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Black Eyed Peas

I happen to love the earthy flavor of black-eyed peas, which taste like no other bean. They are a creamy bean when cooked well, and so pretty. We like to eat them at New Year’s celebrations: lots of cultures eat beans at the new year, as the round shape of beans and lentils represent coins, bringing luck or abundance. I am not the biggest fan of Hoppin’ John, which includes white rice cooked into the pot of beans. Too much starch for me. I’d rather eat my black-eyed peas with a side of good corn bread, and steamed or sauteed fresh collards.

*We usually use a ham hock, but if you don’t eat pork, a smoked turkey thigh or leg, such as those sold by Mary’s brand, is a very tasty substitute. When I was a vegetarian I discovered that I could achieve that smoky flavor by adding a little Liquid Smoke, a natural product available at any supermarket. Start small, say, ½ tsp. at a time, until you get the desired flavor. Smoked jalapenos also add some heat and smokiness. You could add a dried smoked jalapeno at the beginning of cooking, or add part of a smoked jalapeno in adobo sauce – sold in cans, in the Mexican section of your supermarket, until you succeed in achieving the desired heat and smoky flavor.

Makes 6 servings

1 lb. dried black-eyed peas (2 ¾ c.), soaked 8 hours or overnight

3 Tbs. olive oil

1 lg. onion, chopped

1 small green or red pepper, seeded and diced

2 stalks celery, plus leaves, diced

1 lg. clove garlic, minced

5-6 cups water

1 ham hock, smoked turkey thigh, or liquid smoke (see note in introduction)

1 smoked, dried jalapeno (called chipotle), or 1 small chipotle pepper in adobo sauce (or less, to


3 or 4 sprigs fresh thyme

1 bay leaf

¾ tsp. kosher salt

Black pepper, to taste

Drain black eyed peas and set aside.

In a 5 qt. Dutch oven, heat olive oil. Add the onion, pepper and celery, and sauté over low heat, stirring occasionally, until they start to become tender and translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic, stir, and cook for a few minutes. Add the peas, 4 ½ cups water, and the ham hock, turkey thigh and a ½ tsp. of liquid smoke. Add the dried jalapeno or a piece of a chipotle pepper in adobo sauce. Better to start small, you can add more later, as the chile will break down and spice up the beans as it does so.

Add the thyme sprigs, the bay leaf, and ½ tsp. salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer, cover, and cook until beans are quite tender, about 1 hour. You may need the rest of the water, keep it handy, and check the beans about every 20 minutes or so. I like my beans not too soupy, but it’s a matter of your preference.

To serve: Remove ham hock or turkey thigh if using, and slice up the meat into small pieces, returning them to the pot, discarding the bones. Remove the thyme sprigs and bay leaf. Adjust salt, add black pepper to taste. If you desire more spice, mince up more chile in adobo and add it now, stirring well. Adjust liquid smoke seasoning if using. Serve with steamed or sauteed collard greens, and cornbread.

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