What Do Black-Eyed Peas Symbolize? Uncovering the Meanings Behind this Popular Legume

Looking for a versatile and nutrient-dense food? Look no further than black-eyed peas! These small, creamy legumes have been a staple food in many cultures for centuries and are known for their versatility in dishes ranging from soups and stews to salads and dips. Plus, they offer a long list of health benefits that make them a great addition to any diet.

But there’s more to black-eyed peas than just their tasty flavor and nutritional profile. Did you know that they have long been thought to represent good luck and prosperity? In the southern United States, it’s traditional to eat black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day for good luck throughout the coming year. In West Africa, they are also thought to symbolize abundance, and are often served at special occasions like weddings and festivals. So not only are they delicious and good for you, but they also have rich cultural significance.

Whether you’re a die-hard fan of black-eyed peas or have yet to discover their magic, there’s no denying the impact they’ve had on the culinary world and beyond. So why not give them a try in your own kitchen and see what all the fuss is about? Who knows – you might just find yourself feeling luckier and more prosperous than ever before!

History of Black-eyed Peas Symbolism

For centuries, black-eyed peas have played a significant role in various cultures, and their symbolism dates back to ancient times. The specific symbolism of black-eyed peas differs among different cultures. In ancient Egypt, the peas were considered to be a symbol of good luck and were commonly consumed during festivities. On the other hand, in Greece and Rome, black-eyed peas were seen as a sign of mourning and were offered to the dead as a symbol of remembrance.

The symbolism of black-eyed peas, as we know it today, has its roots in West Africa. The peas, along with rice and yams, were brought to the Americas during the transatlantic slave trade. Enslaved Africans who were brought to the southern states of America continued to grow and consume these crops and gave them significant cultural importance. The peas, in particular, were considered to be powerful symbols of luck, prosperity, and resilience.

Symbolic Meanings of Black-eyed Peas

  • Good Luck: As the most popular symbolic association, black-eyed peas are believed to bring good luck when consumed during New Year’s Day. This tradition goes back to the Civil War era, where Union soldiers considered these peas to be food for livestock. Therefore, Confederate soldiers overlooked these peas, and they became a symbol of luck.
  • Money and Prosperity: It is believed that black-eyed peas symbolize money and prosperity as they resemble coins. Eating black-eyed peas signifies a wish for financial success and abundance in the coming year.
  • Resilience and Strength: Black-eyed peas have deep roots and are known to withstand rough conditions. Eating them is a symbol of strength, resilience, and endurance, especially in difficult times.

Black-eyed Peas in American Cuisine

With the cultural significance of black-eyed peas, it is no surprise that they have become a staple in Southern cuisine. The peas are usually cooked with ham hocks or bacon, onion, garlic, and other herbs and spices, and served with rice or cornbread. The dish is commonly known as Hoppin’ John or Carolina peas and rice and is traditionally eaten on New Year’s Day to bring good luck and prosperity for the upcoming year.


Black-eyed peas hold a deep cultural significance in various parts of the world and continue to be celebrated and consumed to this day. The symbolism of black-eyed peas is a testament to the resilience, strength, and hope of those who have cultivated and consumed them throughout history.

EgyptGood Luck
Greece and RomeMourning and Remembrance
West Africa and AmericaGood luck, prosperity, resilience, and strength

Whether you’re eating them for tradition or taste, black-eyed peas will always remain a significant and beloved cultural symbol.

Biblical References to Black-eyed Peas

Black-eyed peas have a rich history dating back to ancient times, and hold a significant place in American soul food cuisine. In addition, these legumes are also mentioned in the Bible, which provides some insight into their symbolic significance.

  • Genesis 25:30-34 tells the story of Esau, who sold his birthright to his brother Jacob for a bowl of lentil stew. While black-eyed peas are not specifically mentioned in this passage, they are a type of lentil and are therefore associated with the exchange of a birthright.
  • The book of Ruth, which takes place during the time of the Judges, mentions black-eyed peas as a staple food. Ruth and her mother-in-law Naomi return to Bethlehem during the barley harvest and Ruth gleans leftover grain from a field. When she returns home, Naomi instructs her to prepare a grain and black-eyed pea dish for them to eat.
  • In the New Testament, the parable of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15:11-32 features a father who prepares a feast for his son’s return. One of the dishes served is believed to be a black-eyed pea stew, which represents the father’s generosity and abundance.

