Black-Eyed Pea Stew Recipe

This black-eyed pea stew recipe with sausage or ham brings good luck to those who consume it on New Year’s Day, or so says Southern tradition. We make it simply because it brings us sated appetites.

Black-Eyed Pea Stew Recipe

There are countless iterations of black-eyed pea stew recipes in the South. This particular recipe, which can be made with sausage or ham hocks, was handed down through the generations of the Watkins family from Hartsville, South Carolina. Southern legend has it that black-eyed pea stew brings good fortune for the entire year to those who make it part of their menu on New Year’s Day. The good luck isn’t restricted to any one type of black-eyed pea soup, which is fortunate, although we’d bank our entire year’s fortune on the version below.–Renee Schettler Rossi

You Don't Need To Soak Black-Eyed Peas

There’s some controversy surrounding whether or not to soak black-eyed peas and other beans prior to cooking. Tradition holds that legumes need to be soaked in enough cold water to cover for at least overnight. But hurried cooks have found that simmering legumes, including black-eyed peas, in twice as much water as a recipe usually requires turns out soups and stews, such as this black-eyed pea stew, that are really quite identical to those in which the beans are soaked. What a boon for those of us who don’t always plan ahead.

Black-Eyed Pea Stew Recipe

  • Quick Glance
  • 25 M
  • 2 H, 45 M
  • Serves 6 to 8


  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil or lard
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped onions
  • 1 1/4 pounds (568 grams) smoked ham hocks or hot Italian sausage links
  • 2 teaspoons chopped garlic
  • One 14.5-ounce can crushed or diced tomatoes
  • 1 quart store-bought or homemade chicken stock
  • 1 pound dried black-eyed peas
  • 3 cups cold water
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper


  • 1. In a Dutch oven or stock pot over medium-high heat, warm the oil. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until they’re softened and fragrant, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the ham hocks or sausage and garlic, turn the heat down to medium, and cook for 5 minutes more, stirring often so that the onions soften and wilt but don’t brown.
  • 2. Toss the tomatoes into the pot and cook, stirring often, for 5 minutes more. Add the stock, black-eyed peas, and 3 cups water. Increase the heat to bring everything to a boil, and stir well. Add the salt and pepper and adjust the heat to maintain a fairly lively simmer. Cover partially and gently simmer, stirring now and then, until the peas are tender, 2 to 2 1/2 hours. It may be necessary to add additional water if the mixture starts to look more oatmeal-like than stew-like.
  • 3. Remove the ham hocks or sausage links and set them on a plate until cool enough to handle. Shred the ham or crumble or slice the sausage and return it to the pot and stir to combine. Serve the stew hot or warm.
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Recipe Testers Reviews

Recipe Testers Reviews
Testers Choice
Sue Epstein

Dec 27, 2015

I grew up in the South, where black-eyed peas are traditional on New Year's Day. It's also traditional to serve black-eyed peas on Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year). I usually make black-eyed pea salad, but this year I tried this stew, and I'm so happy I did. It was pretty easy to put together, only about 15 minutes prep and a little over 2 hours cooking, and all my guests loved it. I used mild beef sausage because I didn't want it to be too spicy. I think this would also do great in a slow cooker.

Testers Choice
Pat Francis

Dec 27, 2015

What a hearty, earthy dish to launch into winter! This doesn’t take too much time to get cooking and then it simmers until it’s done. I advise monitoring its progress a bit more closely than I did, however, as I lost a lot of the cooking liquid along the way. That was the only real problem I had with the recipe. When making this again, I'd check the simmer more carefully and add extra stock and/or water as it cooks. Not being fond of cooking ham hocks, I took the sausage option here. Four hot Italian pork sausages equaled exactly 1 1/4 pounds, but I believe they displaced more liquid in the pot than a ham hock would have, and that might've affected the cooking time. After the stew had simmered for 1 3/4 hours, the peas were still not done, but the liquid had cooked down quite a bit. As a quick remedy, I pulled the sausages out, so the beans would have the broth all to themselves. At that point, the beans were covered completely. I sliced the sausages about 1/2-inch thick and added them back in when the peas were done. Normally I would not add tomatoes at the beginning when cooking dried beans because they retard softening. I’m not sure how much faster these would have cooked if the tomatoes went in once the black-eyed peas had started to soften, but a shorter cooking time might have also mitigated the problem with too much liquid evaporating. I made this earlier in the day to reheat for dinner. Keeping in mind that stew is not soup—there still was not enough liquid when I reheated, so I added a little chicken stock (about 1/4 cup) to each bowl. The next day, the leftovers of this had no liquid left at all.

