Slow Cooker Hoppin’ John

by Erin @ Food Doodles on December 28, 2020

Hoppin’ John is also known as Carolina peas and rice, or simply black-eyed peas and rice, and is made with ham or bacon and onions. You just dump everything in a slow cooker for this easy, hearty, healthy and comforting New Year’s recipe! It’s also naturally gluten-free and dairy-free. 

I hope everyone is enjoying the holidays! I had planned on taking the rest of the year off after Christmas, but I just realized I have this great New Year’s recipe.

It’s been a month since I’ve posted anything savory. It’s just so hard for me to post anything non-sweet in December. It’s just not in my blood.

So here we go with a savory dish, fitting for the new year.

A bit of history

Like the Alcoholic Wassail Recipe I posted recently, today’s recipe has a bit of history behind it. It’s a traditional Southern recipe with roots going back to the 1840s.

Hoppin’ John first appeared in a cookbook, The Carolina Housewife, in 1847, but it’s likely that Southern slaves were making it well before then.

It originated in the South Carolina low country area, where rice grew well in the marshy, plentiful river deltas. The recipe then spread throughout the South.


Traditionally, red peas were used instead of black-eyed peas, but perhaps as those are quite difficult to find the further you get from the recipe’s place of origination, black-eyed peas became the norm.

Nobody seems to know where the name came from. I was worried that the name might be derogatory and racist (and I wouldn’t have posted the recipe if it had been), so I did a bit of research before posting this.  

Some historians say it most likely comes from the French phrase pois à pigeon, meaning “pigeon peas.” Other historians say that’s poppycock. Nobody knows.

A “lucky” dish!

I’m not one for superstitions, but in case you are, Hoppin’ John, served with collard greens and cornbread is the way to go!

Black-eyed peas

Eating black-eyed peas for New Year’s has been considered good luck for over 1,500 years. Some say that it started during the time of the Pharaohs in Egypt.

But the Southern US tradition of black-eyed peas being lucky likely came from African slaves. I found this interesting:

Author Jessica Harris, a scholar of African culture, tells about men tucking black-eyed peas into their wallets to attract prosperity, giving further indication of the pea and prosperity connection that has been instilled in our culture, particularly in the South.

When the Civil War concluded, freed slaves who were well-trained in cooking, serving, planting and taking care of livestock took jobs in the expanding railroad industry, helping to spread customs across the country, as we share these traditions from generation to generation (source).

Collard greens

Along with the lucky black-eyed peas in this dish, collard greens are often served alongside Hoppin’ John. These spicy Southern collard greens with bacon look perfect. 

Supposedly, each bite of collard greens (or other greens, such as cabbage) that you eat will bring you a whopping $1,000 in the next year. That sounds quite nice. 😉


Cornbread is also perfect alongside Hoppin’ John. And what do you know – it also represents something to do with money! It represents gold and the hope of extra spending money in the coming year.

This Dairy-free Cornbread is my favorite cornbread recipe and can be made with regular buttermilk if you prefer. It can be made with regular, whole wheat or gluten-free flour.

So easy with a slow cooker

You really just dump all the ingredients into a slow cooker for this recipe. It could not be any easier!

You do need to cook the rice separately, though. That’s much easier to make on the stovetop, so that can easily be done, according to package directions, while the Hoppin’ John is cooking.

And while you’ve got the slow cooker out, you might as well make this Healthy Taco Soup or Kid-friendly Chili. Both are great made ahead of time and can be frozen!

Naturally gluten-free and dairy-free

As long as your Cajun seasoning doesn’t have gluten or dairy, this recipe is gluten-free and dairy-free. I can tell you that Tony Chachere’s “may contain” wheat or milk. It’s devastating, I know (for those of you who didn’t know but need to avoid those ingredients).

I recommend making your own Cajun seasoning to avoid any issues! It’s way cheaper. This recipe for Cajun Roasted Cauliflower also contains a recipe for homemade Cajun seasoning. 

You can then also use it on this delicious Healthy Cajun Chicken Pasta!

You’ll probably want to check the ingredients in your ham, too. While ham is also naturally gluten-free (at least most of them), some of the glazes contain gluten. So check your labels!

