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Ring in the New Year with a resolution to cook more, and cook better. Start with Hoppin’ John, a classic Southern recipe chock-full of thick-cut bacon, rice, and black-eyed peas that’s said to offer good luck.

Hoppin' john in a blue bowl.

Hoppin’ John is a one-pot dish of rice, black-eyed or red peas, and ham. It’s a meal traditionally eaten on the New Year along with stewed collard greens and cornbread to soak up all the cooking juices.

It likely originated in West Africa and was carried to the Caribbean islands by slaves. Senegal and Guyana cultivated rice and pigeon peas, and it’s likely that this recipe traces back to similar dishes.

Hoppin’ John is now a staple in Carolina Low Country cooking, but is enjoyed all over the American South and beyond. While Hoppin’ John ingredients can vary by region (some use Geechee red peas, others insist on Sea Island peas) there is always some form of rice, a legume, and a portion of pork: bacon, ham bone, or ham hock.

Traditionally, in order to maximize the good luck for the coming year, you should leave three peas in your empty bowl when you’re finished eating—one for fortune, another for luck, and a third for romance. But this homemade Hoppin’ John is so delicious, I have a tough time leaving any crumb uneaten.

Lucky enough to have leftover Hoppin’ John? That’s called Skippin’ Jenny, which is supposed to bring you even more luck when you eat it over the next day or two. So make a big batch and have the luckiest year yet.

Table of Contents
  1. Recipe ingredients
  2. Ingredient notes
  3. Step-by-step instructions
  4. Recipe tips and variations
  5. Recipe FAQs
  6. Hoppin’ John Recipe

Recipe ingredients

Labeled ingredients for hoppin' john.

At a Glance: Here is a quick snapshot of what ingredients are in this recipe.
Please see the recipe card below for specific quantities.

Ingredient notes

  • Bacon: Thick-cut slices of your favorite savory style of bacon works well. If frozen, chop the bacon while it’s frozen (firm but not rock-hard). It’s so much easier and less greasy that way. Diced pancetta or ham are suitable swaps.
  • Cajun seasoning: Use store-bought or to make your own Cajun Seasoning, stir together 3 tablespoons smoked or sweet paprika, 2 tablespoons garlic powder, 2 tablespoons Italian seasoning, 2 tablespoons salt, 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper, 1 tablespoon dried thyme, and 1 tablespoon onion powder. You’ll just need ¼ teaspoon for this recipe, so if you don’t want to go to the effort, simply trade in ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper.
  • Chicken broth: Buy 2 large boxes or 4 regular-sized cans, or use Homemade Chicken Broth.
  • Black-eyed peas: To soak beans overnight, add 4 quarts water to a large bowl and add 1 pound of rinsed black-eyed peas. Soak at least 8 hours. To quick-soak beans, add 1 pound of rinsed beans to a large saucepan and cover with 3 inches of water. Bring to a boil. Boil rapidly for 5 minutes, then remove from heat, cover, and let stand for 1 hour. (See “Recipe FAQs” for more bean-soaking tips.)

Step-by-step instructions

  1. In a Dutch oven or large saucepan over medium-low heat, cook bacon until almost crispy, about 10 minutes. Add celery, onion and bell pepper. Sauté until vegetables start to brown, about 8 minutes. Stir in garlic, thyme, bay leaf, and Cajun seasoning until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
A skillet with bacon, onions, and peppers.
  1. Stir in broth and black-eyed peas. Cover and bring to boil; reduce heat and simmer until peas are tender, about 60 to 90 minutes (mine took about 75 minutes to finish).
Hoppin' john in a skillet.
  1. Remove bay leaf and drain if desired (see notes). Season to taste with salt and pepper. Garnish with scallions and serve with cooked rice if desired (you can top the rice with Hoppin’ John or mix the two together).
Hoppin' john in a blue bowl.

Recipe tips and variations

  • Yield: This recipe makes eight (1-cup) servings of bacon-laced beans and vegetables. Serve over cooked rice, alongside Collard Greens and Cornbread to make it a meal.
  • Storage: Store leftovers covered for up to 4 days.
  • Freezer: To freeze ham and bean soup, place it in a shallow dish in the refrigerator to chill. Then transfer to a freezer-safe container and freeze up to 2 months.
  • To drain or not to drain? Many cooks drain off the cooking liquid from Hoppin’ John before serving. However, I personally like it a little juicier and prefer to skip the draining step. It’s totally up to you.
  • Think beyond bacon: Some cooks prefer to make Hoppin’ John with a ham bone or hock (as is called for in my Slow Cooker Ham and Bean Soup), and that’s totally fine, too. You can make it without bacon, or keep the bacon in along with the ham. Add the hock when you add the peas, then remove the bone and take the meat off the bone and return it to the pot.
  • Vegetarian Hoppin’ John: To make this bean and rice dish a vegetarian recipe, simply omit the bacon. Sauté the vegetables in lots of olive oil and cook the black-eyed peas with vegetable broth instead of chicken. This variation of Hoppin’ John is vegan, too.
  • Hoppin’ Juan: Give Hoppin’ John a hint of Tex Mex flair by swapping in black beans for the black-eyed peas. Feel free to use chili powder or Homemade Taco Seasoning instead of Cajun seasoning.

