Hoppin' John Recipe for New Year's Day/Photo by Donna Turner Ruhlman

This Hoppin’ John recipe is a dish from the American south featuring black-eyed peas, often included in southern food and soul food recipes, traditionally served on New Year’s Day by those angling for good fortune all year long. I make Hoppin’ John every year for this very reason (also, it’s inexpensive, easy, nutritious and satisfying).  There are all kinds of variants (here’s the wikipedia description of Hoppin John), but they all share three features that I think must be a part of the dish or it’s not Hoppin John: black-eyed peas, smokey bacon, and some kind of heat.

I always include onion and I also always include tomato, which is not traditional but I think it gives great acidity and flavor to this bean dish.  This year I threw in some Mangalista guanciale because I could, and some cumin because I felt like it.  I’ll serve it on New Years, with rice (rice is sometimes included in the dish—I like it on the side) and some chopped pickled chillis.

So happy New Year and may it be filled with good fortune, good friends, and good food!

Hoppin’ John Recipe

  • 1 pound blackeyed peas, rinsed and picked through
  • 2 large Spanish onions, one peeled and halved through the root, one medium diced
  • 2 carrots
  • 4 bay leaves
  • kosher salt to taste
  • 8 ounces bacon, cut into 1/4-inch strips
  • 5 cloves of garlic, or more, smashed with the side of a knife and roughly chopped
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons red pepper flakes (3 if you like it really hot)
  • 1 teaspoon finely ground black pepper
  • One 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes
  1. Put the black eyed peas, the halved onion, the carrots and 3 bay leaves in a large pot.  Cover it all with about three inches of water (you’ll need about 2 quarts).  Put the pot over high heat, bring it to a simmer, then turn the burner to medium low and continue to cook until the beans are tender, about 60 to 90 minutes.  Add two or three teaspoons of salt midway through the cooking.  (Add more water if the water level goes below the beans.)  Reserve two cups of the cooking liquid.  Strain the peas, picking out and discarding the onion, carrots and bay leaves.
  2. While the peas are cooking: in a pot big enough to hold the beans cook the bacon over medium low heat  until the fat is rendered and the bacon is browned.  Add the medium diced onion and a three fingered pinch of salt.  Cook over until the onion is softened and translucent and beginning to brown, five or ten minutes.  Add the cumin, pepper flakes, and black pepper, turn the burner to medium and stir to combine the seasonings with the onion.  Add the juice from the tomatoes.  Then add the tomatoes crushing them in your hand as if you were furious with them, dashing them, their brains squirting out between your fingers.  (You could instead put them on a cutting board, of course, and roughly chop them, then scrape the tomato and juices into the pan with the onion.)  Add the last bay leaf.  Bring this to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes or so to reduce and thicken the sauce.
  3. Stir in the black eyed-peas, and cook to heat through.  Add some or all of the reserved bean liquid to keep it juicy (add all of it if you’ll be chilling and reheating it).  Taste.  If it needs something, try a little more salt.  Still need something? Try some fish sauce.  Want it hotter?  Add more pepper flakes.  Too salty?  Oops!  Need to make a half batch with no salt and add it to this one! (Actually I’ve always found the above recipe to be on the money.)
  4. Serve immediately, or if it’s Wednesday and you’re not serving it till Saturday (the case here), cool then chill it in the fridge uncovered, then cover it when it’s cold.  Reheat it slowly so as not to burn the bottom; add some water or some wine if it looks a little dry.
  5. Serve with rice and some crunchy toasted and buttered bread, and garnish with pickled chillis if you have them!

Makes about 2 quarts of beans, which will serve about 15.