Slow Cooker Ham and Bean Soup

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This easy Slow Cooker Ham and Bean Soup recipe is an ultra-comforting and healthy dinner idea. Bonus: There’s no need to soak the beans in advance for this slow cooker soup!

A bowl of ham and bean soup on a table.


 

There are many reasons to buy fully-cooked bone-in hams. Besides being a low-stress holiday meal idea (especially if you buy one that’s already sliced!), it’s far more flavorful than a boneless ham. Furthermore, the prospect of a delicious Ham and Bean Soup can be very compelling in its own right.

Put the leftover ham bone, and any leftover holiday ham, to work in this easy crockpot ham and bean soup. Add lots of vegetables and spices for depth of flavor. Use any kind of bean you want, even a bag of Hambeens (those bags of 15 kinds of beans ready for soup-making).

Leftover Ham and Bean Soup It’s one of my family’s favorite comfort food recipes and is a tradition in our home after Easter and Christmas.

Recipe ingredients

Labeled ingredients for slow cooker ham and bean soup.

At a Glance: Here is a quick snapshot of what ingredients are in this recipe.
Please see the recipe card below for specific quantities.

Ingredient notes

  • Chicken broth: Store-bought or homemade chicken broth; either works well.
  • Beans: To soak beans overnight, add 4 quarts water to a large bowl and add 1 pound of rinsed beans. Soak at least 8 hours. To quick-soak beans, add 1 pound of rinsed beans to a large saucepan and cover with 3 inches of water. Bring to a boil. Boil rapidly for 5 minutes, then remove from heat, cover, and let stand for 1 hour. To substitute canned beans, use 3 to 4 cans of navy, pinto, kidney, cannellini beans, Great Northern beans, or other white beans, rinsed and drained.
  • Ham bone: A leftover ham bone infuses the broth with so much rich pork flavor. A meatier ham bone will produce a meatier soup. Or substitute ham hocks or ham shanks.

Step-by-step instructions

  1. In a 3-quart saucepan or Dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium-high heat until shimmering. Sauté carrots, celery, and onion until softened and translucent, about 8 to 10 minutes.
A frying pan with onion, celery and carrots in it.
  1. Stir in broth, water, beans, ham bone, garlic powder, cumin, paprika, thyme, and bay leaf. Bring to a boil. Pour into slow cooker. Heat on HIGH for 4 to 6 hours or until beans are tender.
A slow cooker with uncooked ham and bean soup.
  1. Remove ham bone and bay leaf. Chop ham from bone and return to slow cooker. Add additional leftover ham, if using, and cover until heated through, about 5 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper and garnish with fresh parsley if desired.
A slow cooker with ham and bean soup being ladled out of it.

Recipe tips and variations

  • Yield: This recipe makes satisfying 12 servings. Pair with your favorite salad recipe and some crusty bread for dunking for a cozy and complete meal.
  • Storage: Store leftovers covered for up to 4 days.
  • Make ahead: The soup can be made up to 3 days in advance and stored in the refrigerator.
  • Freezer: To freeze ham and bean soup, place it in a shallow dish in the refrigerator to chill. Then, transfer to a freezer-safe container and freeze up to 2 months.
  • More flavors: Add more flavors and spices as you see fit. Chili powder, cayenne pepper, or freshly squeezed lemon juice can all add a kick. Don’t be afraid to stir in other vegetables either (canned diced tomatoes taste good in this soup, too).
  • Sauté then slow cook: I know it can feel tempting to just toss everything into the pot for a “dump dinner” in the slow cooker, but for the best flavor, it’s crucial to sauté the vegetables first. Add the beans and broth, bring everything to a boil, then add this all to your slow cooker. It takes just one additional pan and a few extra minutes, and the results are so worth that investment.
  • Try it with turkey: If you have leftover turkey from Thanksgiving, you could certainly adjust this soup to feature that instead. Bonus points if you can set aside a few portions of the bones to infuse the slow cooker soup broth.
Two bowls of ham and bean soup on a table.

Frequently Asked Questions

Should I toss the soaking liquid?

Yes, I recommend pouring the soaking water down the drain. Some people say it’s a waste of water to throw away the soaking water. Others say if you keep the soaking water, it adds a sour taste. I agree with the latter and recommend tossing the soaking water, but it’s up to you.

Should I salt the beans before cooking?

Yes, salt the beans before cooking them. You may have heard somewhere that the universe will implode if you add salt to beans before they are completely cooked. However, if you read Kenji López-Alt’s information in his book, The Food Lab, he did some side-by-side testing and determined that salting beans before they are cooked is fine. In fact, doing so helps prevent the beans from exploding (see page 256 in his book).