Testers Choice
Beth Price

Dec 27, 2015

This is an easy stew that would make a perfect addition to your New Year's menu (gotta get those peas for good luck). I opted to use Italian sausage, which I removed from the casing and chopped into bite-size pieces. I think next time I might try a sage sausage, just to mix it up a bit. The stew benefits from a rest, as it allows the flavors to meld and the broth to thicken. I made it earlier in the day and reheated it for dinner. We served it with a big batch of creamed callaloo though it would pair equally well with collard greens or spinach. The recipe makes a gracious plenty, so we froze individual servings for a quick lunch on a cold day.

Testers Choice
Irene Seales

Dec 27, 2015

A great hearty fall soup recipe that you can use year-round. I love having sausage on hand that can turn a pantry meal into dinner on fairly short notice with ingredients we have on hand or can easily obtain. This recipe is perfect for those times, maybe not quite a weeknight dinner but a short afternoon project. This black-eyed pea stew yielded days of meals for our small household that were just as good as the first night, if not better. Black-eyed peas don’t really require a pre-soak, so your planning isn’t fussy, and you can choose to make the stew as spicy as you please. Since I didn't have ham hocks but was using freshly made Italian sausage from my favorite butcher, I used fire-roasted tomatoes to bring in a bit of smoky flavor and added a bit of Penzey’s Black and Red Pepper at the end when adjusting the seasoning. I also added 1 cup broth at this point, as it looked a little dry. We gave the stew an extra 15 minutes of cooking time to let the flavors adjust after adding the chopped sausage back in, adding the extra liquid, and adjusting the seasoning. The sausage had a very delicate casing, and easily crumbled into a coarse grind, mixing well with the stew. We served it hot that day and reheated it on subsequent days. 

Each time we had a bowl of this, it was delicious—just the right amount of heat and, most importantly, it made us fans of black-eyed peas once again. I only had them prepared very simply growing up, with a dash of red wine vinegar and maybe some wild greens when my grandfather would make them Greek-style. I love the hearty and healthy use of the beans in this recipe with the sausage, though of course you could do a lovely meatless version as well. A little attention here and there, and you have a gorgeous stew for dinner on the table in under 3 hours.

  1. Thank you for the shout out to my vegetarian version. :)

  2. Jamie says:

    I’m hoping to cook from Nancie’s fabulous cookbook now that I have some free time. I wonder if I can find black eyed peas in France because I so want to make this! The whole cookbook is fantastic, maybe her best yet!!

    • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

      Completely agree with you, Jamie. You can never go wrong with a Nancie McDermott recipe, but especially not with the recipes in this book. We’ve heard nothing but raves about each one we’ve sent out to our recipe testers.

  3. What an honor and a joy to see this recipe featured on Leite’s Culianaria, and to be part of the extraordinary feast of recipes perfect for celebrating the holidays at the table. This recipe from my friend Heather Watkins Jones is one of the very first recipes I included in the manuscript for this cookbook, and I remember how amazed I was that it could be made without soaking the blackeyed peas. I adore the photograph from the brilliant Leigh Beisch and her team, and am honored to have it on the book’s cover. I’m hearing from people on facebook that they are making it with the sausage variation and loving it. Gotta leave it here: going downstairs to make it for my New Year’s meal, with collards and cornbread. Happy New Year!

    • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

      Many thanks for such a lovely recipe, Nancie. We love that it doesn’t require you to soak the black-eyed peas beforehand! Happy New Year!

  4. Patti LeBlanc says:

    David, I made this recipe for New Years Day as I live in Louisiana, and you know, you HAVE to eat it to have good luck all year long. And don’t forget the cabbage for wealth! But, I cooked it in my crock pot and it was delicious and so easy! Dumped everything in and let it geaux! My husband said I could cook it again and didn’t have to wait until next New Years, so you know it was good! Thanks for this recipe! Easy peasy!

    • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

      Patti, many thanks for letting us know! Can you tell us what size crock pot and how long you let it go and whether it was on high or low heat? We’d love the details so we can share the info with other readers. Happy New Year!

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