Black Eyed Peas and Ham For New Year’s Day

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Learn why Southerners enjoy black eyed peas every New Year’s Day, plus the most delicious way to serve them: black eyed peas and ham. There’s nothin’ better!

Spoonful of black eyed peas and ham

If you’re planning on having a traditional Southern New Year’s Day dinner, go get your black-eyed peas now before they sell out! I mentioned this on the Southern Plate Family page and some readers are already reporting not being able to find any. While you’re at it, pick up some collards or turnip greens, and don’t forget the ham hocks and fatback!

The following is from my Hoppin John tutorial but I wanted to tell it again with the black-eyed peas in case anyone didn’t know why Southerners eat what we do on New Year’s Day.

Southern New Year’s Day Traditions

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 the 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 Year’s Day: black-eyed peas, greens, and hog jowl or fatback. Black-eyed peas bring luck in the coming year, with many traditions holding that you must eat at least 365 of them. The more you eat, the more luck you’ll have, so Mama always makes plenty!

Fatback 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. Eating this ensures good health in the coming year and I must say, it is delicious.

Greens can be either turnip, collard, or a mix of greens (a “mess” as we call them). They bring wealth in the New Year and as with black-eyed peas, the amount of wealth you have is directly proportionate to how much you eat! To see my greens tutorial (I just love the pepper sauce recipe), click here. Here’s a quick recipe for Southern turnip greens too.

 Black Eyed Peas and Ham Recipe

Now you know the tradition, let’s talk about how to serve black-eyed peas. The most popular way is Hoppin John, which is black-eyed peas, the pork of your choice, and seasonings. I’ve shared a vegetarian option before, but today we’re focusing on black-eyed peas and ham.

All you need is dried peas, pork, salt, pepper, oil, and sugar. Soak the peas overnight, and then simmer them along with these other ingredients for the most tender and flavorful main dish to serve this New Year’s Day. Add a mess on the side and you’re good to go! Happy eating!

Labeled ingredients for black eyed peas and ham.

Recipe Ingredients

  • Dry black eyed peas
  • Pork of your choice (country pieces of ham, ham hock, or a ham bone).
  • Salt and black pepper
  • Oil
  • Granulated sugar

How to Make Black Eyed Peas and Ham

Store dried peas in mason jar.

Firstly, I wanted to give you a tip! Store your dried peas in large mason jars rather than the bags they come in. This keeps little critters out of your peas!

Sort dried black eyed peas.

1. Sort the peas

Sort your dried beans into a large bowl.

Sometimes, little stones end up being packaged with beans. This is just an unavoidable aspect of bean farming and is no big deal. What you do to avoid cooking up those stones with your beans (and possibly breaking a guest’s tooth) is to pour out a handful at a time into your palm and look through them before dumping them into a bowl.

Soak peas in water overnight.

2. Soak the peas

Now we have to soak our peas.

I prefer the overnight soak method. However, if you would rather, you can simply cover your peas with water, bring them to a boil, then remove them from heat, cover them, and let them soak for one hour. Pour out the soaked water and replace it with fresh water to cook the peas until done.

Having said that, I still prefer the overnight soak method, which is what we’re doing here.

Before going to bed, cover the peas with water, leaving plenty of extra because they will absorb the liquid and expand.

Soak the black eyed peas.

See how much they expanded overnight? Now pour out this water…

Place soaked and drained peas in pot.

3. Make black eyed peas and ham

And place the drained peas in a large pot.

Add ham to black eyed peas in pot.

Add some type of pork for seasoning.

Fill pot with water.

Fill the pot with water.

Make sure you cover them well because they will boil down over the course of the day and you don’t want your beans to go dry.

Another way of doing this is to cook the beans the exact same way in the slow cooker. With the lid on, you won’t have to worry about it boiling dry during the day or check on it like you do the pot.

Add salt to pot.

Now we add our seasoning. 

To read about how I learned to season beans, check out this post on pinto beans.

So, you’re going to have to season to your personal taste but I start with a tablespoon of each. Add a tablespoon of salt…

Note: you’ll definitely need to add more salt so be sure and taste it after a few hours of cooking.

Add pepper to pot.

A tablespoon of pepper…

Add sugar to pot.

A tablespoon of sugar…

Add oil to pot.

And a tablespoon of oil.

Bring black eyed peas and ham to a boil and them simmer for a few hours.

Bring that to a boil and then reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for a few hours.

Remove ham, shred it, and add it back to the pot.

Remove ham, hambone, or ham hock, and shred it.

Black eyed peas and ham ready to serve.

Return shredded ham to the pot and stir. Taste to see what seasonings you want to add more of.

Add more salt whether you think it needs it or not because it does, I promise.

Bowl of black eyed peas and ham.

Serve warm.

Pour a little of the juice over your cornbread or onto your plate to sop up with your cornbread because this is delicious! The juice is known as “potlikker” or “pot liquor” by the fancy folks.

