Hoppin’ John

From the recipe archive, first posted 2010. Happy New Year! ~Elise

This was the year I fell in love with black eyed peas. (The food. Already loved the band.) They have a wonderful flavor, almost smoky, even without bacon or ham. Earlier this last summer we put them in a salad with feta and spinach. So so good.

The dish that black eyed peas are most famous for is Hoppin’ John. No idea where the name came from. And depending on where you are from you might not even call it that, but simply black eyed peas and rice. Hoppin’ John is one of those classic Southern dishes that come with as many versions, stories and flavors as there are cooks. At its core, however, Hoppin’ John is rice, black-eyed peas (or field peas), smoked pork, and onions. Black eyed peas are supposed to bring you luck if you eat them on New Year’s Day, and it is traditionally eaten with collard greens.

So, for this new year, I offer you a hot plate of Hoppin’ John. May we all enjoy its good luck. Happy New Year!

Hoppin’ John Recipe

  • Prep time: 10 minutes
  • Cook time: 50 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 4-6 as a side dish

Note that many things may affect the cooking times of the peas. They could take anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours to cook to tenderness, depending on their age, where they were grown, the water you are using.

Ingredients

  • 1/3 pound bacon, or 1 ham hock plus 2 Tbsp oil
  • 1 celery stalk, diced
  • 1 small yellow onion, diced
  • 1 small green pepper, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 pound dried black-eyed peas, about 2 cups
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 teaspoons dried thyme
  • 1 heaping teaspoon Cajun seasoning
  • Salt
  • 2 cups long-grain rice
  • Scallions or green onions for garnish

Method

1 If you are using bacon, cut it into small pieces and cook it slowly in a medium pot over medium-low heat. If you are using a ham hock, heat the oil in the pot. Once the bacon is crispy (or the oil is hot), increase the heat to medium-high and add the celery, onion, and green pepper and sauté until they begin to brown, about 4-5 minutes. Add the garlic, stir well and cook for another 1-2 minutes.

2 Add the black-eyed peas, bay leaf, thyme and Cajun seasoning and cover with 4 cups of water. If you are using the ham hock, add it to the pot and bring to a simmer. Cook for 30 minutes to an hour, or longer if needed, until the peas are tender (not mushy).

3 While the black-eyed peas are cooking, cook the rice separately according to package instructions.

4 When the peas are tender, strain out the remaining cooking water. Remove and discard the bay leaf. Taste the peas for salt and add more if needed. If using a ham hock, remove it from the pot, pull off the meat, and return the meat to the pot.

Serve the dish either by placing a ladle-full of black-eyed peas over steamed rice, or by mixing the two together in a large bowl. Garnish with chopped green onions. Serve with collard greens, kale, beet or turnip greens.

Links:

Hoppin' John Soup - from Kalyn's Kitchen
Slow Cooker Hoppin' John - from A Year of Slow Cooking
Vegetarian Hoppin' John from Christine Cooks
Prosperity Starts With a Pea - New York Times article about black-eyed peas
Wikipedia entry on Hoppin' John

30 Comments

  1. RM

    Great to see a classic Southern recipe. I’ve eaten this every New Years, and would be afraid to test my luck and not eat it.

    The tradition is:
    (Black eyed) peas for peace
    (Hog) Jowls for joy
    Rice for riches
    Greens (in my family we eat spinach, not collard) for greenback

    We also always eat cornbread, which I’ve read is for gold, but we just have it because it goes well.

    Best wishes for a happy 2011!

    Thank you for enlightening me on the meanings of the ingredients, and Happy New Year! ~Elise

  2. Pat from Newcastle

    Tradition says that the first bite of food in the New Year should be Hoppin John. Since I believe that whatever I’m doing at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve I’ll do for the rest of the year, I make sure that I’m sleeping in bed (or maybe not sleeping…) with my adored husband of many years. We have Hoppin John and cornbread for breakfast.

    Many wishes for a bountiful (love, peace, joy) 2011 and many thanks for a delightful site.

  3. Rebecca

    Just made my own version for the first time tonight before reading your recipe, and we’re totally in sync! Almost exactly the same, except I used frozen black-eyed peas. I live in Virginia Beach, VA, and earlier this week, I pulled a zillion recipes off the internet to figure out how to make the dish for my church’s lunch to feed the homeless and it was very similar. Wanted to make it for myself and my husband to see how it tasted (I’m from Michigan, and we just never did this sort of thing up there). What a great way to ring in the New Year – the house smells wonderful! Happy New Year and thanks for all your excellent recipes! They’re the best!

  4. Georgiaberry

    Yummy! I am cooking black eyed peas right now :) In my southern Arkansas family, we eat our peas with cornbread, and for New Years my granny always put a few dimes in the pot for luck. I guess the luck was that no one ever choked to death on them LOL.

    My husband’s family does black eyed peas for luck, cabbage for wealth, and ham for health, so now I cook that full dinner on New Year’s Day. It is delicious.

    A lazy hoppin john with canned black eyed peas (I like Trappeys brand with jalapeño) is a delicious quick lunch that I have enjoyed many times. Your recipe sounds delicious! Fresh green onions are a must with black eyed peas!

  5. CJ McD

    I love Hoppin John. Sometimes I’ll sub a smoked turkey leg for the bacon or ham hock. And don’t forget to pass the hot sauce!

    Happy New Year Elise!

