Hoppin’ John

A bowl of Hoppin’ John

Hoppin’ John, also known as Carolina peas and rice, is a peas and rice dish served in the Southern United States. It is made with  black-eyed peas(or red cowpeas such as iron and clay peas in the Southeast US) and rice, chopped onion, and sliced bacon, seasoned with salt. Some recipes use ham hockfatbackcountry sausage, or smoked turkey parts instead of bacon. A few use green peppers or vinegar and spices. Smaller than black-eyed peas, field peas are used in the South Carolina Lowcountry and coastal Georgia; black-eyed peas are the norm elsewhere.


Our house is finally coming together. Our floors were refinished last week. We’ve finished painting (more or less). All our furniture is back on the property, although a few pieces still need to be moved in from the garage. There’s still a lot of unpacking to do, and lots more projects to tackle, but we’re close to things feeling normal-ish again. With everything going on I decided to go back to just doing one dish at a time. I may occasionally present some extra side recipes, but the time it took to research, prepare, and then write about several different dishes every time was getting overwhelming.

The preparation of hoppin’ John is more or less the same as the Appalachian soup beans recipes I’ve been making recently, but down in the coastal lowlands regions it’s served with rice.

Although it is served year round, it’s especially popular as a New Years dish along with collard greens and cornbread to bring prosperity in the coming year. The beans are supposed to represent coins, while the greens represent bills and the cornbread is gold. There’s also something about eating pork on the first day of the year because pigs root for food going forward, (as opposed to chickens who scratch backward), so there’s bacon or ham in the beans.

No one seems to have any good idea where the name Hoppin’ John comes from. The most likely candidate I saw was that it’s a corruption of the French pois à pigeon (pigeon peas). We do know that cow peas (of which black eyed peas are one variety) came over from Africa with the slaves, and this dish was likely born in South Carolina when the peas were combined with locally grown rice.

In some parts of the country you can buy fresh or presoaked black eyed peas in the grocery store, either refrigerated or frozen. Duluth, Minnesota isn’t one of those regions, so I had to use dried peas, soaked overnight. I have included instructions for using either kind, as well as canned. Please note that my timing instructions for the “fresh” peas is inferred from other sources and I am unable to test it. If you happen to live in a part of the country were you can get that product I’d love your feedback on cooking times and process.

I chose to include both bacon and ham hock in my recipe. I actually don’t think I saw any other recipes that did that, but they were split almost evenly between the two, and I figured they’re both tasty. Feel free to use one or the other if you want to stick to tradition.

I’m surprised that Wikipedia doesn’t list celery in its list of ingredients; Nearly every recipe I looked at included it, and even before researching it my impression was that hoppin’ john includes celery and green peppers.

There are three schools of thought on how the rice get’s incorporated in the dish. The classic way seems to be to add it to the pot and cook it along with the beans, but there are also recipes that have you cook it separately and then add it in, and other’s that keep it separate and simply serve the beans over rice. The idea of cooking it separately seems to be that you can drain excess liquid from the beans first and have better control over how wet the final dish is. I chose to go with cooking separately and then mixing it in, but with a twist; instead of using plain water to cook the rice I cooked my beans first and then cooked the rice in the broth from the beans, so I get the flavor of the porky bean broth cooked into the rice, but can control the final consistency of the dish better. Of course for highest authenticity you should use Carolina rice, but I just used whatever long grain rice I had in the cupboard.

While it wasn’t mentioned anywhere as a traditional topping, I still have several jars of chow chow in my refrigerator, and I can report that it’s a tasty addition to the dish, especially once it had been in the fridge for a couple days and the flavors were starting to get a little muddy.

Hoppin’ John

Serves: 10
Prep: 30 minutes:
Cook 30 minutes to 1 hour
Total: 1 to 1 ½ hours.

⅔ lb. thick sliced bacon, diced
1 large yelow onion, diced
1 ½ small green bell peppers, diced
3 stalks celery, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
⅔ teaspoon salt
⅔ teaspoon cayenne
2 ¼ teaspoon dried thyme
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
2 bay leaves
2 ½ teaspoons cajun seasoning 
6 cups chicken broth
4 cups water
1 large smoked ham hock
5 cups fresh or frozen black eyed peas
2 ¼ cups dried black eyed peas, soaked overnight
3 15 oz. cans black-eyed peas, drained

2 cups long grain rice

2 Tablespoons scallion, finely chopped

4 Tablespoons butter
2 Tablespoons white vinegar
10 green onions, in place of yellow onion
⅞ teaspoon dried basil
½ teaspoon dried oregano
2 ¾ teaspoons fresh thyme, in place of dried
3 ⅓ Tablespoons olive oil

Place bacon in a large dutch oven or heavy soup pot. Place over medium heat and cook until bacon begins to brown and fat has rendered. Add onion, bell pepper, celery and garlic and sauté for about 8 minutes, until vegetables begin to soften. Add seasonings, chicken stock, water, ham hock and fresh or dried black-eyed peas. Bring to a boil, lower heat, and simmer until beans are tender 20-40 minutes for fresh, an hour or so for dried. 

If using canned black-eyed peas, bring liquid to a boil and simmer for about 30 minutes to develop flavor and cook the ham hock before adding peas. Add the beans and simmer for another 15-20 minutes. 

Once your beans are soft remove the ham hock and set aside to cool slightly. Drain the beans, reserving cooking liquid. Return beans to pot with 1 cup of reserved liquid and keep warm. 

Combine rice with 4 cups of reserved bean cooking liquid in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, covered for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to sit for 5 minutes before removing lid.

Meanwhile, shred the meat from the ham hock and return it to the pot with the beans. 

When rice it cooked, fluff with a fork and add it to the pot with the beans. Add additional bean cooking liquid to reach desired consistency. (If you have extra bean broth you don’t want to pour down the drain I suspect it would make a fantastic soup.) Taste for seasonings. Serve garnished with green onion. 

One Comment Add yours

  1. Роман says:

    At the end, I decided to add in plenty of cayenne pepper for some spice then I stirred in some white vinegar, which is something my BFF Hyacinth always does with her Hoppin John.


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