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    Carolina Hoppin’ John Recipe

    Published January 1, 2021. This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure policy.

    Take a trip to the Carolinas with this very easy to make classic Hoppin’ John recipe that is jam-packed with peas, beans, and thick-cut bacon!

    If you couldn’t tell by now, I’m a comfort food cooker.  I love foods that I can graze on all day that are filling and delicious.  If you’re the same then definitely check out my Ham and Green Beans Stew or Ribolita Soup.

    bowl of hoppin john with hot sauce and a spoon

    Hoppin’ John

    Hoppin’ John is a traditional one-pot African American dish that originated in South Carolina from African slave descendants.  It’s a very hearty dish and in its original intent, incredibly simple to prepare.  Here are the original ingredients:

    • Bacon or Pork
    • Red Cow Peas
    • Carolina Rice
    • Water

    Essentially the bacon or pork would season the peas and rice to make it a delicious inexpensive meal to enjoy.  Nowadays you may see black-eyed peas and long grain rice used as substitutions.

    Variations

    Since the origination of Hoppin’ John, it has had quite a facelift and now you will find some variations that are loaded up with additional ingredients.  Even in my recipe, I’ve added a few things to enhance the flavor of it.

    Some additional items you may see are:

    • Celery
    • Onion
    • Garlic
    • Carrots
    • Bell Peppers
    • Smoked Sausage
    • Dry Thyme
    • Dry Basil
    • Hot Sauce
    • Collards
    • Cider Vinegar

    Eating it on New Year’s Day

    There is a New Year’s Day tradition that was started in the early 1900s that Hoppin’ John would be the meal of choice.  Superstitions include the gold rice to mean gold will come your way, or the collards (if you chose to put them in) will bring you money, and tomatoes would mean health.  I know, ridiculous but fun, nonetheless.

    Another fun superstition would be hiding a nickel in the cowpeas and whoever pulled it out of their bowl while eating it would have 1 year of good luck.  Not sure I want money in my food, but ok!

    How to Make Hoppin’ John

    Follow along in these easy step by step instructions for how to make this amazing Hoppin’ John recipe:

    Start by soaking the cowpeas in water overnight.  The next day, drain them and rinse them before using.

    soaking red cowpeas in a plastic container

    In a large pot over medium-low heat render some bacon fat from some thick-sliced pieces of bacon and then set the bacon aside.

    cooking bacon in a large pot

    Drain off some of the rendered bacon fat and quickly sweat the onions, celery, carrots, and garlic for 3-4 minutes over low heat.

    sauteing onions, celery and carrots in bacon fat

    Next, add in the cowpeas, chicken stock, thyme, red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper and cook over low heat for 45-60 minutes or until the peas are soft.

    cooking cowpeas in a pot with chicken stock and vegetables

    Stir in the rice and collards until combined, and then add a lid and cook for 25-30 minutes or until the rice is cooked and all of the liquid has been absorbed.

    adding collards to a pot of cooked cowpeas

    Serve with sliced green onions.

    adding sliced green onions to a bowl of cooked hoppin' john

    Make-Ahead and Storage

    Make-Ahead: This is meant to be eaten when it is finished cooking but you can make it up to 3-4 hours before serving by simply keeping it warm over very low heat and cover until ready to serve.

    How to Store: Cover and keep in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.  This will freeze well covered for up to 3 months.  Be sure to thaw for 1 day in the refrigerator before reheating.

    How to Reheat: Add the desired amount of hoppin’ john to a medium-size pot along with a few tablespoons of chicken stock and heat over low heat until warm.  You may also heat it in the microwave.

    Chef Billy Parisi

    chef notes + tips

    • If you do not want to soak the beans all night you can bring them to a boil with water in a large pot and then let them sit for an hour.  You also have the option of not soaking the beans at all.
    • You do not need to use vinegar at the end of the recipe, but it does provide balance to the overall flavor. If you’d like to, add 1-2 tablespoons of cider vinegar.
    • Be sure to not cook the cowpeas rapidly because you want them to keep the shape and not turn into mush.
    cowpeas and rice hoppin john with bacon in a bowl

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    Let's Cook - Chef Billy Parisi

    Video

    Carolina Hoppin’ John Recipe

    5 from 6 votes
    Take a trip to the Carolinas with this easy to make classic Hoppin’ John recipe that is jam-packed with peas, beans, and thick-cut bacon!
    Servings: 10
    Prep Time: 20 minutes
    Cook Time: 2 hours
    Bean Soaking Time: 12 hours

    Ingredients 

    • 2 cups of cowpeas
    • 1 pound thick-cut bacon, sliced into 1” pieces
    • 1 peeled small diced yellow onion
    • 4 medium diced celery stalks
    • 2 peeled medium diced carrots
    • 2 finely minced cloves of garlic
    • 8 cups chicken stock
    • 5 sprigs fresh thyme
    • ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
    • 2 cups long-grain rice
    • 3 cups packed torn collard leaves, stems removed
    • sea salt and pepper to taste

    Instructions

    • Add the beans to a container and pour in water until it is about 6” over the beans. Cover and set aside overnight or for at least 12 hours.
    • The next day, drain and rinse the beans, and set aside.
    • In a large pot add in the bacon over medium-low heat and cook until the bacon is browned but not completely crisp.
    • Remove the bacon and set aside. Drain off about ½ of the rendered bacon fat and then turn the heat down to low.
    • Add in the onions, celery, carrots, and garlic and cook for 3-4 minutes just to quickly and gently sweat/sauté them.
    • Next, add in the soaked cowpeas, cooked bacon, chicken stock, thyme, pepper flakes, salt, and pepper, and cook for 45-60 minutes over low to medium heat or until soft and tender.
    • Stir in the rice and collards, cover with a lid and cook over low heat for another 25-30 minutes or until the rice is cooked and the liquid is absorbed.
    • Serve with optional sliced green onions.

    Notes

    Chef Notes:
    • Make-Ahead: This is meant to be eaten when it is finished cooking but you can make it up to 3-4 hours before serving by simply keeping it warm over very low heat and cover until ready to serve.
    • How to Store: Cover and keep in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. This will freeze well covered for up to 3 months. Be sure to thaw for 1 day in the refrigerator before reheating.
    • How to Reheat: Add the desired amount of hoppin’ john to a medium-size pot along with a few tablespoons of chicken stock and heat over low heat until warm. You may also heat it in the microwave.
    • If you do not want to soak the beans all night you can bring them to a boil with water in a large pot and then let them sit for an hour. You also have the option of not soaking the beans at all.
    • You do not need to use vinegar at the end of the recipe, but it does provide balance to the overall flavor. If you’d like to, add 1-2 tablespoons of cider vinegar.
    • Be sure to not cook the cowpeas rapidly because you want them to keep the shape and not turn into mush.

    Nutrition

    Calories: 448kcalCarbohydrates: 47gProtein: 17gFat: 21gSaturated Fat: 7gCholesterol: 36mgSodium: 591mgPotassium: 512mgFiber: 4gSugar: 5gVitamin A: 2654IUVitamin C: 7mgCalcium: 61mgIron: 2mg
    Course: lunch, Main, Soup
    Cuisine: african, American