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 one-third 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.
More Leftover Ham Recipes
Slow Cooker Split Pea Soup
White Bean and Ham Soup (quick method)
Baked Beans from Scratch
Slow Cooker Ham and Bean Soup
- 1 pound dry Great Northern or navy beans
- water, enough to cover dry beans by 2-inches 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
- 8 ounces 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-inches 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 ⅓ 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.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated using generic ingredients, and is an estimate not a guarantee. For more accurate results, please refer to the labels on your ingredients at home.
Questions and Reviews
I followed the recipe for the crockpot after soaking the beans overnight. Had never used dry mustard or thyme, but the flavor was delicious. Added 2 T. Of tomato paste and one drained can of stewed tomatoes near the end. Some of the best I’ve ever made!
This recipe is amazing! I’ve made it many times, I always use 2 big smoked ham hocks. Turns out perfect!
Excellent flavor! I added a bit of instant mashed potatoes to thicken the soup, as I was looking for something a bit thicker. Bean came out fine. Otherwise I followed the recipe to the letter and had great results. Plenty of leftovers after my family of 6 ate dinner. Made with corn bread and cheddar biscuits. Thank you!
Go with the recipe above except do it in your InstaPot under pressure for 30 minutes plus slow release, and I guarantee you are going to end up in the same place but save about 6 hrs. of time. Btw, I always cook 2 lbs of beans.
Tried to make today, in my slow cooker. The beans were still hard, even after soaking overnight.?????
Transferring to stovetop method. Beans are only 1 month over. Followed recipe and directions to a T. Hopefully it does better. Maybe need a new slow cooker.):
I made these tonight and had the same issue. After one hour on high, 6 hours on low, the beans and veggies were still tough. I had time, so turned it back up to high and left it on for another 2 hours. It’s softening up. Probably another hour or two and they will be done. So perhaps just go for a full 6 hours on high from the get go.
I have always been told not to add salt until after the beans are cooked or they wont soften.
I’ve never had a problem with pre-soaked beans softening but feel free to omit the salt and add it all at the end if you’d like.
Hi Valerie, I’m new to your site and would like to save many of your recipe’s to the recipe box..If you have this would you be so kind to guide me through the process..
HI. What are the measurements for celery, carrots, onion and minced garlic.
All of the measurements are listed on the recipe card at the end of the post.
What do you mean by fresh beans? I have had lots of problems with beans bought at the supermarket that turn out to stale. They are still hard after many hours of cooking.
Hi Jackie. Always check the bag for an expiration date. I’ve found many expired bags of beans still on the shelves over the years and yes, if you use beans that are past the expire date you can definitely run into problems with them cooking up well.
Recipe is so good. I left out tomato sauce. To thicken, I cooked potato in Crock-Pot w ham n beans. Easiest way to thicken soup.
I use a can or two of drained canned beans, mash them with a fork or pastry blender and add them to my soup if I want to thicken it. Just a suggestion.
Glad I found your recipe for Ham and Bean Soup. I had already soaked my beans overnight and when I read that older beans may not soften I checked the package for the date. Surprise! 2014 was the “best by” date, so now I’m cooking the to see if they will soften. I’m pretty sure I’ve had the package less than two years, probably less than one, so am wondering if the store found a box of beans – or one package – lying around somewhere and put them out for sale. I’m hoping for soup tonight so hope the beans are good! I have a question: would the skins coming off the beans be because they are old?
Hi Kathy. I think this happens frequently and people never realize the reason. It’s always a good idea to check for the expiration date on the bag at the store. I can’t say for sure if the issue with skins coming off is due to the expired beans but you definitely want to start with a fresh batch.