  6. steph

    With your love for Black Eyed Peas (which I share) you should check out “Mississippi Caviar”. It’s a cold dip, sort of a southern take on a classic bean dip. In the south, ever family has “their recipe”. Ours is: black eyed peas, a fresh vinaigrette, extra olive oil, lemon juice, diced red, green and yellow peppers, chives (or vidalia onion), garlic, fresh parsley and whatever fresh herbs you can get your hands on.

  7. David

    This is a great recipe, but I always add a can of turnip green or mustard greens toward the end. Makes it a more complete meal.

  8. Elizabeth

    I’m from SC, so I make this every year on New Years, as well as throughout the year. :)

    I grew up with the tradition that black eyed peas brought luck and collards brought money!

    Thanks for sharing. I’ll have to try this version. Mine always has ham, bacon, and peppers in it!

  9. Amanda

    Every year for New Year’s, we have as many black eyed peas as we can eat to ensure a prosperous year. We have ham and cornbread to go with it because they all just taste good together. Happy New Year!

  10. Judith

    I don’t buy spice mixtures, so would you please deconstruct Cajun seasoning for me? I know I have all the separate herbs and spices, but I need some proportions.
    Thanks.

    Hi Judith, I haven’t made Cajun seasoning from scratch, but if you Google it, I’m sure you’ll find some recipes. ~Elise

  11. Joshua

    This year, I tried something alittle different and made ours as a risotto. I cooked the peas and collards separately so they wouldn’t get too done, then added them at the last minute once the risotto was finished. Everything was nice an al dente. The cheese was an extra treat in the mix. Oh and of course, I added Tobassco and file. It was really kind of beautiful as well as tasty.

  12. ana

    New Year’s 2010 was the first year I ever cooked/ate Hoppin’ John and I felt it brought us a good year. New Year’s 2011 we had it again, not wanting to risk not having good luck this year! :-)

    I didn’t see your recipe until today (the 3rd) and yours looks more flavorful than the one I used so I will definitely try yours next time.

    Cheers!

  13. Shannon

    I made Hoppin’ John on New Years Day in the slow cooker. Pretty much the same recipe, though I added extra garlic, extra bay leaf, and some fresh sage and thyme and omitted the cajun seasoning (only because I didn’t think of it – darn!). It was tasty!!

  14. Rossella

    “Black eyed peas are supposed to bring you luck if you eat them on New Year’s Day”
    that’s interesting…in Italy it’s Lentils (cooked with pork, generally sweet sausages and/or cotechino ) and the kind of luck they bring if you eat them on New Year’s Day is financial ;)
    Be it peas or lentils tho, Happy New (Successful) Year to Simply Recipes! :)

  15. tommy2rs

    Try some Texas Caviar for your cowpea fix: Try some Texas Caviar

    Link leads to a Dallas Morning News article about the origins and the recipe. I’ve been making this since the 70′s and it’s good stuff. You can make it flaming hot or mild as creek water by adding or subtracting the fresh chiles

  16. Serena S

    I’m originally from Alabama and grew up with Hoppin’ John required with the new year. But now I live in South Africa. We find black eyed peas in the Indian food sections (quite expensive), and I’ve educated quite a few on the benefits of Hoppin’ John, spinach (they don’t grow collards here and never eat the greens from turnips) and corn bread which is an alien concept to them. Everyone loves it. I hope the tradition begins here in the old world.

  17. Barry

    Ah…a Southern tradition! I am originally from the South, and I can not remember a single New Year that we didn’t have black eyed peas and rice. It is super simple to make and tastes incredible! Brings back a LOT of great memories!

  18. Roger

    History of hoppin john: before the civil war some of the people in the south considered black-eyed peas to be “hog food”, most all white people would not eat them, they were beneath them. During the war food was scarce, if it existed at all. Elite whites said to the cooks….” add something to them and we will eat them” So one of the plantation cooks told her helper, named John, to ” get hoppin and find me some rice, onions and ham hock and I will make it.When asked the name of said dish, The cook replied, “hoppin John”. The name and recipe stuck. And I love the stuff.

    That is one of the stories floating around about the origins of the name. Here’s an interesting write-up in the New York Times on hoppin john: Prosperity starts with a pea. ~Elise

  19. Meaghan

    I’m going to make this for lunch today! I always try to buy black eyed peas to make on New Year’s Day, but I can never find ham hock. Thank you for suggesting bacon as a sub!

    -m

  20. Jackie@Syrup and Biscuits

    Beautiful presentation! I’m deeply entrenched in the traditional Southern New Year’s Day table. I wouldn’t think of skipping on pork, greens, blackeyed peas and lacey cornbread. We never called blackeyed peas and rice “Hoppin’ John” which is unfortunate. The name is way cooler than blackeye peas and rice. Happy New Year!

  21. mike G

    Happy New Year! Maybe, just maybe, the tradition is all about preventing/fixing a hangover!! But I like the good fortune message too.

  22. chris

    The rice & peas are supposed to be cooked together — that’s the entire point. NYT had an article a few years back describing the chemistry, the gist of it being, cooking the two together produces something that neither alone has.

    Oh and cooked together is the actual traditional way.

  23. Cynthia Franks

    I used Luzianne Cajun Seasoning and maybe that’s not the same thing as Cajun Spice, but the dish lacked flavor to me. However, it does reheat very well and is filling in a good way. The second time I made this I used The Spice of Seven Spices with ham hock instead of bacon and that livened it up. I used half a table spoon.

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