White Bean and Ham Soup

When the weather turns cold, and all you want to do is stay cozy and warm, the best thing to do is to make a big pot of hearty soup. On days like these, nothing is more comforting than this ham and white bean soup. (Well, maybe some fuzzy woolen slippers, but you can’t eat those!)

It’s one of my favorite recipes on the website, and one that my father has been making for the family for decades. He makes a big batch (doubles this one) and because it just gets better as the days go by, we’ll enjoy it for dinner one night and then for lunch for several days afterwards.

Why is it that some stews and soups improve the next day? I think it’s because the flavors from the beans, ham, and vegetables have time to blend. The starch from the beans settles more into the broth making the soup thicker and more stew-like too.

Updated from the recipe archive. First posted in 2006. Only change on the update is to sauté the onions before adding them to the soup.

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White Bean and Ham Soup Recipe

  • Prep time: 10 minutes
  • Cook time: 3 hours, 30 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 8

Ingredients

  • 1 lb of white beans—Cannellini or Great Northern—about 2 1/2 cups
  • 2 quarts of water
  • 3-4 lbs of smoked ham hocks or shanks
  • 2 teaspoons Herbes de Provence, or Italian seasoning
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 cup of diced onions (about 1 small onion)
  • 1 cup chopped celery (about 2-3 ribs)
  • 2/3 cup chopped carrots (about 1 medium carrot)
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • Tabasco sauce
  • Salt and pepper
  • Fresh parsley

Method

1 Soak the dry beans in hot water Fill a pot large enough to hold the beans with water and bring to a boil. Turn off the heat, add the beans and soak the beans for about 2 hours. Drain the water.

2 Make the ham broth While the beans are soaking in step 1, put the ham shanks or ham hocks in a separate large pot and cover them with 2 quarts of water. Add the herbes de Provence or Italian seasoning. Heat on high heat until the water comes to a simmer, then lower the heat, partially cover and maintain the simmer for about an hour.

3 Sauté the onions Heat olive oil in a small sauté pan on medium high heat. Add the chopped onions and cook until translucent, about 5 to 6 minutes. Add the minced garlic and cook a minute more.

4 Add vegetables and beans to the ham broth Once the ham hocks or shanks have been simmering for an hour, add the drained soaked beans from step 1, the onions, garlic, and the chopped celery and carrots. Cook for another 40 minutes or so, uncovered, until the vegetables are soft and the ham meat easily pulls away from the bone. Remove the ham bones from the soup and pull off any meat and return it to the soup. Discard the bones.

5 Season to taste Add several drops of Tabasco to taste. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Serve with a pinch of chopped fresh parsley.

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Links:

Portuguese White Bean and Pork Stew - from Hunter Angler Gardener Cook

White Bean Soup with Ham and Rosemary - from Kalyn's Kitchen

Slow Cooker Black Bean Soup with Peppers and Ham - From Andrea's Recipes

White Bean and Ham Soup

46 Comments

  1. SD

    Thanks for the great recipe. Your version of White Bean and Ham Soup is the closest I’ve found to what my mom used to make! Minus the tabasco which I will try on half! :) Oh and I had to look up Herbes de Provence but I guess now I’ll always know what they are!

  2. K.

    Ahhh, my youth! This is my mother’s recipe, as well. It makes me long for the cool rainy season, and, as I’m also in hot Nor Cal with 100 degree days, it can’t come a moment too soon. Thanks for posting this, this one goes into my binder.

  3. David Reid

    This is very close to the white bean and ham soup that I’ve made for years. For those of you who don’t have several hours to make this soup, you can also make it in the pressure cooker. (I own an automatic electric one from Farberware.) You just soak the beans for 1 hour then put the ingredients into the pressure cooker (making sure you have enough water to make the soup) and cook on HI (15lbs) of pressure for 20 minutes. Voila! Ham and white bean soup in short time.

    For those who want to come home to a meal ready to eat, you can, indeed, make this classic in a large crock pot. You may find that you want to use a little extra water.

  4. RD

    Made this Sunday afternoon for dinner during
    the week. Had to use smoked ham hocks as
    Safeway didn’t have shanks. Cooked them in
    10 cups of water. The beans took 1 1/2 hours
    to cook. The end result tasted a little
    bland so I added salt to compensate. The
    next time I think I’ll try 5 cups water and
    5 cups low-sodium chicken broth.

