New Year's Black Eyed Peas

Southern U.S. tradition dictates that eating black eyed peas on New Year's will bring luck and good fortune. Often served with cabbage or collard greens, black eyed peas are seen as symbolic stand-ins for coins and financial prosperity. So if you want to make it rain this new year, you had better eat up all these delicious beans, along with a slice or two of golden cornbread to lock down that wealth and health for good measure. 

The origin stories

Different birth stories exist for this tradition. The first version is popular, albeit historically improbable: During the Civil War, having swept through and ravaged the Confederate Army's food supplies, the Union Army largely had ignored the fields of undesirable black eyed peas, which were then primarily a food for livestock. Left with little else to eat, Southerners relied on this filling ingredient to survive the winter despite the challenging wartime conditions, and black eyed peas went down in history as a lifesaving grace.

The second origin story takes place around the same era, and also tells a story of triumph and perseverance. Also known as the cowpea, black eyed peas are an Old World crop that was brought by enslaved Africans from their homeland. When enslaved people were officially freed on January 1, 1863 under the Emancipation Proclamation, they ate black eyed peas—by then a staple in their diet—to celebrate the momentous occasion of their liberation. 

While no one really knows how this tradition came about, Team Delish is okay with following it blindly. For one, we love our legumes and have no problem eating beans for every meal every day. 

To maximize your fortune, some believe you must eat 365 peas: one pea for every day of the year, to guarantee that every day will be a good day. But why stop there? This pot of beans might be so good, you'll want to hog all the luck to yourself.

The recipe basics

Similar to the soul food classic Hoppin' John but without the rice component, these black eyed peas are cooked with a little bit of onion, garlic, spices, and a hunk of fatty salted pork for depth of flavor and a hint of smokiness. You can use anything from fatback and hog jowls to ham hock and slab bacon—or if you don't like pork products, opt instead for some smoked turkey. 

If you need to satisfy your craving same day, feel free to skip the overnight soak of the peas in favor of a quick soak. Dried bean purists will always object to skipping an overnight soak, but the honest truth is there’s a better (and faster) way! Soaking the beans in hot water for an hour will yield an identical result to an overnight soak. In a large saucepan, add the beans and cover with water by at least 2 inches. Cover with a lid and bring to a rolling boil. Remove from heat and leave to soak for 1 hour and they'll be ready to go!

After bringing everything to a simmer, cover the pot with a lid slightly ajar and let it stew away for 35 to 40 minutes, until the beans are tender and creamy. After that, remove the lid and let the broth reduce to your desired consistency—it can be as soupy or thick as you like it! Serve with a dash of hot sauce, cornbread, and greens, and let the good times roll.

If you've made this recipe, leave us a comment down below to let us know how you liked it! For more legume goodness, check out these 25+ black bean recipes!

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Yields: 6 - 8 servings
Prep Time: 0 hours 20 mins
Total Time: 7 hours 20 mins
1 lb.

dry black eyed peas

1 tsp.

baking soda

3 tbsp.

extra-virgin olive oil, divided


large onion, diced


cloves garlic, minced


stalks celery, diced


serrano peppers, sliced (optional)


jalapeño, deseeded and minced

1 tsp.

kosher salt

1 tsp.

smoked paprika

1 tsp.

freshly ground black pepper

1/2 tsp.

ground cayenne

1/2 tsp.

ground white pepper

1/2 tsp.

ground cumin 

1 lb.

smoked pork neck bones

6 c.

low-sodium chicken broth or water

Cooked greens or cabbage, for serving

Cornbread, for serving

Hot sauce, for serving

  1. In a large bowl, combine peas and baking soda and add water to cover by at least 4". Cover and let soak for at least 6 hours and up to overnight. Once fully hydrated, rinse beans and drain completely.
  2. In a large pot over medium-high heat, heat 2 tablespoons oil. Add onions, garlic, celery, serrano (if using), jalapeño, and salt, and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly golden, about 10 minutes. 
  3. Push vegetables to the edge and make a empty well in the middle of the pan. Add remaining 1 tablespoon oil in the well, then add in all the spices and stir spices until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add in pork, peas, and broth. Bring to a simmer, then reduce heat to medium-low. 
  4. Partially cover pot with a lid, and let simmer until peas are tender, about 35 minutes. To concentrate broth, remove lid and continue cooking until liquid has reduced to desired consistency, 10 to 20 minutes more.
  5. Serve with greens, cornbread, and hot sauce, if desired.

June Xie
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