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History of Hoppin’ John

“Rice for riches and peas for peace” – Southern saying on eating Hoppin’ John on New Year’s Day

Hoppin’ John is found in most states of the South, but it is mainly associated with the Carolinas.  African slaves who worked the rice plantations introduced Black-eyed Peas, also called Cowpeas, to America. Hoppin’ John is a rich bean dish made of black-eyed peas simmered with spicy sausages, ham hocks, and/or fat pork, rice, and tomato sauce. 

This African-American dish is traditionally a high point of New Year’s Day, when a shiny dime is often buried among the black-eyed peas before serving. Whoever gets the coin in his or her portion is assured good luck throughout the year.  At the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve, many southern families toast each other with Champagne and a bowl of Hoppin’ John.  Collard Greens, the color of currency, are a common accompaniment to Hoppin’ John and represent riches. 

There are many variations to traditional Hoppin’ John. Some cook the peas and rice in one pot, while others, such as Luella’s, insist on simmering them separately. 

There are many tales or legends that explain how Hoppin’ John got its name:

  • A man named John came “a-hoppin” when his wife took the dish from the stove
  • An obscure South Carolina custom was inviting a guest to eat by saying, “Hop in, John”
  • The dish goes back at least as far as 1841, when, according to tradition, it was hawked in the streets of Charleston, South Carolina by a crippled man who was known as Hoppin’ John. 

Ingredients in Luella’s Hoppin’ John: black-eyed peas, onion, celery, green bell pepper, garlic, Luella’s house cured ham-hock, bacon fat, chicken stock, Luella’s Bird Rub, Sweet Pisgah Sauce, Texas Pete, salt/pepper. Rice is cooked separately and added to the dish per order.  Served with Collards and garnished with green onions and Luella’s Sweet Pickled Peppers. 

*recipe does NOT contain gluten

Author’s note: The story of Hoppin’ John is American Folklore, therefore any and all versions are verifiably fun to tell and truth of the tale relies on the belief of the listener.  Enjoy telling the story.