This traditional Southern Black Eyed Peas recipe is the perfect way to kick off the New Year or make for Sunday Supper! Made with smoky meat and and a handful of spices, these hearty beans in a thick sauce are warm, comforting, and packed with flavor.
I grew up eating these peas for good luck every New Year’s Eve. Regardless of whether or not it worked, the peas were delicious and I looked forward to them. Each bite was tastier than the one before it and I always went back for seconds.
Now that I’m all grown up, I keep the tradition alive and this year I’m inviting you to partake in it with me! Who couldn’t use a little more good luck next year?
Why You Will Love This Recipe
- A traditional Southern Black Eyed Pea recipe to enjoy on New Year’s Day for good luck!
- Simple ingredients using mostly pantry staple items.
- An easy recipe perfect for any level cook.
- The best black eyed peas recipe! It has it all…great flavor, tender peas, and tiny bits of smoky ham.
What Are Black Eyed Peas?
They are a Southern hearty, warm, and soulful dish that is packed with rich flavor. Made with layered spices, smokey meat, and earthy okra, these peas make for the perfect welcoming meal for the New Year.
The Southern tradition of eating these peas on New Year’s Eve has been considered good luck for over 1,500 years! It was originally a Jewish custom made to celebrate Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year. The recipe was brought to Georgia in the 1730s with the arrival of Sephardic Jews.
Shortly after the Civil War, the tradition began to spread across the South as a symbol of the emancipation of African-American slaves which took place on New Year’s Day in 1863. From then on previously enslaved families adopted the tradition as both a celebration and remembrance.
A pot of dried black eyed peas is made using wholesome, simple ingredients that cook up into rich, hearty broth with bits of ham and peas in every bite. Here’s what you need:
- Ham hocks: Also called pork knuckles, it’s a cut from the pig’s legs. It doesn’t have a ton of meat but makes a budget-friendly cut of meat to add to beans and peas to add flavor.
- Peas: You want to use dry black eyed peas in this recipe though you can also substitute frozen peas if necessary. My biggest caution is don’t use canned beans, the results will not be the same.
- Spices: Garlic powder, paprika, onion powder, and cayenne pepper gently flavor the peas as they cook infusing them with more depth of flavor.
- Sugar: Just a touch to add a bit of sweetness and balance out the saltiness of the pork.
- Frozen okra: A traditional southern ingredient that makes these more authentic.
Swap the ham hocks for turkey wings. If you prefer the flavor of smoked turkey, which I absolutely support, make sure to adjust the cooking time. Ham hocks take longer to cook and we don’t want to cook our peas longer than necessary.
Add extra spice. Southerners love a little bit of that kick! My recipe calls for a bit of cayenne, optional of course, but if you wanna take it up a notch I’m here for it. Add some sliced jalapeno peppers to your mixture! A little extra heat never killed anybody, I think?
Don’t want to use dried peas? You can also use frozen peas instead. Use a 24-ounce bag of frozen peas.
How To Make Black Eyed Peas
There is no one way to make this Southern tradition; everyone has their methods and each one is equally delicious. My version is consistent with the peas I grew up eating but I’ve had plenty of varieties in my lifetime. If this is your first go-around with making these southern-style peas, let me help you out.
- Place the rinsed ham hocks in a large pot and cover them with water so they are completely submerged. Cover with a lid and boil over Boil over medium-high heat for at least one hour or until tender.
PRO TIP: To check for doneness, gently pierce the ham hock with a fork. This cooking process can take up to an hour and a half so be sure to add more water if necessary so it doesn’t dry out. There should be enough water to always cover the meat.
- Add the soaked or frozen peas to the pot with the ham hock along with salt, garlic powder, sugar, paprika, onion powder, and cayenne if using. Stir together, cover with the lid, and allow the peas to come to a boil over medium-high heat.
PRO TIP: The peas will take about an hour to an hour and a half to cook until tender. If the peas begin to look dry, add a cup of water (or chicken broth) and check the bottom of the pot to make sure they don’t stick. You will want to cook the peas until softened.
- Add the frozen okra and allow to cook covered for 20-30 minutes or until tender and softened.
