Black Eyed Peas and Hoppin’ John! (Vegetarian version)


New Year’s day hosts the most important meal of the entire year for Southerners. Deeply rooted in tradition, superstition, and hope for the future, we have definite must have dishes which even those of us who might not be as superstitious as others dare not shirk on this day.

I’ve told this story before, but it certainly bears repeating in reference to this meal. Back in the days of civil war, Union troops swept through the south, confiscating crops and livestock to use as provisions for their troops. Southerners who weren’t off fighting were left with precious little, save for peas and greens. You see, Union soldiers considered “field peas” and greens to be fit only for animal fodder. These dishes became cherished and appreciated as what saved many a family from starvation during those times and the tradition of celebrating these dishes on the new year was born.

There are three things every southerner must eat on New Years day, Black eyed peas, greens, and hog jowl or fatback.Black Eyed peas are said to bring luck in the coming year, with many traditions holding that you must eat at least 365 of them. We never had a number, but the more you ate, the more luck you were supposed to have so Mama always makes plenty!

Hog Jowl is very tough and extremely salty, it looks just like a thick slice of bacon but is more difficult to chew. As one of the cheapest cuts of meat, it rose rapidly in popularity during the depression era of the South. Eating this is said to ensure good health in the coming year and I must say, it is delicious.

Greens can be either turnip, collard, or a mix of greens or a “mess” as we call them. They are said to bring wealth in the new year and as with black eyed peas, the amount of wealth you have is directly proportionate to how much of them you eat! Tomorrow, I’m bringing you a greens tutorial.

Just as I did with my pinto beans, you need to sort through your beans. Sometimes there are little stones in there so you want to just pour them into your hand before you put them in the bowl and check a handful at a time.

After they are all in a bowl, cover them with water and then about two inches. These will need to soak overnight. There are quick soak methods as well but I find the greatest success when I soak mine overnight. If I ever forget to soak my beans, I’d rather wait until the next day instead of doing the quick soak method.

This is how they look the next morning. Drain off this water and discard it, then place peas in a large pot.

Add an ample amount of water so that they don’t cook down.

We’re going to cook these for a few hours at least. You can let them simmer all day if you like.

Now we need to season our peas. Normally, I would put in a ham hock or a large piece of country ham, maybe even a ham bone with a little meat left on it. For this tutorial, though, I am leaving that out in order to make this a vegetarian dish for my friend, Jennifer ~waves at Jennifer~.

So instead, we are going to add one tablespoon of sugar….

About a tablespoon and a half of salt..

I prefer two tablespoons but I am giving you this measurement as a rule of thumb. When salting beans, it really needs to be to your taste. Start with a tablespoon and a half and taste them when they are close to being done, adding more if you prefer.

Add about a tablespoon of pepper.

Add two tablespoons of vegetable oil.

Stir that up and turn on the stove eye. Bring it to a boil. Then reduce heat and simmer for two to three hours (or more if you like).When the peas are tender, they are done! You can now serve them as is, straining out your peas into a serving bowl. If you are going to serve them like this, i really suggest you putting a piece of ham in them at the start and then shredding it up into them before serving (unless you are vegetarian. In that case, I really recommend you don’t do that!).

Now, how about we make us some Hoppin’ John? Hoppin’ john has been around for ages in the south as well. Classic soul food, it was yet another way to piece meager rations together and make a filling and nutritious meal. It is believed to have originated in African cuisine and carried over to the states, where it was eventually adopted as a southern staple.

You’ll need: White rice, chicken broth (Vegetarians will want to use Vegetable broth here), onion, garlic powder, and crushed red pepper. There are oodles of variations on this dish and you can feel free to add or take away as you will. I have seen bell pepper, garlic cloves, tomatoes, and even Ro-tel added. The southern way of cooking allows for making do with what you have and so I am making a more classic Hoppin’ John which happens to utilize what I have on hand.

You’ll also need some hot sauce, which I will show at the end of this tutorial.

