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Mrs. Betty's Happy New Year Black-Eyed Peas and Tomatoes

Read about Mrs. Betty's Recipe Box here.

Happy New Year Black-Eyed Peas & Tomatoes

There are two days each year when you automatically know what’s going to be on the dinner table.  At Thanksgiving, there’s the famous fowl that’s served, and then depending on where you live, there’s most likely going to be something traditional served on New Year’s Day.   In the South, there’s usually some kind of pork and then, of course, the black-eyed peas and greens (or cabbage if you’re of German descent).  Many cultures have traditions associated with New Year’s Day, and many are quite similar.

New Year’s Day food is separated as either predicting bad luck or good luck and prosperity in the coming year.  The black-eyed peas represent coins, and the greens represent dollars.  Pork seems to show up very often when it comes to New Year’s Day fare.  The belief behind that is that pigs root forward, and we are putting the past behind us and focusing on the future.  Poultry, such as geese, turkeys, and chickens scratch backward when searching for food, so they are considered bad luck; those who eat these birds are supposedly fating themselves to a year of scratching in the dirt for food.  Also, cows stand still, so beef does not typically show up on the menu either.  Fish, which are always on the move, are also considered to be lucky; fish are included in New Year’s Day traditions around the world, including areas of the U.S, such as the Northwest.      

This recipe is basically a version of Hoppin’ John, but Mrs. Betty simply called it “Black-eyed Peas and Tomatoes.”  I’ve been making similar dishes for years, but this one is definitely the best.  The flavors are wonderful together, and my family raved about it—even after it was gone. 

As a kid, I was not a fan of black-eyed peas, and I have memories of my Granny chasing me around the house each year on New Year’s Day with about 3 peas on a spoon and telling me I had to eat at least one.  She convinced me that I was dooming everyone’s year if I did not partake in the eating of the “lucky beans.”     However, if you serve this dish to those who usually turn their noses up at black-eyed peas, they will be pleasantly surprised how good it really is; hopefully, their actions will help avoid the dreaded bad luck that was sure to follow. 

One of Mrs. Betty’s superstitions is that laundry is to never be done on New Year’s Day.   The belief is that a family member will be “washed away” within the year.  Despite her strong feelings against it, one year on January 1, she ended up washing some clothes, and later that month her mother passed away. 

Now, I’m not really superstitious, but if tradition tells me that on one day of the year, I should be eating bacon instead of doing laundry, I’m not questioning it.   

Black-Eyed Peas and Tomatoes Recipe Card 


 2 cups dried black-eyed peas

1 Tablespoon vegetable oil

5 slices bacon, chopped

1 medium onion, chopped

1/2 cup celery, chopped

1 (14.5 ounce) can petite diced tomatoes, drained

1 bay leaf

Salt and pepper to taste

Place the peas in a large bowl.  Boil 2 quarts boiling water and pour over the peas.  Let soak for at least 30 minutes and drain.  In a 5-quart pot, heat oil over medium heat.  Add bacon, onion, and celery; cook , stirring occasionally, for 5 to 7 minutes until lightly browned.   Add tomatoes, bay leaf, salt, pepper, and drained peas.  Stir in 3 cups water.  Bring to a boil; cover and simmer for 45 minutes.  Uncover and simmer 15 minutes longer, or until peas are tender.  Remove bay leaf before serving.  Serve over cooked rice.

Canned black-eyed peas may be substituted for dried beans.  Reduce cooking time and the amount of water added.

Bonus Recipe!

Black-Eyed Pea Salsa


I have made versions of this recipe dozens of times, usually with black beans.  It’s been taken on many camping trips; friends who go camping with us usually ask that I bring this along.  One New Year’s Eve, I decided to make it with black-eyed peas, and it was a big hit.  This is a super simple way to make the classic Texas Caviar.  It can be eaten as a salad or a dip served with tortilla chips.   

1 (15.5 ounce) can black-eyed peas, drained

1 (15 ounce) can whole kernel corn, drained

1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained

4 green onions, chopped

Jalapeño, chopped (optional)

3/4 cup Zesty Italian dressing

Mix all ingredients together and chill for at least an hour to allow the flavors to combine.   Serve as a side dish or as a dip with tortilla chips. 

Enjoy and Happy New Year! 

Links to similar Calico Creek pages:

Kid's Birthday Parties and Hosting a Christmas Cookie Exchange

Mrs. Betty's Pecan Divinity and The Peanut Brittle That Built a Church

Mrs. Betty's Holiday Pineapple Upside Down Cake With Rum Pum Pum Pum Glaze

'Frank Butterscotch' Rice Pudding

Mrs. Betty's Happy New Year Black-Eyed Peas and Tomatoes


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