Could anyone else use a little luck this year? How about a fast, healthy dinner? If your answer to either question is a resounding yes, then this Hoppin’ John recipe is for you!

a bowl of vegetarian hoppin' john without meat with fork and green onions on side

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A savory, smoky mix of black-eyed peas, rice, and greens, Hoppin’ John is a traditional New Year’s Day meal in the South.

It’s also easy to make, richly flavored, and, if you follow this particular healthy vegetarian Hoppin’ John recipe, includes every food group in a single pot.

Now, I will not pretend this is a traditional Southern Hoppin’ John recipe.

This particular version is made without pork. That’s right, Hoppin’ John without bacon, ham, or sausage (!).

I’d apologize to the skeptics, but considering how tasty it turned out, and that it can be on your table in minutes instead of hours (like these other 30-minute recipe wonders), I’m hoping you’ll just trust me and try this entirely vegan and vegetarian adaptation.

With oodles of healthy veggies, protein-packed beans, and whole-grain brown rice, this dish will nourish you from the inside out and start your New Year’s Day off right.

Hoppin’ John with tomatoes and kale in a large pot

5 Star Review

“This was excellent! WOW! I did everything to a T, but I doubled it to share. Really, really good! Thank you for a great veggie change! Yummmmm!”

— Janice —

What Does Hoppin’ John Mean?

Hoppin’ John is a simple but rich pea, rice, and pork dish sometimes called Carolina Peas and Rice.

While there are several debated meanings of the actual words “Hoppin’ John,” the most commonly accepted explanation is that it is a corruption of the French phrase pois à pigeon, which means “pigeon peas.”

Like much else about this recipe, however, plenty of people disagree with that idea too.

Hoppin’ John History

  • The first Hoppin’ John recipe appeared in The Carolina Housewife in 1857 and called for one pint of rice, one pint of peas, and one pound of bacon. Today, there are many variations of the recipe, now including this one.
  • Hoppin’ John is traditionally served with collard greens, whose green color symbolizes wealth.
  • The black-eyed peas are symbolic of coins (more good fortune), and an actual coin is sometimes added to the pot. This is where eating black-eyed peas on New Year’s came from.

My conclusion: We will always be debating why it is called Hoppin’ John (and Eggs in Purgatory).

Let’s do so over a shared plate of this fragrant, soul-satisfying meal, shall we?

a bowl of healthy hoppin john for new years served with rice

The Easiest Vegetarian Hoppin’ John

Seeking a Hoppin’ John recipe that would be healthy and weeknight-friendly, I took a few departures from the traditional version to create a vegetarian version that has the spirit of the original but with a shorter prep time and a more complete nutritional profile.

(Don’t miss these other vegetarian recipe favorites.)


The Ingredients

  • Vegetables. Bell peppers, celery, and carrots make this dish colorful and delicious. Each one has its own unique health benefits and adds texture.
  • Spices. While this is not a spicy Hoppin’ John recipe, the smoked paprika, chili powder, and cayenne pepper make this dish ultra flavorful. A generous spoonful of smoked paprika offers the same addictive, smoky flavor as bacon. YUM!

Substitution Tip

If you don’t keep smoked paprika on hand in your pantry, you can swap it for regular paprika. Since some of the smokiness will be lost, you may add a bit of cumin or chipotle chili powder to the recipe if you’d like.

  • Kale. Collard greens are swapped for kale in this version of the recipe. It cooks more quickly and has oodles of nutritional benefits.

Market Swap

If you would prefer to keep this recipe closer to the traditional Hoppin’ John recipe, you can swap the kale for collard greens. Note that the cooking time will increase.

  • Black-Eyed Peas. Despite their name, black-eyed peas are not peas (tricky!). They belong to a family called “pulses,” a group that includes other stellar healthy ingredients such as chickpeas, lentils, dry peas, and many beans. In addition to their ties to good fortune, black-eyed peas are healthy. They’re rich in fiber and protein.

TIP!

Rather than fuss with soaking dried black-eyed peas for hours, swap canned blacked eyed peas. Be sure to rinse and drain them before adding them to the recipe.

  • Fire-Roasted Tomatoes. Smoky, deep flavor in the convenience of a can.
  • Brown Rice. In place of the more classic Carolina gold rice, I used whole-grain brown rice in this recipe. (This Lemon Rice is another favorite rice recipe.)

Dietary Note

If you don’t require this recipe to be vegan or vegetarian, feel free to add your favorite meat. Here are a few popular combinations:

  • Hoppin’ John with Sausage. Add some sliced andouille sausage to the pan with the vegetables for a Cajun Hoppin’ John recipe spin.
  • Hoppin’ John with Bacon. Fry up some chopped bacon, then remove to a plate. Saute the vegetables in a few teaspoons of the reserved fat. Then return the bacon to the recipe just before serving.
  • Hoppin’ John with Ham. Have any leftover holiday ham? Stir in a cup of chopped ham to the recipe, along with the black-eyed peas.

The Directions

carrot celery and onion in white pot sautéing for easy hoppin' john recipe
  1. Sauté the vegetables.
pot of carrots celery onion sauteed with spices for hoppin' john vegetarian
  1. Stir in the spices.
stirring kale into pot of vegetables
  1. Add the kale. Cook until wilted, then add the peas and tomatoes. Serve with rice. ENJOY!

