White Bean Soup with Ham, Pumpkin, and Chard

This recipe calls for a sugar pumpkin (the kind you use to make pies). You can easily substitute the same quantity of butternut squash or almost any winter squash.

  • Prep time: 20 minutes
  • Cook time: 2 hours, 30 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 5-6


  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups chopped yellow onion
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 2 stalks of celery, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • One 2 pound whole sugar pumpkin, halved, seeds scooped out, flesh peeled, and cut into 1-inch chunks (resulting in 3 1/2 cups or 1 pound of chunks)
  • 1/2  pound ham hock
  • 8 cups chicken stock
  • 1 15-ounce can of whole peeled tomatoes, drained OR 1 large fresh, ripe tomato, peeled and chopped
  • 6 sprigs of thyme, tied with string (or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme)
  • 2 15-ounce cans of cannellini white beans, rinsed and drained
  • 4 large Swiss chard leaves (can substitute kale), center rib removed, leaves roughly chopped
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste


1 Sauté onions, bay leaves, celery, garlic: Heat the olive oil on medium heat in a large, thick-bottomed pot (5 to 6 quart). Add the onion and the bay leaves and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, until slightly softened. Add the chopped celery, cook for 2 to 3 more minutes. Add the minced garlic and cook for a minute more.

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2 Add pumpkin, ham hock, stock, tomatoes, thyme: Add the chopped pumpkin and the ham hock to the pot. Add the chicken stock, tomatoes, and thyme. Increase heat to bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to maintain a simmer, uncovered. Let simmer for an hour and a half.

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3 Remove ham hock, add white beans, chard: Remove the ham hock from the soup pot, to a plate to let cool enough to handle.  Add the white beans and cook for 15 minutes. Add the chopped chard, simmer until chard is wilted, a few minutes more.

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4 Strip ham from bone, chop, return to soup: Strip the meat from the ham hock, chop it, and return to the pot. Add 1 to 2 cups of water to the soup to thin it to your preference. Remove the bay leaves before serving.

Add freshly ground black pepper and adjust seasonings to taste.

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  • Nancy

    My soup turned out too thin; so I whisked in a can of vegetarian retried beans at the end. This improved the texture immensely. The soup has a great flavor and was fun to make.


  • Angie

    Has anyone tried to convert the recipe to an Instant Pot? Any suggestions? I’ve made this in my Dutch oven countless times but I just got my new appliance!


    • Emma Christensen

      Hi, Angie! We haven’t tested this recipe in the pressure cooker yet, but my instinct is to do about 20 minutes at high pressure in place of Step 2 in this recipe. Once you add the white beans and chard, put the instant pot on “saute” and let the soup simmer until the chard is wilted. If you try it, let us know how it works out!

  • Brian

    Made this one over the weekend with some substitutes. Had some leftover home smoked pork picnic shoulder that I subbed in for the hocks and used butternut squash rather than pumpkin. Also cut the squash into 1/2 ” chunks to reduce cooking time (because I started waaay too late to let it simmer 1/5 hours.)

    Still loved the soup (having some for lunch today!!) and will have this on our “Welcome to Fall” rotation.

  • Donna

    I made this for the 2nd time already, once last fall and again. I used butternut squash. It thickens the soup and adds a sweetness. I found some chard in my garden that the deer haven’t got to yet. The soup is excellent!

  • Carla

    Thank you for this wonderful recipe, I did it using precut butternut squash, and red chard, and my husband and I love it specially on a cold day like today, I love your website thanks for posting pictures.

  • David

    Can you can this soup?

    • Elise Bauer

      Perhaps, if you have a pressure canner. You cannot can it with a water bath as it is too low acid to do so safely. As for how to can it, I am not experienced with low acid food pressure canning so wouldn’t know what to tell you.

  • Julie

    I made this soup using navy beans that were soaked overnight and used kale instead of chard which my girls like better. I also subbed a sweet dumpling squash (chopped in small cubes) for the pumpkin and left the skin on which was undetectable in the finished dish. I accidently put chopped carrots in with the onion and celery which is common in so many of the soups I make. It only added more veg goodness. We absolutely loved this soup and it made enough to share with a neighbor for her family. We will make it again and again, changing up the greens, squash/pumpkin and beans. A beautiful and hearty fall soup. Thank you!


  • Jasen

    Very nice soup recipe. Course after this i will never peel another pumkin and will use another squash instead.

    Now i didnt have a hambone so i substitued spicy ground sausage which gave the soup some nice heat. Flavors really worked and appreciate you constantly sharing.

