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

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!
5 from 45 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. Great recipe. On this site for the first time and am looking forward to exploring. My family and I are soup and stew fanatics in the winter, (the season’s only redeeming quality in my opinion). I cook a lot of Asian and Asian inspired foods. I know most folks aren’t going to have an extensive Asian pantry however I urge everyone to push their boundaries a bit. Amazon has become a game changer for those that do not have local Asian markets. Umami is a real thing and should become more a part of mainstream cookery. For this recipe I added 1 Tbsp white miso paste, 1 tsp clear fish sauce, 1/2 Tbsp soy sauce, 1 tsp worchestershire and 1/2 tsp ssamjang. In place of the water I started out with a home made dashi broth. The finished product was rich and the Asian flavors did not carry through. The idea was to not have any of the flavors on the forefront but to have the Umami reaction of, “I can’t put my finger on it but this is amazing”.
    Just had to share my thoughts and inspirations on this fabulous recipe and what possibilities are out there for those willing to go for it.5 stars

    1. Thanks Daniel, I’m so glad you enjoyed this recipe and playing around with it. Your variation definitely sounds amazing! – Meggan

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