Put good luck on the menu on New Year’s Day with these southern cooking recipes for collard greens and black-eyed peas. Learn the origins behind New Year’s Day food superstitions.
I’m not normally superstitious, but I’m not about to buck years of tradition by serving anything other than the good luck combination of ham, collards and black-eyed peas on Jan. 1.
Family tradition, history, superstition and folklore dictate what we put on our plates.
In the South, where I live, and in lots of other places around the world, it’s customary to prepare a New Year’s Day feast to ensure prosperity and good fortune for the year to come.
Today, I’m sharing the recipes for two of those traditional New Year’s Day foods — black-eyed peas and collard greens — as well as the history behind the superstitions.
You’ll find my cooking tips below and the printable recipe cards and video at the end of this blog post.
If you don’t have time to make black-eyed peas and collards from scratch, you can find canned and frozen varieties to serve on New Year’s Day. Just be sure to dress up the flavor with your own seasonings.
You could also try this Black Eyed Pea Soup, which has all the good luck foods in it.
But I encourage you to try these traditional southern recipes. They’re not hard to make at all, and you’ll enjoy the flavor and good fortune!
- What to Eat for Good Luck on New Year’s Day
- New Year’s Day Food Symbolism
- Southern New Year’s Day Foods
- Other New Year’s Day Food Traditions
- Foods You Shouldn’t Eat on New Year’s Day
- What is the best way to clean collard greens?
- 🥘 Ingredients for Collard Greens and Black Eyed Peas
- 🥬 How to Make Collard Greens
- How to Make Black-Eyed Peas
- 🎥 Collard Greens Recipe Card & Video
- 📋 Black Eyed Peas Recipe Card
What to Eat for Good Luck on New Year’s Day
Our New Year’s Day menu always includes ham, black-eyed peas, greens and cornbread. (If you’re looking for a shortcut version of the traditional New Year’s Day meal, try my Black Eyed Pea Soup with Collards & Ham.)
My mom always used to tell us that the number of black-eyed peas and greens we ate on New Year’s Day would foretell how much money we would earn in the coming year.
Turns out Mama’s words were more than just a clever way to get us to clean our plates.
Want to see a brief overview of the cooking process before diving into the history? Click here to watch my web story on how to make southern-style collard greens and black-eyed pea for New Year’s Day.
New Year’s Day Food Symbolism
Pork is a symbol of progress, moving forward and overall good luck, while the rest of the food on the plate symbolizes wealth and prosperity.
- Cornbread is a stand-in for gold
- Black-eyed peas represent coins
- Collards and other greens look like folded money
If you’re looking for a good cornbread recipe, try my cheesy green chile cornbread.
If you’re looking for something more traditional, this Jiffy Corn Bread with Creamed Corn is a big hit.
Southern New Year’s Day Foods
These Southern food superstitions date back to the 1800s.
The details of these traditions vary, but the gist is that Southerners survived on humble meals of black-eyed peas and greens.
When other crops were scarce in the winter, these humble in the winter, these humble, but nutritious, foods sustained them.
Other New Year’s Day Food Traditions
Many different regions and cultures around the world have their own New Year’s Day food traditions.
In South Carolina, a stew called Hoppin’ John, which is made with black-eyed peas and rice seasoned with bacon or pork fat, is a must-have.
Germans typically eat lentils and pork at the first of the year, for reasons of luck and prosperity.
The Swiss celebrate the new year by dropping dollops of whipped cream on the floor as a symbol of the richness to come.
Foods You Shouldn’t Eat on New Year’s Day
Some foods are off limits on New Year’s Day because they’re believed to bring bad luck.
Chicken: My mother-in-law and many other people believe you shouldn’t serve chicken or poultry on Jan. 1 or you’ll spend the year “scratching” for money.
Lobster: Since lobster moves backwards, you could set yourself up for a year of setback if you eat it on New Year’s Day.
