Hoppin’ John is a Southern tradition for new years dinner with black eyed peas and rice. Made with a smoky ham hock or salt pork, this black eyed pea soup is believed by some to bring good luck!
I did not grow up in the South, but we have now been in Mississippi for almost 8 years so we’ve adopted some of the fun Southern traditions. For example, I make beignets and king cake once a year around Mardi Gras, and words like “y’all,” “fixin,'” “might could,” “cattywampus,” and “hankerin'” have become part of my natural vocabulary.
Now we’ve added this Southern new years tradition of black eyed pea soup for new years dinner. It’s called hoppin’ John.
Why is it called hoppin’ John?
I have no idea why it’s called that. I know I could do a quick Google search and find an answer quickly, but y’all might could leave me an explanation in the comments below instead. 😉 See what I did there?
I do know this peas and rice recipe has roots in West Africa, and the black-eyed peas resemble coins that are said to bring good fortune. There are varying stories of how many peas to leave on your plate to either share your luck or avoid bad luck. I also know that this hoppin’ John is a very very tasty soup!
Some may not call this soup, but that’s how I like to serve it. Others will serve it over a bed of rice, but I stir the rice right in and ladle it all into a bowl to slurp down. Even though it’s tradition to eat hoppin’ John on New Years Day, this dish is delicious year round.
Tips for hoppin’ John
For the best hoppin’ John recipe, follow these tips:
- Use chicken broth to cook your rice. The broth adds much more flavor. (This recipe is an easy method for cooking rice.)
- If you can’t find ham hock or salt pork, you can use diced ham.
- After the ham hock cooks into the soup, chop up the pieces into the soup and discard the bone.
- Stir the rice into the pot to serve as a soup or serve over a bed of rice. I prefer as a soup, but you choose!
- Add salt and pepper (and hot sauce!) to taste.
What is ham hock and where can I find it?
We’re not going to talk about the specific part of the pig that is the ham hock. Instead, I’ll tell you that ham hock is a salty and smoky meat addition to this soup. I find my ham hock packaged in the meat department and it’s not terribly expensive. But, you can also use salt pork that is found by the diced ham and deli meats (at least in my grocery store).
The ham hock may come packaged with more than you need. Use the one closest in size and freeze the others in a freezer bag to use another day. Also, you can see in the photo above I love using my favorite Dutch oven for this dish!
What do you eat with hoppin’ John?
Like I said above, I prefer to serve hoppin’ John as a soup which means I just serve it with a side of cornbread. If you serve it on a plate over a bed of rice, you can also add in a side of collard greens!
As we look to the end of an incredible year of ups and downs with new and old experiences, I also look forward to a refreshing start to 2020! I hope y’all have a wonderful new years celebrating with loved ones! Cheers!
- 6 slices bacon
- 1 large sweet onion , peeled and chopped
- 1 red bell pepper , seeded and chopped
- 1 green bell pepper , seeded and chopped
- 2 cloves garlic , minced
- 1/2 lb. smoked ham hock or salt pork , rinsed and dried
- 6 cups chicken broth
- 2 cans black eyed peas (15 oz. each) , rinsed and drained
- 1 cup uncooked rice , cooked according to package directions
- 1 teaspoon hot sauce , more or less to taste (can omit)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- In a large pot or Dutch oven, cook bacon until crisp. Remove from pot (reserve grease) and chop; set aside.
- In the pot with the bacon grease, cook onion, peppers until soft, about 7-10 minutes. Add garlic and cook an additional 1 minute.
- Add ham hock (or salt pork) to the pot and pour in chicken broth. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce to medium low and simmer for 15 minutes.
- Stir in the peas and rice, then simmer another 10 minutes. Chop up cooked ham hock or salt pork, discard bone (if necessary). Stir in bacon. Season with hot sauce, salt and pepper, to taste.
- If you'd rather serve this over rice and not as a soup, reduce the amount of broth to 4 cups and do not stir the rice into the pot with the peas. Simmer 15 minutes longer until the liquid is reduced.
- When preparing your rice, try this recipe and cook it in broth for more flavor.