Hoppin’ John is a Southern classic that combines black-eyed peas with rice, veggies, and seasonings for a flavourful, budget-friendly dish. Serve it on New Year’s Day for good luck, or eat it all year round!
So many Southern dishes have a rich history behind them and Hoppin’ John is no exception. This dish originated with the Gullah people in the Lowcountry off the coast of the Carolinas, although its history really dates back further, all the way to West Africa where similar dishes have been eaten for centuries.
Over the years, Hoppin’ John spread through the South and, eventually, throughout the United States. It’s often served on New Year’s Day because black-eyed peas are believed to bring luck, but just like Vegan Black-Eyed Pea Salad, there’s no reason you can’t have it any time of year!
Hoppin’ John is traditionally made with black-eyed peas and rice, then flavored with bacon or sometimes ham hocks. My vegan version makes a simple swap to transform this classic dish into a wholesome plant-based meal!
Why You’ll Love This Hoppin’ John Recipe
Here’s what makes this Hoppin’ John recipe a guaranteed crowd-pleaser:
- Vegan. Vegetable broth and vegan bacon bits make this version of Hoppin’ John completely plant-based, so everyone can enjoy it!
- Healthy. This dish is filled with healthy ingredients like black-eyed peas, vegetables, and rice, making it a nutritious side or main dish.
- Flavourful. As with most Southern recipes, Hoppin’ John doesn’t skimp on flavour! Cajun seasoning adds a kick, while thyme and bay leaf add some earthiness to the dish.
- Versatile. You can enjoy it on its own, as a side dish, or with other accompaniments to make it a complete meal.
Notes on Ingredients
Scroll down to the recipe card to find the ingredient quantities and recipe instructions.
- Dried black-eyed peas – We use dried black-eyed peas instead of canned for the best flavour and texture.
- Olive oil
- Yellow onion – A white onion also works just fine; the flavour is just a bit stronger.
- Green pepper – Green bell peppers have a nice bite to them, but you can use another variety of bell pepper if you prefer your peppers sweeter and milder.
- Mushrooms – Mushrooms add some meatiness to the dish.
- Vegetable broth – Use store-bought or homemade.
- Vegan bacon bits – Surprisingly, many brands of bacon bits are actually vegan. Just be sure to check the label.
- Bay leaf
- Dried thyme
- Cajun seasoning – Feel free to add more or less, according to your taste preferences. Cajun seasoning is quite spicy!
- Rice and green onion – For serving.
What Is a Good Substitute for Black-Eyed Peas?
If you don’t have black-eyed peas on hand, you can substitute pinto beans, lima beans, or borlotti beans. It’s not the traditional Hoppin’ John, but it will still be delicious!
How to Make Hoppin’ John
Here’s what you’ll need to do to make this easy vegan Hoppin’ John recipe.
- Soak the beans. Rinse the beans, then soak them in a large bowl filled with cool water for at least 6 hours, or up to overnight.
- Cook the vegetables. Heat the olive oil in a large pot set over medium heat, then add the celery, onion, green pepper, and mushrooms. Cook until softened, about 7 minutes.
- Stir in the garlic. Add the garlic and cook until it’s fragrant, stirring constantly.
- Simmer. Stir in the beans, broth, bacon bits, bay leaf, thyme, Cajun seasoning, and salt. Bring to a simmer, then lower the heat to medium-low, cover, and cook for 30-60 minutes, or until the beans are tender. Remove the lid and cook for an additional 30 minutes to reduce the liquid.
- Serve. Remove the bay leaf, then serve the Hoppin’ John over rice and garnish with green onions.
Tips for Success
Follow these additional pointers for perfect vegan Hoppin’ John:
- Don’t forget to soak the beans. This reduces the cooking time and helps them cook more evenly. It also makes them easier to digest.
- Adjust the seasonings to your taste. Once the liquid has cooked off, taste it and add anything you think it needs, whether it’s more thyme, salt, or Cajun seasoning.
- Stir occasionally. During the simmering time, make sure you return to the pot once in a while to give it a stir. This will keep the beans from sticking to the bottom and ensure even cooking.
If you’re looking for a different take on Hoppin’ John, try adding some of these ingredients to make it your own:
- Stir in kale or baby spinach just before serving, until it wilts, to add some extra nutrition.
- Instead of rice, serve Hoppin’ John over quinoa for some additional protein.
- Use your favourite vegan sausage instead of bacon; crumble it up and add it to the pot when you’d add the bacon bits.
Hoppin’ John is a complete meal all on its own, but there are lots of other sides that go well with it. Here are some of our favorite accompaniments for the perfect Southern feast:
- Collard greens or kale for more veggies.
- Macaroni and cheese for a hearty side dish.
- Cornbread for a sweet contrast.
- Biscuits or hush puppies for classic Southern pairing.
How to Store Leftovers
Hoppin’ John is a dish that’s just as delicious the next day! Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 days. To reheat, place in a pan or skillet over medium heat and cook until heated through, or just warm it up in the microwave.
Can This Recipe Be Frozen?
Hoppin’ John freezes well and will last up to 3 months in the freezer, stored in a freezer bag or airtight container. To reheat, thaw overnight in the refrigerator and then heat according to the instructions above.
More Vegan Recipe Ideas
- 1 ¼ cup dried black eyed peas 226 grams
- 3 tablespoons olive oil 45 ml
- 2 ribs celery diced, 87 grams
- 1 cup yellow onion diced, 124 grams
- ¾ cup green pepper diced, 100 grams
- ⅓ cup mushrooms diced, 20 grams
- 3 cloves garlic minced, 9 grams
- 4 cups vegetable broth 960 ml
- ¼ cup vegan bacon bits 28 grams
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 ½ teaspoons dried thyme
- 1 teaspoon cajun seasoning
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Rice and green onion for serving
- Add the beans to a large bowl. Rinse them, then cover with cool water and allow to soak for 6 hours or overnight.
- Add the olive oil to a soup pot over medium heat.
- Once the oil is hot, add the celery, onion, green pepper and mushrooms. Cook for about 7 minutes until softened.
- Add the garlic and cook 1 minute more, stirring constantly.
- Add the soaked beans, broth, bacon bits, bay leaf, thyme, cajun seasoning and salt. Stir well. Bring to a simmer then lower the heat to medium low, cover and cook for 30-60 minutes, until the beans are tender. Remove the lid and cook for an additional 30 minutes to reduce the liquid.
- Remove the bay leaf. Serve over rice and garnish with green onions.
- You can also add the cooked rice to the pot and serve mixed together.
- If you soak the beans overnight, it should only take about 30 minutes for them to cook until tender. A shorter soak time, may require more cooking.
- To store: Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 days. To reheat, place in a pan or skillet over medium heat and cook until heated through, or just warm it up in the microwave.
- To freeze: Hoppin’ John freezes well and will last up to 3 months in the freezer, stored in a freezer bag or airtight container. To reheat, thaw overnight in the refrigerator and then heat according to the instructions above.