- Check the peas and liquid to make sure you have it how you prefer. Add more broth if you like it more brothy. If you like your peas thicker, use an immersion blender to blend a few peas in the pot or remove a cup of peas along with some broth and add it to a heavy-duty blender to puree then then stir back into the pot.
PRO TIP: The peas will continue to thicken in the sauce after the heat is turned off and they settle so you may want to check first before doing to step.
What To Serve With This Recipe
Generally, black eyed peas and collard greens are eaten together in almost a stew-like manner. But of course, there are a couple other ways you can serve your peas.
Make some Jiffy cornbread, a classic skillet cornbread or sweet potato cornbread! There’s nothing like dipping warm, buttered cornbread into a bowl of southern peas. It’s the perfect way to soak up those flavorful juices and enjoy!
Prefer rice and beans? Whip up some white rice and spoon your peas directly over it. The rice will soak up your broth for maximum flavor in every bite.
How to Store
Leftovers: Allow the peas to fully cool and then transfer them to an airtight container or bag. Store in the refrigerator for up to five days or in the freezer for up to three months.
Reheat: If frozen, thaw them out in the fridge overnight. Return the peas to a pot and heat over medium heat until heated through. You may want to add additional water or broth if they seem a bit thick.
- Don’t use canned beans. I know, it’s tempting to take the shortcut. But trust me, it’s much more worthwhile to soak dried beans. By doing so you avoid the extra sodium and prevent your beans from falling apart during the slow cooking process.
- Be sure to rinse the ham hocks or smoked turkey wings before cooking them. They can be quite salty which will transfer to your peas if they aren’t rinsed.
- Feel free to adjust the seasoning and consistency of the final pot of peas to make it to your own tastes.
When cooking with dry peas they need to be soaked overnight or for a minimum of eight hours. Rinse and sort the peas looking for any damaged pieces or stones. Then cover with at least an inch of cold water. Cover them with a lid and let them soak. If you forget to soak them, you can do a quick soak by bringing them to a boil and cooking them for five minutes in plain water. Then turn it off and let them soak for an hour. Then you can drain off the water and continue making the peas as instructed.
Yes, they are! They are a healthy source of protein and fiber. They are complex carbohydrates which means they take longer for the body to digest them. They are an excellent source of vitamin A, calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc, and more.
More Easy Bean Recipes
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Black Eyed Peas Recipe
- 1 ½ lb ham hocks
- 16 oz black eyed peas (see substitute for using frozen peas in notes)
- 2 tsp kosher salt
- ½ tsp garlic powder
- 1 tbsp granulated sugar plus 1 teaspoon
- ½ tsp paprika
- 1 tsp onion powder
- ¼ tsp cayenne pepper Optional
- 6 oz frozen okra You can go up to an entire 12 oz package of okra if you enjoy it.
- Rinse the ham hocks (or turkey wings) very well then add to a large pot along with enough water to fully submerge them then cover with a lid. This is usually about 6-8 cups of water depending on your pot size.
- Boil over medium high heat for at least 1 hr or until meat is near being tender Pierce with a fork to check tenderness. This can take up to an hour and a half. Add more water if necessary so it doesn’t dry out. There should be enough water to always cover the meat.
- Add rinsed or frozen peas to pot along with salt, garlic powder, sugar, paprika, onion powder and cayenne if using. Stir together, cover with the lid and allow the peas to come to a boil over medium high heat.
- Continue to cook, stirring occasionally and checking as water begins to evaporate and peas become tender. This will take about an hour to an hour and a half. If peas begin to look dry, add a cup of water (or chicken broth) and check bottom of pot to make sure they don’t stick. You will want the peas to be softened.
- Finally, if using, add frozen okra and allow to cook covered for 20-30 minutes or until tender and softened.
- At this point, you will need to check the peas and liquid to make sure you have it how you prefer. If you like it more brothy with more liquid, add additional broth or water and stir. Add until you reach the consistency you like. If you like your peas thickened more than they currently are, you can either use an immersion blender to blend a few peas in the pot or you can remove a cup of peas along with some broth and add to a heavy duty blender and mix until smooth then stir back into the pot. Remember the peas will continue to thicken in sauce after heat is turned off and they settle so you may want to check first before doing to step.
This post was originally published in December 2019. It has been updated for content and new images.