What traditions do you and your family honor or repeat every year to ring in the New Year or celebrate the holidays? A tradition in my family helped me to create this vegetarian black-eyed pea recipe.
Have you ever given any thought to their origins and why you repeat the same thing year after year?
For me, eating black-eyed peas with cornbread and collard greens was a tradition that I experienced each New Year’s Day. In today’s post, I share the meaning behind this tradition. You will also find my favorite vegetarian black-eyed pea recipe, a remake of the classic version that I remember being a such an important tradition in my family.
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My southern roots
As I begin moving through this holiday season without my mom for the first time, I’ve thought a lot about the many traditions that she introduced to me and my brothers growing up. They were traditions that she experienced as a child and young person growing up in the “Deep South”. Somehow not having her here any longer has created this desire in me to hang onto traditions she introduced to our family. In addition to finding ways to honor her and her influence in my life as I move forward.
I never lived in the “Deep South” or specifically in Georgia for any length of time. Instead I grew up in Texas. It is technically the south, but is different in many ways to Georgia and other areas of the “Deep South”. However, I did have regular visits back to Georgia especially as a child and teenager. And to be honest, I never really gave the thought of having southern roots or culturally identifying with the South.[bctt tweet=”In the south, it is a tradition to serve up a black-eyed pea recipe along with collard greens and cornbread on New Year’s Day. ” username=”Lyn_Croyle”]And I remember that as a child, this was often a tradition that my mom continued and served up to her family on each New Year’s Day.
But this year, it wasn’t just enough to cook and eat them. Instead I wanted to fully embrace the reasons behind these traditions and fully embrace the experience.
Symbolism behind eating peas, collard greens and cornbread for New Year’s
Yes, a specific superstition lies behind the reason for eating black-eyed peas and these other ingredients on New Year’s Day. They mostly have to do with good luck and financial success in the New Year.
Eating black-eyed peas on New Years Day is associated with luck and fortune. My mom always said that the more black-eyed peas you ate, the more money or luck you would have during that year.
Cornbread and Collards
The superstitions are many but in what I’ve read, collard greens relate to money and the cornbread’s gold color makes it a symbol of financial success. There is also a tradition of putting a coin in the pot of peas. Whoever gets the coin in their bowl, gets the most luck for the year.
Pork is also typically served up in these dishes. Pigs are a symbol for moving forward. This symbolism comes from the way they forage for food in the forest, with their nose down and always moving in a forward motion. There is some superstition that all these items must be eaten together in order to be effective. However, I believe differently and prefer my black-eyed pea recipe to more plant-based.
Behind the superstitions
However, there are actually practical reasons behind why these foods were served for New Year’s Day and how this tradition developed. The two main reasons center around availability and cost. Historically in the south, crops were a main source of food and income, but since not much grows in the winter due to the temperature, the options for food were often limited. However, collard greens are a part of the winter greens family and would typically be available this time of year. And cornbread and dried black-eyed peas are inexpensive foods and were affordable to the people of the south who often didn’t have a lot of money. The results were these foods finding their way to the table for a cold January 1st.
History behind these food traditions
In doing research for this piece, I ran across several articles explaining the historical reasons for the development of these traditions. One dates back to the Civil War. In this story, the Union troops from the north associated black-eyed peas with food for animals, so when they invaded and took the Confederate army’s food, they left behind the peas. The Confederate soldiers considered themselves lucky to have food left behind which allowed them to survive the winter. Thus leading to the association of black-eyed peas and luck.
The other story commonly told, is that black-eyed peas were often given to slaves for food. And that is what the slaves cooked up for their celebration dinner on January 1, 1863, the year the Emancipation Proclamation went into effect, freeing the slaves. Black-eyed peas became a tradition to eat every January 1 in remembrance of that day.
Health benefits of black-eyed peas and collard greens
Black-eyed peas are a legume and a good source of protein, fiber as well as being low in fat. Cooking the peas with pork is common to add flavor. However, in this vegetarian black-eyed pea recipe, I am using plant-based ingredients to add the flavor.
Collard greens will likely be difficult for anyone to find that doesn’t live in the south as that is typically where they are grown and where they are well known. If you can’t find them, you can substitute any winter green in this dish such as kale, spinach or mustard greens. But my personal favorite to use in this recipe is swiss chard and it’s what I used since I don’t have access to collard greens.