Place two cups of chicken broth in a sauce pot, add rice.

I seldom keep chicken broth on hand but happened to have it this time. Normally, I keep bouillon cubes in my pantry and just make my own broth using one cube per cup of water. Alright, I usually add an additional cube to make it richer, there I fessed up! You happy?

Add 1/2 tsp of garlic powder.

Add 1/2 tsp salt

Bring this to a boil, then reduce heat and cover, simmering until Rice is tender and all brother is absorbed.

This is your finished rice :)

(say “hello, rice”!)

Now chop up your onion and saute it in about 2 T of margarine until tender.

Like this!

Now strain off your peas and put them in a large bowl, add your onions…

and your rice.

Stir all of that up…ooh look at the steam!

And add about two tablespoons of hot sauce, such as Texas Pete’s or…

Wal Mart’s generic version ~grins~. Personally, I add more to mine but I do it once I have my serving on my plate so it won’t be too hot for the kids. Two tablespoons doesn’t really add heat so much as it adds flavor.

Black Eyed Peas
  • Dried black eyed peas
  • ½ Tablespoon of salt
  • 2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 Tablespoons sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon black pepper
  1. Ham hock, piece of country ham, or ham bone with some meat still on it (optional - obviously you need to leave this out for vegetarians)
  2. Sort beans and soak overnight. Drain off soaking water and pour into pot, covering with water and leaving enough extra to prevent peas from cooking down. Add all other ingredients and cook for two to three hours, or until tender. Remove ham from pot and shred. Drain off peas and stir ham in. Serve hot. These are find if made the day before and reheated for your meal!

Hoppin’ John! (Vegetarian version)
  • Black Eyed peas, fully cooked (the above recipe, with ½ tsp crushed red pepper flakes added to the cooking water)
  • 1 cup uncooked rice
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 Tbs margarine
  • 2 cups chicken broth*(Vegetable broth for vegetarians)
  • ½ tsp garlic powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • Hot sauce
  1. Combine broth and seasonings, cook rice in this until tender. In a saute pan, saute onion in 2 Tablespoons margarine until tender. Place rice, peas, and onion in large bowl. Stir to combine. Add 2 T hot sauce, stir again.

I love this, its a great side dish, but it really does need ham (I tried, Jennifer! I did make it vegetarian and my son ate two bowls of it by itself!). If you cooked your peas with ham, this is going to be awesome.


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  1. Bill Gent says

    Sorry if this is way outta place but my dad had a stroke about noon. He’s doing well so far. I’d appreciate any prayers or good thoughts sent his way. He loooooves black eyed peas lol.

  2. Robert (citycowboy) says

    OH YEAH, now you’re talkin. Ya know a New Year wouldn’t be the same without these, a big ole ham and a mess of greens. Not bein the superstitious type, I actually did have good health and plenty of money this last year, so there is some truth in those age old beliefs. Knowin you like I think I do, come New Years day, you are gonna have all this AND a big ole cornbread to go with it.

  3. says

    Thanks for the background on the black-eyed peas. My grandma always made us eat them on New Years for luck. I never heard the story behind it. We also eat cooked cabbage with a 50 cent piece hidden in the pot. The person who gets the money in their serving will have good luck all year. Happy New Year to you.

  4. says

    You’re in our thoughts and prayers too, Bill. Thanks for sharing this Southern tradition, Christy! I have never heard of it, but now that I’m in the South and this is our first New Years here, perhaps we’ll give it a go! I like that it’s a cheap meal, lol!

  5. says

    Sorry to hear about your dad, Bill. I hope he recovers and all is well.

    I’ve made hoppin’ john once before, and it was a lot of fun. I love dishes that use dry beans, they’re just so darn cheap!!

    My family has our own little New Year’s food traditions, but nothing that goes back so far as Civil War soldiers. We have a couple chip dips that I’m going to post later, and I’m getting so excited for them! I look forward to our delicious “traveling tacos” and hearty cheese dip every year! Maybe, though, I’ll start doing black-eyed peas too.

