Healthier Hoppin’ John #SundaySupper

black eyed peas bring luck and plenty of flavor in this healthier hoppin' john recipe.

I guess it’s no surprise I acquired a taste for Hoppin’ John during the five years I lived in Kentucky. Hoppin’ John a popular dish in the South, plus I tend to be a fan of flavorful beans and rice dishes, so was predisposed to liking it. Eating Hoppin’ John on New Year’s Day is a tradition in the South, so I thought I’d bring you Healthier Hoppin’ John for this Last Minute Holiday Dishes #SundaySupper.

Hoppin’ John is traditionally made by cooking black-eyed peas with pork fat of some sort–bacon, sausage, or ham hocks. Though it is eaten throughout the South, it is most common in the Carolinas, according to this article.  This same post elaborates on the tradition of enjoying Hoppin’ John on New Year’s. Sometimes the Hoppin’ John accompanies the Champagne when the clock strikes midnight on New Year’s Eve. Serving it with collard greens could enhance your chance of wealth in the New Year, and if you find the coin buried in your serving of Hoppin’ John, you are really lucky. Assuming you didn’t find the coin by crunching down on it! Wondering how many of my Southern readers observe any of these New Year’s traditions involving Hoppin’ John?

Making Healthier Hoppin’ John comes pretty naturally to me. Jodi was eating mostly vegetarian during the time we were living in Kentucky, and I first had Hoppin’ John at a vegetarian-friendly restaurant in Lexington called Alfalfa. I was pleased to see from the restaurant’s website they are still going strong nearly twenty years after we left the area. If memory serves correctly, I believe the offered Hoppin’ John as a vegetarian dish.

I made Healthier’ Hoppin John by substituting turkey bacon for regular bacon in this recipe. Turkey bacon has much lower fat content, but still lends the smoky flavor characteristic of the dish. I doubled up on the smoky flavor by adding a bit of smoked maple syrup. I list that as an optional ingredient, as I realize not everyone has smoked maple syrup on hand. But I do encourage you to grab some, as it adds great flavor to many dishes, such as my Smoky Maple Greens and Cabbage Salad.

pork chops with caramelized onions served with Healthier Hoppin' John

I was debating about whether to list the Healthier Hoppin’ John as a side dish or a main. I served the most recent version of Healthier Hoppin’ John as a side for a Pork Chops with Caraemlized Onions recipe I’m working on updating. The Hoppin’ John and pork chops certainly worked out nicely. But Jodi was so enthused to see Hoppin’ John that night she filled her plate with the Healthier Hoppin’ John and skipped the pork. So make the Healthier Hoppin’ John as a side for pork or chicken, or serve it as a healthy main dish to start your New Year off right!

A couple other cooking notes before I get to the recipe. I used a Cajun spice blend in an earlier version of this recipe. But I like the blend of paprika, oregano and thyme I used in this version of Healthier Hoppin’ John better. And yes, using a low fat cheese or skipping it altogether would make this even healthier. If you’re so inclined, go for it. But taking out bacon AND cheese seemed a little extreme to me! However you make this Healthier Hoppin’ John, I hope you enjoy it and have much good fortune in the New Year!

turkey bacon makes for a healthier hoppin' John recipe with plenty of flavor.

Healthier Hoppin' John
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
A traditional Southern dish made with black eyed gets healthier with turkey bacon used in place of pork. Often eaten New Year's Day for good luck.
Recipe type: Side
Cuisine: Southern
Serves: 3 servings
  • 1 or 2 slices turkey bacon
  • 2 tbsp olive oil, divided
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 yellow or red pepper, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • ½ cup chicken broth
  • ½ tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • ½ tsp oregano
  • 1 14 oz can black-eyed peas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 1 tsp smoked maple syrup (optional)
  • 1 scallion, sliced
  • ¼ cup grated cheddar cheese
  • 2 cups or more cooked brown rice for serving
  1. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a pan or large skillet. Add the turkey bacon, cook about 10 minutes until crisp, turning occasionally.
  2. Remove the bacon from the skillet and set aside to cool on a paper towel. Break the bacon into small bits when it is cool, and reserve for topping the Hoppin' John.
  3. Wipe most of the excess grease from the pan--though there isn't much with turkey bacon--and add the remaining olive oil. Heat the pan on medium, then add the onions.
  4. Cook the onions for about 5 minutes, they should be starting to soften at this point. Add the pepper, sauté for another 5 minutes. Add the garlic, cook for a minute more.
  5. Stir the black-eyed peas into the onion mixture. Add the chicken broth, paprika, thyme and oregano. Stir to combine.
  6. Add the honey and optional smoked maple syrup, if using. Stir to combine. Simmer the mixture for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  7. Plate a portion of rice, the scoop a serving of the Hoppin' John over the rice. Top the Hoppin' John with a sprinkling of the scallions, bacon and cheese. Enjoy!

Be sure to check out all of the last minute holiday recipes from the Sunday Supper crew!




Main Dishes

Side Dishes


Quick and Easy Holiday Recipe #SundaySupper by Sunday Supper Movement

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  1. says

    I grew up in Japan but have always been fascinated by the South and its traditions. I’ve heard about the collards and the beans but not Hoppin’ John. So, thank you for the recipe…Rice and turkey bacons are staples in this Ninja Baker’s kitchen.

  2. says

    I just love traditions! I’m from the south and all my friends had this for luck in the New Year. I’m from German heritage so we always had pork and sauerkraut, then my Italian friends turned me on to sausage and lentils (where as a nob to the south I throw in some black eyed peas). I can’t wait to try your version of the classic!

    • Cooking Chat says

      Thanks Monica, it’s fun learning about new traditions! Though I started eating Hoppin’ John in KY, I didn’t learn of the New Year tradition until moving back to Boston.


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