Hoppin' John pin

Substitution questions

  • If you don’t want to use ham, you can use cooked bacon. Just crumble it into chunks. I prefer to add it after the Hoppin’ John is finished cooking so that the bacon remains crisp. If you want the bacon softer, you can add it along with the other ingredients.
  • It’s not a super spicy dish, but if you want it really mild, you can use V8 Original instead of the spicy version. If you’re not familiar with V8, they’re 100% juice. Nothing nasty in there! 
  • Instead of black-eyed peas, you can also use pinto beans. They’re not as lucky, though. 😉

Let me know what you think about this Hoppin’ John! I wish you all a happy 2021 and may it be WAY better than 2020. For all of us. 🙂

By the way, if black-eyed peas aren’t your thing, try these rice and beans instead!

Slow Cooker Hoppin' John
Prep Time
15 mins
Cook Time
3 hrs
Course: Main
Cuisine: American
  • one 15-ounce (425-gram) can black-eyed peas
  • 3/4 cup onion diced
  • 3 stalks celery diced
  • 1 small bell pepper any color, diced
  • 1 cup smoked ham cut into small bite-sized pieces
  • 1/4 - 1/2 cup cilantro chopped (optional)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 teaspoon Cajun seasoning (make sure you use a gluten/dairy-free brand, if needed)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • one 6-ounce can Spicy Hot V8 Juice
  • Optional: one 10-ounce (283-gram) can of diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup cooked Jasmine or long grain rice of choice
  • optional, as garnish: chopped cilantro, cherry tomatoes, crumbled bacon pieces, chopped green onions
  1. Add all ingredients, except for the cooked rice to slow cooker, and cook on low for 2-3 hours. I didn't use the optional can of diced tomatoes in these photos, but I have before. If you want extra tomato flavor, go ahead and add that.

  2. Remove bay leaves.

  3. Stir in the hot cooked rice. If it's too thick for your liking or if your rice was a bit dry, you may want to add a few tablespoons of water at a time, until you like the consistency. You likely won't need to do this if you used diced tomatoes. Serve.

  4. Any leftovers can be refrigerated for up to 4 days.

Leave a Comment

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Jacqueline Debono January 4, 2021 at 11:34

This is interesting. Here in Italy, lentils are considered good luck and eaten at New Year for prosperity! I love the sound of this hoppin John (great name!). It seems easy to make and very flavourful! On my to make list!


2 Veronika Sykorova January 4, 2021 at 09:38

This looks so good! I love cajun spice!


3 Tammy January 3, 2021 at 20:48

Hoppin John is such a comforting dish and it’s been too long since I’ve had it. Love this easy recipe for the slow cooker!


4 Heidy January 3, 2021 at 13:38

What a fascinating read. Our family has been making this for years, and I noticed your recipe on Pinterest and thought I would try a different variation and method of the recipe. I’m glad I did—happy New Year to you and your loved ones.


5 Erin @ Food Doodles January 6, 2021 at 05:47

I’m so glad that you enjoyed it! Thanks for the feedback and happy New Year’s to you, too! 🙂


6 Jenny Graves January 1, 2021 at 18:07

Being Greek, I had never heard of Hoppin’ John. Such a lovely recipe. I will make it this weekend—a perfect, delicious meal for the first weekend of 2021.


7 Marta January 1, 2021 at 17:25

The flavor you packed in such a simple recipe is incredible. We had some last night and have leftovers for today! Happy New Year!


8 Veronika January 1, 2021 at 15:51

Such a beautiful recipe! Made it last night and it was one of the best hoppin john I’ve ever made!


9 Sandhya Ramakrishnan December 31, 2020 at 03:32

Good luck or not, this is one delicious recipe and love it anytime of the year. I make the vegetarian version without the ham or bacon and this is so good with cornbread!


10 Leslie December 30, 2020 at 22:15

I like everything about this recipe! This is a good, hearty meal and exceptionally delicious with cornbread!


11 Chef Dennis December 29, 2020 at 07:23

This Slow Cooker Hoppin’ John is making my tummy go loco! It looks sooo delicious and very satisfying.


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