Black-Eyed Pea Butternut Squash and Israeli Couscous Soup with Spinach Pesto

Also called cowpeas from their use as cattle fodder, black-eyed peas are not only low in fat, high in potassium and fiber, but are a delicious substitute for meat.. In the Southern part of the United States, black-eyed peas are a staple and are traditionally served on New Year’s Day to ensure good luck and prosperity for the coming year. Black-eyed peas are available dried, frozen or canned. While the dried variety require more time to prepare, they have less sodium and more fiber than the canned peas.

An amalgamation of the many soup recipes that I have made using fresh vegetables and pantry items, this soup began its life as a Delicata Squash, Israeli Couscous Soup with Spinach, adapted from Italian Country Cooking-The Secrets of Cucina Povera. Adding black-eyed peas,  butternut squash, carrots, celery, leeks, substituting vegetable stock for the chicken broth and making spinach pesto to stir into the soup transformed the soup into an entirely new dish. The black-eyed peas were soaked overnight in the refrigerator and cooked with onion, bay leaves and garlic ahead of time. If pressed for time, frozen black-eyed peas can be substituted.

This is my entry for No Croutons Required, hosted by Lisa of Lisa’s Kitchen. The challenge for the month of January is to create a vegetarian soup or a salad featuring black-eyed peas.

Black-eyed Pea Butternut Squash and Israeli Couscous Soup with Spinach Pesto
Serves 6-8
Ingredients (Stage 1)
1 (12 ounce bag) dried black-eyed peas, rinsed and picked over
1 onion, peeled and halved
3 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
3 bay leaves

Preparation: Soak black-eyed peas overnight in hot tap water adding three times as much water as peas. Drain. In a large saucepan, combine drained peas, onion, garlic and bay leaves. Bring to a boil and cook until peas are tender, about an hour. Cool and refrigerate if not using immediately. Remove onion, garlic and bay leaves.

Ingredients (Stage 2)
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, diced
2 carrots, peeled and diced
2 ribs celery, diced
1 leek, bottom only, washed and sliced thin
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 3/4-inch cubes
1 sprig fresh thyme
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
10 cups vegetable stock
2 tablespoons tomato paste
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 cup Israeli couscous, often called pearl couscous
Drained black-eyed peas

Preparation: In a large soup pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion, carrots, celery and leek to pan, stirring occasionally until vegetables are soft. Add garlic, cook one minute. Add butternut squash and cook for five minutes. Add fresh thyme, crushed red pepper, vegetable stock and tomato paste. Bring to a boil. Simmer for about thirty minutes. Bring back to a boil and add Israeli couscous. Simmer for about 10 minutes. Add cooked and drained black-eyed peas. Simmer for a 10 minutes or until peas are heated through. Adjust seasonings. Add more water if soup is too thick.

Spinach Pesto (Stage 3)

1 cup packed fresh spinach leaves

1 clove garlic

1/3 cup walnuts, toasted

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper, to taste

Preparation: Process spinach, garlic and walnuts in a food processor. While machine is running, add olive oil in a stream. Remove to bowl and season with salt and pepper.

To Serve-Ladle soup in bowls and top with a dollop of spinach pesto or stir pesto into soup, if desired.


Please do not use images or text without my permission. 


  1. Victoria Challancin
    January 20, 2012 / 10:55 pm

    Although I realize I can substitute other beans, my Southern roots show when I talk about how much I miss black-eyed peas, fresh or dried! This recipe looks comforting and delicious.

  2. Beth
    January 21, 2012 / 10:45 am

    This looks so healthy and absolutely wonderful!

  3. Lisa
    January 21, 2012 / 6:37 pm

    Thanks for your submission to NCR. What a creative dish. The roundup will be posted soon.

  4. Deborah
    January 23, 2012 / 6:03 am

    I think I need to eat more black-eyed peas, because this looks wonderful!!

  5. Lynne
    January 23, 2012 / 5:42 pm

    Thanks, Victoria, Beth and Lisa for your lovely comments.

  6. georgia b.
    January 31, 2012 / 10:14 pm

    yum! i just may have to try this! sounds wonderful for a chilly winter night.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.