  6. Bill Gent says

    I remember when we first tried to get my niece to eat Black eyes on New Years. She didn’t want to eat them and she was adamant she wasn’t gonna do it. My sister, her grandmother, sweetly said “Honey, would you like more macaroni and cheese instead?” She said “YES!”

    My sister took the plate and brought it back piled fairly high. My niece ate it all up. My sister then proclaimed “You’re gonna have good luck!” My niece asked “how?” My sister then told her.. “because I hid peas inside the macaroni”.

    Southern women are beautiful.. but devious.

  7. Su says

    Oh Christy, I will be making black eye pea cakes for New Years! I hope you’re proud! hehe
    I bought myself the Screen Doors and Sweet Tea book for Christmas from Amazon, and have been reading through it since last week. The author has included a recipe for the pea cakes which look really good, I’m a fan of regular pea cakes (made with chick peas, etc) so I went and bought myself some black eye peas last week when I picked up my turkey.
    Here’s to luck! :)

  8. says

    City Cowboy! You are SO right! You know me to a tee coz that’s exactly what I’m having!!! I can’t imagine a New Year’s without it, that would depress me (and likely curse my year!)

    Brindi I know a lot of people who do the coin thing. I swear, my kids would swallow it with my luck! Lol It is a NEAT idea though and longstanding tradition, just like you said!

    All I know Bill appreciates that, as do I. He’s such a nice guy. My readers really are family here.

    Micha I’m gonna be bold and thank you again on behalf of Bill.

    Heather Oh now it is a good, cheap meal. My son ate three bowls and husband loved it for lunch today!

    Stephanie I love dried beans, too. So cheap and so much better than canned! Holler at me when you post those dip recipes, don’t want to miss those!
    I love traveling tacos!

    Bill Now that is toooooooo funny. ~grins proudly~

    Su hehe, I have my great grandmother’s recipe for pea sausage which I will put on here eventually, they are kind of a pea cake but it was used when they couldn’t afford the meat for actual sausage. I am always proud of you, Su!!! Lol I wish you more luck than you know what to do with!

  9. Su says

    Awww thank you Christy! :)
    Tonight is New Years Eve, and as I type I have the peas simmering on the stove. I’m making the cakes in advance so that they only need to be fried tomorrow because I know I won’t have the energy to do it tomorrow. Happy New Year everyone, and here’s to 2009! Good luck to you all!

  10. cookie says

    Happy New Years to my SP kin!!!

    I’ve gotta run to Granny’s tomorrow and try to snag some hog jowls or something ;).

    Hey Christy, I got a favor to ask(or anybody else on her that may have it) but I was wondering about a good recipe for cracklin cornbread and giblet gravy(that’s for next thanksgiving).

    I’m gonna share something with ya’ll that I wouldn’t normally confess but I feel that it’d be good for a chuckle and ya’ll wouldn’t hold it against me.

    All my life I’ve been at a grandmother’s house for Thanksgiving, so I don’t have much experience with my own turkey. I was given a turkey, so I decided to try it when I brought my dad to the house Christmas Day. Did I mention my inexperience? This was my second turkey ever, however, I knew it was supposed to have neckbones and giblets, etc. Well, needless to say, when I went to wash it off before I put it in the pan, I reached in and found the little packet with the neckbone. I reached back in for the giblets…nothing. I can only imagine what my fiance thought to see me getting up-close and personal in the business end of that turkey. I didn’t see nothing, feel nothing, I was confused and flabergasted. Needless to say, I resolved that they just didn’t stuff it back in. Well, I cooked my turkey (joint venture with my honey, he’s a genius when it comes to making sauces, etc). It looked close to perfection. Well, we enjoyed a lovely Christmas dinner. We even had a buddy of ours come by and help lighten our turkey load.

    Next day, I couldn’t wait for lunch because I just love leftover thanksgivin turkey sandwiches. As I commenced to find the primest pieces of meat for my sandwich, I noticed something that looked out of place………..low and behold, there was them giblets!!!!!

