Field Peas in Peanut Gravy

updated Nov 22, 2019
Field Peas in Peanut Gravy

This delicious, nutty vegetarian side dish is chock-full of vegetables and pantry staples.

Serves8 to 10

Prep30 minutes

Cook1 hour

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Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Barrett Washburne; Prop Styling: Stephanie Yeh

This recipe is a part of our Ever-Evolving Southern Thanksgiving package. See all the recipes here.

Gabrielle Eitienne, Holly Springs, North Carolina 

From the outside, our homes and lives in Holly Springs don’t necessarily stick out as extravagant or rich, but wealth and abundance look differently in different communities and ours is enriched by our connection to one another, the land, and the food we grow from it. 

Uncle Drew is my grandfather’s baby brother. Every year he plants a patch of collards that holds about 300 heads. During the holiday season these plants feed our community, but this year for the first time that patch will only be grass. This is because my uncle has been removed from our community through eminent domain. This was a choice made by the state of North Carolina in order to enforce what they refer to as “progress.” Uncle Drew’s story is not an isolated incident. Many elders from Holly Springs will have grass growing in their gardens this year. They are paving asphalt over our sacred spaces that house knowledge, joy, history, and a rare wisdom that only lived experience can spawn. As we prepare ourselves for what this means for the future of our community, our one-acre garden, and our homestead, we have to remind ourselves that home is a verb. The history in this dirt can’t be replicated, but the oral history, agricultural knowledge, and various ways of being and creating from the land can and will be replicated. We will continue to find ways to keep these traditions alive. 

For me, growing and shelling peas is part of this process. The bowls on our laps reflect our laughter and hold our history, and the peas themselves are intricate threads that lead us to our ancestor’s gardens and pots. The rattle of dried pea husks is a sound of remembrance, and I can close my eyes and see the hands of my great-grandmother and her mother. Historically, shelling peas has been a moment of transmission. An opportunity to learn “who y’all be,” and what doesn’t go into the pot goes back into the ground, story and all. I still watch in awe at the speed in which my elders crack pods. I try to keep up, but can’t. Growing, shelling, cooking, and passing the peas is ritual. 

Take note: If you’re getting peas from aisle six for this recipe, you’re missing the point. However, if you can’t shell your own, maybe find a way to insert the ritual elsewhere in this process.

Field Peas in Peanut Gravy

This delicious, nutty vegetarian side dish is chock-full of vegetables and pantry staples.

Prep time 30 minutes

Cook time 1 hour

Serves 8 to 10

Nutritional Info


For the peas:

  • 2

    medium sweet onions

  • 2 cups

    dried peas, such as Sea Island red peas

  • 3

    medium bell peppers

  • 3

    medium carrots

  • 2

    medium celery stalks, or 1/2 large fennel bulb

  • 5

    dried dates

  • 5 cloves


  • 2 tablespoons

    unsalted butter or olive oil

  • 3

    large bay leaves

  • 1 tablespoon

    granulated onion

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    dried fennel seeds

  • 1/8 teaspoon

    ground cayenne pepper

  • Kosher salt

  • Freshly ground black pepper

  • 3 cups

    vegetable stock or broth

  • 1/2 cup

    ground peanuts or chunky peanut butter

For the breadcrumb topping:

  • 1/2 cup

    panko breadcrumbs

  • 3 to 4 tablespoons


  • 1 teaspoon

    fresh thyme leaves

  • Kosher salt

  • Freshly ground black pepper


  1. Make the peas: Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil. Meanwhile, peel 2 medium sweet onions. Reserve the skin of 1/2 an onion and discard the remaining skins. Dice the onions and transfer to a large bowl; set aside.

  2. Add the peas and onion skin to the boiling water and cook for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare the following, placing them all in the bowl with the onion: trim and small dice 3 bell peppers, peel and small dice 3 carrots, small dice 2 celery stalks or 1/2 large fennel bulb, pit and small dice 5 dried dates, and mince 5 garlic cloves.

  3. When the peas are ready, drain through a colander and set aside. Heat 2 tablespoons unsalted butter or olive oil in a large oven-safe pot or Dutch over medium heat. Add the vegetable mixture and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened. Add the peas, 3 large bay leaves, 1 tablespoon granulated onion, 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds, 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper, season well with kosher salt and black pepper, and stir to combine.

  4. Add 3 cups vegetable stock and bring to a boil. Simmer over low heat until the peas are almost tender, about 20 minutes. Add 1/2 cup ground peanuts or chunky peanut butter and simmer until the peas are tender but still hold their shape. Meanwhile, heat the broiler and make the breadcrumb topping.

  5. Make the breadcrumb topping: Arrange a rack in the middle of the rack and heat the oven to broil. Place 1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs, 3 to 4 tablespoons mayonnaise, 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, and a pinch of salt and black pepper in a small bowl and stir to combine.

  6. When the peas are ready, sprinkle the breadcrumb topping over the peas. Broil until golden brown, 1 to 3 minutes.

Recipe Notes

Make ahead: The peas can be made up to 1 day ahead and refrigerated, and the flavors actually improve over the course of a day. Reheat over low heat, then top with the breadcrumb topping and proceed with broiling.

Storage: Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 4 days.

Contributed by Gabrielle Eitienne, Holly Springs, NC.