How to Cook Black-Eyed Peas and Ham Hocks in a Slow Cooker

by A.J. Andrews

A Southern Classic Perfect for the Crock-Pot

Inexpensive and filling practically define Southern food, and describe slow-cooker black-eyed peas and ham hocks to a tee. Perhaps the most appealing part of this country classic is that you don't have to fuss over it, particularly when you do it up in a slow cooker — you just toss in all your ingredients and let the cooker do its thing. And if you want to take the dish in a different direction with taste and texture, you essentially have a blank culinary canvas to work with.

In the mid-2010s, black-eyed peas and ham hocks went from Sunday supper to stylish throwback served in trendy bistros, helping disseminate the legacy of Southern cuisine beyond its traditional borders. With widespread popularity came an abundance of variations that include gourmet interpretations and ingredient variations. After you add the basic ingredients of slow-cooker black-eyed peas and ham hocks, let your creativity kick in and see where you can take this Southern staple.

Total Time: 9 hours, 20 minutes | Prep Time: 20 minutes | Serves: 4 to 6

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound dried black-eyed peas, sorted and soaked overnight
  • 1 large yellow onion, sliced
  • 1 rib celery, sliced
  • 1 large smoked ham hock (or 2 small)

  • 1 garlic clove, minced

  • Pinch hot pepper flakes or paprika (optional)
  • 3 cups water or stock, salted to taste
  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

  1. Rinse the black-eyed peas and add them to the slow cooker. Add the onion, celery, ham hock, garlic, hot pepper flakes and water to the slow cooker.
  2. Cover the slow cooker, and cook on high for 1 hour. Set the heat to low, and cook an additional 7 to 8 hours.
  3. Season the black-eyed peas with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.

Tips

  • If you don't have time to soak the black-eyed peas overnight, simmer them in salted water or stock until al dente (about 40 minutes) before adding them to the slow cooker.

    Add layers of aroma and flavor with a melange of herbs and aromatics. To add background flavors, add a bay leaf, a couple of parsley stems and black peppercorns. To finish the dish with a flourish, add a handful of mixed herbs that include freshly chopped coriander, parsley and thyme in the last 5 minutes of cooking.

    To make Hoppin' John, another timeless Southern classic, add 1 diced green bell pepper, 2 or 3 diced carrots, 1 halved and seeded jalapeno pepper, 1 bunch collard greens and a couple tablespoons of lemon juice or vinegar to the slow cooker. Finish the dish by stirring in 1 bunch of sliced green onions, and serve over white rice.

    You can use any dried bean in this recipe. Try Great Northern, red beans, butter beans or chickpeas for an interesting variation.

    If you have an aversion to pork, substitute a smoked turkey leg for the ham hock.

About the Author

A.J. Andrews' work has appeared in Food and Wine, Fricote and "BBC Good Food." He lives in Europe where he bakes with wild yeast, milks goats for cheese and prepares for the Court of Master Sommeliers level II exam. Andrews received formal training at Le Cordon Bleu.