BACKGROUND The cowpea (Vigna unguiculata L. Wap.) is an excellent source of iron and zinc. However, iron from plant sources is poorly absorbed compared with iron from animal sources. OBJECTIVES The objective of this study was to evaluate iron and zinc bioaccessibility in cowpea cultivars after processing. METHODS Zinc and iron bioaccessibilities in cowpea samples were determined based on an in vitro method involving simulated gastrointestinal digestion with suitable modifications. RESULTS When water-soaked beans were cooked in a regular pan, the highest percentage of bioaccessible iron obtained was 8.92%, whereas when they were cooked in a pressure cooker without previous soaking, the highest percentage was 44.33%. Also, the percentage of bioaccessible zinc was 52.78% when they were cooked in a regular pan without prior soaking. Higher percentages of bioaccessible iron were found when cooking was done in a pressure cooker compared with regular pan cooking. In all cultivars, cooking of cowpea beans in both pressure cooker and in a regular pan yielded higher percentages of bioaccessible zinc compared with availability of bioaccessible iron. CONCLUSIONS Iron bioaccessibility values suggest that cooking in a regular pan did not have a good effect on iron availability, since the percentage of bioaccessible iron was lower than that of zinc. The determination of iron and zinc bioaccessibility makes it possible to find out the actual percentage of absorption of such minerals and allows the development of efficient strategies for low-income groups to access foods with high levels of these micronutrients.