They say if you don't eat black eyed peas on New Year's Day, you'll have bad luck all year! So, I make this Hoppin John with rice skillet several times the first month of the year, just to make sure luck flows our way. This recipe is super easy and is made all in one pot; simply serve a scoop over rice and enjoy.
It's hard to imagine anything more comforting than a bowl of rice and beans. During the New Year season, we eat a lot of black eyed peas for good luck, and this recipe is my favorite way to put them to use. If a bowl of peas, pork and rice doesn't bring you luck, at least it is delicious!
I love that this recipe uses dried black eyed peas, yet still comes together as a one pot meal! I typically make rice on the side for serving. Another way to make it more filling is to add some sliced sausage when you're sautéing the onions. First, let answer a lot of common questions about Hoppin John!
FAQ: Hoppin John
The answer to this question depends on whom you ask. There is a legend about someone named John who used to jump around the streets selling black eyed peas in a hand cart. Others say it's because slave children eagerly jumped around the pot as it was being made because it's so delicious. The dish is believed to have originated in South Carolina, which was a big rice growing area that used slave labor for field work.
According to History, "Hoppin’ John was, and still is, often eaten with collard greens, which can resemble paper money, and “golden” cornbread. The peas themselves represent coins."
As a quick weeknight dinner, it's a one-pot meal with rice. If I have time to make cornbread, I will make it for the side. It's great to dip a cornbread muffin in the juices on the plate. If I really have extra time, I love to make a pot of collard greens with onions, bacon and garlic for the side, too.
How to Make Hoppin John
Okay, now that we've answered all of the questions about it, let's talk about how to make it! Yes, this recipe calls for dry beans. I know you love my Instant Pot Black Eyed Peas, but this recipe starts with uncooked beans. If you make a half-pot and have leftover dry beans, make this!
Typically, Hoppin John has peas, pork and rice. Those are the only qualifications for me, but I would also like to add that adding Cajun spices and the Cajun trinity (celery, green bell pepper and onions), takes this dish to a whole new level. I'm always looking for ways to use my jar of Cajun spices after making my Vegetable Bean Soup, too!
- Bacon. We need ½ a pound of bacon, sliced into lardons, or 1-inch strips. You can use regular smoked bacon, but a pepper-crusted bacon is especially delicious in this Hoppin John.
- Onion. One yellow or white onion, not a sweet variety.
- Bell Pepper. Green bell pepper is classic in the Cajun trinity of bell pepper, onions, and celery, but if you prefer to use a red bell pepper, that's fine, too!
- Bay Leaves. Two dried bay leaves or 4 small fresh ones. I am lucky enough to have a fresh laurel bay plant in my yard, and I love the subtle sage-y flavors it adds to pots of soup and stew.
- Cajun Seasoning. Buy a store-bought bottle that says 'Cajun Spices'. Check that the ingredient list contains salt, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, peppers and thyme. Because Cajun seasoning contains salt (a lot of it), I'm not calling for any additional salt in this recipe. You can add more to taste at the end of cooking, if you think it needs it.
- Garlic Powder. While I love fresh garlic in a lot of foods, I really feel that dried garlic powder brings better flavor and punch in this Hoppin John recipe.
- Dried Thyme. Again with the Cajun theme, we're adding extra thyme to the pot. However, be sure to use thyme leaves, not ground thyme, which has a much stronger flavor. You can substitute a handful of fresh thyme stems for the 1.5 teaspoon of dried thyme leaves, and just pluck out the stems at the end of the cooking time.
- Black Eyed Peas. This recipe serves 6 using a half-pound of dried black eyed peas. Cook up the rest of the bag and make my Cowboy Caviar, if you like!
- Chicken Stock. I reach for a thick, rich chicken stock to make this dish even more delicious. For reference, broth is somewhat clear/ translucent, and stock is cloudy/ opaque. You can always make your own using this Instant Pot Chicken Stock recipe.
- Rice. I highly suggest you make a pot of rice to go with this dish. My personal favorite way to serve Hoppin John is to scoop it over a bowl of hot rice. I don't like to drain it from the pan. The rice mixes with the pan juices into something so delicious, you'll want another bowl!
- Cornbread. Because the pot will have so many delicious cooking juices, you might want to serve this with cornbread muffins for dipping.
Like all good stew recipes, this one starts with half a pound of chopped bacon in a pot. Turn the heat to medium, and cook, while stirring occasionally, until it starts to release its fat.
After 7-10 minutes, the bacon will start to crisp up, and then it's time to add the onion, celery, bell pepper and bay leaves. Cook the vegetables while stirring occasionally for about 5 minutes, just to soften. If the onions start to brown around the edges, lower the heat.
Next, stir in the Cajun seasoning, garlic powder, dried thyme and cook for about 30 seconds, just to release the aroma and flavor of the herbs and spices. Again, we're not adding any salt because the Cajun seasoning contains plenty of salt.
Finally, stir in the dried black eyed peas, chicken broth and water. Bring this mixture to a simmer over medium heat. Lower the heat to a gentle simmer and cook for about an hour. Taste at least 5 beans to see if they’re tender all the way throughout. If not, keep cooking for another 15 minutes.
- ½ pound sliced bacon (about 6 slices), diced
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 2 ribs celery, sliced thinly
- 1 small green bell pepper, finely diced
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 teaspoons Cajun seasoning*
- 1 teaspoon dried garlic powder
- 1 ½ teaspoons dried thyme leaves
- ½ pound dried black eyed peas, rinsed and drained
- 2 cups chicken broth
- 2 cups water
- For serving: cooked rice or cornbread
- In a large stock pot, add the diced bacon. Turn the heat to medium, and cook the bacon until it starts to release its fat. Stir it occasionally for about 7-10 minutes.
- When the bacon starts to crisp up around the edges, add the diced onion, sliced celery, finely diced bell pepper and bay leaves. Cook the vegetables while stirring occasionally for about 5 minutes, just to soften. If the onions start to brown around the edges, lower the heat.
- Next, stir in the Cajun seasoning, garlic powder, dried thyme and cook for 30 seconds, just to release the flavors of the dried herbs and spices.
- Finally, stir in the black eyed peas, chicken broth and water. Bring this mixture to a gentle simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, for about an hour. Taste at least 5 beans to see if they’re tender all the way throughout. If not, keep cooking for another 15 minutes.
*Cajun Seasoning: Buy a store-bought bottle that says 'Cajun Spices'. Check that the ingredient list contains salt, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, peppers and thyme. Because Cajun seasoning contains salt (a lot of it), I'm not calling for any additional salt in this recipe. You can add more to taste at the end of cooking, if you think it needs it.
Thyme: Use dried thyme leaves, not ground thyme.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 6 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 390Total Fat: 15gSaturated Fat: 5gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 9gCholesterol: 43mgSodium: 1399mgCarbohydrates: 40gFiber: 5gSugar: 5gProtein: 24g