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How to Cook Black Eyed Peas

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Our Black Eyed Peas features smoked neck bones, onion, bell pepper, and celery. Whether you’re savoring it with a bowl of rice to invite prosperity in the new year or on a cozy winter evening for a bowl of pure comfort, this is your ticket to a world of flavor and good vibes.

Black Eyed Peas (and subsequently black-eyed peas and rice, also known as “Hoppin’ John,”) is a beloved and time-honored recipe in Black food culture, particularly in the South. It’s also a cherished tradition in my family, particularly thanks to my mom’s special touch 💕.

This dish is often served on New Year’s Day to usher in good luck and prosperity for the year ahead. With just a handful of ingredients – black eyed peas, the holy trinity, a few spices, and a hint of smoky meat, this simple and humble meal is heartwarming and full of flavor 😋. Serve it with a side of collard greens and cornbread to make it a complete meal.

Whether you’re celebrating the New Year 🥳 or simply craving some down-home comfort food, black eyed peas is a delicious choice! Throw everything into a pot and let it simmer away. Bonus: They taste even better the next day as the flavors meld!

Where does Hoppin’ John come from?

Hoppin’ John is a dish that consists of rice and peas cooked together. Originally, it was made with red peas. Post Great-Migration, however, black-eyed peas were more commonly used because they were accessible up north and out west. Both peas and rice have roots in Africa, where these ingredients were cultivated and consumed throughout various regions. Enslaved Africans adapted their cooking methods and ingredients to the resources available in America.

In the South, eating peas and rice together became a fundamental part of Black cuisine. The peas are typically cooked with rice and seasoned with pork or bacon. This dish is traditionally served on New Year’s Day and it is believed to bring good luck and prosperity for the coming year. Nowadays, eating black eyed peas and rice is also thought to be a communal meal, eaten for celebratory occasions and family gatherings.

Black Eyed Peas and Collard Greens

The pairing of black-eyed peas and collard greens on New Year’s Day is a longstanding Southern tradition in the United States, particularly in Black and Southern communities. This culinary custom is deeply rooted in cultural symbolism, with each component carrying special significance.

  • Black-Eyed Peas: Black-eyed peas are often associated with good luck and prosperity. In the South, it’s believed that peas (originally cowpeas or red peas) resemble coins, and consuming them on New Year’s Day is thought to bring financial abundance and good fortune for the coming year.
  • Collard Greens: Collards, with their vibrant green color, symbolize wealth and economic prosperity. Eating collards on New Year’s Day is believed to ensure financial success and overall well-being.
  • Symbolism of the Pairing: When black-eyed peas and greens are served together, the dish represents a wish for a year filled with both financial prosperity (from the black-eyed peas) and good health (from the collards).
  • Culinary Tradition: This tradition is not only about the symbolic meaning but also about celebrating culture and heritage. Many families pass down recipes for black-eyed peas and greens from generation to generation, making it a cherished part of their culinary legacy.

Ingredients

  • Black eyed peas
  • Water
  • Smoked neck bones
  • Chicken bouillon
  • Bay leaf
  • Vegetable oil
  • Onion
  • Bell pepper
  • Celery
  • Garlic
  • Creole seasoning
  • Salt and pepper

Substitutions and Variations

  • Some variations of black eyed include adding diced tomatoes, leeks, like in this vegan black eyed peas recipe, or chopped greens like collard greens, or additional spices.
  • Chicken bouillon powder can be substituted with chicken bouillon cubes or chicken base.
  • Smoked ham hocks and smoked turkey (legs, necks, tails) are often used in place of neck bones.
  • For a vegetarian version, you can omit the neck bones and use vegetable stock.
  • Adjust the level of spiciness by adding chopped Serrano or jalapeño chili peppers.

Special Equipment and Tools

  • Large Pot with Lid: At least 5 quarts, to cook the beans and neck bones.
  • Skillet: To sauté the chopped onion, bell pepper, and celery.
  • Stirring Utensils: Basic spoons and spatulas for stirring and combining ingredients.
  • Spoon or Ladle: Use a spoon or ladle to scoop and serve.

