ham & bean soup

$6.56 recipe / $0.82 serving

Have you ever seen those bags of 16 bean soup mix in the dry bean aisle at the grocery store? Well, they’re kinda like the ramen of the bean world. They come with their own packet of “flavoring” that you’re supposed to boil with the beans to yield a delicious hearty soup. Well, beans, salt and MSG doesn’t sound too appetizing so I made my *own* seasoning.

Something special happens when you boil meat, bones and all of the connective tissue into a broth. It might seem frightening at first and it certainly doesn’t look very appetizing but I promise you that every soup you’ve eaten that has that certain “je ne sais quois” has this magic broth. From homemade chicken noodle soup to Vietnamese pho, they’ve all got the boiled bones and slow-cooked gelatinized tissues. So, please over look the unsightly ham hocks and believe me when I tell you they *make* this soup. You can use smoked turkey wings instead if you’d like. They’ll still give you great flavor and they have less fat but they’re also more expensive.

Also, if you don’t have a slow cooker, you cane make this on the stove top in a pot. Just let it simmer with a lid in place until the beans are soft (2-4 hours).

Ham & Bean Soup

ham & bean soup

4.9 from 7 reviews
ham & bean soup
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Total Cost: $6.56
Cost Per Serving: $0.82
Serves: 8
  • 1 med yellow onion $0.50
  • 3 stalks celery $0.46
  • 4 med carrots $0.49
  • 4 cloves garlic $0.23
  • 2 med smoked ham hocks $1.99
  • 1 lb. dry 16 bean mix $2.19
  • 2 whole bay leaves $0.10
  • 1 tsp dried thyme $0.05
  • 1 tsp dried oregano $0.05
  • 1½ Tbsp chicken base or bouillon $0.45
  • to taste salt and pepper $0.05
  1. The night before, rise the beans, pick through and remove any stones or debris. Place in a large container, cover with 2x the amount of water and refrigerate over night.
  2. Dice the onion, carrot, and celery. Mince the garlic. Place all four in the bottom of the slow cooker. Nestle two ham hocks down into the vegetables.
  3. Pour the soaking water off of the beans and rinse again. Pour the drained beans into the slow cooker on top of the vegetables and ham hocks. Add the seasoning (2 bay leaves, 1 tsp thyme, 1 tsp oregano, 1.5 Tbsp chicken base and a few cranks of black pepper). Add 6 cups of water, give everything a light stir to distribute the seasoning a bit but don’t disturb the vegetables or ham hocks.
  4. Secure the lid on top of the slow cooker and cook on high for 4-6 hours or until the beans are soft and have absorbed most of the water.
  5. Stir the soup and remove the ham hocks. Pick any meat off of the ham hocks and return it to the soup. Taste the soup and adjust the seasoning to your liking (salt, pepper, hot sauce, Tony Chachere’s, smoked paprika? Anything you want). Serve hot with any garnishes you like (sour cream, cheese, green onions, crusty bread… get creative!)


ham & bean soup

Step By Step Photos

bean soup mixThis is the dry bean soup mix I was talking about. Sometimes it’s called 16 bean soup mix and sometimes you can even find it in the bulk bins which is nice if you want to make a half batch. Rinse the beans and soak over night in the refrigerator with two times the amount of water (they’ll expand).

chopped vegetablesDice the onion, carrots and celery. Mince the garlic. Place all of them in the bottom of your slow cooker. I used celery that I had cleaned, cut and frozen previously… so that’s frost on there, not mold.

ham hock packageHere is the package of ham hocks that I bought. I used two and froze the third. I’ll probably use the third one the next time I make collard greens. They looks scary but taste fantastic. Promise. And they’re much less gross than chicken carcasses, IMHO.

ham hocksNestle the ham hocks down into the vegetables.

rinse beansPour off the soaking water from the beans and give them another rinse.

beans and seasoningPour the beans on top of the veggies and ham hock and then add the seasoning (bay leaves, thyme, oregano, chicken base, pepper).

