"Traditionally, Hoppin’ John is eaten on New Year’s Day for good luck," says chef, food writer, and registered dietician Kristen Carli of Camelback Nutrition & Wellness. But once you and your family try this succulent stuff, you will probably want to make it an all-year-round staple on your household menu.
Hoppin’ John is one of those great recipes that yields a dish you can serve as a side or that can be a meal in and of itself. When served over rice, Hoppin’ John delivers plenty of protein and carbs for energy and even tucks in some veggies thanks to the pepper. You can also mix it into a big chopped salad to make a lower carb and delicious meal that’s friendly to many diet plans.
And when you use an Instant Pot to cook this delicious and versatile dish, it’s a quick and simple meal that’s easy to scale up for a larger group of diners or scale down for a smaller number of servings. Before we get to the actual cooking, however, let’s go ahead and answer the question you are almost surely wondering about (unless you know already): why is this dish called Hoppin’ John, anyway?
Why is the dish called Hoppin’ John?
While we know the dish Hoppin’ John has been eaten in America since at least the 1840s, it originated among enslaved people in the American South. "The origins of the name ‘Hoppin’ John’ are slightly less clear," reports History. "Some say an old, hobbled man called hoppin’ John became known for selling peas and rice on the streets of Charleston, [South Carolina]." Other stories refer to children hopping around the table with excitement in anticipation of this tasty, easy to prepare dish.
But hey, what’s in a name, anyway? What we know for sure is that this dish is an American OG that has been enjoyed for a good two centuries now and is now a classic Southern comfort food. If you haven’t done so already, isn’t it time to welcome Hoppin’ John into your own kitchen?
Gather your ingredients for Hoppin’ John
There are a few takes on Hoppin’ John recipes. Some use dried peas, some feature diced carrots, and so on. Feel free to play around with this recipe as you see fit, but for a great take on this classic, you’ll need 1 tablespoon of olive oil, 1/2 a yellow onion, 1 red bell pepper, 1 green bell pepper, 1 pound of dried black-eyed peas, 5 cups of chicken broth, 2 bay leaves, 1 teaspoon of minced garlic, 1 teaspoon of salt, 8 ounces of cubed ham, and 4 cups of cooked white rice.
The dish "can be easily made vegetarian or vegan by using veggie broth and a different kind of bean [instead of ham]," says Carli. While you’re contemplating that, be sure to dice up both of your bell peppers and the onion.
Cook the onions and peppers for Hoppin’ John
To begin, heat the oil in the Instant Pot on the sauté setting. If you have not yet chopped the onion and peppers, go ahead and do that now. Once the oil is heated, add the onions and peppers to the oil. Stir a few times as the veggies cook.
Cook the onion and peppers until the onion turns translucent and has grown softer and fragrant. Now, turn off the heat and scoop the cooked onions and pepper out of Instant Pot, then set them aside in a bowl. You’ll be adding them back into the mix very soon, so don’t worry about refrigerating them.
Cook the beans in the broth
Add the chicken broth, the dry black-eyed peas, bay leaves, garlic, and salt to the Instant Pot. Stir a few times to combine everything, then close the lid and move the valve to the sealed position.
Now cook the beans on the pressure cook setting for 20 minutes, then allow the pot to naturally release pressure. This step is where that Instant Pot really shines. If you need to cook dried black beans in a regular old pot, it can take an hour or more, and that’s usually following a long soaking period to boot. Dried beans, which can last almost indefinitely if they’re stored correctly, are made even easier to cook with the pressure setting on the Instant Pot.
Add the ham and veggies to Hoppin’ John
Open the lid of the Instant Pot and add the cooked peppers and onions as well as the cubed ham. Stir everything well to combine, then serve over cooked white rice. And that’s how you make an easy, delicious version of Hoppin’ John in your trusty Instant Pot. You can enjoy it on its own as a hearty entree or accompanied by a side.
And if you have any leftovers, they will make a great meal later, too. "Store [extra Hoppin’ John] in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days," says Carli, adding that this meal "reheats well in the microwave."
Hoppin’ John is classic Southern comfort food that’s a staple in many households on New Year’s Day. But why not make this dish a regular feature on your menu?
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- ½ yellow onion, diced
- 1 red bell pepper, diced
- 1 green bell pepper, diced
- 1 pound dried black-eyed peas
- 5 cups chicken broth
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 8 oz cubed ham
- 4 cups cooked white rice
- Heat the oil in the Instant Pot on the sauté setting and add the onions and peppers.
- Cook until the onion turns translucent, then scoop the veggies out of Instant Pot and set aside.
- Add chicken broth, black-eyed peas, bay leaves, garlic, and salt to the Instant Pot, then close the lid and move the valve to sealing.
- Cook on pressure cook setting for 20 minutes, then allow the pot to naturally release pressure.
- Open the lid and add the cooked peppers and onions as well as the cubed ham. Stir to combine, then serve over cooked rice.