  5. Dank

    WOW. This was so good! I didn’t have any Herbes de Provence and couldn’t find any in the local grocery, so I looked it up on the Internet and made my own. Was missing a couple of the herbs for it, but the soup still tasted great. This is one I will definitely make again.

  6. Jackie DeSmyter

    I’ve made this receipe but use the great northern beans that can be purchased in a glass container already cooked. (Can be bought ahead of time to be used at a later time).
    Also I use approximately 2-3 cans of chicken broth instead of water.
    Instead of a ham bone I purchase packaged diced ham from the lunch meat area in the grocery store. This ham can be frozen before hand to be used when necessary.
    Besides the carrots, celery, onions, I add a small amount of chopped potatoes and a small can of diced tomatoes drained and salt and pepper to taste.
    By having the beans and diced ham on hand I can make this bean soup any time as I usually have the other ingredients in the fridge.

  7. Dave Hubbard

    This recipe could be made better by using ham stock instead of water.

    I would also soak the white beans in water and white wine for 6 hours.

  8. Pat Hoffman

    Great recipe…
    I used chicken stock instead of water but would recommend low sodium chicken stock instead.

  9. Robert Rajchel

    Very simialar to my recepie. Only thing I like to do is add two 5.5 oz. cans of v-8 cocktail juice or tomato sauce, and try using beef boulion instead of chicken stock. I think you’ll be pleased

  10. Otty

    Made this yesterday afternoon. This is very good! My son loved it so much that he had it for dinner last night and breakfast this morning. I did not put tabasco though cause I was not sure my son would like it. Also, I added a little beef bouillion.

  11. Barbara

    Terrific recipe for autumn, and thanks for introducing me to Herbs de Provence. I used a cut-up ~1-lb ham steak (with bone) instead of the intact shank and added a can of chicken stock to the water. With the ham and stock, definitely taste before you salt.

    P.S. Several drops of Tabasco per serving is the way to go.

  12. Erin

    Just HAD to post: I just made this recipe on Christmas Day, using the leftover ham from our Christmas dinner. It took no time to make and was a hit! It was sort of like “dinner–round two” for us! Thank you!

  13. Sally

    My family loves Navy Bean and Ham Soup. Just the thing for these cold rainy Oregon days. My problem is I soaked the beans for 2 days in the fridge am not too sure that they are still good. Any helpful suggestions? Let me know.

  14. David

    My mom used to make this when I was growing. I make it now and have with garlic bread. Very Good!

  15. Sharon

    This recipe is almost exactly the way I have been making beans and ham hock for years. I love it most when I have a nice meaty leftover ham bone to use.I cook the ham bone and beans together from the start, cooking the beans longer over low heat-approx 2-4 hours until the beans really soften and thicken a bit. Sometimes I add a small can of tomato sauce as well. I like to soak the beans overnight if possible to enhance their cooking time. Love your blog.

  16. Debbie

    I printed off this recipe and tried it. My husband and I both loved it. In fact, we just had it for lunch today and it’s delicious. I had made a ham a week ago and I used the ham bone in this one. Normally, I would just toss it but when I read this recipe, I decided to try it. No more ham bones in the garbage, that’s for sure. Thank you.

  17. John

    Serve over a slice of corn bread – yum!

  18. jasi

    This came out great. I mashed the veggies with my spoon a bit near the end. Dislike intact bean texture. Fantastic soup though. Thanks.

  19. Georgia Fuller

    Can anyone tell me a good, easy way to degrease Navy Bean & Ham soup ?

    Let the soup chill overnight in the fridge. The next morning, scrape off any fat that has solidified on the top of the soup. ~Elise

  20. Betty Crockerpot

    Made this last yesterday. Soaked my beans for 2 hours then simmered with Ham and Vegs another 3 hours. I sauteed the vegs in olive oil for a few minutes prior to adding the mto the pot. This was wonderful. I usually do the overnight soak but this turned out fine. Accompanied with some mexican cornbread and a cold beer and it was a meal to remember. Thanks for the recipe

  21. Matt Canvas

    wow made this for a special Easter treat, what a treat it was thank you!