Overall, Biblical references to black-eyed peas showcase their importance as a staple food and their symbolic significance in various stories. From birthrights to generosity, these legumes hold a special place in history and culture both in and out of the Bible.

Black-eyed Peas in African Culture

Black-eyed peas have a rich cultural history in Africa, dating back centuries. They are traditionally known as cowpeas and are a staple in many African cuisines.

The Symbolism of Three

In many African cultures, the number three is symbolic and significant. This also applies to the use of black-eyed peas in traditional African dishes. In West African culture, black-eyed peas are often used in dishes with three other ingredients, including okra, onions, and tomatoes. This combination is known as Ghana salad or African salad.

The use of three ingredients in this dish represents a trinity within African culture. In many African religions, the number three represents the Holy Trinity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It also represents the unity of the past, present, and future or the creation, survival, and destruction of life. The use of black-eyed peas in this combination signifies prosperity, luck, and abundance.

  • The use of black-eyed peas in Ghana salad or African salad represents:
  • Prosperity
  • Luck
  • Abundance

In other parts of Africa, black-eyed peas are often a part of a dish that is prepared with three different meats, such as beef, pork, and chicken. This represents a combination of different cultures, as many African dishes have roots in cultures that have influenced African cuisine throughout history.

The use of black-eyed peas in African culture signifies the importance of unity, tradition, and cultural significance. It is a reminder of the importance of maintaining cultural traditions and values, while also embracing new ideas and beliefs.

The table below illustrates the different uses of black-eyed peas in African cultures:

Country/RegionBlack-Eyed Pea DishSignificance
GhanaGhana salad/African saladProsperity, luck, and abundance
NigeriaEwa agoyinSpiciness and richness in flavor
South AfricaBredebonSymbol of peace, unity, and goodwill

In conclusion, black-eyed peas play an important role in African culture and are used to symbolize various values and beliefs. From prosperity and unity to spiciness and peace, black-eyed peas have a rich cultural significance that is firmly rooted in African traditions.

Superstitions Surrounding Black-eyed Peas

Black-eyed peas have long been associated with a variety of superstitions and beliefs. In fact, many people believe that consuming black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day can bring good luck, prosperity, and abundance throughout the year. Here are some of the most popular superstitions surrounding this humble legume:

The Number 4

The number 4 plays an important role in many black-eyed pea superstitions. Some people believe that it is good luck to eat exactly 365 black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day – one for each day of the year. Others believe that eating four black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day will bring good luck for the four seasons of the year. Additionally, some believe that it is unlucky to eat an odd number of black-eyed peas, and that the number 4 brings stability and balance.

Four peas for luckEating four peas for each season of the year is said to bring good luck.
365 peas for prosperityEating 365 black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day is believed to bring prosperity throughout the year.
Even number for luckSome believe that an even number of peas brings good luck, while an odd number can bring bad luck.

Overall, the number 4 is seen as a positive and lucky number when it comes to black-eyed pea superstitions. Whether you believe in the power of this legume or not, there’s no denying that adding a little bit of extra luck to your New Year’s Day celebration can’t hurt.

Eating Black-eyed Peas for Good Luck

Black-eyed peas are a staple food in many Southern households, especially during the New Year’s Day. They are believed to bring good luck and prosperity to those who consume them. Traditionally, black-eyed peas are cooked with ham hock or bacon in a dish called “Hoppin’ John.” But what do black-eyed peas symbolize, and why are they eaten for good luck? In this article, we will explore the different meanings behind black-eyed peas and their significance in Southern Cuisine.

