Hoppin’ John: Bring Good Fortune Home This Kwanzaa

As Kwanzaa celebrations approach, many families prepare to come together and share a meal that represents their culture, history, and holiday values. Hoppin’ John stands out as a symbol of prosperity and good luck among the many traditional dishes that grace the Kwanzaa table. In this recipe post, we’ll explore the origins of Hoppin’ John and provide you with a delicious recipe to try at home.

History of Hoppin’ John

Hoppin’ John is a dish with African American roots enjoyed for generations. Its primary ingredients, black-eyed peas and rice, have been cultivated in Africa for centuries, and the combination was brought to the Americas through the transatlantic slave trade. Over time, the dish evolved to include additional ingredients such as smoked turkey or bacon, onions, and spices.

Symbolism in Hoppin’ John

In African American culture, black-eyed peas are considered a symbol of good luck and prosperity. Hoppin’ John is often served on New Year’s Day and Kwanzaa to bring good fortune and wealth for the coming year. The dish also represents the resilience and resourcefulness of African American people, as it was often made with inexpensive ingredients and leftovers from other meals.

Hoppin’ John Recipe


  • 1 cup dried black-eyed peas, soaked overnight
  • 4 cups water or chicken broth
  • 1 cup long-grain white rice
  • 1 smoked turkey wing or 4 strips of bacon, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • Salt and black pepper, to taste
  • 2 green onions, chopped (for garnish)
  • Hot sauce (optional)


  1. Drain and rinse the soaked black-eyed peas.
  2. In a large pot, combine the black-eyed peas and water or broth. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 30-40 minutes or until the peas are tender but not mushy. Drain the peas, reserving the cooking liquid.
  3. In a separate pot or large skillet, cook the smoked turkey wing or bacon over medium heat until it has rendered its fat and is crisp. Remove the meat and set aside, leaving the fat in the pot.
  4. Add the chopped onion, bell pepper, and garlic to the pot, and sauté until softened about 5 minutes.
  5. Add the cooked black-eyed peas, rice, cooked turkey or bacon, and 2 cups of the reserved cooking liquid to the pot—season with cayenne pepper, salt, and black pepper.
  6. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce the heat to low and cover the pot. Cook for 20-25 minutes or until the rice is tender and has absorbed the liquid.
  7. Fluff the Hoppin’ John with a fork and garnish with chopped green onions. Serve with hot sauce on the side, if desired.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What is Hoppin’ John?

Hoppin’ John is a traditional African American dish with black-eyed peas, rice, and smoked turkey or bacon. It’s often served during Kwanzaa and New Year’s Day as a symbol of prosperity and good luck.

Can I make Hoppin’ John vegetarian or vegan?

Yes, you can make Hoppin’ John vegetarian or vegan by substituting smoked turkey or bacon with smoked tempeh, smoked tofu, or other plant-based protein options. You can also use vegetable broth instead of chicken broth.

How do I store leftover Hoppin’ John?

Leftover Hoppin’ John can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. You can also freeze it for up to 2-3 months. Reheat gently on the stove or in the microwave before serving.

What can I serve with Hoppin’ John?

Hoppin’ John can be served as a main course or a side dish. It pairs well with collard greens, cornbread, or other traditional Kwanzaa dishes like sukuma wiki or West African peanut soup.

How can I make Hoppin’ John spicier?

If you prefer a spicier Hoppin’ John, add more cayenne pepper, use a more piquant hot sauce, or add chopped jalapeños or other hot peppers to the recipe during the sautéing process.

Is Hoppin’ John gluten-free?

Yes, Hoppin’ John is typically gluten-free as it’s made with rice, black-eyed peas, and other naturally gluten-free ingredients. Just be cautious when using store-bought broth or other processed ingredients, as they may contain hidden sources of gluten. Always check labels if you are following a strict gluten-free diet.

Hoppin’ John is a dish with a rich history and deep cultural significance. As you gather with family and friends for Kwanzaa this year, consider adding this delicious and meaningful dish to your celebration. Not only will you be sharing a tasty meal, but you’ll also be honouring the resilience and strength of African American culture.

Rusty Burlington


  • Rusty Griswold

    Since 2015, I have been building my light display to celebrate the holiday season and experimenting with various recipes to bring people together around the table. I have learned many do's and don'ts in both areas along the way, and share them with everyone via the rustygriswold.ca website.

    https://rustygriswold.ca info@rustygriswold.ca M Mike
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