New Year's Good Luck Foods to Welcome 2022
Feast your eyes and stomach on these lucky recipes from around the world to boost your chances of a prosperous new year
As another crazy year comes to a close, we look ahead to next year being brighter and better. Some start the year with resolutions to quit smoking, go to the gym, or get organized to increase their chances for a good year. And while we do love a list of proactive goals, a little luck to improve the odds doesn’t hurt. But as food enthusiasts, we're turning to food for some much needed luck. With that in mind, we took New Year’s traditions from around the world and paired them with recipes to create a lucky feast to start the year off right.
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The traditional Japanese meal that brings luck and fortune for the year is the soba noodle — but be careful with this one; it has to be eaten BEFORE midnight on December 31. It symbolizes letting go of the old year, but if you eat these buckwheat noodles even a moment after midnight, the luck of the two years will be muddled rather than getting a fresh start for the new year.
For saying goodbye to the old year, we elected Sesame Soba Noodles to try for your last meal. It makes for a light meal to eat with anticipation for the year to come, and not only is it vegan, it’s also gluten-free and dairy-free so just about everyone can partake in this lucky meal.
Grapes for good luck
As the Japanese are slurping the last of their soba, in Spain and Mexico, they’re getting ready to pop grapes in their mouths. At midnight on New Year’s Eve, people eat twelve grapes one-by-one as the clock bell strikes twelve times to secure your luck for the year. The tradition is connected to Spain’s wine industry. It started as a way to guarantee a good harvest for the coming year.
If you don’t want to eat your grapes the traditional way, you can make a lucky salad as your first bite of the year with Arugula, Grape, and Almond Salad. Not only do you stay true to the tradition with grapes, but the Manchego, Marcona almonds, and sherry vinegar add a bit more Spanish flavor to your midnight bite.
Profiting with pomegranates
In Greece, good luck lies within the pomegranate. The tradition is to smash the pomegranate on the ground and the more explosive the result is, the more luck you’ll find in the year to come. The tradition has been linked to the Greek goddess Persephone and why she lurks in the underworld, but it’s unclear how smashing pomegranates determines your fortune. What is clear is that pomegranates are much tastier in this tart than smashed to bits on the ground. Either way you take them, consider yourself lucky.
Not only are beans delicious and good for you, but in some cultures, they’re also considered to be a bit of an edible talisman around the new year. While the United States doesn’t have many lucky foods for the new year, our Southern states have many traditional dishes that are ritually eaten on New Year’s Day to guarantee a lucky year, including beans. The bean of choice: black-eyed peas. They’re typically cooked with rice and pork (another lucky food we’ll get to later) in a dish called "hoppin' john." There are two credible theories as to why this is a lucky dish. One is that in the post-Civil War era black-eyed peas were one of the few crops still growing and could feed crowds. The other theory dates back further to the 1700s when European Jews settled in the South. It’s written in the Babylonian Talmud that eating black-eyed peas brings luck for the new year (Rosh Hashanah). There are many ways to serve black-eyed peas, but we’re sticking with Southern tradition with this selection: old-fashioned hoppin’ john.
It’s not just black-eyed peas that are lucky beans. Many European cultures serve lentils around the new year as a symbol of good fortune because they’re shaped like coins. In Japan, the luck of sweet black soybeans (Kuromame) manifests itself in good health for the coming year. Traditional recipes call for rusty nails, which is not an ingredient you can come by very easily, so we selected a rich lentil soup to bring you good fortune this year.
The color of money
It seems Southerners are all about eating for prosperity. The two other components to accompany hoppin' john for the traditional New Year’s Day meal are made with money in mind: cornbread (the color of gold) and greens (the color of paper money). Collard greens are probably the most common greens for New Year’s Day meals, but kale and cabbage are suitable substitutes. For our selection, we went with Classic Southern Collard Greens. And for our cornbread pick, we didn’t want to mess with tradition, so we decided on a tried and true basic cornbread. However, if you want to get extra rich this year, you can throw a few corn kernels into your cornbread to enhance the Southern tradition.
Fishing for fortune
In some Eastern European countries and Scandinavia, to guarantee the next 365 days are bountiful, the first bite of the year must be of pickled herring. In Germany and Poland, some believe it’s because the scales of the fish are shiny, resembling coins. However, in the Czech Republic, getting herring is a big deal because it’s expensive to ship inland, which is also why it’s pickled. It’s thought that eating such a valuable food begets a prosperous new year.
If you'd like to make pickled herring for your New Year's meal, this is an easy recipe to execute. There's a little bit of flour and frying before the pickling. You just have to make sure it's sitting in vinegar a day in advance of your meal and you'll be that much closer to a lucky new year.
Pork for prosperity
German tradition dictates eating pork to secure a year of bounty. Pigs root forward, which is considered a symbol of progress (whereas some cultures steer clear of chickens because they scratch backward or crabs and lobsters because they walk backward, symbolizing regression). And while the idea is to eat the meat of the pig, the tradition doesn’t leave out vegetarians — eating pig-shaped foods like cookies and cakes counts as lucky. But for this recipe selection, we’re going with a traditional German pork dish of Jägerschnitzel.
Jägerschnitzel is a pork cutlet pounded out, breaded, pan-fried, and served smothered in a mushroom sauce. If you’re going all-out for your New Year’s Day meal, this makes an excellent main dish.
Sweet circles of success
Dessert completes the circle of the year in some cultures, but they have to be round or made in the form of a ring to bring you luck for the coming year. In Denmark, they pull out all the stops for a lucky dessert with the kransekage. It’s an almond cake (read: gluten-free!) made up of many concentric circles stacked on top of each other. This recipe holds all the rings together with drizzles of icing between the rings.
In the Netherlands, the traditional dessert for a prosperous year is a much more subdued doughnut known as the oliebollen. Oliebollen are similar to doughnut holes only with the addition of raisins. This might be a more approachable recipe to try than the kransekage, but whichever dessert you choose, you're in for a sweet year. If those don't suit you, any round cake or doughnut will suffice.
More New Year's recipes
Whether you're planning a New Year's shindig or celebrating low-key, check out some of these festive appetizers and cocktails.