyed peas (also known as "cow peas") at the local stand, and instead of serving them as a boring bean salad, I incorporated them in a rice dish, flavored with Indian spices. I've made this dish in the past; it's called "pulao". Our family loves the burnt rice at the bottom of the pot, called "kurchan".

First, I sautéed black-eyed peas in onions, garlic, cider vinegar and red chili powder. They're very firm, so they take slightly longer to cook then the parboiled dried variety. I let them simmer until tender, then finished cooking them with steamed basmati rice and baby spinach.


Yields: 8 servings

3-½ cups basmati rice
4 green cardamom pods, slightly crushed
3 tablespoons canola oil (or any neutral oil), as needed
1 yellow onion
2-½ cups fresh black-eyed peas
2 cups baby spinach leaves, coarsely chopped
2 teaspoons ginger garlic paste (see tips)
1 clove garlic, finely minced
¼ cup apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup plain yogurt
1 bay leaf, torn in half
½ teaspoon cumin seeds
½ teaspoon garam masala
¼ teaspoon red chili powder, to taste
1-½ teaspoons salt, as needed
½ teaspoon black pepper
3 tablespoons grapeseed oil (or olive oil), as needed
2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped


Prepping the rice:

Wash and thoroughly rinse the rice in several water baths (about three times). Place in a large bowl; cover with water. Add 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar and soak for at least 1 hour. Drain as much water as possible.

Fill a large pot with about 4 quarts of water. Add the cardamom pods. Bring to a boil. Add the rice. Bring the liquid back to a boil, then immediately lower the heat to a gentle boil. That way the rice will cooked evenly all the way through. Cook for about 7 minutes at a bubbly simmer. Add 1 teaspoon of salt half-way through the cooking process. Keep stirring the rice every now and then so that it doesn't stick to the bottom of the pot. The grains of rice should still be a little hard, about 2/3 of the way cooked. Check often and do NOT wait until the grains are soft (see tips); this step is crucial. Drain the liquid from the rice using a fine mesh colander. Do NOT rinse. Discard the liquid. Set aside.

For the black-eyed peas: In a medium-sized pot, heat 2 tablespoons canola oil. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant. Add the chopped onion, ginger garlic paste, cumin seeds, bay leaf, red chili powder and garam masala. Cook until the onions are translucent. Add yogurt and stir until it forms a thick paste. Add the black eyed peas and cook for another 5 minutes minute. Add the remaining apple cider vinegar, then cover with about 2-½ cups of water. Bring to a boil, then lower to medium heat for about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add more water (if necessary), cover the pot with a lid and cook for another 20 minutes on low. Keep stirring every now and then so the black eyed peas don't stick to the bottom of the pot. The cooking time might vary depending on their freshness. All the liquid should be evaporated. Check the softness of the peas (add water and cook a bit longer if not fully cooked). Adjust seasoning, then add the baby spinach and 1 tablespoon of cilantro at the end (the heat from the pot will wilt the leaves). Set aside.

Assembly time:

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Coat the inside of a cast iron pot with 1 tablespoon canola oil. Place a thin layer of the black eyed peas at the bottom. Add 1/3 of the rice. Season with salt. Add another generous layer of black eyed peas. Repeat the same procedure and finish with rice.

Using the pestle (the stick) of a mortar and pestle, create 3 evenly-spaced holes (forming a triangle) in the pot of rice and drizzle about ½ to 3/4 cup of water into the rice. Drizzle with grapeseed oil. Seal the pot with an aluminum sheet and cover the pot. Place on the stove over high heat for about 3-4 minutes. Steam should escape from the pot. Immediately transfer to the oven and bake for about 8-10 minutes. Remove from the oven. Allow the rice to set for at least 15 minutes. Do not remove the lid.

Gently fluff the rice using long chopsticks (or a fork) without breaking the grains of rice or mushing the beans. The black-eyed pea rice is ready.

Garnish with cilantro.

Serve with raita (yogurt based sauce) or chutney if you'd like.

Bon appétit!


The key to this dish is to cook the rice perfectly. It's important not to cook the rice all the way through as it will finish cooking with the peas. If you cook the rice too long, it will get mushy. If the grains of rice have already turned soft before starting the steaming process, do not throw it away (nothing goes to waste); make a rice congee (cháo gà in Vietnamese), a type of chicken rice porridge.

Fresh black eyed peas have a firmer texture than the parboiled dried variety, so they take slightly longer to cook. Let them simmer until they are soft to your liking.


I usually use plain yogurt from the Indian store or Greek-style yogurt because it has a denser consistency than the regular ones.

You've probably noticed I use ginger garlic paste a lot in my cooking. It tastes great and is very healthy for you as well. Just clean a 3-inch chunk of ginger, carefully removing any dirt. Peel the ginger root with a paring knife or the edge of a spoon, then finely chop it. Place the chopped ginger and 5 cloves of garlic in a blender and, add about 2 tablespoons (or more) of water for a smooth flow. Transfer to a jar and store in the refrigerator. You can keep this paste for at least a week in the refrigerator.

If you're not serving immediately, just place the pot in the oven at 170°F (the lowest setting) until ready to serve.

Published By: Jacqueline Pham on June 7, 2011.


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