Entree/ Legumes/ Pork

Hoppin’ John

This could be your New Year’s Eve good luck meal!

Hoppin’ John is a Carolina rice and pea dish made with either red peas or cowpeas. The recipe can be traced back to roots in West Africa. There are a lot of variations but basically peas and rice are the main ingredients. I’ve add some bell pepper, onion and garlic; a little ham hock and fried/crispy pork belly never hurt a recipe.

Most recipes call for Carolina gold rice but I could not find that; maybe I’ll have to check out Amazon or put it on my list of things to look for when we go to “the city”.

Awhile back I used these red peas to do a pea and grits recipe which was quite good also. I think the next time I make Hoppin’ John I will saute’ some fresh jalapeno in with the onions and bell peppers for a little added heat. I think the recipe can also benefit from some sliced celery. Really, you can add just about anything. Maybe a sliced smoked sausage in place of the pork belly would add more spice.

Several recipes I looked at called for pepper vinegar. I’m thinking that might be the little bottle stuffed with tiny hot peppers and vinegar that my grandmother use to sprinkle over her cooked mustard greens.

Whatever you put in your pot of Hoppin’ John it will be delicious and even more so if you make a big pan of cornbread with lots of soft room temperature butter.

BLAST FROM THE PAST: These Chocolate Pumpkin Muffins are delicious for any weekend breakfast/brunch when you have a little extra time to bake.

Put your peas and ham hock in large pan with measured amount of water (see recipe) and cook around 50 minutes. I had a shallow pan so I had to cut off pieces of the ham hock so I could get my lid on.

After you have cooked your peas, reserve 2 1/4 cups of the cooking liquid. Set aside for later.

Drain the red peas and set aside. If you decide to cook these earlier in the day, refrigerate after draining.

In the olive oil, saute the onion, bell pepper and garlic. When almost translucent add in the chopped ham hock you have cut off the bone. Add all the seasonings now.

Add in the rice after sauteing the vegetables and stir for 2-3 minutes before adding in liquid.

Add in the peas and the reserved 2 1/4 cups of cooking liquid, cover and simmer about 15-20 minutes. Adjust seasoning.

Hoppin' John


  • 1 c. Sea Island red peas
  • 1 smoked ham hock
  • 1 Tbsp. table salt
  • 1 c. onion chopped 1/2" dice
  • 2-3 cloves garlic finely minced
  • 1/2 large green bell pepper chopped
  • 6 oz. pork belly or thick sliced bacon*
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 4-5 green onions thinly sliced for garnish
  • 1 1/2 c. long grain rice*
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 3/4 tsp. black pepper
  • 1 tsp. granulated garlic
  • 1 tsp. onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp. paprika
  • 1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper


  1. Soak your peas overnight or 4-5 hours in the morning. After soaking place drain peas.
  2. In 4-6 quart pan add the rinsed peas, 3 quarts of water (you may have to add some as they cook - I did not.) Bring to boil over high heat and then reduce to medium-low; cover and simmer until peas are tender, about 50 minutes.
  3. Reserve 2 1/4 cups of the pea liquid and transfer the ham hock to plate and chop meat off the bone. Set aside. Drain the peas in colander. You can do this part in advance and refrigerate peas for at least one day.
  4. In the same pot you cooked the peas in add the olive oil and when hot brown the onion, bell pepper and the garlic. Saute until vegetables are soft and onions starting to get translucent. Stir in the rice until grains are coated with the oil, about 2 minutes. Add in the salt, pepper, granulated garlic, onion powder, paprika and cayenne pepper. Stir in the reserved pea cooking liquid and the chopped ham hock; bring to simmer, cover with lid. Reduce heat to low and cook for about 20 minutes without removing lid until rice is done. Turn off heat and let sit for about 10 minutes. Fluff before serving.
  5. For the pork belly or thick bacon, saute it in a skillet until crisp. Set aside for garnish.
  6. To serve, heap a couple of big spoonfuls on your plate and top with the fried pork belly/pork steak/bacon and top with some thinly sliced green onion. I served some pickled jalapeno peppers with mine and my husband had some chow chow with his.

Recipe Notes

*If you have no pork belly, a good substitute would be some chopped pork steak. Several recipes I looked at called for Carolina Gold rice which I could not find. Also, I don't think I used enough salt because I kept adding salt as I ate the dish. Make sure you put the salt in the water when you cook the peas.

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