  • Cynthia Franks

    Wow! I stopped making this because it was to hard to cut the pumpkin. I usually cook the pumpkin first. Any tips? I may try this again cooking the pumpkin first. My hands hurts to much and I wasn’t physically able to finish cutting the pumpkin.

    • Elise Bauer

      You might try using precut butternut squash instead of cutting up a pumpkin. The markets around here carry it, how about where you are?

    • L.D. Meyer

      Cynthia read my comment, L.D. Meyer October 28 on this site. It’s a big job just to peel and hull out the seeds of the pumpkin but the end result is rewarding. I prepare mine in a crockpot. L.D.

  • Rachel

    Where do you purchase smoked ham hock?

    • Elise Bauer

      Any grocery store. Meat department. Just ask if you can’t find it! It’s usually in a package.

  • Laura

    Thank you for this delicious recipe! I had some leftover cooked ham to use up, so the only modification I made was to use a ham hock during the simmering, then add the chopped leftover ham when the beans were added. Also subbed butternut for pumpkin, and kale for chard, and it was all really good. I will definitely make it again.

  • arunie wijesinghe clark

    Is this supposed to be for smoked ham hock or the non cooked version? I am attempting it now with the non-smoked version. Hope it’s correct.

    Thanks for the recipe!

    • Elise Bauer

      No, a smoked ham hock. The flavor comes from the salty, smokey cured ham hock.

  • Anita

    Elise: This was absolutely divine! Except for pre-cooking my dry beans (I used Great Northern), and throwing in a whole lot more Kale then called for, I followed the recipe exactly. I cannot believe (well, yes, I can :)) the wonderful flavors. Thank you again for an awesome recipe.

  • Gaelle

    Hello Elise,

    This is a recipe that I am enjoying tremendously. I would like to take this occasion to let you know that your recipes have been a great blessing to me since I discovered your site. The recipes are easy to follow. At first I could not believe that I could make those dishes because the pictures seemed so sophisticated and could have only come from a chef’s kitechen or restaurant. I am really grateful for you sharing your kitchen’s secrets with us.

    • Elise Bauer

      Hi Gaelle, I’m so glad that you are finding the site useful! Thank you for your kind words.

  • Jane Weichert

    I made this just as written and it was wonderful. My ‘meat and potatoes’ husband loved it. We’re already looking forward to the leftovers.


  • Andrea

    I was wondering how I would adapt this for dried beans instead of canned? Would I cook the beans first or add more stock/water for the beans?

    • Elise Bauer

      You would want to pre-cook a cup of dry beans. That will yield about as much as you would find in 2 15-ounce cans of already cooked beans.

  • Angela

    Hi Elise, I added some extra colour with carrots and parsnips which I had in the fridge and which have added an earthy richness to this soup. I am working on a film in Oklahoma and have cooked a big batch of this to come home to in the evenings after a long days shooting.

  • Sandy S

    We made this wonderful soup today and are really loving it! So pretty and tasty! Elise you are a genius! We used a smoked turkey leg as was suggested and will do the same in the future. Thank you for that tip! We decided our pumpkin was too cute to cut-up, so we used a good size acorn squash. Peeled it by cutting into ribs and cubes before trimming off the peel. Worked great! Thank you for that info, too. This may become our new fall tradition. Great to have the family help with it while we watch dad’s favorite 1950’s westerns!


  • David

    Followed quite exactly, using Chunks of butternut squash, but found the cooking time for the squash of 1 1/2 Hrs way too much. It was mushy well beyond have any texture whatsoever. I would deconstruct this a bit next time and sauté the pumkin/squash in browned butter and add with the beans and greens.

    • Elise Bauer

      The butternut squash should be falling apart, thickening the soup, even more so than I’ve pictured above.

  • lauren

    what advice would/could you give in adapting this for a crockpot? I really would like to bring this to a potluck but I won’t have the option to make it like your directions, unless I do everything the night before, refrigerate it, and then keep it on warm for hours on end… I’ll have to leave it mostly unsupervised for roughly 4 hours.

    • Elise Bauer

      You could try it in a crockpot. Don’t add the beans and chard until the end though, as the beans are already cooked, and the chard needs very little to wilt it.

  • Sean

    Smoked 4 ham hocks and 3 turkey legs yesterday. Went with ham hock; the one that as closest to 1/2 lb. I served the turkey legs with the soup. Used Kale because I had some in the fridge. Cut the pumpkin halves in sections then cubes with a large sharp knife. I cut the skin off each cube, not the most efficient way but it was safe and once I got going it went quickly.

  • Jen

    Anyone have any tips on peeling the pumpkin? I roasted them plenty of times but peeling seems like it would be awfully tricky.

