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

Bowl of black-eyed peas in a tomato broth on a sheet of wood.

Black-Eyed Pea Stew

5 / 7 votes
This black-eyed pea stew recipe, made extra satisfying with ham or ground sausage, brings good luck to those who consume it on New Year’s Day. Or so says Southern tradition. We’re quite partial to this version of the classic which never fails to bring us sated appetites.
David Leite
Servings6 to 8 servings
Calories518 kcal
Prep Time25 minutes
Cook Time2 hours 20 minutes
Total Time2 hours 45 minutes


  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil or lard
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped onions
  • 1 1/4 pounds 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, plus more as needed
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper


  • 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 become tender but not brown.
  • Toss the tomatoes into the pot and cook, stirring often, for 5 minutes more.
  • Add the stock, black-eyed peas, and water. Increase the heat, bring everything to a boil, and stir well. Add the salt and pepper and adjust the heat to maintain a fairly boisterous simmer. Cover partially and gently simmer, stirring now and then, until the peas are tender, 2 to 2 1/2 hours. If it starts to look more oatmeal-like than stew-like, add a little more water.
  • Remove the ham hocks or sausage links and transfer them to a plate until cool enough to handle. Shred the ham or crumble or slice the sausage and return it to the pot and stir well. Serve the stew hot or warm.


*What You Need To Know About Soaking (Or Not Soaking) Black-Eyed Peas Before Cooking

There’s some controversy surrounding whether or not to soak black-eyed peas (and other sorts of dried beans and things) prior to cooking. Tradition holds that legumes need to be soaked in cold water to cover for at least overnight. But hurried home cooks have found that simmering legumes, including black-eyed peas, in twice as much water as a recipe 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 first given a time-consuming overnight soak. But without that long lead time. Whew.
Southern Soups and Stews Cookbook

Adapted From

Southern Soups & Stews

Buy On Amazon


Serving: 1 portionCalories: 518 kcalCarbohydrates: 22 gProtein: 23 gFat: 38 gSaturated Fat: 12 gMonounsaturated Fat: 16 gTrans Fat: 1 gCholesterol: 72 mgSodium: 846 mgFiber: 6 gSugar: 4 g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe?Mention @leitesculinaria or tag #leitesculinaria!
Recipe © 2015 Nancie McDermott. Photo © 2015 Leigh Beisch. All rights reserved.

Recipe Testers’ Reviews

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.

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.

The 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.

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.

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. All my guests loved it.

It was pretty easy to put together, only about 15 minutes prep and a little over 2 hours cooking. 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.

About David Leite

I count myself lucky to have received three James Beard Awards for my writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. My work has also appeared in The New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Saveur, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Yankee, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and more.

Hungry For More?

Italian Sausage Soup

This Italian sausage soup is a cozy one-pot meal that’s laden with sweet sausage, tender gnocchi, spinach and topped with crispy pancetta.

30 mins

Gnocchi Soup with Bacon and Cheese

Who can resist a comforting bowl of tender gnocchi in a creamy, cheesy broth that’s laden with crispy bacon and plenty of vegetables? Not us.

1 hr 15 mins

Corn and Roasted Poblano Soup

Our testers are calling this creamy, comforting bowl of sweet corn and roasted poblano soup “the essence of summertime”. We couldn’t agree more.

1 hr 45 mins

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating


  1. Thank you so much for interpreting the terms. I found a recipe calling for “just over one heaping up” of beans. It looked promising, if only I could decipher it. Anyway, yours looks better. Thank you.

      1. 5 stars
        Thank you again for your help. It’s proving difficult to find smoked hock so I tried pig’s trotter with smoked sausage and smoked paprika. Won’t repeat the experiment: the beans were delicious but the meat didn’t give enough flavour. If I still can’t find any hock, I’ll try smokey bacon next time.

        1. You’re welcome, Nigel. I guess you never know until you try, but I think bacon is a good substitute.

  2. 5 stars
    I made the black eyed pea soup/stew today and it was universally loved! I used spicy chicken sausage. Absolutely delicious. Might throw in some kale next time. I wish I had doubled the recipe, I want more!

  3. 5 stars
    I grew up on black-eyed peas and they were absolutely one of my very favorite things. I made this with a bit of a skeptical eye, but it’s delicious. I had about half left over so I added more water and a little more stock and turned it into soup which was also really good. It definitely improves with age. It’s even better the 3rd and 4th day.

    1. Leslie, now that is what I love to hear. Thanks for the feedback, and I wish you and your family a wonderful and happy 2020.