Herby Ham And Bean Soup Recipe

There's really nothing better than a cozy bowl of hearty ham and bean soup. Unless, of course, it's the middle of August, and the air conditioning unit is broken; but even then, the joys of a good soup are boundless. Just ask the U.S. Senate, who's served ham and bean soup almost every day for more than a century (via Wamu.org). You may have also heard it called navy bean soup, another moniker for the same creamy, bean-filled concoction. This hearty soup is both long-lasting and filling, requiring only a small cup to craft a filling meal. 

Navy bean soup, while technically named for its usage on ships, uses exclusively navy beans, while similar recipes may utilize cannellini or great northerns. The magic of any ham and bean soup is its simplicity; with very few ingredients and no dairy, the soup is creamy, rich, and flavorful. In this recipe developed with Michelle McGlinn, we are keeping it simple, adding only a few aromatics to infuse the soup with delicate herbal flavors. Grab some crusty bread, and dig into this American classic!

Ingredients for ham and bean soup

Beans, of course, are the main ingredient, and in this recipe, we are using great northern beans for our creamy base. If you can't find great northern beans, try navy or cannellini beans. One tip: use dried beans for the best quality, and soak until softened. Next, you'll need oil, leeks, onion, garlic, carrots, celery, and chicken broth. Leeks are more delicate and sweeter than a yellow onion, and we like the combination of both. Don't love onion that much? Just leave it out. 

You'll also need ham, and in this recipe, we use smoked ham hock for a rich, robust, smokey pork flavor. You can also use leftover ham bone, or simply leftover sliced ham. The bones add flavor and collagen to the soup, so the soup will be thicker and creamier when using ham hocks and ham bones. While the ham and vegetables will be flavorful on their own, grab some rosemary, thyme, bay leaves, salt, and pepper for an especially delicious soup.

Tie an herb bouquet together

Time to play florist for a minute: using baker's twine, wrap the rosemary, thyme, and bay leaves together to create a bouquet garni. You can also use fresh or dried bay leaves here. 

Stack them together, then coil the twine tightly around the middle of the herbs, wrapping a bit tighter than necessary to ensure the herbs stay together while cooking. Yes, you can just throw the herbs into the pot sans twine, but you'll find yourself fishing thin twigs out of a big pot of soup later. Plus, how pretty is a bouquet of herbs?

Sautée the vegetables and ham

Before adding any liquid, sweat the vegetables to soften them, and bring out the flavor of the aromatics. Heat the oil in a large stock pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the sliced leeks, diced yellow onion, minced garlic, sliced carrots, and chopped celery, and sautée until just softened. Create some space, add the ham hock, and cook for 3 minutes on each side, until the skin has browned. You don't need the ham to be cooked all the way through — you just want to extract some of the flavor into the veggies to create that savory base.

Fill the pot with beans and broth

After your beans have sufficiently soaked, add the beans to the pot, and cover with the water or stock. Bring the mixture to a boil, add the herb bouquet, and season with salt and pepper. Cover the pot with a lid, turn the heat to low, and simmer for around 2 hours. It may be tempting to boil the soup rapidly, but cooking low and slow is the key to a creamy, flavorful soup with fall-off-the-bone tender ham. Check the soup often to ensure the beans aren't sticking to the bottom, and add more water, if needed. Keep in mind that the beans will absorb some of the liquid as they cook.

Shred the ham, and serve

The soup is done cooking when the beans can be mashed with a fork, and the ham pulls away easily from the bone. Remove the ham hock from the soup, shred the meat, then return the meat to the soup. Remove the herb bouquet from the pot, season with salt and pepper if needed, and add additional water if the soup is too rich.

This soup is best served with crusty bread for scooping and dipping. You can also serve this with a grilled cheese sandwich for soup and sandwich night, or top with crackers and enjoy it by itself. Wash down the rich broth with an old fashioned cocktail for a perfectly cozy night, and enjoy the warmth of these American classics.

Herby Ham And Bean Soup Recipe
5 from 101 ratings
Soup doesn't has to feel like an appetizer, especially with this filling bean and ham soup recipe.
Prep Time
Cook Time
bowl of soup with spoon
Total time: 2 hours, 25 minutes
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 8 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 3 bay leaves
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 2 leeks, sliced, green stalks discarded
  • ¼ cup yellow onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 large carrot, sliced into coins
  • 3 celery stalks, chopped
  • 1 smoked ham hock
  • 3 cups great northern beans, about 8 ounces dried, soaked in water
  • 8 cups chicken stock or water
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  1. Gather the rosemary, thyme, and bay leaves into a small bundle with the stems together. Wrap tightly with baker's twine, tying a knot around the herbs. Set the bouquet garni aside.
  2. Heat the oil in a large stock pot, or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the leeks, yellow onion, garlic, carrot, and celery, and sweat the vegetables until just softened.
  3. Add the ham hock, and cook until slightly browned on either side, about 3 minutes per side. Add the soaked beans, nestling the beans around the ham. Cover with stock or water, and bring to a boil.
  4. Add the herb bouquet, season with salt and pepper, lower the heat, and cover. Simmer for 2 hours, stirring occasionally, until the ham is fork-tender, and the and beans are soft.
  5. Remove the pork from the pot, and shred the meat from the bone. Return the meat to the pot, and stir to combine. Remove the bouquet garni, and season with salt and pepper to taste.
Calories per Serving 782
Total Fat 31.8 g
Saturated Fat 7.4 g
Trans Fat 0.1 g
Cholesterol 83.5 mg
Total Carbohydrates 73.6 g
Dietary Fiber 13.7 g
Total Sugars 13.9 g
Sodium 2,385.9 mg
Protein 53.1 g
The information shown is Edamam’s estimate based on available ingredients and preparation. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.
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