  22. Emily

    Made this today for dinner. Made just a few minor adjustments to the recipe and it turned out great. Used a little more water and more veggies (another couple carrots and 3 large ribs of celery). Used a few more beans (navy beans because it’s what I had) than called for so that I could put about 2 cups or so through the blender to thicken the soup. Used an Italian herb blend since I do not have Herbes de Provence. Used 2 large ham shanks. Didn’t use Tabasco because I was out, but will try it next time. Had done a lot of searching for just the right recipe for Ham and Bean soup. Glad I settled on this one!! My husband and young children all liked it too.

  23. Nicki Green

    I absolutely love your recipes and I always recommend your site. However, for me, this was a complete failure. My house stunk so bad the first hour of simmering the ham hocks. I was doing a friend’s taxes while making this and her son walked into the kitchen and asked why it smelled dirty. Needless to say, I didn’t even try it. Plus, mine looked nothing like your picture. Oh well. Looking forward to trying more of your recipes. Also, would love for Hank to share more Venison recipes. We just got a bunch of deer meat from my husband’s co-worker. Thanks again!

    Hi Nicki, well that’s weird. We’ve made this soup a gazillion times without a problem. Here’s an idea about what might be contribution to the stink. There is a season every year where bacon just smells bad when you cook it. My parents tell me it has something to do with what the pigs were eating before they were processed. Maybe this is happening with your ham hocks? Who knows. All I can tell you is that this recipe is one of our family standbys. ~Elise

  24. Randi Lynne

    I used a leftover ham bone with some meat left on it to make this soup. I used large lima beans and threw in a few kale leaves with the onion and carrots. It turned out far tastier than I imagined. With some Tabasco it was perfect!! Your recipes and tried and true and never disappoint. :)

  25. Nikki

    Can I use soldier beans instead? I got some from our CSA and have no idea what to do with them. Thanks!

  26. FoodJunkie

    This soup sounds amazing and will be a good use for the smoked hocks I made recently. In your recipe you specify hocks but not that they need to be smoked and cured. While that is implied in ham hock around here they are rarely available and all you get are fresh hocks. To avoid confusion I would suggest specifying smoked hocks as the fresh ones sure wont produce the depth of flavour you want in a ham and bean soup.

    • Elise

      Excellent point, thank you! I’ve adjusted the ingredient list to say “smoked ham hocks or shanks”.

  27. Sonya

    How can I substitute canned beans for dried and pancetta (or similar) for the ham hock? Cook’s Illustrated recently had a report that many dried beans were not better than canned and I don’t care for the taste of smoked ham hock (I have a hard time finding fresh ones where I live).

  28. Renee

    Love soups. Love bean recipes. Perfect for the type of weather we’re having too! Glad you re-posted this one since I don’t remember seeing it before.

  29. Sandy S

    One day well into the fall, you would find my mother making a pot of white beans and ham. This was as dependable as the leaves turning red and gold. She would use a cast iron pot that was put in the oven at a low setting once everything was combined. As at your home Elise, we would enjoy the pot of beans and ham over a few days. About the only thing that changed was the bread or crackers we had with it. Mom loved saltines, while I liked a crusty roll or grilled cheese sandwich. It was not unheard of, to pass a pepper grinder and a bowl of finely chopped white onions to sprinkle on top of the fresh served-up bowls. (I can see the Food Network judges fainting at the thought!) Thanks for reminding me that it’s time to make White Beans and Ham!

  30. Connie

    I want a bowl of this RIGHT NOW…don’t want to wait! You mention garlic in the ingredients list, but I don’t see when to add it per the directions. Do you add it at the beginning when making the ham stock, or when all the other veggies are added?
    Thanks for an always hunger-generating website!

  31. John

    Nothing like fresh, warm cornbread with ham & bean soup.

  32. Gloria

    Had Ham and Bean Soup at a Greek restaurant and it had just a hint of Dill in it . Something I’d never thought of, but was so good, I want to try it, but not sure what else was in it.

  33. Linda Slayton

    Just finished making split pea soup with smoked ham hock. I always have a pot of homemade soup in the fridge during the cold weather. I’ll add this to my rotation–thanks!

  34. lily

    Hi on these ham recipes ,can I use chicken ,so then if yes do I still use same spices like herb de province???

