Slow Cooker Ham and Bean Soup Recipe

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 1/2 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 1/4 hours for soaked beans and 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 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 1/2 cups of cooked beans
  • 6 1/2 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 1/2 to 1 3/4 hours (1 to 1 1/4 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 Recipe

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 17 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Main Course, Soup
Cuisine: American
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 4 hours 20 minutes
Total Time: 4 hours 40 minutes
Servings: 12 servings
Calories: 107kcal
Author: Meggan Hill

Ingredients

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

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 1/2 to 1 3/4 hours (1 to 1 1/4 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: 107kcal
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  1. Sandra Arbelo

    BEST SOUP RECIPE I’VE TASTED. I MAKE THIS AFTER EVERY THANKSGIVING!

  2. Dave

    Made this over the weekend and it’s delicious! To save time, I used the Instant Pot to cook the beans and some Cure 81 ham chopped into small cubes (love that smokey-flavored stuff). If using cured ham, do not add additional salt until you taste. Using salt in the cook water for the beans makes them creamy as butter. I doubled the vegetables and used extra stock (I prefer a little thinner consistency). The combination of seasonings really punches out a great flavor – I went a little light on the cumin because it’s very powerful – more can always be added later.

    Overall – an easy customizable 5-star recipe.5 stars

  3. Brenda McClelland

    This looks fantastic! Any chance you have a version for the Instant Pot? I’ve made many beans in there and they turn out great. That said, I’ve always followed recipes and not confident in adapting this quite yet. My fingers are crossed!

  4. Paula Fairchild

    I followed this recipe exactly as directed. It was delicious! Great soup to make with leftover ham. I used a soup combination of beans. Will freeze some for another time !5 stars

  5. Flossie

    Does this soup freeze well? Thanks!

    1. Meggan

      Hi! Yes, I have frozen this many times and I think it does great!

  6. Christina L Logan

    I made this recipe yesterday using Great Northern beans and it was DELICIOUS. I did soak my beans and discard the soaking water. I also just threw everything in the crock pot instead of sauteing and bringing it all to a boil, this is mostly because I am lazy. :-) I cooked it on high in the crock pot for approximately 4 hours and then on low for another 4. At then end I mashed up two cans of Great Northern beans and added it to the pot to make it more creamy. This recipe is FABULOUS!! Thank you for sharing it!!!5 stars

  7. Shauna

    Could this recipe be altered for Instant Pot?

    1. meggan

      Hi Shauna, I am sure it could be. I haven’t made this exact recipe, but I did it with my Ham and Lentil Soup recipe. Here is the recipe for that, updated for beans. I looked at some other sites and I think beans would be done in 35 minutes too (I thought it might be a lot longer than lentils, but the sites I found show dried beans, unsoaked, being ready in 35 minutes or less, depending on the bean).

      1. Using the sauté function on your Instant Pot, heat olive oil until shimmering. Sauté carrots, celery, and onion until softened and translucent, about 5 minutes.
      2. Next, stir in broth, water, beans, ham bone, spices, and bay leaf.
      3. Secure the lid, close the pressure valve, and cook at high pressure for 35 minutes.
      4. Allow the pressure to release naturally (at least 20 minutes). Remove ham bone and bay leaf. Chop ham from bone and return to Instant Pot, along with any extra ham you might be using.
      5. Season to taste with salt and pepper and garnish with parsley if desired.

      If you have any other questions, just let me know! Thanks! -Meggan

  8. Dave Krohl

    I usually make Split Pea soup but this was amazing. It was fresh and hearty and great on a cold winter’s night.5 stars

  9. Jennifer Deranger

    I want to make this soup but the only dried beans that I have are baby Lima beans. Would that work for this! I have left over ham & ham bone.
    Please help!!

    1. Meggan

      Hi Jennifer, thanks for the question! I think this will definitely work out well to use lima beans! The only thing that will change is that it will have a slightly different taste. Stick with the same cook time listed in the recipe (unless of course the beans aren’t done, then cook them longer). I have never made it with lima beans, so please feel free to report back if you would like to, I would love to know how it turns out! -Meggan

  10. Lacy

    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

  11. mom of two

    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

  12. Lori C.

    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. CLZ

      What do you soak them in and do you throw out liquid and start with fresh

    2. meggan

      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

  13. Mary willard

    Very good taste like moms use too.5 stars

    1. meggan

      Thank yoU Mary, there is no higher compliment! :D -Meggan

  14. A.j.

    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. meggan

      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.

  15. A.j.

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

  16. A.j.

    I DO NOT have a ham bone!!! Have large piece of ham for soup…need recipe!! Asap

    1. meggan

      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!

  17. Kathleen @ hapanom

    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. meggan

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

  18. l love meaty ham bones! My mom makes a very similar soup to this with green lentils instead.5 stars

    1. meggan

      Yes, green lentils (or split peas) are so tasty in this soup!

  19. Janette @ Culinary Ginger

    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. meggan

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

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