June 05, 2022


Well, I didn't end up being able to make the more "adventurous" recipe that I hoped to try yesterday. I had to order an ingredient from Amazon and it should be here today. I will spoil the surprise and tell you that I'm going to attempt making vegan mozzarella "cheese". To people who have eaten a vegan diet for a while, it may not sound interesting at all; but I just can't imagine making something that truly resembles cheese! Supposedly, it's sliceable, shreddable, and meltable. So it'll be a fun experiment.

Instead, I'm going to write a review of Hoppin' John by Sweet Potato Soul (I will link to it again at the end of the post) that I made earlier this week. I'd never had Hoppin' John before; I just knew that it had black-eyed peas and rice. The ingredients for this vegan version were very straight-forward--nothing that I wouldn't already have: cooking oil, onion, jalapeño, celery, garlic, brown rice, bay leaf, thyme, black pepper, vegetable broth, black-eyed peas, smoked paprika, hot sauce, and parsley.

When I choose recipes, I usually just look at the ingredients and decide if it sounds good. I don't read through the directions until it's time to cook, and after making this, I think I should probably do that. Once I started cooking, I saw that the recipe said to add the rice and "stir well" and then let it cook with the lid ajar. Later, you stir in the paprika.

It's no secret that I *love* rice. When I cook rice, I never, ever stir it (unless it's risotto or another dish that is meant to be creamy). I bring it to a boil, put the lid on tight, set the timer, and when the timer goes off, I remove the lid and use a skewer to stir it--sounds odd to stir with a skewer, but it keeps the rice from clumping together and/or getting gummy. Stirring while cooking leads to gummy rice as well.

However, I went against my instincts and followed the recipe as-written.

First, heat the oil and cook the onions, celery, and jalapeño.

Add the garlic and brown rice, stir well (no liquid at this point, so it was just toasting the rice a bit).

Add the bay leaf, thyme, black pepper, and broth. Stir well, then cover with lid, leaving it ajar. 

Cook 10 minutes, then add the black-eyed peas. Cook until rice is tender. Stir in the smoked paprika. I *really* didn't want to stir it at this point because I could see that it was a bit clumpy. I stirred in the paprika as gently as I could, but it wasn't turning out well. The black-eyed peas were mushy from cooking so long with the brown rice (brown rice takes a while to cook). And sure enough, the whole dish was very gummy.

This picture shows the texture a little better: 

Jerry and I each took a bowl of it and gave it a taste. The flavors were great! If not for the texture, I would have really liked it. I'm going to make it again--maybe trying out different recipe--but I would definitely either cook the rice separately or I wouldn't stir it or open the lid while the rice was cooking. I would also wait until the last five minutes or so to add the black-eyed peas so that they don't get mushy.

I made this hoping that Jerry and the kids would like it (I want to find a few go-to vegan meals that the whole family likes). Jerry thought it was good; like me, he liked the flavors but thought the texture was gummy (I don't like that I keep using that word, but it's the best way to describe it). The kids took a bite and they weren't wowed but said it was okay.

Overall, the flavors were great! I just like rice to be light and fluffy, so the texture was the disappointing part for me. I don't think I've ever cooked with black-eyed peas before--I only ever use them in a bean dip that doesn't require cooking. It just never occurs to me to use them in place of other beans sometimes--so after making this, I am inspired to try them in other recipes. Kroger puts the black-eyed peas with the canned peas and not with the beans, so I always forget about them.

You can find this full recipe for Hoppin' John at Sweet Potato Soul.


  1. I am looking forward to hearing about your experiment. To date I have not found one good vegan cheese. They are typically gummy & oily. I have substituted crumbled tofu for ricotta in Italian recipes & that actually tasted good.

    1. Now I'm very curious to try it! Surprisingly, I don't really miss cheese. I was going to make homemade pizza on Saturday and wanted to try a margherita pizza with vegan mozzarella. I got the ingredient I needed, so hopefully I'll get to try it in the next few days.

  2. Hey, just wanted to chime in as someone born and raised in Louisiana and also now vegan! Traditionally when we made Hoppin' John, we always cooked the rice separately and that's still how I make it. It may vary by region in the South, but that's how we always did it. I also would recommend (if your Kroger has this) getting the Kroger brand black eyed peas in the frozen section. They keep their "chew" a bit more than the canned ones and are more forgiving with long cooking times.

    I can also recommend this recipe if you're into bean and rice dishes. It's very flavorful but has minimal ingredients and is cheap. I make it quite often and serve it with rice, and sometimes roasted plantains on the side: https://www.cocoandash.com/quick-cuban-black-beans/

    Regarding cheese, if you're doing pizza then Violife, Trader Joe's and Miyoko's all have decent mozzarella. It doesn't melt or stretch the same, but tastes pretty good. The smoked mozzarella from Miyoko's is especially good. There are good vegan snacking cheeses out there, but they are quite expensive. My friend Liz has some nice "cheese" recipes on her blog: https://zardyplants.com/recipes/cheezes/12-nut-free-vegan-cheese-recipes/

    I also make this all of the time and it's so delicious and a hit at parties! https://www.connoisseurusveg.com/maple-dijon-vegan-cheese-ball/

    Hope all of that helps!


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