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've lived in Mississippi for almost 10 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.
We've now added this southern tradition of black eyed pea soup for new years dinner. It's called Hoppin' John.
About This Recipe
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 tasty soup!
Why is it called Hoppin' John?
There is a story for why this black eyed pea recipe is name Hoppin' John. Click here for a quick Google search to find an answer quickly, but y'all might could leave me an explanation in the comments below instead.
Ingredients You Need
- Bacon - Grab six slices of bacon and cook until crisp in the same pot you're making the soup. You want that bacon grease for flavor!
- Onion and bell peppers - Chop these up and cook them in the bacon grease.
- Garlic - Because almost everything needs garlic.
- Ham hock - Find smoked ham hock or a salt pork for this recipe.
- Chicken broth - The liquid for this soup.
- Black eyed peas - Use 2 cans (15 oz. each).
- Rice - 1 cup uncooked, and then cooked according to package directions.
- Hot sauce - Adding this is optional, but we like it!
- Salt - Of course, to taste.
Click here or scroll to the recipe card at the end of this post for full recipe ingredients and instructions.
What is Ham Hock and Where Can I Find It?
Ham hock is a salty and smoky meat addition to this soup. I find 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!
How to Make Hoppin' John
- Cook bacon until crisp. Remove and reserve bacon grease.
- Cook onions and peppers in bacon grease until soft. Add garlic.
- Add ham hock and broth. Bring to boil and simmer 15 minutes.
- Stir in peas and rice, simmer another 10 minutes.
- Chop up ham hock, add crispy bacon back to pot.
- Season to taste.
What is the difference between Hoppin' John and black eyed peas?
Hoppin' John is made with black eyed peas. So, black eyed peas is an ingredient in hoppin' John. You can't have hoppin' John without black eyed peas, but you can have black eyed peas without hoppin' John.
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.
Top Tips for Best Results
For the best hoppin' John recipe, follow these tips:
- Drain and rinse the canned peas under cold water before adding to the pot.
- 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 to eat with Hoppin' John
Storage and Leftovers
Store: Let the leftovers cool to room temperature and then transfer to an airtight container. Store in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
Freeze: You can freeze leftover hoppin' John in a freezer bag up to 1 month.
Reheat: Reheat refrigerated leftovers in the microwave or on the stove. For frozen leftovers, allow to thaw overnight in the fridge first.
More Classic Southern Recipes
- Southern Style Chicken 'n Dumplings
- Cheesy Grits Casserole
- Chickfila Chicken Nuggets
- 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.