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A classic Southern dish! Hoppin’ John, or “Carolina Peas and Rice,” is a simple, flavorful combination of black-eyed peas, rice, bacon, smoked ham hock, onion, celery, garlic, and herbs. Often served on New Year’s Day, the delicious field peas pair nicely with other lucky foods like cornbread and collard greens. Don’t wait for a New Year’s tradition, though — this humble dish deserves an appearance on the table more than once a year!

Eating a bowl of hoppin john with a side of cornbread on a wooden table.

Black-eyed peas are a must on New Year’s Day! No matter what we had going on, where we were, or who else was around our table, my Mom always served Hoppin’ John with our first dinner of the New Year…along with the other usual suspects of greens and cornbread. Southern superstition tells us that black-eyed peas bring prosperity in the New Year, so who am I to argue with tradition?!

Soaking black eyed peas in a white bowl of water.

The Hoppin’ John Tradition

Hoppin’ John, or Carolina Peas and Rice, is a rich bean dish made of black-eyed peas that simmer slowly with spicy sausages, ham hocks, or fat pork, and rice. Mainly associated with the Carolinas and the Gullah or Low Country cuisine, black eyed peas were introduced to the Americas by the enslaved Africans who worked the rice plantations in this region.

Today, many variations on the classic dish exist. Some cook the black-eyed peas and rice together in a single pot (shown here), while others simmer them separately. You might also find collard greens or tomatoes added directly to the Hoppin John pot.

Frying bacon in a Dutch oven.

Why It’s Called Hoppin’ John

The origins of the name “hoppin’ John” are unclear. The dish goes back at least as far as 1841, when, according to tradition, it was hawked in the streets of Charleston, South Carolina by a crippled black man who was known as Hoppin’ John. Others say slave children hopped around the table in eager anticipation of the dish. Perhaps a man named John came “a-hoppin” when his wife took the dish from the stove, or maybe an odd South Carolina custom was inviting a guest to eat by saying, “Hop in, John.” All of that said, most food historians think the name derives from a French term for dried peas, “pois pigeons.”

Process shot showing how to make hoppin' john.

Why We Eat Black-Eyed Peas on New Years

In the South, eating Hoppin’ John (or blackeyed peas or other cowpeas) on New Year’s Day is said to bring prosperity in the year ahead. The dish is traditionally served alongside cornbread and greens, with each item on the plate holding a symbolic meaning. Black-eyed peas represent “coins,” collard greens represent money or “green backs,” cornbread represents “gold,” and if tomatoes are added to Hoppin’ John, they symbolize “health.” Some families boost the lucky potential of their hoppin’ John by placing a penny underneath the dishes, or by adding extra pork for good fortune.

Pouring water into a pot.

Ingredients

This is a quick overview of the ingredients that you’ll need for a pot of hoppin John. As always, specific measurements and complete cooking instructions are included in the printable recipe box at the bottom of the post.

  • Black-eyed peas: a variety of the cowpea, these are actually beans (not peas).
  • Bacon: adds a smoky base for sautéing the vegetables and provides a crispy garnish at the end.
  • Onion, celery, and garlic: aromatics that add flavor to the dish. Green pepper would also be great!
  • Water: for cooking the peas and rice.
  • Smoked ham hock: provides a rich, salty, smoky flavor. Each ham hock is typically about 12 ounces, but there’s leeway here — it doesn’t have to be exact.
  • Thyme: I prefer fresh herbs, but you can substitute with about ½ teaspoon of dried thyme in a pinch.
  • Bay leaf: gives the pot an earthy flavor that makes it taste like it’s been simmering on the stovetop all day long.
  • Kosher salt and black pepper: just a touch! Start with half of a teaspoon salt or less, since you can always add more at the end. Ham hocks are salty, so you probably won’t need much. If you prefer a less-salty dish, you might want to omit the salt altogether and just add a touch at the end, if necessary.
  • Crushed red pepper flakes: for some optional heat.
  • Long-grain white rice: do not substitute with a different variety of rice like brown rice or parboiled “instant” rice. The cooking time and the amount of liquid required for other varieties differs.
  • Apple cider vinegar: an optional, bright, acidic finishing touch at the end.
Adding white rice to a blue Dutch oven.

