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Holidays All Over: Hoppin' John

Editor’s note: Whether your holiday traditions involve lighting candles for Hanukkah or Scandinavian St. Lucia Day, hanging lights on your Christmas tree, or preparing for Kwanzaa, Omisoka, New Year’s, or the Fiesta of Our Lady of Guadalupe, now is the season of celebration. And many holidays, in many places, involve family meals to celebrate the season, abundance, and the fact of our togetherness. We hope you’ll enjoy these holiday recipes. This recipe was originally published in the Chop Chop Magazine Winter 2012 issue, and is part of the Holidays All Over recipe series.

This is a traditional African-American dish eaten on New Year’s Day to bring luck for the coming year (the peas symbolize coins and the greens symbolize paper money). You would typically make it with bacon or a ham hock—and feel free to use one of those or some smoked turkey—but we’re using smoked paprika to add the smoky flavor without meat. You can buy smoked paprika, also called pimentón, in a jar or tin at the supermarket.

Hoppin' John

Adult: Yes
Hands-on Time: 35 minutes
Total Time: 35 minutes
Makes: 4 servings

Kitchen Gear:

  • Measuring spoons
  • Sharp knife (adult needed)
  • Cutting board
  • Large pot with lid
  • Heatproof spatula
  • Can opener
  • Measuring cup


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 onion, peeled and chopped
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 pound fresh collard greens, thick stems removed and leaves chopped (or frozen collards, thawed)
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika (if you like)
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon white vinegar
  • 1 (15-ounce can) black-eyed peas, or 2 cups cooked, drained and rinsed
  • 2 cups cooked brown rice
  • Black pepper
  • Hot sauce (if you like)


1. Put the pot on the stove and turn the heat to medium. When the pot is hot, carefully add the oil.

2. When the oil is hot, add the onion and salt, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is soft and starting to look clear, about 6 or 7 minutes.

3. Add the collards, smoked paprika, and thyme, and cook until the greens are just wilted, about a minute. Add the water, stir, cover the pot, and cook until the greens are just tender, about 5 to 10 minutes.

4. Stir in the vinegar, black-eyed peas, and rice. Cover the pot, turn the heat down to low, and cook for 5 minutes. Now taste it. Does it need black pepper? More salt? More vinegar? If so, add it and taste again.

5. Serve right away, with hot sauce, if you like.


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