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!)
The Best Ham and Bean Soup – A Family Classic
This ham and bean soup is 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 afterward.
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.
Ham shanks versus ham hocks
This recipe uses smoked ham shanks or ham hocks to create the rich broth for the soup. Ham shanks tend to have more meat on them (the photos of the soup show meat from a ham shank) than hocks.
Think of the hock as the pig’s “ankle”, right above the feet. The shanks are below the shoulder (front) or the ham (rear leg).
I recommend using shanks for this recipe if you have a choice. If you use ham hocks and you would like a meaty soup, you may want to add some chopped ham steak to the soup.
More Cozy Soups for Chilly Days:
- Pasta e Fagioli
- Broccoli Cheddar Soup
- Ham and Potato Soup
- Hearty Roasted Vegetable and Chicken Stew
- Black Bean Soup
How to make ham and bean soup (video)
White Bean and Ham Soup Recipe
Use ham shanks rather than hocks if you would like a meaty soup.
- 1 lb or 2 1/2 cups dry white beans—Cannellini or Great Northern
- 2 quarts of water
- 2-3 lbs of smoked ham shanks or ham hocks
- 2 teaspoons Herbes de Provence, or Italian seasoning
- 1 Tbsp extra virgin 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
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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