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. It’s far more flavorful once roasted, for one, and the prospect of a delicious Ham and Bean Soup the next day is a close runner-up.

Put the ham bone, and any leftover ham, to work in this easy slow cooker soup recipe. It’s one of my family’s favorite comfort food recipes and is a tradition in our home after Easter and Christmas.

Table of Contents
  1. Recipe ingredients
  2. Ingredient notes
  3. Step-by-step instructions
  4. Recipe tips and variations
  5. Recipe FAQs
  6. Slow Cooker Ham and Bean Soup Recipe

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.
  • Navy beans or pinto 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. (See “Recipe FAQs” for more bean-soaking tips.) To substitute canned beans, use 3 to 4 cans of navy, pinto, kidney, cannelini, or Great Northern beans, rinsed and drained.
  • Ham bone and ham hocks: This infuses the broth with so much rich pork flavor. A meatier ham bone will produce a meatier soup.

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.
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.
  • 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.

Recipe FAQs

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!

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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!
4.99 from 66 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 (see note 1)
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 pound dried navy beans or pinto beans, rinsed and picked over (see note 2)
  • 1 meaty ham bone or ham hocks (see note 3)
  • 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

  1. Chicken broth: Store-bought or homemade chicken broth; either works well.
  2. Navy beans or pinto 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. (See “Recipe FAQs” for more bean-soaking tips.) To substitute canned beans, use 3 to 4 cans of navy, pinto, kidney, cannelini, or Great Northern beans, rinsed and drained.
  3. Ham bone and ham hocks: This infuses the broth with so much rich pork flavor. A meatier ham bone will produce a meatier soup.

Nutrition

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

  1. Really hit the spot on this rainy, dreary day in Oregon. Loved the spice profile. There’s nothing on your site I haven’t loved

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