5 foods that are traditionally eaten for luck in the New Year

Be sure to stock up on black-eyed peas, pomegranate seeds and more!

By Joy Saha

Staff Writer

Published December 29, 2022 11:00AM (EST)

Grapes, Pomegranates and Oranges (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)
Grapes, Pomegranates and Oranges (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)

New Year's Day is just around the corner, meaning it's time to write your resolutions and partake in the Greek custom of smashing plates before the clock strikes twelve. The special day is all about good fortune and prosperity. So, if you're looking to usher in more luck in 2023, be sure to also enjoy a plateful of lucky foods

Per Southern superstition and traditions, black-eyed peas, greens and cornbread represent coins, paper money and gold, thus guaranteeing a year of financial success. There's also the Spanish tradition of eating 12 grapes at midnight on New Year's Eve for good luck and the Irish tradition of banging fresh baked bread against a door to get rid of any misfortune.

Here's a look at five foods that are commonly eaten for luck in the New Year:

Black-Eyed Peas

Initially, the earthy beans were used as food for both livestock and slaves in the South. But they were regarded as lucky during the Civil War, when the Confederate Army survived the harsh cold on nothing but black-eyed peas. 

Today, the beans are enjoyed in Hoppin' John, a Southern dish that features black-eyed peas cooked with rice, pork (be it ham, hambones or bacon), seasonings, chopped onions and hot sauce. There's also Texas Caviar, a cold dip made with Black-eyed peas, pinto beans, black beans, diced celery, diced green bell pepper, corn and tomatoes; and a simple Black-Eyed Pea Salad.


In Spain and parts of Latin America, 12 green grapes are eaten exactly at midnight to ward off bad luck. The tradition is said to have begun in the early 1990s, but newspaper articles suggest that it actually started in the 1880s, when Madrid's bourgeoisie copied the French tradition of eating grapes and drinking champagne on the last day of the year.

"Before long this custom had been adopted by certain madrileños who went to Puerta del Sol to see the bells chime at the turning of the year and, most likely in an ironic or mocking manner, to eat grapes like the upper class," wrote Jeff Koehler at NPR.

In addition to eating them as they are, the grapes can be enjoyed in salmon with red grape agrodolce, an Italian meal of salmon and grapes seasoned with herbs de Provence before being broiled, grape and prosciutto crostini or a grape galette with orange marmalade.


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Pomegranate Seeds

According to USA Today, pomegranate seeds are commonly enjoyed in the Middle East on New Year's when they are at peak ripeness. The seeds also have "symbolic power," per food historian Megan Elias, and are associated with both life and fertility. 

In Brazil, seven pomegranate seeds and seven grapes are eaten for financial prosperity and good luck. If you don't want to eat the pomegranate seeds on their own, try incorporating them in cranberry pomegranate margaritas, pomegranate orange muffins or pomegranate gelato.


It makes sense why dumplings are considered lucky in Chinese tradition, considering that they resemble pouches filled with money and coins. Dumplings also symbolize both prosperity and longevity.

For a list of dumpling meals, check out Brinda Ayer's list of 24 cozy dumpling recipes. There's sweet and spicy sesame dumplings, savory potato and onion knishes, shish barak (Lebanese Lamb Dumplings in Yogurt Sauce) and beet casunziei.


In the same vein as black-eyed peas, lentils resemble coins that represent good luck and prosperity. "Lentils are served on New Year's Eve after midnight. The lentils, with their coinlike shape, represent luck and prosperity," wrote Kristofor Husted for NPR. "The dish is often served with cotechino, a spicy pork sausage, and zampone, a deboned pig trotter stuffed with sausage meat."

Lentils are best enjoyed in rustic soups and stews and dal chawal, which is lentils curry over basmati rice.

Whatever your tradition is, there's plenty of lucky foods to enjoy amid the holidays.

By Joy Saha

Joy Saha is a staff writer at Salon, covering Culture and Food. She holds a BA in journalism from the University of Maryland, College Park.


Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Black-eyed Peas Dumplings Food Grapes Lentils New Year's Day Pomegranate Seeds Traditions