Ham and Bean soup is the best way to use up leftover ham! This savory, flavor packed soup can be made easily on the stove top, instant pot, or in your slow cooker!
Ham and Bean Soup:
Ham and bean soup is such a classic! One of my favorite meals from childhood served up with a warm slice of Homemade Cornbread. There is nothing cozier, or a more tasty way to use up any leftover ham you might have around. If you don't have leftover ham, you can use packaged diced ham too! Everyone makes ham & beans a little differently. I like to consider mine a little bit "upgraded" if you will. There is lots of great flavor going on because we make a simple broth using the ham bone (don't worry if you don't have one) and herbs like thyme, sage, rosemary, and smoked paprika!
Maybe the best part about this recipe is there is a method for everyone, you can make this on the stove if you prefer, or just as easily in your instant pot or slow cooker. Let's chat about the differences so you can pick one!
- Stove top method: You'll need a large, heavy bottomed pot or dutch oven. You'll use butter and olive oil (best flavor using both!) and cook your onions, the hambone if you have one, and garlic. Then, it's just a matter of adding in the rest of your ingredients and simmering. For the stove, you'll need to simmer on low heat for a good 60-90 minutes. The longer it goes, the better the flavor.
- Slow cooker method: This one starts out the same as above because you will want to go ahead and cook down your onion, garlic, and ham bone before adding to the pot. Then, everything goes in and you'll want to cook on low for a good 6-8 hours.
- Instant pot method: This is definitely the fastest method, although I'm partial to making mine on the stove, personally. If you want this soup fast, this is the way to go! It turns this into a one pot meal because you can do your saute right in the instant pot. Then, just cook on the soup setting for 30 minutes.
Ham and Bean Soup Recipe Notes:
- For this recipe, I call for using the ham bone as well as 1-2 cups of leftover chopped ham. I like both for best flavor and a meatier soup. If you don't have the ham bone, don't worry. You can make your broth using diced leftover ham only, as well as sub some of the water for broth to amp up the flavor.
- This recipe uses mostly water, again unless you don't have the ham bone and need some broth for flavor. Don't be tempted to use all broth though, it will make your soup way too salty if you do.
- I recommend not adding in any salt to this soup until it's completely finished cooking. You'll be surprised at how salty the ham/ham bone are already and they season the soup. Sometimes, I only need to add extra pepper and no salt at all depending on how salty my ham was.
- You can use dried or canned white beans for this soup. Any type of white beans are perfectly fine. Keep in mind that dried beans need to be soaked overnight, so follow the package directions. Canned beans don't need soaked, just drained and rinsed. Also, note the differences below in the recipe card because the dried beans go into the soup sooner than if using canned.
- Use the herbs that you have on hand! I always keep thyme, rosemary, and sage, dried on hand. You can also use fresh if you have that. If you are out of one of those spices, you can add in extra of one of the others. Don't skimp on them if you can help it, this is what flavors your broth.
- This soup can be made ahead and refrigerated for up to 3 days. You can also allow cool completely and then freeze for up to 3 months. For best results, thaw the soup in the refrigerator overnight before reheating.
Ham and Bean Soup
- 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
- 2 Tablespoons Butter
- 1 Large Yellow Onion Diced
- 1 Ham Bone, SEE NOTE
- 4 Cloves Garlic Minced
- 9 Cups Water, SEE NOTE
- 1 Tablespoon Brown Sugar
- 2 Bay Leaves
- 1 teaspoon Thyme
- ½ teaspoon Sage
- ½ teaspoon Rosemary
- ½ teaspoon Smoked Paprika
- 1-2 Cups Leftover Chopped Ham
- 3 Cans White Beans, drained and rinsed OR 1 Pound Dried White Beans, SEE NOTE
STOVE TOP METHOD:
- Heat the olive oil and butter in a large pot over medium heat.
- Add in the diced onion, ham bone if using, and garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally for 3-4 minutes until onion is soft.
- Pour about ¼ cup of water into the pot and use a wooden spoon to scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan.
- Add the remaining water, brown sugar, bay leaves, thyme, sage, rosemary, and paprika to the pot and stir. At this point if you are not using a ham bone, add in the 2 cups of chopped ham as well. If using dried beans, add them to the pot now. If using canned beans, do not add them yet.
- Bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer, covered for 60 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Once the 60 minutes is up, discard the ham bone if using. If you haven't yet, add in your chopped ham, and if using canned beans, add them to the soup now. Simmer over low heat for 20 more minutes until beans are soft.
SLOW COOKER METHOD:
- Heat the olive oil and butter in a large pot over medium heat.
