In this delicious Vegan Hoppin’ John recipe, a traditional New Year’s black eyed pea stew gets a vegan makeover. This smoky, healthy, and satisfying meatless recipe is a lighter version of the Southern classic. It’s the perfect recipe to celebrate the New Year or Rosh Hashanah.
Black-eyed peas are culturally and historically significant during the celebration of the New Year for both Sephardic Jews and those living in the American South.
The Jewish tradition is more ancient with roots in the Babylonian Talmud, which lists nine foods that should be eaten during Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. Each food listed is representative of a wish to come in the New Year; the black-eyed peas are said to be a symbol of good fortune. In Hebrew and Aramaic they are called “rubiyah” and in Arabic “lubiya,” both related to Hebrew words “l’harabot” and “harbeh” meaning “to increase” and “many.” When you eat black-eyed peas at the Rosh Hashanah Seder, you are inviting wealth and good fortune in the coming year.
In the South, black-eyed peas have been seen as a symbol of good fortune since the Civil War. They were originally planted for livestock consumption and later became a common source of nutrition for slaves. When General William Sherman’s troops swept in, destroying the majority of Southern crops, the black-eyed peas were left behind. They proved to be an important source of nutrition for the starving Confederate soldiers. In the South black-eyed peas are often eaten with other foods that symbolize abundance, like golden cornbread and greens that swell when they are cooked, representing paper money and growing wealth.
It is possible that these two traditions, Jewish and Southern, melded during the 18th century, when many Jewish homes in the South had African American cooks. Black-eyed peas are now enjoyed for both the secular New Year’s Day celebration on January 1 as well as during Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year.
Recently I cooked dinner for my new friend John Salley, a former NBA star who happens to be vegan. I’d been developing this Vegan Hoppin’ John recipe, so I included it on the menu. It was a huge hit. So many black-eyed pea preparations I’ve tried in the past have been bland and flavorless. Not this one! The smoked paprika gives it that smoky, ham-like flavor; turmeric gives it depth and adds a healthy anti-inflammatory boost. Seared mushrooms provide a savory meatiness. The traditional combination of black-eyed peas and rice make this a complete protein. It’s a tasty and filling side dish or entree.
Who knows? Maybe it will bring us some luck as we ring in the new year!
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- 2 cups dried black eyed peas
- 8 oz sliced mushrooms
- 3 tbsp olive oil divided
- 4 whole carrots peeled and roughly chopped
- 2 celery stalks roughly chopped
- 1 whole onion roughly chopped
- 1 tsp crushed garlic
- 15 oz diced fire roasted tomatoes 1 can
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- 1/4 tsp turmeric
- 1/4 tsp cayenne
- 1/8 tsp chili powder
- 2 cups vegetable stock low sodium ok
- Salt to taste
- Chopped scallions garnish - optional
- 6 cups steamed white or brown rice for serving prepared
- Soak black eyed peas overnight, then drain, rinse and set aside. In a medium saucepot or large saute pan, heat 2 tbsp olive oil over high until it just begins to smoke (keep a close eye on it-- you don't want the oil to darken in color, but you do want it to get very hot). Add the mushrooms in a single layer and let them sear undisturbed for 2-3 minutes until they begin to turn golden on the searing side. Stir continuously for another 1-2 minutes until the mushrooms are golden throughout. Reduce heat to medium.
- Add carrots, celery and onion along with the remaining 1 tbsp of olive oil. Cook until vegetables are soft and translucent (about 7-10 minutes), then add garlic and cook for 1 minute more until fragrant.
- Add fire roasted tomatoes, smoked paprika, turmeric, cayenne, chili powder, vegetable stock and soaked black eyed peas to the pan, stir to blend. Bring mixture to a simmer over medium heat, then cover and cook for 25 -30 minutes until the beans are just tender - don't overcook them or they will get mushy. Remove the lid and continue to cook until the liquid has reduced by half. Season with salt to taste. I usually add about 1 tsp. if using a low sodium broth. Salt really makes the other flavors pop!