Healthy Hoppin’ John: A New Year’s Day Tradition

After a December full of holidays, traditions and indulgences you might be drafting New Year’s resolutions and planning your healthy eating regimen for January.

While it isn’t necessarily an indulgence and won’t derail your diet plans, there is one tradition left that you won’t want to miss. Hoppin’ John is a Southern version of a traditional, West African rice and beans dish that consists of black-eyed peas and rice, with chopped onion and sliced bacon or ham hock, seasoned with a bit of salt and spices. If eaten on January 1, Hoppin’ John is said to bring luck for the forthcoming year.

The first known recipe for Hoppin’ John was penned by Sarah Rutledge, author of The Carolina Housewife in 1847 and a daughter of Edward Rutledge, a signer of the Declaration of Independence. The origin of the name remains in dispute, but according to Epicurious, some culinary pundits believe that the dish originated with African slaves, who numbered in the tens of thousands in the South in the 17th and 18th centuries.

There are numerous variations of Hoppin’ John, so we scoured the web and found three of our favorite healthy variations that you should try during 2022.

Hoppin’ John
Source: Kurt Michael Friese, Huffington Post

  • 2½ cups black-eyed peas
  • 4 tablespoons butter or peanut oil
  • 2 each ham hocks
  • 2 each onion, diced
  • 8 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1 tablespoon garlic
  • 2 each bay leaf
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Soak the peas overnight in enough water to cover by half, then drain, rinse and proceed.

Brown the ham hocks over medium heat in the butter or oil in a large stock pot. Once browned on each side, add the onions and sauté until tender (5 to 8 minutes).

Add all the remaining ingredients and increase heat to bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and let cook 60 to 90 minutes or until peas are tender. Taste to adjust salt and pepper, then serve over buttered white rice.

Skippin’ Jenny (Vegan Hoppin’ John)

  • 1 bunch of collard greens, 12 of the leaves set aside for rolling (pick out the biggest, nicest leaves of the bunch)
  • 1 tsp oil
  • 8 ounces cremini mushrooms, sliced thinly
  • 4 cups chopped collards
  • 1 (15-ounce) can black-eyed peas, drained and rinsed (1.5 cups)
  • 3 cups Backyard BBQ Sauce, recipe to follow.

Slice off the stems of 12 nice collard leaves (run a knife alongside either side of the stem and then cut it out of the leaf). Boil a large pot of water. Submerge the 12 collard leaves into the boiling water and cook for 6 minutes. When done, use tongs to transfer them to a strainer and let cool. Handle with care!

Preheat a large skillet over medium, and cook the mushrooms in the oil for 5 minutes. Add the chopped collards. Cook for 7-10 minutes until the moisture has cooked off. Add the peas and cook through. Pour on 2 cups of the BBQ sauce and cook until the wateriness is gone. (5-10 minutes). Let cool a smidgen.

Place a collard on a flat work surface with the side that has not been sliced facing you. Place some of the black-eyed peas mixture in the lower third of the collard. How much you put in will determine the size of the roll: Go big for a main, smaller for a side. (See picture for example of smaller rolls…next time I’d make them bigger.) Fold the bottom up over the mixture, then fold in the sides. Roll the collard up, gently but firmly.

Roll all the collards. When ready to serve, spoon extra BBQ sauce over the rolls.

Saigon Hoppin’ John
Source: Matt Lee & Tedd Lee, New York Times

  • 1 cup dried black-eyed peas
  • 1 cup uncooked rice
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 4 inches lemon grass, bruised and cut into 4 sections, plus 1 stalk for garnish
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, or more to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/4 cup cilantro
  • Black pepper to taste

Wash peas in a strainer; soak 4 hours in ample fresh water. When ready, boil 6 cups water in a 4-quart pot. Add peas, and maintain a low boil, uncovered, 25 minutes. Add all remaining ingredients but the extra lemon grass stalk and the cilantro; when mixture comes to a boil again, reduce to simmer, and cook, covered, 20 minutes.

Add cilantro and salt and pepper to taste. Adjust consistency to soupiness with water, if necessary, and serve in bowls, steaming hot, with an inch of fresh lemon grass.

Browse Diets In Review for more black-eyed peas recipes:

Crock Pot Beef & Black Eyed Peas

Quick & Healthy Black Eyed Peas

Hoppin’ John

Hoppin’ John Salad

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