The Number 5

The number five holds great importance in Southern folklore and culinary traditions. Some believe that eating five black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day will bring good luck for the whole year. Others believe that eating black-eyed peas on the fifth day of January will ensure good luck for the upcoming year. This superstition stems from African cultures where the number five was associated with good fortune, protection, and divine grace.

  • In Chinese cuisine, the number five is also considered lucky, representing the five elements: earth, air, fire, water, and metal.
  • The ancient Greeks believed that the number five represented the divine union of masculine and feminine principles.
  • In Islam, there are five pillars of faith, including the declaration of faith, prayer, charity, fasting, and pilgrimage.

Therefore, the number five is not only a lucky number for some cultures but also symbolizes balance, harmony, and wholeness.

The Significance of Black-Eyed Peas

The history of black-eyed peas is rooted in Africa and the African diaspora. They were brought to the American South by enslaved Africans and were a popular staple food due to their nutritional value and resistance to disease. Over time, black-eyed peas became associated with good luck and prosperity, and their consumption on New Year’s Day became a widespread tradition in Southern cuisine.

Some believe that the peas themselves represent coins, while others say they symbolize abundance, fertility, and humility. Whatever the symbolism, black-eyed peas have become integral to Southern cuisine and culture.


Eating black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day is a cultural tradition rooted in deep-seated superstitions and beliefs. The number five plays a significant role in this tradition, symbolizing balance, harmony, and wholeness. So, as you sit down to your plate of Hoppin’ John, remember the significance behind black-eyed peas and their powerful symbolism of good luck and prosperity.


So, whether you believe in the superstitions or not, there’s no harm in enjoying a plate of black-eyed peas for good measure. Maybe, just maybe, those five little peas will bring you the good fortune you deserve.

Traditional Black-eyed Peas Recipes

Black-eyed peas are a staple food in the Southern United States, particularly on New Year’s Day. These legumes are believed to bring good luck for the coming year, as they symbolize coins or wealth. They are often seasoned with pork, representing positive motion in life, and served with collard greens or cornbread.

In addition to their symbolism, black-eyed peas are also a nutritional powerhouse, rich in fiber, protein, and several essential vitamins and minerals. Here are some traditional recipes:

  • Hoppin’ John: This classic Southern dish features black-eyed peas, rice, and smoked ham hocks or bacon. It is often served with collard greens and cornbread.
  • Black-eyed Pea and Tomato Salad: This refreshing summer salad combines black-eyed peas, diced tomatoes, cucumber, and red onion with a simple vinaigrette dressing.
  • Black-eyed Pea Soup: This hearty soup is made with black-eyed peas, diced tomatoes, onions, celery, and Cajun seasoning, and can be served with crusty bread.

If you’re looking for something a bit more unusual, consider trying these recipes:

Black-eyed Pea Falafel: This Middle Eastern-inspired take on falafel uses black-eyed peas instead of chickpeas and is flavored with cumin, coriander, and garlic. Serve with tahini sauce and pita bread.

1 can black-eyed peas, drained and rinsedCombine black-eyed peas, garlic, cumin, coriander, flour, egg, and salt in a food processor; pulse until mixture is smooth.
2 garlic cloves, choppedRefrigerate for 30 minutes.
1 tsp ground cuminForm mixture into small balls and flatten slightly.
1 tsp ground corianderHeat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.
⅓ cup flourCook falafel until golden and crispy, about 3 minutes per side.
1 large eggDrain on paper towels.
1 tsp salt
Oil for frying

Black-eyed Pea Salsa: This fresh and spicy salsa is made with black-eyed peas, corn, jalapeno pepper, and fresh lime juice. Serve with tortilla chips for a festive appetizer.

Whether you’re looking for a traditional New Year’s Day dish or a unique and flavorful recipe, black-eyed peas are sure to delight your taste buds and bring you good luck in the coming year.

Black-eyed Peas in Southern Cuisine

Black-eyed peas have been a staple in Southern cuisine for centuries. The dish is traditionally served on New Year’s Day as it symbolizes prosperity and good luck for the upcoming year.