How to Make Hoppin John

This humble dish is easy to prepare — so long as you remember to soak the blackeyed peas!

  1. Soak the black-eyed peas in a bowl of cold water overnight. Drain.
  2. Fry the bacon, remove the bacon to a paper towel-lined plate, and reserve the drippings in the pot.
  3. Sauté the onions, celery, and garlic in the bacon drippings.
  4. Stir in the ham hock, water, peas, thyme, bay leaf, salt, and pepper.
  5. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce the heat to medium or low and let the pot gently simmer for about 1 hour.
  6. Stir in the rice, cover the pot, and simmer gently for 20 more minutes.
  7. Let the pot rest off of the heat for about 10 minutes.
  8. Discard the bay leaf and thyme sprigs, fluff the rice gently with a fork.
  9. Taste and season the dish with additional salt and pepper, if you like. Add some crushed red pepper flakes for heat, or a dash of vinegar for a bright finishing touch.
  10. Garnish each serving with crispy bacon, sliced green onions, or a couple tablespoons of fresh herbs.
Overhead square image of a bowl of hoppin' john.

What to Serve with Hoppin’ John

It’s most traditional to serve Hoppin John with cornbread and greens for a lucky New Year’s Day meal. Here are some good options to try:

Eating a bowl of hoppin john with a side of cornbread.

Storage

Stored in an airtight container, the Hoppin’ John will last in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. You can also freeze the cooked black eyed peas for up to 3 months; however, keep in mind that rice tends to get mushy when it’s thawed.

How to Reheat

To reheat, thaw in the refrigerator overnight, place Hoppin’ John in a saucepan with a splash of extra broth or water to loosen, cover, and warm over low heat. Alternatively, you can reheat individual servings in the microwave for about 1 minute, or until heated through.

Recipe Variations

  • Herbs: add more fresh (or dried) herbs to the pot in addition to the thyme, such as parsley, oregano, or rosemary.
  • Smoked paprika is also a nice addition to the pot.
  • If you don’t want to use bacon, just sauté the vegetables in olive oil instead of the bacon drippings.
  • Instead of a ham hock, add flavor to the black eyed peas with a different smoked meat, such as a smoked ham bone, smoked sausage, smoked turkey wings, or smoked pork neck bones.
  • For added heat, season the peas with Cajun seasoning or Creole seasoning, some hot sauce, or a dash of cayenne pepper.
  • Give the dish even more flavor by cooking the blackeyed peas and rice in chicken broth instead of water. Just be sure to use a low-sodium broth, since the smoked meat often adds plenty of salty flavor to the pot.
  • Add more vegetables such as green bell pepper, diced carrots, or tomatoes.
Overhead shot of black eyed peas and rice with bacon and ham hocks.

Tips for the Best Hoppin’ John Recipe

  • Stir the pot occasionally while the black-eyed peas are cooking. This will help to break down the beans a bit, distribute the starches, and prevent sticking.
  • Smoked ham hocks can be quite salty, so if you prefer a less-salty pot of beans, I recommend omitting the salt. You can always add more at the end, if necessary, but you might find that the ham hock adds enough salty flavor on its own.
  • The total amount of water necessary may vary slightly, depending on how vigorously you simmer your pot (and how much evaporates). As a result, I recommend checking the rice towards the end of the cooking time. If it looks too dry before the rice is tender, add more warm water as necessary. Once the rice is tender, the water should be almost entirely absorbed, but the mixture should still be moist.
  • Adjust the total cooking time to suit you preferences and your desired tenderness. While 45 minutes- 1 hour should be sufficient if you like more in-tact, sturdy black eyed peas, a longer cooking time might be necessary if you like really broken-down, creamy black eyed peas.
  • Garnish with fresh herbs (such as chopped parsley or thyme), a dash of hot sauce, a dash of vinegar, or a squeeze of fresh lemon juice for a bright finishing touch.
Overhead shot of holding a bowl of Hoppin' John on a wooden table.