ready to cookPour on 6 cups of water and give it a gentle stir just to distribute the seasoning. Secure the lid on the slow cooker and cook on high for 4-6 hours.

cook beans soupYou’ll know it’s done because the beans will be big, swollen, soft and it will look like most of the water has absorbed. Plus, it will be filling your house with an amazing, smokey ham scent. Yum.

taste n seasonRemove the ham hocks, pick any meat off of the bone and then stir it back into the soup. Give it a good taste and adjust the seasoning with whatever you want. Chances are you won’t need salt because of the ham hocks and chicken base but you may want to add hot sauce, smoked paprika or maybe nothing at all! Also, check out your fridge and garnish with whatever might be left in there. Sour cream? Cheese? Green onions? Maybe make some rice and top the bowl with a scoop? Lots of possibilities here.


  1. Katherine says:

    Do you think I could reduce the water and add evaporated milk to turn it into ham and bean chowder? I had a really good one a few years ago and have been trying to copy it ever since.
    Also, I don’t have ham hocks, but I do have some broth and scraps from the last small ham I invested in. The broth is very strong: the bone and rind were boiled long enough that the chilled liquid is thicker than Jello. What percentage of the soup base should it make up?

    • Hmm, I’m not sure about the evaporated milk because I’ve never tried that technique. As for the hame broth you have (YUM!!), I’d use four cups of that and two cups of water. The base I used made approximately four cups of broth, but I used six cups water total, so that’s like four cups broth and two cups of water.

      • Katherine says:

        Ok, thanks for the broth advice! I’ve done the evaporated milk thing with cream of mushroom soup, so it might work well. You start with a very thick clear soup and end up with a slightly thinner cream based soup for a lot less fat than usual.
        I define a ham, roast, or turkey as an investment because it costs more initially than a small package of meat but it pays off. You get more servings per dollar, and the bones give you broth for future meals if you just put a little effort in. I’m getting 12 entrees and two or three soups’ worth of broth out of a meat recipe that cost me about $17 to make.

        • Katherine says:

          So I didn’t follow it closely. My review might not be a reliable measurement of the original recipe, but it shows how you can be inspired by and change a dish without ruining it. I used this one as a starting point for something that turned out wonderfully.
          I sauteed the suggested veggies. When they were soft, I mixed in a few cups each of “ham jello” (the really thick broth I mentioned earlier) and water. I used canned great northern beans (lazy, I know, but I forgot to presoak the dried ones I had and it’s an absolute must at this altitude). Since I had the broth already made, I chopped up a chunk of the ham it came from to go into the soup instead of picking the meat off. Seasonings were as suggested.
          Oh, Beth, in case you were curious, adding a can of evaporated milk worked very well for turning it into a chowder. Just reduce the clear liquid (I used 4.5 cups total) and add a pinch of salt to make up for the milk’s sweetness.

  2. Ashlee says:

    Last freezing question today, I swear!

    Is this recipe adjustable to be frozen then dumped in the crock pot? I know the beans would make it tricky…could I freeze them after soaking overnight, or would that turn them to mush?

    • Honestly, I’ve never tried to freeze beans that have been soaked but not cooked. If the beans do break down, I think that would be okay. It would make the soup nice and thick. :)

  3. LaTrice says:

    The Ham and Bean Soup is absolutely DELICIOUS!! Instead of using water, I used chicken broth, and cooked the soup in a slow cooker for six hours. My apartment smelled HEAVENLY!! I served the soup with corn bread, and have plenty of leftovers for dinner. Thank you for this awesome recipe, Beth!! :-)

  4. LaTrice says:

    The Ham and Bean Soup is making my mouth water! I’m looking forward to making it!! :-)

  5. Missy says:

    My only problem with this soup is that after 6 hours there was still a lot of water left even though the beans were soft. Other than that it was really good.

    Maybe I’ll try reducing the amount of water next time to 4 cups.