    • Brian

      For peeling pumpkins, I’ve had success with slicing them down into 1 inch ribs. Then lay the ribs on their sides and just cut the skin side off. The skin is so thick this isn’t a precision operation. Works for butternut & buttercup squash too.

    • L.D. Meyer

      This probably sounds a bit unorthodox(keep in mind I’m a guy, a truck driver to boot) but I purchased a small block plane that you use for woodworking and set the blade as shallow as you can. It makes it handier if you buy a pie pumpkin with the stem still attached to hold this rascally orange gourd, now just run that block plane over the pumpkin. I know what you’re up against, the peel on these pumpkins are tougher than the casing of a steel belted radial tire. The first time I tried this approach I had a 5/7 lbs pumpkin and I don’t think it took me much over a couple of minutes for this task, plus you’re less likely to cut yourself. Then toss the peelings in the compost bin or in the yard. This process makes for real thin peelings leaving more pumpkin for your recipe. Well Bon Appetite n’ Hasta La Bye Bye!

  • Torrey

    Made this tonight – what a beautiful soup! I didn’t have a pinch of Thyme in the house, but it was still delicious. I used a whole bunch of chard, and it didn’t seem too much at all. This is a keeper – thanks Elise!

  • Janet

    How much meat do you typically get off a ham hock? I often see recipes calling for a “meaty ham hock” but the hocks I buy have very little meat. I’d estimate they yield a scant 1/4 cup

    • Elise Bauer

      Not much meat, maybe half a cup to a cup, shredded? It all depends on the ham hock. The little pieces of ham are so flavorful, you don’t need much.

  • Liz

    Thank you for the beautiful recipe.

  • Helen

    Some months ago I discovered the availability of Libby’s canned pumpkin. Fresh pumpkins are not readily available in my area and canned pumpkin makes a healthy and colorful alternative.

    • Elise Bauer

      Do they can them in chunks? The only canned pumpkin I’ve found is a purée which would not work in this recipe.

  • Audrey Stricker

    Usually like all your recipes —nice tasty and different. I really do not like using canned beans. When I think of it I make extra dried beans and freeze them. They freeze great and are not mushy like even the best canned. Hard to find ham shanks here I beg people for a ham bone if they do not make soups.

  • Lisa

    Pumpkin would be a great addition to the Caldo Gallego I make for my husband and me! Thanks as always for the great recipe ideas!

    • Elise Bauer

      Oh, I need to make some caldo callego, thanks for bringing that one to my attention! (Spanish white bean soup with chorizo and greens)

  • L.D. Meyer

    I discovered this by accident, but for those of you who try to keep Kosher I substitute smoked turkey legs or wingettes for the ham, also great with split peas. The super market here has their own smoke house and the legs and wings are smoked with the bone in which I think adds more flavor. I swear on a blind taste test most people couldn’t tell the difference. One thing I’ve found is the smoked turkey breast doesn’t impart the flavor of the legs and wings because of the white meat. Bon Appetite Adios n’ Hasta La Bye Bye! L.D.

    • Elise Bauer

      Smoked turkey legs are a great substitute for ham hocks, thanks for the reminder!

  • Virginia

    Wondering if butternut squash works as well as pumpkin?

  • TexasDeb

    I don’t have chard on hand but do have some kale. Do you think the cooking time for kale would have to be increased for proper tenderness? If so, when would you advise adding kale in the cooking process?

    • Elise Bauer

      I would add thinly sliced kale in with the beans if using kale.

  • Sandy S

    Wow! Does this look good! Our family traditionally makes ‘navy bean with ham hock stew’ this time of year. It is one of the times, that I forego my vegetarian leanings. Will try this recipe as is, because it looks so fresh and bright and yummy! May have to experiment later with miso for a meatless version.

  • Brian

    This one is getting cooked this weekend. My mouth is watering just looking at the pictures. Might sub squash for pumpkin, and I love the idea of tossing in rainbow chard too. This one looks like an instant classic!

  • Mallory @ Because I Like Chocolate

    Know what would also be great with this? Adding some chunks of bread to make it like a Tuscan pumpkin ribollita. Mind you, it looks great as is!

  • Tara

    Looks great, but am disappointed to see chicken stock called for in such a nice VEGETABLE soup. Will try it without. Cheers.

    • Elise Bauer

      Hi Tara, I guess you missed the part about the ham hock too? It’s not a vegetarian soup. To make that more clear, I think I’ll change the title to include ham. Thank you!

  • Andrea

    Ooh, this looks wonderful!

    I have a TON of rainbow chard from my CSA box – will that work in place of swiss chard/kale? Also, any thoughts on how much would be too much to add?

    • Elise Bauer

      I love rainbow chard! It will be great in this soup. Add as much as you want.