  • Black-eyed peas are typically cooked with ham hocks or bacon to add flavor and complexity to the dish.
  • The dish is often served with collard greens and cornbread, both of which carry their own symbolic meanings in Southern culture.
  • Black-eyed peas are also used in a variety of other Southern dishes, including jambalaya and hoppin’ John.

But why do black-eyed peas specifically symbolize good luck and prosperity?

One theory is that during the Civil War, Union troops considered black-eyed peas to be suitable only for animal feed. As a result, they did not consume the peas themselves, leaving them for the Confederate soldiers and slaves. This allowed the Confederates and slaves to survive during a difficult time, leading to the peas being associated with resilience and good luck.

Another explanation comes from the ancient Babylonian tradition of consuming a dish made of lentils, which were thought to resemble coins, in order to bring wealth and abundance in the new year. When black-eyed peas were introduced to the South, they were thought to resemble the round shape of coins and were therefore adopted as a symbol of prosperity.

AmountCaloriesProtein (g)Fiber (g)
1 cup cooked black-eyed peas19813.211.0
1 cup cooked collard greens625.17.6
1 slice cornbread1733.61.5

Regardless of the reason, black-eyed peas have become a beloved part of Southern cuisine and a symbol of hope for a prosperous new year.

Health Benefits of Black-eyed Peas

Black-eyed peas are a versatile and nutritious legume that has been enjoyed by people all over the world for centuries. They are a rich source of vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber, making them an excellent addition to any healthy diet. In addition to its nutritional value, there are several other health benefits that black-eyed peas offer. Let’s take a closer look at some of these benefits:

  • Low in fat and high in protein: Black-eyed peas contain only a small amount of fat and are an excellent source of plant-based protein. One cup of cooked black-eyed peas provides around 13 grams of protein, which is equivalent to the amount of protein you get from one egg.
  • Rich in antioxidants: Black-eyed peas are a rich source of antioxidants, which help to protect the body against damage from harmful free radicals. These antioxidants include vitamin C, vitamin A, and flavonoids like quercetin and kaempferol.
  • Helps in weight loss: Black-eyed peas are low in calories and high in fiber, which makes them an excellent food for weight loss. Fiber helps to keep you feeling full for longer periods, which makes you less likely to overeat throughout the day.

One interesting fact about black-eyed peas is that it is often associated with the number 8. In the southern United States, black-eyed peas are traditionally eaten on New Year’s Day for good luck, as they are believed to symbolize wealth and prosperity. This tradition is said to have originated from the Civil War era when the peas were considered animal food and were left untouched by Union soldiers. As a result, many people in the south were able to survive on the peas during times of food shortage and famine.

Health Benefits of Black-eyed PeasAmount per 1 cup cooked
Vitamin A4%
Vitamin C8%

Overall, black-eyed peas are a delicious and nutritious food that can help to improve your health in many ways. Whether you are looking to lose weight, boost your immune system, or simply need a source of plant-based protein, black-eyed peas are an excellent choice.

Black-eyed Peas in the New Year’s Celebrations

The tradition of eating black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day is a longstanding one, particularly in the Southern United States. It’s believed that this tradition dates back to the Civil War era, when black-eyed peas were considered to be food for livestock and not fit for human consumption. However, as supplies ran low during the war, people began to turn to black-eyed peas as a source of nutrition.

Over time, eating black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day has become a rich cultural tradition with various beliefs associated with it. One such belief is that black-eyed peas are a symbol of good luck and prosperity. But what exactly does that mean, and what do the different aspects of the black-eyed pea tradition symbolize? Let’s take a closer look.

The Significance of the Number 9

  • One belief surrounding the black-eyed pea tradition is that it’s lucky to eat 365 black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day – one for each day of the year. But what if you don’t have that many peas? In some regions, people eat nine peas instead. This is because the number 9 is believed to be lucky.
  • The number 9 is considered lucky in many cultures around the world. In Chinese culture, it’s associated with longevity and eternality. In Japanese culture, it’s associated with good fortune.
  • When it comes to the black-eyed pea tradition, the number 9 is thought to be lucky because it represents the trinity of trinities. In Christianity, the number 3 is associated with the Holy Trinity (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit), and 3×3 is 9. This association with the divine is thought to bring good luck and blessings for the year ahead.