  6. Carly says:

    Have you made this again recently?? I have been to Walmart and Rouse’s this week grocery shopping and can’t find a bean mix like this in any of the dried sections. :( My husband was the one at Rouse’s so maybe he just missed it though….

    • No, I haven’t made it recently. I think I’ve seen bean mixes at Whole Foods before, too? In the bulk bins?

  7. Jolea Perdue says:

    I just stumbled upon this on Pinterest. This is my favorite meal after we eat ham. I use the ham bone and the ham that is left over. I always eat mine with Collard Greens and Cornbread. My fiancé says it’s the only meal I can feed him that doesn’t have meat. Lol!

  8. Melyssa says:

    10 minutes of prep last night and I came home to the most spectacular smell! I played the “freezer defrost surprise” game a few days ago and won a Honeybaked Ham bone leftover from Easter at the in-laws! :) It worked perfectly in this soup, along side a 1lb. random assortment of dried beans I’ve accumulated over the last few month (black beans, black-eyed peas, red beans, & lentils). This soup was AMAZING! Thanks so much for the recipe (found on Pinterest). I will be a regular follower now!

  9. Not stupid at all, Ashlee! A simmer is less than a boil, but still bubbling. So, you don’t want it to vigorously boil, but have small, rapid bubbles rising to the surface. I need to make a video depicting this :)

  10. This may be a stupid question, but what setting on the stove makes it “simmer”? I see that all the time in recipes, and I always kinda guess, but I’m trying this recipe out on the stove (to make multiple batches at once!) and I really don’t want to screw it up. So do I need to bring it to a boil first? Or just set it at medium and let it go?

    Thanks for all your help :)

  11. It was awesome with the smoked turkey!! My husband kept asking “Are you sure this isn’t ham?” He didn’t miss the traditional ham flavor at all. I made 2 batches: one for a laid-up friend and one for us, and my husband was reluctant to let any of it leave the house. Plus, our house still smells incredible…a full 24 hours later. Thanks for yet another winning recipe, Beth!

  12. Ashlee – I’d go for two and get the maximum flavor :D

  13. I’m allergic to pork, so I bought smoked turkey thighs. The package has two in it. Do you think I should use both thighs, or just one? The total package weight is 1.5 lbs.

  14. Crystal – Yes, I think that would be an excellent substitution!

  15. If I can’t find ham hocks, do you think bacon would do a similar job?

  16. You convinced me to cook with ham hocks for the first time ever (I’m a sucker for slow cooker recipes). YUM! I’ll be making this again and again…

  17. Hahahha, yes, that is a regular hot sauce ;) While my heart belongs to sriracha, on some things I like regular hot sauce because it’s more vinegary.

  18. Do I see a hot sauce that’s not Sriracha? Beth, are you feeling ok?! haha Looks delicious!

  19. I made this today and it was really good. I think I should have added a bit more salt but overall very tasty. I packed up 2 small containers of it for my lunch this week and then filled 2 bigger containers to freeze for another time.

    Elliott, I used ham shanks instead of hocks and it turned out great.

  20. Elliott Overman says:

    We make a “Ham Bone Soup” from Honey baked hams… we’ve bought the ham bones and their soup mix in the past. Is this something you’ve tried? If so, do you think that substituting a ham bone (which are almost constantly on sale at Honey baked Hams) for the ham hocks would work in this recipe? I’m looking forward to trying this recipe soon!!

  21. Anonymous says:

    This may sound weird, but ended up very, very yummy! One year after Thanksgiving, I had a Honey Baked Ham hambone left over. It had quite a bit of meat pieces and I used that in the bean mix. It was not overly sweet, but gave it just the right amount of sweet to give it a different flavor.

  22. I love your recipes! Delicious and affordable. I just wanted to let you know I passed the versatile blogger award on to you. Check out my page and pass it along if you’re so inclined. :)


  23. Bean soup is a favorite in this house and I started making a batch this morning. I make stock from a ham bone first, then proceed with a very similar recipe. Great stuff.

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