- Cook the onion and garlic, stirring occasionally for 3-4 minutes until soft.
- Pour the onion and garlic mixture into the bottom of a 6 quart or larger slow cooker. Add in the remaining ingredients, including dried beans if using. If using canned beans, do not add them yet.
- Cover and cook on low for 6-7 hours until beans are tender.
- If using canned beans, add them to the slow cooker during the last 30 minutes of cooking time.
- Remove the ham bone before serving.
INSTANT POT METHOD:
- Heat the olive oil and butter in the bottom of your instant pot insert on saute mode.
- Add the diced onion and ham bone and cook, stirring occasionally just until soft. Add the garlic and cook, stirring constantly for 1 minute.
- Turn the pot off. Add in all remaining ingredients and cook on SOUP setting for 30 minutes if using dried beans and for 20 minutes if using canned beans.
- Once the cooking time is up, allow the pot to come to pressure naturally for 10 minutes, then do a quick release.
- Discard the ham bone if using before serving.
I've always made ham and beans the old way - soak the beans overnight, then simmer them with a hamhock (or shank if I can find one), for hours. Yesterday, a chilly and windy autumn day, I was really craving ham and beans and I began to wonder if I could use canned beans since I was not prepared to make it my usual way.
Honestly, the thought of using canned beans had never before occurred to me!
I found this recipe and followed the basics of it, using canned beans and packaged diced ham. It turned out absolutely wonderful and totally delicious!
Thanks so much for this recipe. I may not have followed it precisely but it gave me a fantastic foundation to build upon, and it was WAY quicker than the old fashioned way.
Cassie OBrien says
I love this recipe but did make a couple of changes. I added a cup or so of diced celery and the same amount of diced carrots. I sautéd the veg in left over bacon fat and butter instead of the olive oil. I also substituted 1/2 of the water with ham juices i saved from the night I made the ham. I just scraped the solidified fat off the top of the container I saved the juices in and tossed and just used the pure juices that were left. I didn't use the sugar as I've never had this soup with sugar in it. Great tip you gave on holding off on the salt till the end as my soup didn't need any additional salt.
Just an FYI ham hocks work as a great substitute for the ham bone. Just find really meaty ham hocks.
If you make cornbread with your bean soup try to always make it in a cast iron skillet and use left over bacon fat instead of vegetable oil or olive oil. Try jazzing it up by adding a can of creamed corn, some diced onion, a jalapeño pepper, some cheddar cheese and/or some crumbled bacon to your batter. Makes a great cornbread.
Yvonne Hill says
All of your recipes are delicious! I can’t wait to try this one!
If using canned beans do I need to use all that water? My servings are set at 12.
Jason, I made this but cut the water back to 6 cups and used the whole can of Great northern beans (did not drain) I think you get more flavor from the bean juice than water! I also added an extra can of beans to mine, so I used 4 cans which have almost 6oz of liquid each, which is equal to 3 cups. Hope that helps!
Can this be made with pinto beans? Will it be as good? I’ve actually never eaten white beans…
Yes, pinto beans work great 🙂
Hi! I made this last night. Fantastic! Love the seasoning. Since I didn’t have a ham bone and left over ham, (I usually make split pea and ham soup from my Christmas ham with the bone). I used cottage ham instead. Turned out fantastic! The seasons made this. Will be making it your way from now on. Thank you for this recipe. I also added carrots, celery, and onion.
Stacey Everett says
If I don’t have ham bones can I use 2 ham hocks?
That should work1 🙂
After making bean and ham soup for over 40 years this is is the best navy bean soup and ham I have ever made! I did
not add the sugar as we like more savory instead of sweet.
Thank you for this great recipe!
Michelle Sagerman says
Do I need to drain the beans from the can?
Mary A says
Yes, drain and rinse per the instructions in the opening paragraphs.
Love this recipe and every time I make it it gets excellent reviews.
Absolutely delicious. Only change I made is to add some carrots. A keeper!
I used a ham slice with a piece of bone
in it. I left out the sugar, added carrots,
and a small can of tomato sauce.
It was fantastic! Thank you for the
GLenn Hemperly says
Put some hard boiled eggs in just before serving, chopped (course)
Jay Wilson says
I changed it up a little. Hands down the most amazing tasting and visually appealing soup I have made.
This is a great recipe, and I like the flexibility that you describe. I used dried Black Beans and fresh herbs such as rosemary from my garden. The key step you is browning the ingredients before cooking.
Excellent recipe! This was my first time making bean soup as I didn't care for it as a kid, ya know dad always had to use that ham bone. This however turned out amazing.
Blanca M Diaz says
I left out the brown sugar
it was delish