Stay warm this winter with a big bowl of old-fashioned ham and bean soup. It’s a hearty, healthy, budget-friendly meal the whole family will love.
Loaded with chunks of savory ham, colorful vegetables, and a mind-blowingly flavorful broth, it’s both delicious and nutritious.
This warm and comforting soup recipe is satisfying on its own, but it’s even more filling with a side of tender cornbread.
So whether you have holiday leftovers or a fresh ham hock ready to go, this old-fashioned ham and bean soup won’t disappoint.
- Dry Great Northern Beans – I love these beans for their flavor and shape, but there are plenty of alternatives, which we’ll get into below.
- Salted Water – you’ll use this to “hot soak” the beans so they’re soft enough to cook.
- Ham Hock – this is where the soup’s broth gets most of its flavor. Simmered for at least an hour, the ham hock is the most critical ingredient on the list.
- Carrots and Celery – classic veggies used to add flavor, crunch, and nutrition.
- Onion and Garlic – standard soup aromatics to make the broth more mouthwatering.
- Mustard Powder, Bay Leaves, White Pepper – to flavor the broth even more. When it comes to white pepper vs black pepper, just remember that white pepper has a little more heat and that black pepper has a stronger taste. Also, you’ll see the black flecks in the soup. But feel free to use black if it’s all you have.
- Chopped Ham – for more of that meaty ham flavor and wonderful texture.
What Beans Can I Use For this Ham and Bean Soup?
For this ham and bean soup, you can use Great Nothern Beans, which have a lovely nutty flavor. Alternatively, cannellini, navy, Boston beans, pinto, and kidney beans all make great options.
Now, the question is: should you pre-soak the beans overnight?
Some recipes call for pre-soaking the beans, saying that it significantly enhances their texture and helps degas them.
Personally, though, I don’t think it’s necessary. I’ve tried making this soup both ways, and I don’t see a big difference in flavors and textures. It all gets devoured either way.
But, if you still want to pre-soak the beans, by all means!
- Rinse the beans and discard discolored and broken ones.
- Place them in a large bowl and cover them with water.
- Let the beans soak overnight and drain.
Tips and Tricks for the Best Ham and Bean Soup
- For a thicker, creamier broth, take half a cup of the beans out of the soup, puree them, and put them back in the pot. Pureeing or mashing some of the soup is a great way to make soup creamy as it releases the starches in the beans.
- You can also use starches, such as flour or cornstarch to thicken the soup. Take out a few tablespoons of the hot broth and stir in a tablespoon of starch. Once the slurry is smooth, pour it back into the pot and stir until desired thickness is achieved. This should take just around five minutes or less.
- This soup already contains vegetables, but why stop there? Give it more substance and nutrition with potatoes, spinach, zucchini, frozen peas, kale, and shredded cabbage. The sky’s the limit!
- If adding starchy vegetables such as potatoes and sweet potatoes, let the soup simmer for 5-10 minutes longer, or just until the vegetables are fork-tender. The last thing you want is to bite into a raw potato.
- There’s no need to remove all the meat from the ham bone. The meatier it is, the more flavorful your broth will be! This also means you’ll get more tasty ham bits in the soup.
- If you don’t have a ham bone, ham hocks also make a great option. In fact, the joints hocks actually provide the broth with more flavor.
- Salted pork or uncooked smoked bacon also makes a super flavorful broth. So if you can’t get your hands on a bone, you can try this easy alternative.
How Do I Store Leftover Soup?
Store leftover soup in an airtight container in the fridge. It will taste better the day after it’s made and should last up to a week in the fridge. If freezing, use freezer-safe bags or plastic containers and keep them for up to three months.
From the fridge, you just need to microwave the soup until warmed through.
You’ll find it easier to freeze the soup in individual portions, that way, you don’t need to thaw a huge batch for one bowl. Freezer bags make this much easier.
To reheat frozen soup, bring a pot of water to a boil and put the bag of frozen soup inside. It’ll warm up in a few minutes.
If it’s in a plastic container, just pop it in the fridge overnight to thaw.
Looking For More Easy and Comforting Soup Recipes?
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