Recipe FAQs

Do I have to soak the beans first?

  • Soaking beans and black-eyed peas before cooking is not required. However, you can cut about 30 minutes off the cooking time if you pre-soak the beans.
  • Should I toss the soaking liquid?
  • Yes, I recommend pouring the soaking water down the drain. Some people say it’s a waste of water to throw away the soaking water. Others say if you keep the soaking water, it adds a sour taste. I agree with the latter and recommend tossing the soaking water, but it’s up to you.

  • Should I salt the beans before cooking?
  • Yes, salt the beans before cooking them. You may have heard somewhere that the universe will implode if you add salt to beans before they are completely cooked. However, if you read Kenji López-Alt’s information in his book, The Food Lab, he did some side-by-side testing and determined that salting beans before they are cooked is fine. In fact, doing so helps prevent the beans from exploding (see page 256 in his book).
  • Can I substitute canned black-eyed peas?

  • To substitute canned beans, use 1 can of black-eyed peas. Rinse and drain before adding to the pot and cook until heated through, about 15 to 20 minutes. Note: There isn’t a lot of time for the bay leaf to work here. You can still use it, but the flavor won’t be as noticeable as if you make Hoppin’ John with dried black-eyed peas.
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    More Southern favorites

    A bowl of hoppin' john.

    Hoppin’ John

    Ring in the New Year with a resolution to cook more, and cook better. Start with Hoppin’ John, a classic Southern recipe chock-full of thick cut bacon, rice, and black-eyed peas.
    5 from 2 votes
    Prep Time 20 mins
    Cook Time 1 hr 10 mins
    Total Time 1 hr 30 mins
    Servings 8 servings (1 cup each)
    Course Main Course
    Cuisine American
    Calories 135

    Ingredients 

    • 6 slices bacon diced (see note 1)
    • 1 medium onion diced
    • 1 small bell pepper diced
    • 2 celery ribs diced
    • 2 cloves garlic minced
    • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
    • 1 bay leaf
    • 1/4 teaspoon Cajun seasoning or cayenne pepper (see note 2)
    • 6 cups chicken broth (see note 3)
    • 1 1/4 cups dried black-eyed peas sorted and rinsed (see note 4)
    • scallions thinly sliced, for garnish
    • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
    • cooked rice for serving

    Instructions 

    • In a Dutch oven or large saucepan over medium-low heat, cook bacon until almost crispy, about 10 minutes.
    • Add celery, onion and bell pepper. Sauté until vegetables start to brown, about 8 minutes. Stir in garlic, thyme, bay leaf, and Cajun seasoning until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
    • Stir in broth and black-eyed peas. Cover and bring to boil; reduce heat and simmer until peas are tender, about 60 to 90 minutes (mine took about 75 minutes to finish).
    • Remove bay leaf and drain if desired (see notes). Season to taste with salt and pepper. Garnish with scallions and serve with cooked rice if desired (you can top the rice with Hoppin' John or mix the two together).

    Notes

    1. Bacon: Thick-cut slices of your favorite savory style of bacon works well. If frozen, chop the bacon while it’s frozen (firm but not rock-hard). It’s so much easier and less greasy that way. Diced pancetta or ham are suitable swaps.
    2. Cajun seasoning: Use store-bought or to make your own Cajun Seasoning, stir together 3 tablespoons smoked or sweet paprika, 2 tablespoons garlic powder, 2 tablespoons Italian seasoning, 2 tablespoons salt, 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper, 1 tablespoon dried thyme, and 1 tablespoon onion powder. You’ll just need ¼ teaspoon for this recipe, so if you don’t want to go to the effort, simply trade in ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper.
    3. Chicken broth: Buy 2 large boxes or 4 regular-sized cans, or use Homemade Chicken Broth.
    4. Black-eyed peas: To soak beans overnight, add 4 quarts water to a large bowl and add 1 pound of rinsed black-eyed peas. Soak at least 8 hours. To quick-soak beans, add 1 pound of rinsed beans to a large saucepan and cover with 3 inches of water. Bring to a boil. Boil rapidly for 5 minutes, then remove from heat, cover, and let stand for 1 hour. (See “Recipe FAQs” for more bean-soaking tips.)
    5. Yield: This recipe makes eight (1-cup) servings of bacon-laced beans and vegetables. Serve over cooked rice, alongside Collard Greens and Cornbread to make it a meal.
    6. Storage: Store leftovers covered for up to 4 days.

    Nutrition

    Serving: 1cupCalories: 135kcalCarbohydrates: 19gProtein: 9gFat: 3gSaturated Fat: 1gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 6mgSodium: 754mgPotassium: 509mgFiber: 3gSugar: 3gVitamin A: 350IUVitamin C: 26mgCalcium: 48mgIron: 3mg
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    I’m the Executive Chef and head of the Culinary Hill Test Kitchen. Every recipe is developed, tested, and approved just for you.

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