An easy recipe for Slow Cooker Ham and Bean Soup. Always buy a bone-in ham so you can make this soup! You don’t need to soak the beans ahead, either. It’s easy, delicious, and made right in your crockpot.

There are many reasons to buy fully-cooked bone-in hams, and the prospect of a delicious Ham and Bean Soup the next day is certainly a compelling one.

Put the ham bone, and any leftover ham, to work in this easy, delicious soup. And you don’t have to soak the beans overnight before you make it!

Ham and bean soup in a white bowl.

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Do I need to soak the beans first?

No, you don’t have to soak the beans first.

I created this recipe assuming you would NOT pre-soak the beans. I assumed you would wake up one day with leftover ham and want to do something with it.

Un-soaked beans take about 30 minutes longer to cook and require more liquid than soaked beans. This recipe accounts for that.

If you want to soak the beans first, there are two methods to do it: Overnight-soak and Quick-soak.

Overnight-Soaking Method for beans:

  1. Pick through and rinse 1 pound beans.
  2. Cover the beans with 5 cups over water and soak overnight.
  3. Drain and discard soaking liquid (see below “Should I discard soaking liquid?”).

Quick-Soaking Method for beans:

  1. Pick through and rinse 1 pound beans.
  2. To a large saucepan, add beans and enough liquid to cover them by 1 inch.
  3. Bring beans to boil and cook for 2 minutes.
  4. Remove saucepan from heat, cover, and let beans sit for 1 hour.
  5. Drain and discard soaking liquid (see below “Should I discard soaking liquid?”).

Ham and bean soup in a white crock pot.

Should I discard the soaking liquid?

Yes.

But people have differing opinions on this.

  • Some people say it’s a waste of water to throw away the soaking water.
  • Some people say if you keep the soaking water, it adds a sour taste.

I have learned from cooks in Mexico that they don’t usually soak beans at all. But if they do, they toss the cooking liquid. So that’s what I do, too.

Cooking Dried Beans:

You can pre-cook beans to keep on hand or freeze for later. These instructions will work for 1 pound of pinto beans, navy beans, Great Northern beans, red kidney beans, Cannellini beans, or black-eyed peas.

  1. To a large saucepan, add 1 pound beans, 2 ½ teaspoons salt, and water (4 quarts for soaked beans, 5 quarts for un-soaked beans).
  2. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to gentle simmer and cook until beans are tender (about 1 to 1 ¼ hours for soaked beans and 1 ½ to 1 ¾ hours for un-soaked beans).
  3. Stir the beans occasionally to prevent them from sticking to the bottom of the pan and adjust heat as necessary to maintain a gentle simmer. Drain.

Wait – you add salt to the beans before they are cooked?

Yes.

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).

Ham and bean soup in a white crock pot.

Can I substitute canned beans?

To substitute canned beans, use 3 or 4 cans of Pinto, navy, kidney, Cannelini, or Great Northern beans). Rinse and drain before adding to the saucepan and bringing to boil.

  • 1 pound of dried beans is approximately 6 ½ cups of cooked beans
  • 6 ½ cups of beans is approximately 52 ounces
  • 3 (15.5 ounce) cans = 45 ounces beans
  • 4 (15.5 ounce) cans = 62 ounces beans

How to Make Ham and Bean Soup on the stove:

You can skip the slow cooker and cook the soup right on your stove-top. Use the same ingredients from the recipe below and follow these instructions:

  1. In a Dutch oven or large saucepan, heat olive oil over medium-high heat until shimmering. Sauté carrots, celery, and onion until softened and translucent, about 8 to 10 minutes.
  2. Stir in broth, water, beans, ham bone, garlic powder, cumin, paprika, thyme, and bay leaf. Bring to a boil. Cover and cook until beans are tender, about 1 ½ to 1 ¾ hours (1 to 1 ¼ hours for soaked beans).
  3. 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.

Tips for the best Ham and Bean Soup:

  • Sauté the vegetables up front for the best flavor, then add the beans and broth. Bring everything to a boil before adding to your crockpot to kickstart the cooking process.
  • Since ham is very salty on its own, use low-sodium chicken broth. Do not add more salt until you’ve added the chopped ham from the bone (and any other leftover ham you have on hand).
  • A meatier ham bone will produce a meatier soup.

Can you freeze Homemade Ham and Bean soup?

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.

Slow cooker ham and bean soup in a white bowl.

