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!

Vegetarian Hoppin' John recipe with rice on a plate

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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 meal.

Now, I am not going to pretend that this is a traditional Southern style Hoppin’ John recipe.

BUT considering how tasty it turned out, that it’s filled with healthy ingredients, and that it can be on your table in minutes instead of hours, I’m feeling very comfortable with this weeknight adaptation.

With oodles of colorful veggies, protein-packed beans, and whole-grain brown rice, this dish will warm you and nourish you from the inside out.

Healthy Hoppin' John in a Dutch oven

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 often 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.

My conclusion: We will always be debating why it is called Hoppin’ John. Let’s do so over a shared plate of this fragrant, soul-satisfying meal, shall we?

Hoppin’ John History

  • The first Hoppin’ John recipe appeared inThe 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.

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 more complete nutritional profile.


The Ingredients

  • Vegetables. Bell peppers, celery, and carrots make this dish exceptionally 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!
  • Kale. Collard greens are swapped for kale in this version of the recipe. It cooks more quickly and has oodles of nutritional benefits.
  • Black-Eyed Peas. Despite their name, black eyed peas are not peas at all (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.

Recipe 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.

The Directions

Vegetables in a Dutch oven
  1. Sauté the vegetables and garlic in oil.
Veggies being sauteed in a Dutch oven
  1. Stir in the spices. Add the kale.
Kale and vegetables in a Dutch oven
  1. Add the peas and tomatoes.
Beans, tomatoes, kale, and vegetables in a Dutch oven
  1. Stir and cook until heated through.
Hoppin' John in a Dutch oven
  1. Serve with rice and ENJOY!

Add some Meat

  • Hoppin’ John with Sausage. Add some sliced andouille sausage to the pan with the vegetables for a Cajun Hoppin’ John recipe spin.
Hoppin' John on a plate with rice

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.

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.

A plate of vegetables and rice

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.

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!


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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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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!

Hoppin' John

5 from 11 votes
This easy vegetarian Hoppin John is a twist on traditional Southern style recipes. Made with rice, black eyed peas, and greens. Great for New Year's or anytime you need a fast, healthy dinner.

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 about 3 1/2 cups, drained and rinsed
  • 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.

Nutrition

Serving: 1(of 6), about 1 1/2 cups with 1/2 prepared brown riceCalories: 290kcalCarbohydrates: 47gProtein: 15gFat: 6gSaturated Fat: 1gPotassium: 832mgFiber: 13gSugar: 11gVitamin A: 13469IUVitamin C: 93mgCalcium: 150mgIron: 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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30 Comments

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  1. I can’t remember if I’ve ever made hopping john – I know I’ve had a recipe before.  I think that what makes this one is the smoked paprika.  At some point I hope to try it, but this new year’s day  and for the next 4 months I won’t be cooking at all.  The way my life is scheduled right now, if I save it for New Year’s day, it will be 2020 before I can make it!

  2. Made this last night as an early New Year’s Day dish for our black eye peas and it was delicious. Everyone enjoyed it and I would definitely make again. Wouldn’t change a thing5 stars

  3. Thanks for this delicious and nutritious dinner idea. Even though I ate it on January 2nd, hopefully it will still bring me luck this year. I needed to cook the vegetables quite a bit longer to get them to brown, as there were so many in the pot that they initially just steamed. After that, though it was a breeze.5 stars

  4. This was fabulous! I admit to adding 4 slices chopped bacon with the onions. ? My family had never had this dish before a d we all loved it. I will definitely be making it again.5 stars

  5. My last review was supposed to be 5 star but my early morning eyes and fingers failed me so here’s a 5 star. Thanks, Erin!5 stars

  6. Hoppin’ John has been a family favorite for years, so I met with much skepticism when planning to give your recipe a try. I’m happy to report it was a HUGE success! Everyone loved it. As it is so much healthier than the old standard, this will be our new go-to Hoppin’ John. Thanks so much for sharing. Wishing you and your family a belated Happy New Year!!5 stars

    1. HOORAY Lori! I’m so glad to hear the recipe was a hit. I’m thrilled this dish will become a family tradition for you—thank you so much for taking the time to share this review!

  7. Loved this recipe.  Super easy. My husband loves New Years black eyed peas. I made this recipe with the slow cooker ribs.  Both and so far all the recipes I’ve tried from your website have been outstanding.   Healthy, delicious and easy.  Thank u!5 stars

    1. Hi AnnaMae, the paprika is a tricky swap because of its unique smoky flavor. I’m seeing some online recommendations of using regular paprika with a pinch of cumin, or you could try using half the amount of chipotle chili powder, which will keep some of the smokiness. You could also try half the amount of regular chili powder and just know that you won’t have the same amount of smoky flavor. I hope you enjoy!

  8. Great recipe, was looking for something other than pork and sauerkraut for New Year’s day dinner, this vegetarian Hoppin John recipe did not disappoint. I used collard greens and a little less cayenne, other than that I followed the recipe. Served it with long grain and wild rice, excellent!5 stars

  9. If I need to serve 12 people should I double it?  5 cans seems like a lot of beans….There will be sides with it…

    If I need to reheat do you recommend microwave or back on the stove? 
    Thanks! Excited to try it! 5 stars

    1. Hi Michaela, I would go ahead and double the recipe, unless your guests will just be sampling the hoppin’ john. It does reheat well either way!

  10. This was excellent! WOW! I did everything to a T, but I doubled it to share. I did the baby Kale mix chopped (I still think that was the same thing). Really, really good! Not a typical Hoppin John for some of the Kentucky folks I shared it with, but they liked it so much better! Thank you for a great veggie change! Yummmmm!5 stars

  11. Oh my goodness, this recipe didn’t seem like much on the face of it, but it so completely hit the spot! So delicious, healthful, and satisfying! I feel like I could eat this every night, and may start doing so! I added a chopped onion as well, and used a combination of baby spinach and baby kale for the greens.5 stars