    I almost cried cause I was gonna try to make me a giblet gravy(if i could find a good one online) for our dinner, but ya can’t have giblet gravy without giblets! I take it as a lesson learned, look in both ends of a turkey before I put it in the oven!

    I’m just wonderin why nobody told me where to look, especially since I asked my Maw Maw the day before about how to do my turkey.
    I reckon I shoulda came here first 😉

    Oh Bill, my prayers are with you and your pa. While we’re at it, prayers would be appreciated for my aunt. I just found out that she went to the hospital a couple of days before Christmas. She has cancer on both her lungs, and her uterus and pneumonia. I’m not sure what they’re planning to do about her cancer, but it is a bit scary since I can’t get to her or call. She’d known something was wrong for months but couldn’t get a dr to do anything to really find out. Well, she finally found the right one willing to listen and act and that’s what they found. I’m sure that if she’s had it since the time that she knew something was up, it’s probably progressed quite a bit in that time(15 months). Just keep her in mind.

    Here’s hopin the new year is better than the rest!!!

    • Betty S. says

      Cookie, your aunt is in our prayers and you are also. Know that someone greater than us has a purpose and a plan and He allows things to happen for His further purpose and plan. I am sorry for your sadness and grief and pray for you a Blessed Happy New Year!

  11. Annie says

    HAPPY NEW YEAR everyone! Just had my chops, cornbread, and black eye peas, appropriately prepared the Southern way! Always heard to leave 3 peas on your plate for good luck which I’ve always done. Anyone know if the three peas stand for anything other than good luck?

    • MonA says


  12. Kelly says

    I made this yesterday for the first time. It was awesome. I added a can of Rotel, because we love some heat. My husband and I now have a new tradition. This just being our second New Year’s. I didn’t make any greens, but we did have broccoli and fried catfish. Thanks for the recipe and Happy New Year!!

    • Tammy says

      My family loves hoppin john. I use Conecuh Sausage made in Conecuh County Alabama. It adds a little meat and it’s spicy so it gives a little kick also! Just cut into rounds and brown it in a skillet then add it to the pot!

  13. Mary Jo says

    To answer Cookie’s request for giblet gravy–This is how my family likes it.

    Remove giblets from the turkey and rinse well. Put the neck and the gizzard into a saucepan and cover well with water. Add about a teaspoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper and bring to a boil. Cover the pot and simmer for about an hour or so. (I never really time it, I’m usually busy with other cooking) About 1/2 hour before the gizzard and neck are done put the liver in another sauce pan with salt & pepper and bring it to a boil. Simmer this about 20-30 minutes. While the liver is cooking boil two or three eggs. When everything is done chop up the eggs, liver, gizzard and what ever meat you can pull away from the neck bone. Pour the broth from the cooked turkey into a large sauce pan. Add a couple of cans of cream of chicken soup and mix well. If this doesn’t make enough gravy for When you are happy with the amount and thickness of the gravy add the chopped giblet and eggs. Good luck!

  14. Betty S. says

    Prayers are going up for your Pa, Bill and for you as well. Happy New Year 2010 to all out there in Christyland! Thanks for this past year Christy as you have certainly made it better for us all. You have put in a lot of long, hard and yet FUN hours and have made all of our days more enjoyable and interesting!! May our Lord Jesus bless us all in this new year and allow us to learn more of Him and His ways!

  15. jassie says

    thanks for the great recipe, there’s just one thing…

    this recipe says “vegetarian”, but it contains chicken stock. just an FYI- chicken stock isn’t vegetarian. :)

    it works great with vegetable broth though.


  16. Holly Whiteside says

    Me too… i followed the Google link because i was looking for a vegetarian version. It sounds delicious, but i need a vegetarian version for my many vegetarian neighbors. Unfortunately your title is misleading. Could you please edit? Otherwise search engines are going to keep directing people here for a vegetarian recipe. It would also be unfortunate if someone unknowing served it to vegetarians.


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