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 33 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. This soup is delicious!! I added around 8 pieces of bacon towards the end of the cook time and it added great flavor. My boyfriend told me it was his favorite meal I’ve ever made haha. This recipe is definitely a keeper! Thank you for sharing !!5 stars

    1. I’m making your soup now. We have a noreaster storm here in the north. I am using northern beans, hopefully they work. I did everything else exactly as you described. It smells wonderful on this blizzard of a day!

  2. Making this right now I used a chicken broth, that had garlic, in it and it smells amazing. I used about 9slices of smoked ham, will leave the salt out until closer to dinner, I used canned beans, and carrots, did use fresh onions, and everything else was dry herb. I will make home made rolls.5 stars

  3. This is such a wonderful soup. I have been making it for years. The only thing I do different is….. I soak the beans in the crock over night, then throw everything in it. No sauting, or anything. Everything right into the crock. I do add a smoked ham hock to it too, which gives it a very nice subtle smoky flavor. Sever with some homemade dinner rolls, and everybody is happy! It is the only way I can get my boys to eat ham and bean soup!5 stars

    1. Hi CLZ yes I throw out the soaking water. I’ve heard mixed opinions on that but I’ve noticed sometimes if you make beans and use their soaking water, the soaking water gives a sour taste. I don’t know if that is affected by the type of bean or age of the beans or what. Sometimes it’s not a problem, but I feel like it’s better to be safe than sorry. So yes toss the soaking liquid and use fresh in the recipe. Thanks! -Meggan

  4. Ham and bean soup without bone came out GREAT! Used only ham, navy beans, chic broth a and basil. son ate 2 bowls and took some home “go with it” is great advice!!!!5 stars

    1. This is so great!!! Obviously you are a talented cook and you get all the credit. I will add some notes to the recipe so everyone else can benefit from your wisdom. So glad it worked out, you made my day! Take care.

  5. Thanks for quick reply….am gonna ‘go with it’. Let you know. Never had with the veggies—mom just used bone, water, and beans.

    1. Just go with it! Use your ham and the recipe as-is. Bones provide a more gelatinous texture and a richer flavor, but you’ll be fine without. I wouldn’t change anything. Just roll with it! Feel free to report back and let me know how it goes! Good luck!

  6. This looks wonderful! Ham bone soup is one of my favorites, especially on cold days. Love the classic flavors you’ve used!5 stars

    1. Thank you so much Kathleen! It’s finally cold and rainy in SoCal so I’ve got this soup on repeat. :D

  7. I love making soup with ham. I usually make it with split peas, but I love the use of pinto or navy beans making it so hearty.5 stars

    1. I love a good split pea soup myself. Sometimes I add them in here, too, or use lentils. Because more soup. :D