Southern Food Makeover: Potluck in a Pot – Chicken Stew with Greens, Black-eyed Peas, and Sweet Potatoes

There is nothing that I love more than good homestyle southern cooking.  My granny and my impressive gaggle of great aunts were all masters of the genre, and there is no collection of flavors that says “welcome home” to me any more than a traditional chicken dinner with all the sides:  black-eyed peas, greens, mashed potatoes, and sweet potato casserole.  Yum, yummy, yum!!!  My recipe for this week offers you a new dish that uses the traditionally southern ingredients and flavors of my favorite meal in a healthier way.  My whole family (ages 34 through 2.5) loved this one unreservedly.  Everybody over the age of 7 had seconds.  Somebody had thirds…okay, it was me.

Chicken Stew with Greens, Black-eyed Peas, and Sweet Potatoes

(Yields about 8-10 bowls of soup)


-2 tbsp. of olive oil

-1/2 of a medium yellow onion, sliced

-6 cups of fresh turnip greens, chopped into bite sized pieces

-2 tsp. of kosher salt

-1 tbsp. of garlic powder

-1 tbsp. of cumin

-1/4 tsp. of cinnamon

-8 cups of chicken broth

-2 cups of water

-1/2 cup of white wine

-1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar

-2 tbsp. of sugar

-1 tbsp. of Louisiana Hot Sauce

-3 cups of sweet potatoes, cut into a 1/2″ dice

-3 cups of yukon gold potatoes, cut into a 1/2″ dice

-2 boneless skinless chicken thighs

-2 cans of black-eyed peas, rinsed and drained


Heat the olive oil in a large soup pot.  Add the sliced onion, the kosher salt, the garlic, the cumin, and the cinnamon and cook until the onion becomes limp and translucent.  (You can add a little more oil if needed.)  Now add the turnip greens and stir until they wilt.  Next stir in the chicken broth, the water, the white wine, the vinegar, the sugar and the hot sauce.  Bring the mixture to a boil and boil for about 25-30 minutes.  Add the chicken thighs and continue boiling for about 10 more minutes.  Add the potatoes (both sweet and yukon gold) and boil for another 10 minutes.  Add the black-eyes peas and boil for a final 10 minutes.  Turn off the stove; remove the pot from the heat, and remove the chicken. Shred the chicken into small, bite-sized pieces, then add it back into the pot.  Finish the stew with a final pinch of garlic, cumin, and cinnamon.  Allow it to cool slightly and serve.

In case you were wondering:

Why use chicken thighs?  Why not breasts?  I personally like thighs.  Dark meat has a little more fat and that adds extra flavor.  You could certainly use chicken breasts if that’s what you like, but I would encourage you to try the stew with thighs!

This recipe asks me to add ingredients, then boil, then add more ingredients, then boil, etc.   Why can’t I add it all at the same time?  Different ingredients need to cook for different amounts of time.  That applies whether you’re cooking them separately or making a stew.  For this recipe, the turnip greens should be cooked until they’re soft.  That can take almost an hour.  The chicken has to be cooked all the way through.  That takes 20 or 30 minutes.  The potatoes should be nicely soft, but not mushy…Get the picture?  Resist the temptation to “throw it all in!”

I thought you were all about using fresh ingredients.  Why are we using canned black-eyed peas?  Fresh peas are delicious; however, cooking them with a lot of other ingredients- a la stew or soup – can be tricky.  Peas cook best when they can move freely while they boil.  If other things interfere and prevent them from circulating through the liquid, they take a LOT longer to cook.  Say a couple of hours instead of the usual 45 minutes.

Is this recipe low sodium?   To be perfectly honest, this recipe is not particularly low sodium.  It is low in fat and calories; however, I use regular as opposed to low sodium chicken broth.  This means that my soup recipes are not usually low sodium.  If your doctor has recommended that you follow a low sodium diet, you could certainly use low sodium broth and omit part or all of the kosher salt.

Note:  Erika’s recipe for collard greens provides a WONDERFUL explanation of how to process greens.  If you’re not sure how to chop the greens for this recipe, then see her explanation!