Black-Eyed Pea Stew

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.

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

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

Black-Eyed Pea Stew

  • Quick Glance
  • (3)
  • 25 M
  • 2 H, 45 M
  • Serves 6 to 8
5/5 - 3 reviews
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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. Originally published December 27, 2015.

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    *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.

    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.


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    1. 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!

    2. 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!!

      1. 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.

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