Slow Cooker Ham and Bean Soup

An easy recipe for Slow Cooker Ham and Bean Soup. Always buy a bone-in ham so you can make this soup! You don't need to soak the beans ahead, either. It's easy, delicious, and made right in your crockpot.
5 from 19 votes
Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 4 hrs 20 mins
Total Time 4 hrs 40 mins
Servings 12 servings
Course Main Course, Soup
Cuisine American
Calories 158

Ingredients 

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup carrots sliced (3-4 carrots)
  • 1 cup celery sliced (3-4 ribs)
  • 1 onion chopped
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 pound dried pinto beans or navy beans, rinsed and picked over
  • 1 meaty ham bone
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • additional cooked ham chopped, optional

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

Soaking the beans before cooking is not required. However, you can cut about 30 minutes off the cooking time if you pre-soak the beans.
Overnight-Soaking Method for beans:
  1. Pick through and rinse 1 pound beans.
  2. Cover the beans with 5 cups over water and soak overnight.
  3. Drain and discard soaking liquid.
Quick-Soaking Method for beans:
  1. Pick through and rinse 1 pound beans.
  2. To a large saucepan, add beans and enough liquid to cover them by 1 inch.
  3. Bring beans to boil and cook for 2 minutes.
  4. Remove saucepan from heat, cover, and let beans sit for 1 hour.
  5. Drain and discard soaking liquid.
To substitute canned beans:
  1. Use 3 or 4 cans of Pinto, navy, kidney, Cannelini, or Great Northern beans).
  2. Rinse and drain before adding to the saucepan and bringing to boil.
How to Make Ham and Bean Soup on the stove:
  1. In a Dutch oven or large saucepan, heat olive oil over medium-high heat until shimmering. Sauté carrots, celery, and onion until softened and translucent, about 8 to 10 minutes.
  2. Stir in broth, water, beans, ham bone, garlic powder, cumin, paprika, thyme, and bay leaf. Bring to a boil. Cover and cook until beans are tender, about 1 ½ to 1 ¾ hours (1 to 1 ¼ hours for soaked beans).
  3. 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.

Nutrition

Calories: 158kcalCarbohydrates: 27gProtein: 9gFat: 2gSaturated Fat: 1gSodium: 310mgPotassium: 672mgFiber: 7gSugar: 2gVitamin A: 1909IUVitamin C: 9mgCalcium: 63mgIron: 2mg
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Comments

  1. I wish people understood that, for those of us living in high elevations, we HAVE TO soak our beans. It’s not a preference, it’s a rule.

    1. Hi Michelle, that’s really interesting. At what height of elevation is that required? The place I always go to in Mexico (a small town outside Aguascalientes) is about 6,500 feet above sea level, and they never soak their beans there. So I honestly had no idea this was a thing. I need to make the beans posts on the site more consistent anyway, so I will definitely look into this elevation thing regarding soaking beans. Thank you! -Meggan

  2. I’ve always boiled the bone and used the water instead of other broth. What is your opinion? Going to try the slow cooker method. Thank you.

    1. Hi Barbara, adding chicken broth adds more flavor to the soup than just the ham bone alone would give. I hope you enjoy it! – Meggan

  3. Before serving try adding shaved smoked gouda to the top of each serving. It adds a extra creaminess to it. I have made this multiple times and have been serving it in bread bowls with smoked gouda. It is such a family favorite that they requested it for easter dinner this year.

  4. Made this today. So easy (thank you for your excellent instructions, tips, and extra info) and it turned out amazing. My husband really loves a good bean soup I’ve tried a few recipes and they were okay, but this one was a touchdown. I used a smoked ham hock and also purchased some packaged, already diced, smoked ham pieces at Meijer to add in at the end. I also used an immersion blender (before adding the meat back in) because we like our bean soup nice and thick. Again, thanks for a great recipe.5 stars

  5. I made this. I was skeptical of the combination of spices, but I followed the recipe. This was this BEST ham and bean soup I have ever tasted. EXCELLENT!5 stars

  6. I made this and it came out delicious with the northern beans. Omg! I had like 3 bowls, awesome! Its a keeper! Thanks!5 stars

  7. The family loved it! I made it on the stove, presoaked my beans, and followed the directions. My 5 year-old also enjoyed this soup and gave me a thumbs up:)5 stars

  8. Sista – OMGG – this was the BOMB:) On a scale of 1-10 – this was an ELEVEN:) We enjoyed tonight w/ CornBread Muffins. Pretty much followed recipe w/ these tweaks: Overnighted approx. 2 cups of Pinto Beans and then rinsed in a.m. before adding to crock pot. Boiled my Hambone separately in water for couple of hours, shredded the good meat, took out the fat pieces – and then chilled the remaining Broth to skim FAT off the top. Then this was added to the already cooking Crock Pot ingredients of : beans, chicken broth, carrots, onions, celery, bay leaf, spices -less a little on cumin and definitely on salt. (FYI – did not pre saute anything) WOW – cooked on HIGH for approx 6-7 hours and it was delicious :) I feel so fine :) Thank you again!5 stars

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