How to Cook Black Eyed Peas (Hoppin’ John)

  1. Prepare Broth: In a large pot, combine 3 quarts of water, smoked neck bones, chicken bouillon powder, and a bay leaf. Put it on high heat and bring it to a boil.
  2. Simmer the Meat: Once boiling, cover and reduce the heat to a simmer. Let it cook for 2 to 3 hours until the neck bones are tender and easily fall apart.
  3. Sauté the Veggies: In a separate skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add chopped onion, bell pepper, and celery. Cook and stir until the vegetables are softened, which takes about 6 minutes. Set this mix aside.
  4. Season: Check the broth, taste it, and Creole seasoning (if using) to your liking. Make sure it has a good flavor base.
  5. Combine Everything: Add dried black eyed peas, the sautéed veggie mix, and minced garlic. Stir everything together.
  6. Simmer: Bring back to a simmer, cover it up, and cook for another 1 to 1 1/2 hours until the peas are tender. Taste the dish again and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper.
  7. Serve and Enjoy: Ladle peas into bowls. If you have some of that smoky neck bone meat, add it on top. Pour some of the flavorful juice over it all. If you like, serve it over rice if desired.

Tips & Tricks

  • Simmering Neck Bones: Simmer the neck bones until they are tender and easily fall apart. This slow cooking process allows the meat to impart its smoky flavor and richness to the broth.
  • Vegetable Sautéing Technique: Sautéing the onion, bell pepper, and celery separately enhances their flavors. This technique contributes to the overall complexity of the dish.
  • Customizing Seasonings: Adjust the use of Creole seasoning based on your spice preferences. You can also experiment with other herbs and spices to personalize the flavor profile.
  • Testing Peas for Tenderness: Check the tenderness of the black-eyed peas after 1 to 1 1/2 hours of simmering. Adjust the cooking time based on your preference for the peas’ texture.
  • Smoky Neck Bone Meat: If you have some of the smoky neck bone meat, add it on top when serving. This adds extra flavor and showcases the delicious meat from the bones.
  • Serving Options: While serving over rice is traditional, feel free to experiment with other serving options.
  • Make-Ahead Considerations: This dish often tastes even better the next day as the flavors have more time to meld. Consider making it ahead of time for a convenient and flavorful meal.
  • Garnish for Presentation: Garnish the final dish with fresh herbs like parsley or green onions for a vibrant and appetizing presentation.

Make Ahead Instructions

Like many stews, black eyed peas often taste even better the next day as the flavors meld. Don’t hesitate to make it ahead of time!

Prep (Make-Ahead):

  1. Day 1 Prep: Follow steps 1 and 2 of the main recipe to create the broth with water, smoked neck bones, chicken bouillon, and bay leaf. Allow it to simmer until the meat is tender.
  2. Cool and Store: Let it cool to room temperature. Once cooled, transfer to an airtight container. Refrigerate it overnight or for up to 2 days.

Next-Day Cooking (Adding the Beans):

  1. Day 2 Prep: When you’re ready to continue the cooking process, take broth out of the refrigerator. Check if there’s any solidified fat on the surface; you can skim it off if desired.
  2. Reheat: In the same pot or a new one, gently reheat over medium heat. Bring it to a simmer.
  3. Continue with Veggies: Follow steps 3 and 4 of the main recipe by sautéing the veggie mix in a separate skillet.
  4. Combine and Simmer: Add the reheated broth, dried black eyed peas, veggie mix, and Creole seasoning (if using) to the pot. Stir everything together and bring it back to a simmer, cover it up, and cook for 1 to 1 1/2 hours until the black eyed peas are tender.

Reheating Instructions

To reheat, place beans in a saucepan with some broth to prevent drying out. Heat over medium heat, stirring occasionally until they are thoroughly heated. You can also reheat them in the microwave, covered with a microwave-safe lid or plastic wrap with a vent, stirring periodically to ensure even heating.