The nutrients vary from green to green but generally, leafy greens are good sources of Vitamin A, C, and K. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends eating 1 1/2 cups of dark leafy greens each week.
Cooking my vegetarian black-eyed pea recipe
One of the major challenges when cooking vegetarian beans is creating enough flavor into the dish so that it doesn’t feel like it’s missing anything. Meat adds that umami or savory flavor to dishes. There are several ingredients I use frequently to add umami flavor when cooking without meat. Most frequently, I use mushrooms, soy sauce, coco aminos, nutritional yeast and smoked paprika. For this dish, I wanted it to have a more southern flavor in my vegetarian black-eyed pea recipe, so I used coco aminos and smoked paprika to add umami flavor to the dish. In many ways, the smoked paprika adds a smoky flavor similar to cooking the beans with bacon or a ham hock.
Vegetarian Black-eyed Pea and Collard Greens
Black-eyed peas with collard greens
- 1 T canola oil
- 4 cloves garlic finely minced
- 1 small onion finely diced
- 1 green bell pepper finely diced or chopped
- 2 whole roma tomatoes peeled and chopped
- 1 ½ cups dry black-eyed peas
- 4 cups vegetable broth
- 1-2 cups of water
- 2 bay leaf
- 1 T coconut aminos or Worcestershire sauce
- 1½ tsp Cajun seasoning
- ½ tsp smoked paprika
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- 6 cups collard greens or other greens such as swiss chard, mustard greens or kale, washed thoroughly and chopped
- 1 1/4 cup cornmeal*
- 1 cup whole wheat flour
- 2 T plain Greek yogurt 2%
- 1 cup buttermilk
- ¼ cup sugar
- 1 eggs
- ½ tsp salt
- 1 T baking powder
Cooking the black-eyed peas
- Heat 1 T of canola in a large pot over medium high heat. Add the onion, bell pepper and tomatoes and sauté until softened. About 5-8 minutes. Add garlic and sauté an additional 60 seconds.
- Add black-eyed peas, vegetable broth and bay leaf to the pot. Bring to a low boil, then cover and reduce the heat. Cook until tender, about 30 minutes - 1 hour. Add water as needed while they are cooking.
- While the peas are cooking, wash and cut the collard greens into 1-2”pieces. Then make the cornbread.
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
- Combine the ingredients from the Greek yogurt to baking powder in a mixing bowl and stir to combine. Depending on the whole wheat flour, the mix may be too thick and need additional milk. If so, add milk 1 T at a time until it has a pourable batter (but not runny) consistency.
- Lightly spray a 9” cake pan or 9x9 baking dish and pour in cornbread mixture.
- Bake in an oven for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick or fork comes out clean.
Finish up black-eyed peas
- When beans are softened, add the aminos, Cajun seasoning, smoked paprika, salt and pepper.
- Stir in the collard greens and if needed add additional water. Allow to cook an additional 10-15 minutes to allow the flavors to meld and the greens to wilt and tenderize. Taste before serving and adjust as desired.
This vegetarian black-eyed pea recipe is nutrient dense!!! It provides many nutrients for a small expenditure of calories — only 370 per serving!!!
In this recipe for vegetarian black-eyed peas, I have eliminated some of the unhealthy aspects of the meal such as the fat contributed by cooking the peas with pork and also replacing the butter in the cornbread with 2% plain greek yogurt. These two changes drastically reduce the total fat and more specifically the saturated fat in the dish.
Cooking this vegetarian black-eyed pea recipe results in a hearty meal for six people. One serving includes 1 cup of beans and slice of cornbread. The recipe contains plenty of protein and dietary fiber while being low in fat with only 6 grams of total fat per serving. The dish is also high in vitamin C and vitamin A providing 50% and 60% respectively of the total RDA (based on a diet of 2,000 calories) for these nutrients. And just one serving of this dish provides 30% of iron for the day.
If you liked this vegetarian black-eyed pea recipe, you may enjoy these other recipes!!!
One dish meals are some of my favorites to make as they are often quick and easy. Plus since everything goes into one dish you don’t have to think of side dishes to prepare to accompany the meal.