Spoonful of black eyed peas and ham



Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days and in the freezer for up to 3 months. Reheat in the microwave or on the stovetop.

Recipe Notes

Want to add more seasoning? Here are some suggestions:

  • 1/2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper or crushed red pepper flakes for heat.
  • A teaspoon of ground cumin.
  • Up to 3 minced garlic cloves (or a teaspoon of garlic powder).
  • Swap the water for chicken broth for extra flavor.
  • A teaspoon of Creole seasoning.

Recipe FAQs

Besides ham, here are some other meat ideas to pair with your black-eyed peas:

  • Saute some sliced andouille sausage to make a Cajun-inspired Hoppin John. But really, any sausage works. Add half a teaspoon of Cajun seasoning to make the dish sing!
  • Fry up some bacon, chop it up, then stir it in at the end.
  • Have leftover baked ham? Warm it up then add it to your Hoppin John.

Can I use other types of beans instead of black-eyed peas? 

Yes, you can use pinto beans, black beans, cannellini beans, or great northern beans if you like.

How do you make black eyed peas with ham in the slow cooker?

For crockpot black-eyed peas and ham, just follow the directions, but instead of adding the ingredients and water to a large pot, we’re going to place them all in a slow cooker. Cook on high for 3 hours or on low for 6 hours.

How do you serve black eyed peas and ham?

The traditional way to serve this main dish is with a side of cornbread and a mess of greens. You find recipes for cornbread, turnip greens, and collard greens below. To make it even more filling, serve it with cauliflower rice, brown rice, or quinoa. 

A recap of New Year recipes:

Vegetarian Hoppin John

How To Cook Collard Greens With Hot Pepper Sauce

Southern Turnip Greens

Dixie Cornbread With Buttermilk

How To Make Hot Water Cornbread

Big bowl of black eyed peas and ham.

Black Eyed Peas and Ham

Learn why Southerns enjoy black eyed peas every New Year's Day, plus the most delicious way to serve them: black eyed peas and ham.
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 3 hours
Soaking Time: 8 hours
Total Time: 11 hours 15 minutes
Course: Main Course, Side Dish
Cuisine: American
Keyword: ham, peas


  • 1 package dried black eyed peas
  • pork for seasoning: ham hocks, ham bone, or large piece of ham
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 1 tbsp pepper
  • 1 tbsp cooking oil
  • 1 tbsp granulated sugar


  • Sort through beans to ensure there aren't any stones. Place sorted beans in a large mixing bowl or pot. Completely cover with water (with a few inches extra over the top) and soak overnight.
    1 package dried black eyed peas
  • In the morning, pour off the soaking water and place the peas in the pot they're to be cooked in.
  • Add pork for seasoning. Cover with water to ensure that peas don't boil dry. Add all other seasonings. Bring to a boil and reduce heat. Simmer, uncovered, for several hours.
    pork for seasoning: ham hocks, ham bone, or large piece of ham, 1 tbsp salt, 1 tbsp pepper, 1 tbsp cooking oil, 1 tbsp granulated sugar
  • Remove ham and shred it, then place it back in the pot. Continue cooking until peas are tender. Total cooking time will take at least three to four hours.
Tried this recipe?Mention @southernplate or tag #southernplate!


“Attitude to me is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than success, than what other people think, say, or do. It is more important than appearance, gift, or skill. In fact, it will make or break a company…a church…a home.

The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it. And so it is with you… we are in charge of our attitudes.”

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  1. 5 stars
    First time black eyed pea person here! W.O.W. is this recipe delicious! I had a couple ham bones in the freezer & used those. My family almost licked their bowls clean. I made homemade cornbread to serve also & this meal is just a knockout. I admit I forgot to make any greens & those would have been great too (maybe next time). Thanks for the great recipe & sharing the story that goes along with it. We’re all history lovers in this family & the story just added something extra 😉

  2. I just made this today, first time I’ve ever made BEPs, and it was very good. I do however wonder if the amount of pepper should have been a teaspoon rather than a tablespoon. I followed the recipe but it seemed a bit heavy on the pepper, and I like pepper. Just wondering. Thanks. Happy New Year.

  3. 5 stars
    Excellent recipe, I look forward to this meal all year long. It used to take all day to make the peas and greens in traditional southern fashion. But now, I cook both in my instant pots. It’s a game changer for dried beans and peas. Happy New Year

  4. I make this recipe every year with the bone from my Christmas ham. Thank you for sharing it with us. I also enjoy knowing the background of the tradition.

  5. Thank you so much for this recipe. I just tried it for the first time, also my first time starting with dry beans, lol and it is delicious. My hubby loves it and my kids did too which is a huge win! Fabulous and super easy recipes for our New Years meal! I had bought seasoned canned black eyed peas just in case I flopped on the recipe. Looks like the cans will have to take a back seat

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