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Ham and Bean Soup is a simple and delicious way to use up leftover ham for a hearty cold weather comfort meal. Loaded with vegetables, seasonings, navy beans, ham and ham shank…this soup is sure to fill hungry bellies! Serve with toasted French bread, my Garlic and Herb Pull Apart Biscuits or my Cornbread recipe.
What are Navy Beans?
Navy beans, aka Boston beans (yes the ones used in Boston Baked Beans dishes), are a type of small white bean commonly used in soups and stews. These delicious little beans are small and oval-shaped, with a mild, nutty flavor and creamy texture. They are a good source of protein and fiber, so you can feel good about eating which is always a bonus!
Navy Bean Substitutions
If you don’t have navy beans on hand, you have a few options! Great Northern beans, cannellini beans, and small white beans can be used as substitutes for navy beans in most recipes. These beans have a similar taste and texture to navy beans, and can be used in the same way in soups, stews, and baked beans. Other options would be white kidney beans, pinto beans, lima beans or black-eyed peas. Keep in mind that any substitution may change the final soup taste slightly.
Ham Shanks vs Ham Hocks
Ham hocks and ham shanks are both cut from the lower portion of a pig’s hind leg, but they come from different parts of the leg. Ham hocks are cut from the lower portion of the leg near the pig’s ankle, while ham shanks are cut from the upper portion of the leg near the knee. Ham hocks tend to be more meaty and have more connective tissue, while ham shanks are leaner and have more bone. Both cuts are often used for slow cooking in soups, stews, and other dishes to add flavor and richness.
In the past I have used a ham shank and a ham bone. It just depends on if I recently made a ham for dinner. No need to buy a ham shank or hock when you have that lovely bone just waiting for its next assignment. 🙂 Since we are already adding ham to the recipe, the shank or bone is primarily used to help add a deeper flavor to the soup. The bone is also full of nutrients!
Can I Use Canned Beans Instead of Dried?
Yes, you can totally use canned beans for this soup, but keep in mind that my recipe calls for low and slow cooking in order to extract the most flavor and nutrients out of that delicious bone so that is why I didn’t take this shortcut this time. If you are short on time and want to use canned beans, use 3-4 15-oz cans and rinse beans before adding to the pot. Reduce cook time to 30 minutes or less.
How to Make Ham and Bean Soup
For full recipe details, including an ingredients list and measurements, see the printable recipe card down below. Here is step by step what you can expect when making this Ham and Bean Soup:
Soak the Dry Beans
Rinse, sort and soak dried Navy Beans in a pot of water for at least 2 hours or overnight. As the beans soak, they will begin to rehydrate and swell.
Drain and rinse soaked beans, set aside.
Saute Onions, Carrots + Garlic
In same pot used to soak the beans, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onions and saute until translucent. Next, add carrots and saute for 1-2 more minutes. Finally, add garlic and saute for 1-2 minutes being careful not to burn.
Add Ham, Shank + Remaining Ingredients
Add ham, ham shank (or bone), broth, water, beans and bay leaf. Bring to a boil, then reduce to simmer.
Simmer the Soup
Partially cover pot with lid and simmer for 2 hours or until beans are cooked through.
Remove from heat, remove ham shank (or bone), remove and shred any meat still on bone and add back to the pot. Check seasonings at the very end. Discard the bone.
Season to Taste
Add salt and pepper to taste, keeping in mind that ham is VERY salty so it may not be needed at all.
Garnish with fresh parsley and serve hot.
How to Thicken Ham and Bean Soup
While it’s perfectly fine to eat this soup as is, you may want to make it thick and creamy. There are a few easy ways to do this.
- Mash some of the beans: Use a potato masher or immersion blender to mash a portion of the beans in the soup. This will release some of the starch from the beans and thicken the liquid.
- Add flour or cornstarch: Mix a tablespoon of flour or cornstarch with a small amount of cold water to make a slurry, then stir it into the soup. Cook the soup for an additional 5-10 minutes to allow the flour or cornstarch to thicken the soup.
- Use a roux: A roux is a mixture of equal parts flour and fat (such as butter or oil). Cook the roux until it turns a golden color, then slowly add it to the soup while whisking to prevent lumps.
- Cook longer: Allow the soup to simmer for a longer period of time. As the soup cooks, the liquid will naturally reduce and thicken.
Storing + Make Ahead
Make Ahead and Store in the Fridge – Like many soups, it often tastes better the 2nd day as the flavors have had more time to marry. Let the soup cool to room temperature before transferring it to an airtight container. Store the soup in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days.
To Freeze – Let the soup cool to room temperature before transferring it to an airtight container or a resealable freezer bag. Store the soup in the freezer for up to 3-4 months.
To Reheat – When reheating the soup, make sure it is heated to a temperature of 165°F (74°C) to ensure that it is safe to eat. It’s also recommended to thaw frozen soup in the refrigerator overnight before reheating.
Note: Freezing and reheating any kind of soup can cause some texture changes in the ingredients, especially in beans. They can become mushy.
Love soup? Give these recipes a try!
- Lasagna Soup
- Cabbage Roll Soup
- Easy Chicken Tortilla Soup
- Chicken Gnocchi Soup
- Zuppa Toscana
- Broccoli Cheese Soup
- Creamy Tomato Bisque
Add this recipe to your soup rotation during the winter months! You won’t be sorry. Be sure to save, print, bookmark or share this recipe. If you try this recipe, I would really appreciate it if you gave it a star review. Have a great day, friends! 🙂
Ham and Bean Soup
- 1 lb Navy beans dried
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 small onion diced, about 1 cup
- 2 cups carrot diced
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 2 cups ham shredded leftover ham is best!
- 1 ham shank or leftover ham bone
- 4 cups chicken stock or broth
- 4 cups water
- 1 bay leaf dried
- 3 tbsp parsley fresh, chopped – for garnish
- Rinse, sort and soak dried Navy Beans in a pot of water for at least 2 hours or overnight.
- Drain and rinse soaked beans, set aside.
- In same pot, heat olive oil over medium heat.
- Add onions and saute until translucent.
- Add carrots and saute for 1-2 more minutes.
- Add garlic and saute for 1-2 minutes being careful not to burn.
- Add ham, ham shank (or bone), broth, water, beans and bay leaf. Bring to a boil, then reduce to simmer.
- Partially cover pot with lid and simmer for 1-2 hours or until beans are cooked through. (this depends on how long you soaked your beans)
- Remove from heat, fish out ham shank (or bone), remove and shred any meat still on bone and add back to the pot. Discard bone.
- Garnish with fresh parsley and serve hot.