Dish of the Week: Hoppin' John, a New Year's Day Classic

From classic comfort foods to regional standouts and desserts, we'll be sharing a new recipe with you each week. Find other dishes of the week here.

This week, we're sharing a recipe perfect for New Year's Day: Hoppin' John.

Hoppin' John is a popular Southern dish made of black-eyed peas and rice, often with bacon or ham hock and chopped onion mixed in. In the Low Country of South Carolina, field peas (which are smaller than black-eyed peas) are common.

The first written recipe for Hoppin' John appeared in The Carolina Housewife in 1847, though most food historians agree the American Southern dish has its roots in African/French/Caribbean cuisine.

In the South, the dish is eaten New Year's Day to bring wealth and prosperity into the new year, with the peas symbolizing pennies or coins. Sometimes, a coin is even left under supper bowls or added to the pot. Another tradition is leaving three peas on your plate to ensure a year filled with luck, fortune and romance. It is often served with collard, mustard or turnip greens, as the green color also symbolizes wealth. Eaten the day after New Year's Day, the dish is referred to as Skippin' Jenny, and it is said to demonstrate one's determination of frugality.

But no matter when or how you eat it, the comfort food classic is delicious.

This recipe, from Saveur, uses dried black-eyed peas, smoked ham hock, and jalapeño to make a rich and spicy soup to serve over rice and collards.

Hoppin' John Soup serves 8 - 10

Ingredients 1 lb. dried black-eyed peas 1 smoked ham bone or two hocks ¼ cup canola oil ½ cup finely chopped cooked ham ¼ tsp. red chile flakes 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped 1 jalapeño, stemmed, seeded, and finely chopped 1 large carrot, finely chopped 1 large onion, finely chopped 1 rib celery, finely chopped 1 bay leaf 1 lb. collard greens, ribs removed, leaves roughly chopped 2 tbsp. apple cider vinegar Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste 5 cups cooked long-grain white rice Chopped tomatoes and scallions, for garnish


Bring peas, ham bone, and 8 cups water to a boil in a 6-quart Dutch oven. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook, skimming foam occasionally, until peas are tender, about 45 minutes. Drain peas, reserving 1 cup cooking liquid along with ham bone; set aside.

Heat oil in a 12-quart.pot over medium-high heat. Add chopped ham, chiles, garlic, jalapeños, carrot, onion, celery, and bay leaf and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 8 minutes.

Add reserved black-eyed peas, ham bone, and reserved cooking liquid, along with collards and 12 cups water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer until collards are tender, about 1 hour. Stir in vinegar and season with salt and pepper. Spoon rice into bowls and ladle soup over rice and add garnishes.

KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Brooke Viggiano is a contributing writer who is always looking to share Houston's coolest and tastiest happenings with the Houston Press readers.
Contact: Brooke Viggiano