Hoppin’ John

by Ann Marie Michaels on December 30, 2010

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Hoppin' John: A New Year's Tradition

Hoppin’ John, the classic meal to serve on New Year’s Day, is a soul dish that has African, Caribbean, and French roots. While eating black eyed peas for good luck in the new year is a tradition with roots from the American South, the custom actually goes all the way back to the Babylonians.

Part of the tradition is that a shiny coin is buried among the black-eyed peas before serving. It is said that the person who finds the coin in their bowl is ensured good luck throughout the following year.

According to Wikipedia:

“The peas, since they swell when cooked, symbolize prosperity; the greens symbolize money; the pork, because pigs root forward when foraging, represents positive motion… The peas are symbolic of pennies or coins.”

Accompaniments to Hoppin’ John are stewed collard greens or other soul food greens such as mustard greens, turnip greens, chard, or kale. (Remember that while it is important to include lots of raw foods in your diet for enzymes and other benefits, foods like kale and spinach should be cooked in order to minimize anti-nutrients.)

Recipe Notes

Since Hoppin’ John is traditionally from the American South, why not use lard to cook the ingredients in if you have some on hand?

Why Lard?

Lard is a healthy fat that is full of vitamin D if the pigs were on pasture. It’s a good source of mono-unsaturated (47-50% of the fat) and saturated fats (38-43%). Lard has been consumed by people around the world for thousands of years (for example, Mexico and other Latin American countries, as well as China and Spain, and Okinawa).

Note: Don’t buy hydrogenated lard — the stuff you see at the store. Find a farmer who sells pig fat and learn how to render lard at home. It’s easy!

When to Eat Hoppin’ John

While it is often consumed as the first meal on New Year’s Day, I regularly eat Hoppin’ John for brunch or lunch. If you like, you can eat it for dinner too.

Hoppin’ John


Black-eyed peas, dry (1 pound)
Butter or lard (1 tablespoon) where to buy butter
Brown rice, dry (2 cups)
Bacon (1 pound) where to buy bacon
Onion (1 large)
Celery (1 stalk)
Green or red bell pepper (1/2)
Garlic (1-2 cloves)
Chicken stock (4 cups/32 ounces)
Bay leaf (1)
Thyme, fresh or dry (1 teaspoon)
Sea salt, to taste — where to buy sea salt
freshly ground black pepper, where to buy black pepperand cayenne where to buy cayenne


Stock pot or crock pot
Optional: Rice cooker


1. Place the black-eyed peas in a stock pot or Dutch oven. Cover with warm water, cover with lid, set in a warm place, and soak for 12-24 hours.
2. Drain and rinse the black-eyed peas in a colander. Set aside.
3. Fry bacon in a skillet. When cooked through, transfer bacon to a cutting board and chop. Reserve the bacon grease for later (you’ll need it for the collard greens).
4. Heat butter or lard in stockpot.
5. Chop onion, celery, green pepper, and garlic. Add to stockpot and cook for 4 minutes.
6. Add the black-eyed peas, stock, bay leaf, bacon, and thyme.
7. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer on low heat for 45 minutes to a few hours. You can also do this in the crock pot all day on low heat. If the liquid evaporates, add more chicken stock.
8. Up to a couple of hours before you are ready to eat, cook the brown rice in a rice cooker according to instructions (or follow instructions for cooking brown rice in Sally Fallon’s Nourishing Traditions). Keep warm until the black-eyed peas are ready..
9. Add sea salt, black pepper and cayenne to the black-eyed peas to taste.
10. Serve over rice, with collard greens on the side.

Photo credit: hoppin’ john to start the new year by kthread, on Flickr
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{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Barb December 30, 2010 at 10:35 AM

Love it! Thanks for that info, I’m always excited to learn food history and lore tidbits like that. But I’d be sure there was a coin in everyone’s bowl ;).


Leesie December 30, 2010 at 10:36 AM

I never knew about this Hoppin’ John thing. I’m always learning something from you. Thanks for sharing the yummy recipe. Can’t wait to try it!

Happy New Year! I wish you a spectacular 2011. God bless.


Anne December 30, 2010 at 11:28 AM

Hi – thanks for all the recipes and thoughts you share :-). I have just eaten my first ever batch of chicken liver mousse inspired by one of your posts…I am not a fan of meat in general – or rather, I’m not a fan of consuming meat in conventional (huge!) amounts (and I’m lactose intolerant…) – but I believe that when I do eat meat it should be nutritious and delicious, and I love it that I can contribute to all of the animal slaughtered getting used!

Just my two cents’ rambling :-) – and happy new year!


Drew @ How To Cook Like Your Grandmother December 30, 2010 at 12:07 PM

I was just reading this same recipe (or very nearly) over on Michael Rhulman’s blog. I said I was going to try it with black beans, since my wife and I both dislike blackeyed peas. Someone said that variation is called Hoppin’ Juan.

One change to your directions is that I always chop my bacon before cooking. It cooks easier, and that way I don’t have to handle hot, greasy back and a sharp knife at the same time.

By the way, I saw this today about the latest round of hacked WordPress installations: http://jasoncosper.com/archives/wordpress-style-css-php-and-you/ You might want to check for it.


Lovelyn December 30, 2010 at 1:04 PM

Great recipe. We eat black eyed peas and greens every New Year.


Gigi Berardi December 30, 2010 at 2:17 PM

This looks lovely! A great idea (I love all your recipes), and I’m going to try it with my beautiful scarlet runner beans — see http://resilientfarmsnourishingfoods.blogspot.com/2010/12/pacific-northwest-holiday-foods.html — there’s images there. Hoping to ring in the new year with Hoppin’ John Pacific Northwest Style! Best, Gigi


stacey December 30, 2010 at 2:47 PM

we’ll definitely be eating this on new years day. i was looking for something special and i even have all the ingredients on hand. what luck!!


Tamara December 31, 2010 at 4:15 AM

Awww, yaaay! Hopping John (well, black eye peas and greens mostly) is a staple in my family as my people are Gullah (from coastal South Carolina).


Johanna Schoeneck January 1, 2011 at 1:35 PM

when do you add the bacon? i have read and re read the recipe and can not figure out when to add the bacon in after you cook it up? any clue to this dilema? thanks


cheeseslave January 1, 2011 at 6:04 PM

Hi, Johanna

Sorry for that omission. I corrected the recipe. The bacon should be added at step 6.


Chandelle January 1, 2011 at 7:32 PM

Yumm…I made this today and it was terrific! Thanks for the recipe, it will be a staple from now on in our family. This was the first time that I have truely enjoyed collard greens.


cheeseslave January 1, 2011 at 7:58 PM


I’m so glad!

Alas, we didn’t make it. We just ate popcorn (homemade), fudge (also homemade) and grass-fed beef stew.

I think this year will still be lucky! :-)


tessag July 5, 2011 at 5:05 PM

Looks delicious! I had placed an order with my local farmer for pork fate to render. After reading another post somewhere else here, I realized I know that they do not use hormones or antibiotics, but I’ve never asked if they use GMO feed. Well, today I asked and THEY DO! I am officially looking for another source for meat and eggs. I genuinely like these people, and feel somewhat of a tratior.


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