Yellow Peas 101

When it comes to yellow peas, we here at ZENB are fascinated, excited ok, maybe a little obsessed. What can we say? When you find something as magical and literally life-sustaining as these unique legumes, it’s hard not to fall head-over-heels.

And although we’ve used yellow peas to make incredible, nutrition-packed gluten-free pasta that’s helped introduce a whole community of food lovers (hey, that’s you!) to how rad they are, we admit that yellow peas haven’t quite hit it big in the mainstream. Perhaps it’s a branding issue? We’re the first to admit that yellow peas could use a PR campaign, maybe starting with a sparklier name, like Golden Orbs of Delight or Sunshine Drops.

Anyway, while we may be stuck with “yellow pea” as the name of this small-but-mighty plant, we can work with that! We think that once people get a better idea of how amazing yellow peas are, they’ll be fully on board no matter what they’re called!

Let’s start with the answer to a question we get a lot: What are yellow peas?

Yellow peas are the dried, peeled and sometimes split seeds of Pisum sativum AKA the pea plant. Because they’re the seeds of a flower, yellow peas are technically fruit! They grow in pretty yellow pea pods, and are a cool-season crop grown across the world. Dried, they are very light and just about ¼ inch in diameter.

Yellow peas are a legume, which are plants in the Fabaceae family. If you want to get extra nerdy about it, “legume” is a term that can refer to the plants, seeds, or pods of these plants. The edible seeds of legume plants, like yellow peas, are referred to as pulses. So, yellow peas are legumes and pulses. Fun and wild fact: Humans have been cooking with pulses for over 70,000 years!

Other well-known legumes include chickpeas, all kinds of beans, lentils, and peanuts. More obscure legumes include mesquite, carob, tamarind, alfalfa, and clover. Sometimes, people get yellow peas and chickpeas confused (we get it — chickpeas are also yellow-ish in color), but let the record show that they are two different and distinct legumes!

Of course, chickpeas and yellow peas are botanically different species that come from their own plants. They are also nutritionally unique, and have different flavors.

Yellow peas contain 51% less calories than chickpea and about one-third as much fat. They also outshine chickpeas when it comes to vitamins A, C, and K, as well as nearly all the B vitamins, like thiamin and niacin. Both are high in protein, low in saturated fat, and basically just super-nutritious plants that are both beloved around the world.

However, when it comes to performance and flavor in terms of a pasta ingredient, well, you know how that story ends! We found yellow peas to be the top of the crop and used them, skins and all, as the sole simple ingredient in all of the ZENB pasta shapes. The pleasantly nutty, neutral flavor of yellow peas works in all kinds of delicious pasta recipes and the texture they create makes a stunning substitute for traditional wheat pasta.

One cool thing about all legumes is that they are a super-sustainable type of crop. They require less water and fertilizing, making them a sustainable source of protein to help feed our planet.

Second, legumes actually help improve the soil in which they’re grown by improving soil fertility and soil structure. Third, legumes help to fix atmospheric nitrogen, thanks to a special symbiotic relationship between legume plants and soil-dwelling bacteria. These bacteria take nitrogen from the air into the soil and “feed” it to the legumes; in exchange, the plant provides carbohydrates to the bacteria. How incredible is that?!

If you want to level-up even further on your yellow plant knowledge, watch our documentary, What Plants Can Do, a 12-minute film that goes deep into these powerful plants!

And, if you’re inspired to cook up something delicious with ZENB’s yellow pea pasta, explore our collection of over 150 plant-fueled recipes, which you can easily search and filter by main ingredient, type of meal, dietary restriction, and ZENB product! Follow us on Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest for cooking tips and wellness inspo.

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