Get a pot of Hoppin’ John simmering for your New Year’s celebration to ensure prosperity for your household throughout the coming year!
Celebrate New Year’s Day in southern United States and you may be served Hoppin’ John. What is Hoppin’ John, you may wonder. It doesn’t really sound like something you eat but more like a cardio work-out or a yoga move.
Hoppin’ John is actually a stew made with black-eyed peas and rice, flavored with ham or bacon, and often served with cooked collards or other greens. This dish is thought to bring prosperity for the coming year, with the greens representing dollars and the peas standing in for coins (thanks, Wikipedia!).
While I won’t make any promises to you about prosperity (although I wish I could!), I can promise that you’ll love this traditional stew, with black-eyed peas and smoky ham. It’s filling, warm, and satisfying, and smells so good as it simmers gently on your stove.
I confess, we enjoy this black-eyed pea stew all year round but never on New Year’s Day. Hoppin’ John is just a great bean soup with an interesting tradition attached to it. We love it! I often make golden cornbread muffins to go along with it. This whole wheat cornbread recipe is great, too.
PS: There are all sorts of interesting theories about the history of Hoppin’ John and I won’t try to go into all that here. If you’re interested, check out Robert Moss’ research on Serious Eats. It’s really quite fascinating!
About this Hoppin’ John recipe:
Call it a soup or a stew, Hoppin’ John is thick and meaty. I like to serve it in a shallow bowl with steamed white rice which I prepare separately.
Begin by soaking the dry peas overnight. Drain and rinse the peas when you’re ready to get cooking. This soup is easy to prepare but it needs some time to simmer.
When you’re ready to start cooking the stew, sauté the veggies in a large soup pan or Dutch oven until they’re fairly tender. Add the peas, broth, and seasonings, and give everything a good stir.
Nestle the ham hocks into the mixture, bring the soup to a boil, then cover the pot, and simmer for an hour or so. You’ll enjoy the delicious aroma as the soup cooks.
When the soup is nearly done, carefully remove the ham hocks and put them on a plate to cool briefly. The ham hocks are in there mostly for the smoky flavor they give the stew but there is a fair amount of meat on the bones. Trim off the skin and fat, and remove the ham from the bone. Shred it and throw it back into the soup.
Simmer until the stew looks just the way you like it. I like to simmer it uncovered for an additional 15 minutes to thicken it up a bit. Hoppin’ John is not fussy about time. It will be just fine hanging out on your stove keeping warm, until you’re ready to serve it.
What’s in traditional Hoppin’ John?
Most modern recipes use black-eyed peas, field peas, or cowpeas (iron clay peas), rice, chopped onion, and sliced bacon. You might find variations with sausage, ham hocks, fatback, or smoked turkey. Some recipes add green peppers, vinegar, and Cajun spices.
This recipe includes:
- Black-eyed peas (they’re really kind of cute with their little black eyes!), buy a one-pound bag of dried peas
- Ham hocks (one or two, depending on how large they are and how meaty you like your stew)
- Green bell pepper, celery, onion, garlic
- Cajun spice blend (don’t worry if you don’t have that, the recipe includes a substitution)
- Bay leaf, thyme, and salt
- Apple cider vinegar (just a dash to make the flavors really sing)
- Rice or cooked greens for serving, along with chopped green onions for garnish
How to make this black eyed pea stew your own:
- Like things spicy? Add more Cajun seasoning, red pepper flakes, or hot peppers.
- Prefer vegetarian? Omit the ham hocks, substitute vegetable broth for the chicken broth, and add smoked paprika, to taste. Add a half teaspoon of liquid smoke, if desired, to replicate the flavor of the ham hocks.
- Can’t find black-eyed peas? They can be a little difficult to find, depending on the season and the region in which you live. Substitute another dried bean such as cranberry beans, navy beans, or pinto beans. Black beans would be fine, too, but be aware that the end product will be a different color.
Storage and Reheating Tips
Hoppin’ John is great leftover! In fact, if you want to make it ahead to save time on New Year’s Day, it will be just perfect. Store it in the fridge for up to 3 days, or in the freezer for a month.
To serve, thaw it overnight in the fridge if it’s frozen, and reheat the soup slowly in a pan on the stove. Add additional broth or water if the Hoppin’ John seems too thick.
Cooking with dried beans – more recipes
Dried beans are so economical, you can store them indefinitely, and they’re so good for you, too! Here’s more great recipes for you:
- Instant Pot Pinto Beans (no soaking needed!) — you can use this recipe for other types of beans, too!
- Frijoles Borrachos (Drunken Beans)
- Slow Cooker Refried Beans
- 15 Bean Soup
- Easy Split Pea Soup Recipe
- Old-Fashioned Baked Beans by A Mind-Full Mom
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 stalks celery, diced in 1/4-inch pieces (about 1 cup)
- 1 medium yellow onion, diced small (about 1 cup)
- 1 green pepper, diced small (about 2 cups)
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 pound dried black-eyed peas, soaked overnight and rinsed (2 cups dry)
- 1 ham hock
- 4 cups reduced-sodium chicken stock
- 1 cup water
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 teaspoon Cajun seasoning
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- Steamed white rice and chopped green onions
- In a large pot, heat oil over medium heat. Add celery, onion, green pepper and cook, stirring frequently for 7-8 minutes, or until onion is translucent. Add garlic and continue to cook for 1 minute or until fragrant.
- Add soaked and rinsed black eyed peas, ham hock, chicken stock, water, bay leaf, thyme, Cajun seasoning, and salt. Stir to combine and bring to a boil, about 5 minutes.
- Reduce heat, cover, and cook for one hour or until black eyed peas are tender.
- Remove ham hock, take meat off the bone, shred it, and stir the meat into the soup. Stir in apple cider vinegar.
- If needed, cook for an additional 15 minutes with cover off to thicken soup, as desired.
- Serve in a shallow bowl with steamed white rice and garnished with sliced green onions.
- If desired, substitute 1/2 pound bacon for the ham hock. Chop bacon into small pieces. Omit oil, cook bacon until almost crispy, and then add vegetables and continue as directed. Other options include sausage, ham, or smoked turkey.
- Vegetarian option: Omit the ham hocks, substitute vegetable broth for the chicken broth, and add smoked paprika, to taste. Add a half teaspoon of liquid smoke, if desired, to replicate the flavor of the ham hocks.
- Can't find black-eyed peas? They can be a little difficult to find, depending on the season and the region in which you live. Substitute another dried bean such as cranberry beans, navy beans, or pinto beans. Black beans would be fine, too, but be aware that the end product will be a different color.
- Cajun seasoning substitute: ½ teaspoon paprika, ¼ teaspoon garlic powder, ¼ teaspoon cayenne or red pepper. This isn't exactly like the blend but it's pretty close. If you like things spicy, increase the amount of Cajun seasoning, or add red pepper flakes, or cayenne pepper.
This website provides approximate nutrition information for convenience and as a courtesy only. Nutrition data is gathered primarily from the USDA Food Composition Database, whenever available, or otherwise other online calculators.