Southern Tradition: Black-Eyed Peas on New Year’s Day

Welcome to a cherished Southern tradition! Discover the history, ingredients, and steps to prepare the symbolic New Year’s dish of black-eyed peas.

History and Origins

The tradition of eating black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day dates back to the winter of 1864 – 1865 during Union General William T. Sherman’s destructive march through Georgia.

When Union foragers plundered the land, black-eyed peas and salted pork were the humble staples left behind, saving surviving Southerners from mass starvation. These peas, once seen as fit only for animals, became a symbol of good luck.

Tools, People, and Cooking Time

To prepare this traditional dish, you’ll need:

  • Large pot
  • Knife
  • Cutting board
  • Measuring cups

For approximately 6 people with a cooking time of around 2 hours.

Ingredients and Possible Replacements

Ensure you have the following ingredients:

  • 2 cups black-eyed peas
  • 1 pound salted pork
  • Greens (collards, mustard greens, turnip greens, or cabbage)
  • Cornbread
  • Pork (ham, hog jowls, or bacon)
  • Tomatoes

While there are no direct replacements, feel free to experiment with different greens and pork cuts based on your preferences.


Follow these steps to create a New Year’s feast:

  1. Sort and rinse black-eyed peas.
  2. Cut salted pork into bite-sized pieces.
  3. Cook peas and pork in a large pot with water until tender.
  4. Prepare greens and tomatoes while peas are cooking.
  5. Serve black-eyed peas with greens, cornbread, and tomatoes.

Top 4 Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Mistake 1: Overcooking Peas

To avoid mushy peas, monitor cooking time and check for tenderness regularly.

Mistake 2: Neglecting Greens

Ensure greens are fresh and well-prepared; they are a crucial element of the dish.

Mistake 3: Skipping Cornbread

Don’t forget cornbread; it complements the dish and soaks up the flavorful juices.

Mistake 4: Choosing the Wrong Pork Cut

Select the right pork cut for your taste; each contributes a unique flavor to the dish.


Q1: Can I use canned black-eyed peas?

A: While fresh peas are preferred, canned peas can be used with adjusted cooking times.

Q2: Can I substitute salted pork?

A: Experiment with bacon or ham for a different flavor profile.

Q3: Are there vegetarian alternatives?

A: Replace pork with vegetarian options, and increase the variety of greens for balance.

Q4: Can I make this in advance?

A: Yes, prepare components in advance and assemble before serving.

Q5: Any tips for enhancing flavor?

A: Add herbs and spices to taste, and consider a dash of hot sauce for extra kick.


As you savor the flavors of this humble Southern meal, reflect on the tradition that has brought luck and prosperity to families for generations. May your New Year be filled with good fortune, health, wealth, and the joy of shared traditions.

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