Storage Tips

  • To Store. Refrigerate leftovers in an airtight storage container for up to 4 days.
  • To Reheat. Rewarm this recipe in a Dutch oven on the stovetop over medium-low heat.
  • To Freeze. Store leftovers in an airtight freezer-safe storage container in the freezer for up to 3 months. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating.

Leftover Ideas

  • Add an Egg. Serve leftovers with a fried egg over the top for a protein-packed and flavorful brunch idea.
  • Hoppin’ John Soup. Add the leftovers to a Dutch oven, and pour in some vegetable broth to create a hearty soup. I like to serve it with a big piece of Rosemary Olive Oil Bread or No Knead Focaccia to soak up the yummy broth.

What to Serve with Hoppin’ John

With whole grains, veggies, and protein, this recipe is a great healthy meal on its own. Or pair it with one of these stellar sides:

Recommended Tools to Make this Recipe

The Best Dutch Oven

A high-quality Dutch oven is a worthy investment. It will last you a lifetime and is useful in SO many different recipes.

Easy Vegetarian Hoppin’ John! A healthy twist on traditional Southern Hoppin’ John that cooks in ONE PAN. Made with with rice, black eyed peas, and greens. Great for New Years or anytime you need a fast dinner recipe!

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Leave a rating below in the comments and let me know how you liked the recipe.

deep south hoppin' john with rice in a bowl with a fork

Every time I make this recipe, I feel fortunate to have such a handy, healthy dinner in my back pocket. I hope it leaves you feeling lucky too!

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Hoppin’ John Gluten Free?

Yes! While not all Hoppin’ John recipes are gluten free, this one is safe to serve to those with gluten sensitivities.

Is Hoppin’ John Healthy?

This vegan Hoppin’ John recipe is packed with plant-based protein, fiber, and vitamin-rich vegetables. Unlike classic Hoppin’ John recipes that may contain bacon, ham, or sausage, this healthy Hoppin’ John recipe is lower in fat, cholesterol, and calories.

Is Hoppin’ John Served Warm?

Yes. Traditionally, deep south Hoppin’ John recipes are enjoyed warm. I have enjoyed this vegetarian Hoppin’ John recipe at room temperature too.

Hoppin’ John

5 from 22 votes
This easy Hoppin' John recipe is vegetarian twist on a traditional Southern dish. With black-eyed peas, kale and tomatoes, it's colorful, filling and delicious.

Prep: 20 mins
Cook: 20 mins
Total: 40 mins

Servings: 6 servings; about 8 cups

Ingredients
  

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large green bell pepper diced
  • 1 large red bell pepper diced
  • 3 stalks celery
  • 4 medium carrots peeled and diced (about 10 ounces)
  • 3 large cloves garlic minced (about 1 tablespoon)
  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper plus additional to taste
  • 1 small bunch kale trimmed and chopped (about 8 ounces)
  • 2 cans (15-ounces) black-eyed peas drained and rinsed (about 3 1/2 cups)
  • 1 can (14-ounces) fire-roasted diced tomatoes
  • Prepared brown rice for serving
  • Chopped green onions optional for serving

Instructions
 

  • Heat the oil in a large, deep skillet or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the red and green bell peppers, celery, carrots, and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until beginning to brown, about 8 minutes.
  • Stir in the smoked paprika, chili powder, salt, and cayenne. Cook, stirring, for 30 seconds.
  • Working in small handfuls, stir in the kale, stirring after each addition to let it wilt slightly before adding another handful. Cook and stir until you can fit all of the kale in the pot.
  • Add the black-eyed peas and tomatoes with their juices. Stir and continue to cook until heated through, about 2 additional minutes. Taste and add additional salt or spices as desired. Serve hot with rice and a sprinkle of green onion.

Notes

  • TO STORE: Refrigerate leftovers in an airtight storage container for up to 4 days.
  • TO REHEAT: Rewarm this recipe in a Dutch oven on the stovetop over medium-low heat.
  • TO FREEZE: Store leftovers in an airtight freezer-safe storage container in the freezer for up to 3 months. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating.

Nutrition

Serving: 1(of 6), about 1 1/2 cups with 1/2 prepared brown riceCalories: 278kcalCarbohydrates: 45gProtein: 14gFat: 6gSaturated Fat: 1gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 4gPotassium: 749mgFiber: 14gSugar: 12gVitamin A: 9886IUVitamin C: 72mgCalcium: 130mgIron: 5mg

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Erin Clarke

Hi, I'm Erin Clarke, and I'm fearlessly dedicated to making healthy food that's affordable, easy-to-make, and best of all DELISH. I'm the author and recipe developer here at wellplated.com and of The Well Plated Cookbook. I adore both sweets and veggies, and I am on a mission to save you time and dishes. WELCOME!

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48 Comments

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  1. Colorful, beautiful texture and much better than the recipe I had. I used collard greens instead of kale.5 stars

  2. This is a favorite recipe, don’t miss any meat at all. The seasonings are wonderful. Had this for new years but would make again any time. I did use chopped collards steamed first before adding to the skillet. Excellent.5 stars

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