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. It’s good luck in a bowl, just as long as you leave a few peas behind…
Fill out your New Year's Eve menu with party classics like Crockpot meatballs with grape jelly, mini quiche, and Cowboy Caviar. And on New Year's Day, try my favorite Bloody Mary's (with bacon and eggs!), classic pancakes, or my really spectacular Sweet Potato Hash. See more breakfast and brunch ideas here.
If you love beans and rice of any kind, Hoppin’ John, also known as Carolina peas and rice, should be right up your alley. It’s a humble food eaten and loved by generations of Southerners, with a long-standing tradition of being eaten at the New Year, for luck, fortune, and even romance.
Truthfully, if you’re sitting in front of a beautiful bowl of beans and rice, well—you’re already pretty lucky.
But New Year’s is a perfect holiday for celebrating tradition, returning to roots, and setting goals for the year ahead. And Hoppin’ John may be the one of the most delicious ways to start things off on the right track.
Along with a big pot of collard greens, cooked kale, or other leafy greens, and a pan of Jiffy cornbread, it’s American comfort food at its finest.
Just don't forget the hot sauce. By the way, you can make your own Cajun Seasoning, in case you forgot to grab it at the store. It's easy!
Making Hoppin’ John for a houseful of revelers? Click and slide the number next to “servings” on the recipe card below to adjust the ingredients to match how many you’re feeding—the recipe does the math for you, it’s that easy.
What is Hoppin’ John?
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 collard greens and cornbread to soak up all the cooking juices.
It’s a crucial part of Carolina Low Country cooking, but is enjoyed all over the South and beyond. While the type of ingredients are slightly different (some regions use Geechee red peas, others insist on Sea Island peas) there’s always a type of rice, a type of legume, and a type 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.
Leftover Hoppin’John is 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 ever!
Hoppin’ John history:
Its origin is believed to be from West Africa and the Caribbean, food eaten by slaves that were being transported overseas. Senegal and Guyana cultivated rice and pigeon peas, and it’s likely that this recipe traces back to similar dishes.
How to make Hoppin’ John:
It’s an easy one-pot recipe.
- First, find a sturdy-bottomed pot, like a Dutch oven. Cook the bacon until just about crispy.
- Next, add the celery, onion, and bell pepper (the "Cajun holy trinity"). Sauté everything until the vegetables begin to soften and brown. Then stir in the garlic, thyme, bay leaf, and Cajun seasoning.
- Then pour in the broth and the dried black-eyed peas, cover the pot, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook until the peas are tender. This should take 60 to 90 minutes, depending on how much you’re making, etc.
- Next, take out the bay leaf and season the pot with salt and pepper. Sprinkle the chopped scallions over the Hoppin’ John and serve with lots of fluffy rice—Carolina Gold rice, if you have it—or mix it all up together. It’s up to you.
If you like, you can drain off the cooking liquid (called pot likker) off of the Hoppin John before eating. But others like the juiciness and mop it up with cornbread.
Instant Pot Hoppin’ John:
Ready in minutes, thanks to the amazing electric pressure cooker.
- First, cook the bacon, onions, and bell peppers together in the Instant Pot using the sauté function. When crispy, add the bay leaf, Cajun seasoning, celery, and thyme. Then add the dried black-eyed peas and chicken broth.
- Close the lid and steam valve of the Instant Pot and set to high pressure for 25 minutes. Let the pot do a natural release for 10 to 15 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper and fluff the peas with a fork.
Cook the rice separately and serve garnished with scallions.
Slow cooker Hoppin’ John:
Making Hoppin’ John in a crockpot keeps everything hot and means almost no active stove time for you. Use a larger slow cooker (6 quart) for this recipe.
- Cook the bacon in a skillet on the stove before adding it to the crock pot.
- Once the bacon is crispy, add it to the slow cooker with the onion, celery, peppers, bay leaf, Cajun seasoning, chicken broth, and dried peas. Give everything a stir, and make sure the bay leaf is tucked down into the broth.
- Then cover the slow cooker and cook on LOW for 7 to 8 hours, until the beans are tender. Discard the bay leaf, season to taste with salt and pepper, and serve with the scallions and rice. And lots of hot sauce.
Hoppin’ John variations:
- Ham hock. Some cooks prefer to make Hoppin’ John with a ham bone or hock, 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. 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. This recipe uses black beans instead of peas.
Hoppin' John Recipe
- 6 slices bacon diced
- 1 medium onion diced
- 1 small bell pepper diced
- 2 stalks celery diced
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1/4 teaspoon Cajun seasoning or cayenne pepper
- 6 cups chicken broth
- 1 1/4 cups dried black-eyed peas sorted and rinsed
- scallions thinly sliced, for garnish
- cooked rice for serving
- 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).
- Substitute 2 (15-ounce) cans black-eyed peas, rinsed and drained
- Add the canned black-eyed peas with the broth in Step 3.
- Simmer until the peas are heated through and the flavors have blended, about 10 minutes.
- 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.