So, if you plan on incorporating black-eyed peas into your New Year’s Day celebrations, consider eating nine of them for an extra dose of good luck. And if you want to take it a step further, you can also add some collard greens (which represent money) and cornbread (which represents gold) to the meal for a complete symbol of prosperity.

Black-eyed Peas in Popular Culture (music, movies, literature, etc.)

Black-eyed peas have become a staple in Southern cuisine, but they have also made their way into popular culture. From music to movies to literature, black-eyed peas have become a symbol of luck, prosperity, and tradition.

  • Food and Music: In the music world, black-eyed peas have become synonymous with the group The Black Eyed Peas. The group, which includes members will.i.am, apl.de.ap, and Taboo, has sold more than 76 million records worldwide and is known for hits like “I Gotta Feeling” and “Where Is the Love?”. In addition, the band is known for its philanthropy, including its support of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. In the food world, black-eyed peas are a traditional Southern dish, often served on New Year’s Day to bring good luck and prosperity for the coming year.
  • Literature: Black-eyed peas have also made their way into literature. In the novel “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee, the character Calpurnia serves black-eyed peas to the Finch family. The dish becomes a symbol of the family’s connection to their African American housekeeper, and the tradition of eating black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day is mentioned as a way to ensure good luck and prosperity.
  • Movies and TV: In the movie “The Help,” which is set in the 1960s in Mississippi, a character named Aibileen tells her young charge Mae Mobley about the importance of eating black-eyed peas for good luck on New Year’s Day. In the TV show “Hart of Dixie,” black-eyed peas are mentioned as a traditional Southern food that is served on special occasions.

Overall, black-eyed peas have become a symbol of Southern tradition and are often associated with luck and prosperity. Whether it’s through music, movies, or literature, black-eyed peas have made their mark on popular culture and will continue to do so for years to come.

FAQs – What Do Black-Eyed Peas Symbolize?

1. Are black-eyed peas good luck?

Yes, black-eyed peas are often considered a symbol of good luck, particularly in the Southern United States. Eating black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day is thought to bring good luck and prosperity in the coming year.

2. Why are black-eyed peas associated with New Year’s Day?

The association between black-eyed peas and New Year’s Day is thought to have originated during the Civil War, when Union troops left the peas behind, considering them animal food. The peas became a staple for Confederate troops and were believed to have helped sustain them during the winter months. Today, they are eaten on New Year’s Day as a symbol of good luck and prosperity.

3. What do black-eyed peas represent in African American culture?

In African American culture, black-eyed peas are often seen as a symbol of resilience and survival. According to some stories, during times of enslavement, black-eyed peas were a staple food for African American people, who used the dish as a source of sustenance and a reminder of their cultural heritage.

4. Are black-eyed peas a healthy food?

Yes, black-eyed peas are a healthy food. They are packed with nutrients like protein and fiber and are low in fat. They are also a good source of iron, which is important for maintaining healthy blood.

5. How do you cook black-eyed peas?

Black-eyed peas can be cooked in a variety of ways, including boiling, pressure cooking, and slow cooking. They are often simmered with ham or bacon for flavor and can be served as a side dish or used in soups and stews.

6. Are black-eyed peas and beans the same thing?

No, black-eyed peas are not the same thing as beans. They are actually a type of legume, which is a plant that produces seeds in pods. Other types of legumes include chickpeas, lentils, and peanuts.

7. Can you freeze black-eyed peas?

Yes, you can freeze black-eyed peas. To freeze cooked black-eyed peas, simply let them cool to room temperature, then place them in an airtight container or freezer bag and store in the freezer for up to 6 months.

Closing Thoughts

Thanks for reading about what black-eyed peas symbolize. Whether you’re looking for good luck or just a tasty and nutritious meal, these legumes are a great choice. So go ahead and cook up some black-eyed peas today! And don’t forget to check back for more interesting articles like this one.