Make use of the bone from your holiday ham and cook up a batch of this Slow Cooker Ham and Bean Soup. It is the perfect post-holiday comfort food to enjoy with your family.
If you’ve never cooked beans from scratch I’m going to do my best to motivate you to do exactly that with this post today. Since we’re just days away from Christmas weekend and you may very well have ham on your menu, I’m sharing one of my favorite recipes that makes use of the all-mighty ham bone and my tips and tricks to success when cooking with dry beans.
I love beans of every sort and keep a big supply of the canned variety on hand at all times but from time to time, and especially after the holidays when I’ve got a ham bone on my hands, I feel the necessity to open a bag of dry beans and go the distance.
It’s not fast but it’s actually quite easy and the result will be fabulous if you don’t try to rush things.
This recipe is perfect for the days following the holiday when you’re home and feeling the need for a little wholesome comfort food. After all that holiday indulgence, this Slow Cooker Ham and Bean Soup will really hit the spot.
I prefer the overnight soak method when cooking beans from scratch because it is one of very few kitchen tasks that can be done while sleeping! Pour the contents of a 1 pound bag of dry Great Northern beans into a large pot and add enough water to cover them by about 2″. Allow the beans to soak overnight. See recipe note for the an alternative quick soak method.
The next day, drain and rinse the soaked beans and transfer them to your slow cooker insert. They will have plumped up quite a bit and be ready for the cooking process.
Add some chopped onion, celery, carrot, and minced garlic to the slow cooker and the simple seasonings – dry thyme, dry mustard, salt, and freshly ground black pepper. Trust me, the ham will add so much wonderful, smoky flavor you don’t want to add more than a minimal amount of seasoning.
In goes 5 cups of low-sodium chicken broth, a couple of bay leaves, and your leftover meaty ham bone. It’s fine if your bone is not quite as meaty as this one. I was planning ahead and left quite a bit of meat on the bone for my soup. An important note – trim off excess fat and give the ham bone a rinse under cool water to remove any sweet glaze.
Cover the slow cooker, set it to HIGH, and let it cook for 1 hour. Reduce the temperature to LOW and let it cook and additional 5 to 6 hours or until the beans are tender.
Remove the ham bone and transfer it to a cutting board.
Add a small can of tomato sauce and stir to combine. Transfer about 1/3 of the soup mixture to a blender or food processor and process for a minute or two. Return the puréed soup to the slow cooker, cover, and continue to cook for an additional 20 to 30 minutes. Puréeing a portion of the soup is an optional step but I like the velvety texture it adds. If you’d prefer a more broth-like consistency, you can skip it.
In the meantime, remove the ham from the bone and chop it into small pieces.
Remove and discard the bay leaves and add the chopped ham to the soup.
Stir in some chopped fresh parsley and you are ready to serve this hearty, absolutely wonderful made-from-scratch ham and bean soup!
Tips for Success When Cooking Dry Beans:
- If you don’t have time for the overnight soak you can speed things up with the quick soak method. See recipes notes for the details.
- Don’t add acid based items like tomato sauce or vinegar until after the beans have had their initial cooking time and have become tender. If added at the beginning, acid based ingredients can prevent the beans from softening.
- To determine when beans have cooked enough try biting into one or mashing it against the side of the slow cooker with a spoon. Properly cooked beans should be tender to the bite but still somewhat firm.
- Always start with fresh beans. Dry beans will last for up to a year if stored in an airtight container in a cool, dry place. Discard any older beans as they will not cook properly and may never become soft.
- Cooked beans freeze very well and will keep for several months.
Check out my other recipes that make use of leftover ham:
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- 1 pound dry Great Northern or navy beans
- Water, enough to cover dry beans by 2" for overnight soak
- 1 cup diced white or yellow onion
- 2 to 3 carrots, peeled and chopped
- 3 stalks celery, chopped
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 teaspoon dry mustard
- 1 teaspoon salt, plus additional if desired (taste and season after cooking)
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 meaty ham bone, (trimmed of excess fat and rinsed of any glaze)
- 5 to 6 cups low sodium chicken broth (as needed)
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 (8 ounce) can tomato sauce
- Fresh Italian (flat-leaf) parsley, for garnish (optional)
- The evening before you want to cook the soup, rinse beans, remove any debris and place in a large pot. Cover with water by at least 2" and soak beans overnight. They will more than double in size so choose your pot accordingly.
- The next day, drain and thoroughly rinse the soaked beans and transfer to a 6-quart slow cooker.
- Layer the remaining ingredients through the ham bone in the slow cooker in the order listed. Add about 5 cups of chicken broth, or just enough to cover the beans and veggies. Reserve any remaining chicken broth for later. Tuck the bay leaves into the mixture, cover and cook on HIGH for 1 hour. Reduce heat to LOW and continue to cook for an additional 5 to 6 hours. Stir occasionally during cooking time. When beans are tender, remove ham bone to a cutting board and remove and discard the bay leaves. Ad add the tomato sauce, stirring to combine. If you'd like a creamier texture, transfer about 1/3 of the soup to a blender or food processor and process until smooth. Return puréed soup to slow cooker, adding more broth, only if needed, to reach desired consistency. Cover and continue to cook for an additional 20 to 30 minutes.
- Meanwhile, pull ham off the bone and chop into small pieces. Return chopped ham to the slow cooker and discard ham bone. Stir in chopped parsley. Taste and season with additional salt and pepper, as needed.
If you'd prefer to soak and cook your beans on the same day, use this method. Place beans in a large pot and cover with two to three inches of cool water. Bring to a boil and keep at a high simmer for two minutes. Remove from heat, cover, and let stand for one hour. Drain beans and continue with recipe.
Soup will thicken quite a bit when refrigerated so thin it out with a bit of water or chicken broth when reheating.
Please note that prep time does not include time to soak the beans.