How to Make Southern Black-Eyed Peas

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Start to Finish: 7 hours

Servings: 4 to 6

Difficulty Level: Beginner

Black-eyed peas are a Southern delicacy used in a variety of traditional dishes -- perhaps most notably in Hoppin' John. This flavorful stew adorns many Southern tables on New Year's Day to bring those who dine upon it good luck in the coming year. Simple and flavorful, this classic Southern black-eyed pea dish, adapted from the Pioneer Woman's recipe, is worthy of making on New Year's Day or any day.

Ingredients

  • 4 to 6 ounces chopped bacon or salt pork
  • 1 diced onion
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery
  • 1/3 to 1/2 cup diced carrot
  • 1 diced green bell pepper
  • 4 to 5 cloves minced garlic
  • 2 cups soaked black-eyed peas
  • 2 1/2 cups low sodium chicken broth
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Pinch cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar
  • Cooked rice for serving

Prep the Black-Eyed Peas

Sift through the dry peas, discarding stems, shriveled or discolored peas or any debris you may come across. Every now and then, a bit of gravel or soil can sneak into the dry peas during the packing process.

Place the black-eyed peas in a colander and rinse them with cold water until the water runs clear.

Grab a saucepan and combine the rinsed peas with water -- using 3 cups of water for every 1 cup of black eyed-peas. Place the pan on the stove and bring it to a boil over medium-high heat.

Reduce the heat to simmer the peas for 2 minutes before turning the water off. Allow the peas to soak for at least 6 hours, or up to 12 hours. Drain and rinse the soaked black-eyed peas.

Tip

  • If you're short on time, use canned black-eyed peas. Simply open the can, drain and rinse the canned peas in a colander.

Make Hoppin' John

Grab a large heavy-bottomed pot and place it on the stove over medium-high heat. Once the pot is hot, add the bacon and cook it until it's crisp.

Add the onion, celery, carrot and bell pepper to the pot, stirring the vegetables to coat them in the rendered bacon grease.

Tip

  • For a more traditional take on this Southern classic, skip the bacon and melt 2 tablespoons of butter to cook the vegetables. Add a whole ham hock along with the broth and soaked peas, and simmer it until the dish is fully cooked to add a deep, rich smoky flavor.

Cook the vegetables for approximately 4 minutes, stirring frequently. Once the veggies begin to soften, add the garlic and cook the mixture for another 2 minutes, until the garlic is fragrant.

Stir in the soaked and rinsed black-eyed peas, broth, salt and pepper to taste and a pinch of cayenne pepper. Bring the mixture to a boil, turn the heat down to medium-low or low and simmer the peas -- covered -- for approximately 30 minutes.

Check the amount of liquid in the pot. If it seems very thick, drizzle in a little more broth. If it's very soupy, allow it to continue cooking uncovered for another 10 to 15 minutes.

Add the vinegar to the pot, stirring to combine the ingredients. Taste the dish and adjust the seasonings, if necessary, by adding more salt and pepper or more cayenne pepper before serving it over cooked rice.

Variations

The possible variations for this dish are nearly endless. Swap ingredients to change the flavor, or add extras for color, taste and texture. Some of the variations include the following:

  • Alter the flavor subtly: Swap ingredients to change the taste. For example, swap the green bell pepper for red bell pepper or add chopped scallions and cheddar cheese as a garnish.
  • Add complexity and freshness: Stir diced tomatoes, jalapenos or torn greens, such as collards or kale, into the pot during the last 5 minutes of cooking time.
  • Make a Hoppin' John-inspired salad: This dish can be served chilled or at room temperature. Start by combining 2 cups cooked black-eyed peas with chopped fresh cilantro, 1 minced jalapeno pepper, 1 cup diced red bell pepper and 1/2 cup diced red onion with a dressing made by combining 1/4 cup red pepper jelly, 1/4 cup red wine vinegar and 2 tablespoons olive oil. Let the dressed salad chill for about 8 hours before serving.
  • Make Lower Alabama Caviar: This Southern dip combines three 15-ounce cans of rinsed and drained black-eyed peas with 1/4 cup chopped red onion and 3 tablespoons each chopped red, green and yellow bell pepper. Stir in 1/2 cup halved or quartered grape or cherry tomatoes and 1/4 cup chopped parsley. Make the dressing by combining 1/4 cup olive oil with 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar, 2 tablespoons sugar and salt and pepper to taste. Stir everything together and let it marinate for at least 12 hours before serving it with tortilla chips or crackers.

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