I don’t know if a single meal can set the stage for a year filled with good fortune, but I’m not willing to chance it. And a New Year’s Day feast of collards, cornbread, black-eyed peas and ham is some good eating!
What is the best way to clean collard greens?
Before cooking them, you want to be sure to wash the collard greens thoroughly to remove any dirt and sediment. My mother-in-law calls it “looking your collards.”
Soak fresh collards in a clean sink filled with water. Drain, then soak again, rinsing to remove any remaining sediment.
🥘 Ingredients for Collard Greens and Black Eyed Peas
You’ll need the following ingredients to make homemade collard greens and black-eyed peas for your New Year’s Day meal.
For the collards:
- collard greens
- bacon or pork fat
- chicken broth
- red pepper flakes
- hot sauce
For the black eyed-peas
- dried black-eyed peas
- ham bone, ham hock or ham seasoning packet
🥬 How to Make Collard Greens
- Once collard greens have been washed, rinsed and drained, remove the stems and chop the leaves into 1-inch pieces.
- In a large pot, sauté bacon slices, then add onion, cooking until translucent.
- Add collard greens and cover with chicken broth. Season with salt, pepper and red pepper flakes, if desired.
- Bring the collards to a boil and cook for three minutes.
- Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 45 minutes to an hour, until greens are tender.
- Serve with vinegar and hot sauce.
Whatever you do, don’t drain the collards after you cook them.
A lot of the flavor is in the pot liquor – or pot likker, if you’re being colloquial – and some cooks even save theirs to season the next batch of collards.
How to Make Black-Eyed Peas
To make traditional New Year’s Day black-eyed peas, start with dried beans.
- Wash the dried beans and sort through them, removing any stones or sediment.
- When cooking black-eyed peas (or any dried beans), do not skip the soaking step. I prefer to soak my beans overnight, but if you forget, use the quick-soak method outlined on the package. I personally don’t think you can overcook beans. You want them tender, not crunchy.
- For the overnight method, place the beans in a pot and cover with water. Let sit covered overnight.
- Before cooking, drain and rinse the beans. Return beans to a pot and cover with water. Oh, and I hope you didn’t throw away that ham bone from Christmas. It makes a mighty fine seasoning for those beans.
- Add a ham bone (saved from your Christmas ham), ham hock, fatback or other pork for flavoring.
- Bring black-eyed peas to a boil, then reduce heat. Simmer covered for 90 minutes to 2 hours, until the beans are tender.
If you need ideas for how to use those Christmas and New Year’s leftovers, I have more than 100 ideas for leftover ham.
Pin This! Homemade Southern Collard Greens
🎥 Collard Greens Recipe Card & Video
- 1 pound collard greens
- 1 onion sliced root to tip
- 3 cups chicken broth
- 3 to 4 slices bacon cut into small pieces
- salt and pepper to taste
- red pepper flakes optional
- hot sauce
Wash collard greens thoroughly to remove dirt and sediment, and drain.
Remove stems and chop leaves into 1-inch pieces.
In a large pot, sauté bacon slices, then add onion and cook for 5 minutes, until translucent.
Add collard greens and cover with chicken broth. Season with salt, pepper and red pepper flakes, if desired.
Bring to a boil and boil for three minutes.
Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 45 minutes to an hour, until greens are tender.
Serve with vinegar and hot sauce.
📋 Black Eyed Peas Recipe Card
- 1 pound dried black-eyed peas
- 1 ham bone, ham hock or ham seasoning packet
Wash the dried beans and sort through them, removing any stones or sediment.
Place the beans in a pot and cover with water. Soak overnight or follow the package directions for the quick-soak method.
Prior to cooking, drain and rinse the beans.
Return beans to pot and cover with water. Add a ham bone (saved from your Christmas ham), ham hock, fatback or other pork for flavoring.
Season with salt and pepper, about 1 teaspoon each.
Bring beans to a boil, then reduce heat. Simmer covered for 1 ½ to 2 hours, until beans are tender.