More Recipes with Black Eyed Peas

Eating a bowl of hoppin john with a side of cornbread on a wooden table.

Hoppin’ John

Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 2 hours
Soaking Time 12 hours
Total: 14 hours 15 minutes
Servings 6 people
Calories 276 kcal
A classic Southern dish! Hoppin' John, or "Carolina Peas and Rice," is a simple, flavorful, and lucky New Year’s Day meal!

Ingredients
  

  • 1 cup dried black-eyed peas
  • 4 strips bacon, chopped
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 stalk celery, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced (about 2 teaspoons)
  • 5 cups water
  • 1 smoked ham hock (about 12 ounces)
  • 2 thyme sprigs
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • Crushed red pepper flakes, to taste
  • 1 cup long-grain white rice
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar (optional)
  • Optional garnish: chopped scallions, fresh parsley, or fresh thyme

Instructions

  • Place the peas in a large bowl. Add enough water to cover the peas by about an inch. Cover the bowl and let the peas soak overnight.
  • Drain the water from the peas.
  • In a large Dutch oven or other heavy-bottomed pot, cook bacon until crisp. Use a slotted spoon to remove the bacon from the pot; place on a paper-towel lined plate. Reserve the drippings in the pot.
  • With the pot over medium heat, add the onion and celery to the drippings and cook until the onion is translucent, about 5-7 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  • Stir in the ham hock, 5 cups of water, peas, thyme sprigs, bay leaf, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat so that the liquid is at a gentle simmer. Cook, uncovered, for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.
  • Stir in the rice, cover the pot, and simmer gently for 20 more minutes, or until the rice is done and the peas are soft. Check on the rice towards the end of the cooking time, and add a little bit more warm water, if necessary. By the end of the cooking time, most of the water should be absorbed, but the mixture will still be moist.
  • Still covered, remove the pot from the heat and let the rice and peas rest for 10 minutes.
  • Remove the cover, discard ham hock, bay leaf, and thyme sprigs, and fluff the rice gently with a fork. Taste and season with additional salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes, if desired. Add a dash of apple cider vinegar (optional). Garnish with crispy bacon, sliced green onions, or fresh herbs, and serve!

Notes

  • Stir the pot occasionally while the black-eyed peas are cooking. This will help to break down the beans a bit, distribute the starches, and prevent sticking.
  • Smoked ham hocks can be quite salty, so if you prefer a less-salty pot of beans, I recommend omitting the salt. You can always add more at the end, if necessary, but you might find that the ham hock adds enough salty flavor on its own.
  • The total amount of water necessary may vary slightly, depending on how vigorously you simmer your pot (and how much evaporates). As a result, I recommend checking the rice towards the end of the cooking time. If it looks too dry before the rice is tender, add more warm water as necessary. Once the rice is tender, the water should be almost entirely absorbed, but the mixture should still be moist.
  • Adjust the total cooking time to suit you preferences and your desired tenderness. While 45 minutes- 1 hour should be sufficient if you like more in-tact, sturdy black eyed peas, a longer cooking time might be necessary if you like really broken-down, creamy black eyed peas.
  • Garnish with fresh herbs (such as chopped parsley or thyme), a dash of hot sauce, a dash of vinegar, or a squeeze of fresh lemon juice for a bright finishing touch.

Nutrition

Serving: 1/6 of the recipeCalories: 276kcalCarbohydrates: 44gProtein: 11gFat: 6gSaturated Fat: 2gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 3gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 10mgSodium: 313mgPotassium: 421mgFiber: 4gSugar: 3gVitamin A: 66IUVitamin C: 3mgCalcium: 55mgIron: 3mg
Keyword: black eyed peas recipe, carolina peas and rice, hoppin’ john
Course: Dinner, Side Dish
Cuisine: American, Southern
Author: Blair Lonergan
blair

Hey, I’m Blair!

Welcome to my farmhouse kitchen in the foothills of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. Inspired by local traditions and seasonal fare, you’ll find plenty of easy, comforting recipes that bring your family together around the table. It’s down-home, country-style cooking!

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