If I substitute kidney beans, do I need to worry about them being toxic?

Kidney beans contain phytohemagglutinin, a type of lectin that is very toxic at high levels. You MUST pre-soak dried kidney beans and hold them at boiling point (212 degrees Fahrenheit) for at LEAST 10 minutes. This means you should never cook kidney beans in a slow cooker. You won’t know for sure if the slow cooker reached boiling temps and held it for 10 minutes. Better to be safe than sorry!

More uses for leftover ham

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Slow cooker ham and bean soup in a brown bowl.

Slow Cooker Ham and Bean Soup

This easy recipe for Slow Cooker Ham and Bean Soup is an ultra-comforting and healthy dinner idea. Bonus: There's no need to soak the beans in advance for this slow cooker soup!
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 4 hours 20 minutes
Total Time 4 hours 40 minutes
Servings 12 servings
Course Main Course, Soup
Cuisine American
Calories 158
4.98 from 194 votes

Ingredients 

Instructions 

  • In a 3-quart saucepan or Dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium-high heat until shimmering. Sauté carrots, celery, and onion until softened and translucent, about 8 to 10 minutes.
  • Stir in broth, water, beans, ham bone, garlic powder, cumin, paprika, thyme, and bay leaf. Bring to a boil.
  • Pour into slow cooker. Heat on HIGH for 4 to 6 hours or until beans are tender.
  • Remove ham bone and bay leaf. Chop ham from bone and return to slow cooker. Add additional leftover ham, if using, and cover until heated through, about 5 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Recipe Video

Notes

  1. Chicken broth: Store-bought or homemade chicken broth; either works well.
  2. Beans: To soak beans overnight, add 4 quarts water to a large bowl and add 1 pound of rinsed beans. Soak at least 8 hours. To quick-soak beans, add 1 pound of rinsed beans to a large saucepan and cover with 3 inches of water. Bring to a boil. Boil rapidly for 5 minutes, then remove from heat, cover, and let stand for 1 hour. To substitute canned beans, use 3 to 4 cans of navy, pinto, kidney, cannellini beans, Great Northern beans, or other white beans, rinsed and drained.
  3. Ham bone: A leftover ham bone infuses the broth with so much rich pork flavor. A meatier ham bone will produce a meatier soup. Or substitute ham hocks or ham shanks.
  4. Yield: This recipe makes satisfying 12 servings. Pair with your favorite salad recipe and some crusty bread for dunking for a cozy and complete meal.
  5. Storage: Store leftovers covered for up to 4 days.

Nutrition

Serving: 1 servingCalories: 158kcalCarbohydrates: 27gProtein: 9gFat: 2gSaturated Fat: 1gSodium: 310mgPotassium: 672mgFiber: 7gSugar: 2gVitamin A: 1909IUVitamin C: 9mgCalcium: 63mgIron: 2mg
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Meggan Hill is a classically-trained chef and professional writer. Her meticulously-tested recipes and detailed tutorials bring confidence and success to home cooks everywhere. Meggan has been featured on NPR, HuffPost, FoxNews, LA Times, and more.

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Comments

  1. Making this right now! This is my go to recipe for ham and beans and my family loves it! I always have my husband purchase a ham hock from the honey baked ham store! Never change a thing–it is perfect just as is! Thank you so much for such a great and easy recipe!

  2. Followed the recipe exactly. Didn’t have dried beans, but substituted with canned great northern according to recipe notes. This soup was excellent! Thank you.5 stars

    1. Hi Pete, I’m so glad you loved the soup! It’s such a hit in my house, my favorite way to use up leftover ham. Thank you so much for leaving a comment, and take care! -Meggan

    1. Hi Gloria, yes! It freezes well! To freeze the ham and bean soup, place it in a shallow dish in the refrigerator to chill. Then, transfer to a freezer-safe container and freeze up to 2 months. Take care! – Meggan

  3. This recipe is AMAZING! It is yearly tradition in my home to make soup beans and cornbread after Christmas with the leftover ham bone. I decided to shy away from the way that I was taught to make it and decided to give this recipe a shot. Let’s just say that out of a family of 5 there were no leftovers! I had to tweak it a little as I didn’t have fresh carrots or celery, I instead used the frozen seasoning blend from Walmart that includes onion, celery, red and green bell peppers, and parsley. I sautéed the seasoning blend and then threw in a bag of frozen sliced carrots. It still turned out amazing. I’m definitely saving this for later!5 stars

    1. Thanks so much for sharing, Mandy! I love this tradition! Thank you for trusting my recipe, I’m so happy it was adaptable to what you had on hand. Take care! – Meggan

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