Serving Suggestions

In the South, pairing black eyed peas peas with greens is common on New Year’s Day. The greens, often collard or mustard, are thought to symbolize money and financial success. Together they are believed to bring a prosperous year. Hoppin’ John (peas and rice) is also often served with traditional Southern dishes like:

  • Cornbread: Our soul food cornbread recipe is easy to follow and yields a moist, tender crumb. It combines the rich tang of buttermilk with classic ingredients like butter and sugar for a delightful side dish that complements any Southern meal.
  • Sweet Potato Cornbread: This sweet potato cornbread is perfectly moist and flavorful, made with fresh, mashed sweet potatoes, a touch of cinnamon, and the magic of beaten egg whites. Topped with a luscious coat of melted butter for the ultimate Sunday dinner companion.
  • Fried Chicken: A Southern favorite, crispy fried chicken is a natural companion to black eyed peas.
  • Smothered Chicken: Smothered chicken, featuring tender, juicy chicken smothered in a rich, flavorful gravy, is a Southern classic that complements Hoppin’ John perfectly. The gravy adds an extra layer of savory goodness to your meal.
  • Smothered Oxtails: Smothered oxtails are another soulful favorite. The slow-cooked oxtails in a savory gravy create a delicious and hearty pairing with black eyed peas, offering a melt-in-your-mouth experience.
  • Fried Catfish: Crispy fried catfish or other fish varieties pair beautifully with Hoppin’ John for a complete Southern meal.
  • Candied Yams: Sweet, tender yams cooked with butter, sugar, and sometimes marshmallows provide a sweet contrast to the peas’ savory flavors.
  • Pork Chops: Juicy, pan-fried or grilled pork chops are another protein option that harmonizes with Hoppin’ John.

FAQ

How do I know when the neck bones are tender and ready?

Simmer the neck bones for 2 to 3 hours until they are tender and easily fall apart.

Can I use a different cut of meat?

Yes! You can use a different cut of meat, like ham hocks or smoked turkey, but the cooking time may vary.

How do I know when the black-eyed peas are done?

Cook the peas for 1 to 1 1/2 hours until tender. Adjust the cooking time based on the desired tenderness of the peas.

When and how should I adjust the seasoning?

Taste the broth before adding peas, and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper. Taste again after they are cooked and adjust if needed.

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How to Cook Black Eyed Peas

  • Author: cooks with soul
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 2 hours
  • Total Time: 2 hours 15 minutes
  • Category: main course, dinner
  • Method: stovetop
  • Cuisine: american, southern

Description

Learn how to cook Black Eyed Peas, a timeless classic featuring tender smoked neck bones, onion, bell pepper, and celery, and seasoned to perfection; it’s more than just a dish – it’s a tradition. Whether you’re savoring it on New Year’s Day to invite good vibes or on a cozy winter evening for a bowl of pure comfort, this is your ticket to a world of flavor and good vibes.


Ingredients

Scale
  • 1 pound dried black eyed peas
  • 3 quarts water
  • 1 pound smoked neck bones 
  • 2 tablespoons chicken bouillon powder
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1/2 large white onion, chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 celery sticks, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons Creole seasoning
  • Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt, to taste
  • Ground black pepper, to taste

Instructions

  1. Prep: In a large pot, combine 3 quarts of water, smoked neck bones, chicken bouillon powder, and a bay leaf. Put on high heat and bring to a boil.
  2. Simmer the Meat: Once boiling, cover and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook for 2 to 3 hours until neck bones are tender and easily fall apart.
  3. Saute the Veggies: In a separate skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add chopped onion, bell pepper, and celery. Cook and stir until vegetables are softened, about 6 minutes. Set aside.
  4. Season: Check broth, taste it, and add Creole seasoning (if using). 
  5. Combine Everything: Add dried black-eyed peas, sautéed veggie mix, and garlic. Stir everything together.
  6. Simmer: Bring back to a simmer, cover, and cook for another 1 to 1 1/2 hours until peas are tender. Taste again and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper.
  7. Serve and Enjoy: Ladle black eyed peas into bowls. If you have some of that smoky neck bone meat, add it on top. Pour some of the flavorful broth over it all. Serve it over rice if desired.

Keywords: black eyed peas and rice, hoppin john

8 Comments

  1. I LOVE black eyed peas and rice, this recipe tutorial made it so easy for make and my family devoured the entire batch!

  2. This black-eyed peas recipe was so delicious. I’ll be coming back to this tasty method when I make some again for the new year!

  3. Great recipe , I only had a smoked ham hock instead of the necks so modified recipe a little for that, otherwise nothing but rave reviews here

    1. Hey Lisa! That sounds great! I love ham hocks too, it works just as well! The necks are hard to find sometimes too. Thanks for sharing! -K

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