    • Elise

      Hi Lily, If you like cooking with chicken, I suggest looking at the chicken recipes! You can sometimes make substitutions like this, but there are so many changes you have to make that it’s just better to get a recipe designed for chicken if that is what you want to cook.

  35. Carolyn S.

    I make a similar dish known as “Congressional Bean Soup”. I like to put the ham shanks in my slow cooker on low and ignore them for about 8 hours. Then fish out the shanks and put the stock in the ‘fridge. The fat rises and hardens so I can just lift it off. I’m convinced that the slow cooked stock improves the flavor of the soup. This also works well with red beans & rice.

  36. KalynsKitchen

    I love this type of soup; something I’ve eaten since I was a little girl! (And thanks for the shout-out!)

  37. Kati

    I love this recipe but I have 1 simple question and 1 hard one. The easy question is: do you put a lid on the pot at any time for this recipe? I didn’t see where it said to cover the pot ever. Now the harder one: I REALLY want to try it in a slow cooker. I noticed one woman said it could be done but didn’t elaborate on the process. Does anyone know if it would be best to make the ham broth part of the recipe in a stock pot and then add it to the crock pot in the beginning of step 3 with the veggies and soaked beans and cook several hours or if there’s a way to do step 2 of the recipe in the slow cooker as well and cook the ham on high for an hour or so and then proceed to step 3 by adding the beans and veggies into the slow cooker with the ham and stock I just cooked in said crock pot? I know opening a crock pot during cooking is usually a no no but I think it could be done just to add all the final stuff and then cook it to completion without opening it again. Thank you for your amazing recipes and for any tips in advance!
    I’m such a big fan of your recipes and I can definitely say my fiancé loves them too!

    • Elise

      Hi Kati, great questions, both! I will answer the first question and leave it to someone else more experienced with slow cookers to chime in about your second question.

      To cover or not to cover? It doesn’t really matter, though if your liquid is evaporating too fast, then you would want to cover it. So I’ve adjusted the recipe to say partially cover while you are making the ham broth, and then uncover when you add the beans and vegetables. But you could really go on feel on this one. Covering or partially covering allows you to maintain a simmer with less heat, so you don’t use as much gas or electricity. If you cover or partially cover early in the cooking, then you may end up having too thin of a stock because not enough moisture evaporates, so then you would uncover it in the second part of the cooking. It’s all up to you. :-)

  38. Tia

    I have made so many recipes from your site I can’t believe I’ve never commented befor. But I had to say thank you for sharing this recipe! We were craving white bean ham soup and this is the best one. I didn’t even know it could taste so good! For anyone that did not have as great a first turnout (someone used 10 cups of water as opposed to suggested 8 cups–perhaps the shape and size of the pot didn’t allow for less), really recommend making it exactly as directed. Only thing I had to play with was the herbs in the bouquet as I was a few spices short. The recipe is so ridiculously simple, and yes, those dashes of Tabasco bring an unexpected fullness to the soup. I made it last night and it is almost gone…there are only two of us here!

  39. Sandy

    I haven’t cooked with ham hocks before. Are they all created equal? At 1 hour 45 minutes, mine were still very tough and I returned them for another 30 minutes. When they were still tough, I cut off what little meat was between the fat and bone and added it back to the pot. After 15 more minutes we were too hungry to wait any more and the two quarts of low-sodium chicken broth had reduced to nearly nothing. The meat was too salty and tough to be edible, but the cannellini – oh my, those wonderful beans! The vegetables and herbes de Provence transformed them into a near cassoulet! They were still overly salty from the bum ham hocks, but the next day I put a poached egg over some leftover beans and nearly swooned it was so good.

    So – I am eager to try this again but will try smoked shanks next time. Or maybe a different butcher. Elise, thank you to you and your dad for sharing this marvelous recipe.

  40. Toni

    Love this soup as well and have made a very similar version many, many times. Sandy, I can relate to your disappointment with ham hocks. I find shanks to be a much better choice…lots of flavorful, tender meat without a large amount of fat and tough skin that is common with ham hocks. I do the overnight soaking method for my navy beans. Use whatever fresh seasoning I have on hand; thyme or rosemary, S&P and pretty much follow the rest of the recipe. Add some fresh buttered cornbread and Its soup nirvana for the next couple of days. Yum.

  41. Toni

    Ok, I just ate myself silly…. :(

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