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Extreme Vegan Makeover: Hoppin’ John Edition

“Eat poor that day, eat rich the rest of the year. Rice for riches and peas for peace.” 
 – Southern saying on eating a dish of  Hoppin’ John on New Year’s Day

New Year’s is approaching along with many traditions: Dick Clark’s Rockin’ New Year’s Eve, counting down the end of the year while waiting for the big ball to drop in Times Square, parties, champagne, midnight kisses and resolutions most of us probably won’t keep.

One delicious tradition is eating Hoppin’ John, a Southern version of the rice and beans dish that has its origins in African, French and Caribbean cuisine. The dish is usually made with black-eyed peas (or field peas in the Low Country of South Carolina and Georgia), onion, peppers, spices and some type of pork. Black-eyed peas, also called cow peas, are thought to have been introduced to America by African slaves who worked on rice plantations.

Eating Hoppin’ John on New Year’s Day is thought to bring a prosperous year filled with luck and who couldn’t use some more luck in the coming year? The peas are symbolic of coins and sometimes, a shiny coin is buried in the black-eyed peas before serving. Whoever finds the coin is his or her bowl is supposed to have good luck throughout the year (be sure to find the coin before eating or the Heimlich maneuver will become a new tradition). Alternatively, the coin could also be hidden under the dinner bowls.

According to tradition, Hoppin’ John should be the first thing one eats on New Year’s Day to ensure maximum good luck. When the clock strikes midnight, families toast each other with champagne and a bowl of Hoppin’ John. If the dish is served with collard greens, mustard greens, turnip greens, chard or kale, it adds the promise of wealth since these delicious, nutritious greens are the color of money. Wow, a kiss, luck and money – sounds like a midnight trifecta to me!

On January 2nd, Hoppin’ John leftovers get a new name as it is then called Skippin’ Jenny. Eating it again is supposed to bring hope for an even better chance at prosperity in the New Year. So how did Hoppin’ John get its name? Food historians share several tales and legends:

  • A man named John came “a-hoppin” when his wife took the dish from the stove.
  • Children would gather in the dining room and hop around the table before sitting down to eat.
  • A South Carolina custom was inviting a guest to eat by saying, “Hop in, John.”
  • Back in 1841, the dish was sold in the streets of Charleston, South Carolina by a disabled African-American man who was known as Hoppin’ John.

However the dish got its name and whatever its origin, one thing is for sure – it is delicious. So here is my vegan version of Hoppin’ John. If you make it with gluten-free sausage, the dish is gluten-free. Enjoy a bowl or two of it, on New Year’s Day or any day.

I wish you all a New Year filled with the wealth of health, happiness, peace, love, compassion and who knows, maybe even some of the green kind.


Hoppin’ John

GF if using gluten-free sausage

Serves 4 “normal” portions but I usually double the recipe to ensure leftovers or Skippin’ Jenny 🙂

1 – 15oz. can black-eyed peas, drained and rinsed
Kosher Salt
2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
4 links vegan sausage (store-bought or homemade), thinly sliced
1 large bunch scallions, sliced, white and green parts separated
3 ribs celery, diced
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 jalapeno, seeded and finely chopped
2 tsps. Jerk seasoning
2 tsps. fresh thyme, chopped (or 1 tsp. dried)
2 Tbs. tomato paste
1 cup uncooked short-grain brown rice
2 bay leaves
6-8 cups stemmed and chopped collard greens (or dark green of your choice)

Note: if you don’t have jerk seasoning, you can make your own blend. The following ingredients make 1/2 cup of seasoning so you can use what you need here and save the rest for later use or cut the recipe to make just what you need:

1/4 cup brown sugar
1 Tbs. ground allspice
2 1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/4 – 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp. ground cloves


Combine the black-eyed peas, 3 cups water and a pinch of salt in a small pot. Cover and bring to a boil. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large, deep skillet over medium heat. Add the vegan sausage and cook until browned, about 2 minutes. Add the scallion whites, celery, garlic, jalapeno, jerk seasoning and a pinch of salt. Cook until the veggies brown, about 5 minutes.

Add the thyme and tomato paste and cook, stirring occasionally, about 2 minutes. Add the rice, bay leaves and the black-eyed peas with their liquid to the skillet and bring to a boil. Do NOT stir.

Add the greens; cover, reduce the heat to low and simmer until most of the liquid is absorbed, about 30-45 minutes (if you use long grain brown rice, it could take up to an hour). Set aside for 10 more minutes. Remove and discard the bay leaves. Add the scallion greens and fluff the rice with a fork. Enjoy!

Happy Vegan New Year!


The “V” Word: Say it. Eat it. Live it.



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9 Responses to Extreme Vegan Makeover: Hoppin’ John Edition

  1. Kathy January 1, 2015 at 12:39 pm #

    I made this but used cauliflower rice instead…..very good!

    • Rhea January 6, 2015 at 4:52 pm #

      I’m so glad you liked it Kathy. Cauliflower rice sounds great! xoxo

  2. Cupcake Princess January 3, 2012 at 8:54 am #

    This was delicious! Everyone loved it.

  3. Trista June 17, 2011 at 11:31 pm #

    Made it, loved it, will definitely make it again 🙂 I love your recipes!

  4. Debi N August 9, 2010 at 7:11 am #

    Oh, that Hoppin’ John made with the collard greens looks and sounds so delicious! I’m writing down the recipe right now so I can make it next weekend. Thanks so much for sharing!

  5. Rhea Parsons Riker January 4, 2010 at 4:47 am #

    The time on cooking long-grain rice seems to vary. Sometimes I find it undercooked, sometimes over. If it’s undercooked, you could add more water and cook it awhile longer or put it in a microwave, covered, with some water, for a bit.

  6. Bea Elliott December 31, 2009 at 2:03 am #

    Good food… Good health & a very Happy New Year! 🙂

  7. LibraryGuy December 29, 2009 at 2:03 am #

    One of my love’s best dishes – we have it all year round!

  8. Rosemary December 27, 2009 at 11:45 pm #

    Oh, yum! Thanks, Rhea! I’m going to make this for sure!

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