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. 

Hoppin' john in two blue bowls.

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!

An overhead shot of hoppin' john ingredients in various clear bowls.

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.

Do I need to soak the black-eyed peas first?

No, you don’t have to soak the black-eyed peas first.

I created this recipe assuming you would NOT pre-soak the black-eyed peas. I assumed you would wake up one day and decide to make Hoppin’ John and that would be that.

Un-soaked black-eyed peas take about 30 minutes longer to cook and require more liquid than soaked black-eyed peas. This recipe accounts for that.

If you want to soak the black-eyed peas first, there are two methods to do it: Overnight-soak and Quick-soak.

Overnight-Soaking Method for black-eyed peas:

  1. Pick through and rinse 1 pound black-eyed peas.
  2. Cover the black-eyed peas with 5 cups over water and soak overnight.
  3. Drain and discard soaking liquid (see below “Should I discard soaking liquid?”).

Quick-Soaking Method for black-eyed peas:

  1. Pick through and rinse 1 pound black-eyed peas.
  2. To a large saucepan, add black-eyed peas and enough liquid to cover them by 1 inch.
  3. Bring black-eyed peas to boil and cook for 2 minutes.
  4. Remove saucepan from heat, cover, and let black-eyed peas sit for 1 hour.
  5. Drain and discard soaking liquid (see below “Should I discard soaking liquid?”).

Should I discard the soaking liquid?

Yes.

But people have differing opinions on this.

  • Some people say it’s a waste of water to throw away the soaking water.
  • Some people say if you keep the soaking water, it adds a sour taste.

I have learned from cooks in Mexico that they don’t usually soak beans at all. But if they do, they toss the cooking liquid. So that’s what I do, too.

Cooking Dried Beans:

You can pre-cook beans to keep on hand or freeze for later. These instructions will work for 1 pound of pinto beans, navy beans, Great Northern beans, red kidney beans, Cannellini beans, or black-eyed peas.

  1. To a large saucepan, add 1 pound beans, 2 ½ teaspoons salt, and water (4 quarts for soaked beans, 5 quarts for un-soaked beans).
  2. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to gentle simmer and cook until beans are tender (about 1 to 1 ¼ hours for soaked beans and 1 ½ to 1 ¾ hours for un-soaked beans).
  3. Stir the beans occasionally to prevent them from sticking to the bottom of the pan and adjust heat as necessary to maintain a gentle simmer. Drain.

Wait – you add salt to the beans before they are cooked?

Yes.

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).

How to make Hoppin’ John:

It’s an easy one-pot recipe.

  1. First, find a sturdy-bottomed pot, like a Dutch oven. Cook the bacon until just about crispy.
  2. 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.
    An overhead shot of hoppin' john ingredients in silver pot.
  3. 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.
    An overhead shot of hoppin' john cooking in a silver pot with a ladle.
  4. 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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

An overhead shot of hoppin' john in two blue bowls.

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.

  1. Cook the bacon in a skillet on the stove before adding it to the crock pot.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

Can I substitute canned black-eyed peas?

To substitute canned beans, use 3 or 4 cans black-eyed peas. Rinse and drain before adding to the saucepan and bringing to boil.

  • 1 pound of dried black-eyed peas is approximately 6 ½ cups of cooked black-eyed peas
  • 6 ½ cups of black-eyed peas is approximately 52 ounces
  • 3 (15.5 ounce) cans = 45 ounces black-eyed peas
  • 4 (15.5 ounce) cans = 62 ounces black-eyed peas

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.

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 in a blue bowl.

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 1 vote
Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 1 hr 10 mins
Total Time 1 hr 30 mins
Servings 4
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Calories 273

Ingredients 

  • 6 slices bacon diced
  • 1 medium onion diced
  • 1 small bell pepper diced
  • 2 celery ribs 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

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

Traditionally, you 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. 
Pre-soaking the black-eyed peas:
Soaking the black-eyed peas before cooking is not required. However, you can cut about 30 minutes off the cooking time if you pre-soak the black-eyed peas.
Overnight-Soaking Method for black-eyed peas:
  1. Pick through and rinse 1 pound black-eyed peas.
  2. Cover the black-eyed peas with 5 cups over water and soak overnight.
  3. Drain and discard soaking liquid.
Quick-Soaking Method for black-eyed peas:
  1. Pick through and rinse 1 pound black-eyed peas.
  2. To a large saucepan, add black-eyed peas and enough liquid to cover them by 1 inch.
  3. Bring black-eyed peas to boil and cook for 2 minutes.
  4. Remove saucepan from heat, cover, and let black-eyed peas sit for 1 hour.
  5. Drain and discard soaking liquid.
To substitute canned black-eyed peas:
  1. Use 3 or 4 cans of black-eyed peas.
  2. 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.

Nutrition

Calories: 273kcalCarbohydrates: 38gProtein: 19gFat: 6gSaturated Fat: 2gCholesterol: 12mgSodium: 1523mgPotassium: 1054mgFiber: 7gSugar: 6gVitamin A: 757IUVitamin C: 52mgCalcium: 100mgIron: 6mg
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Meggan Hill

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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