Hearty Navy Bean Soup Recipe photo by Taste of Home
Total Time
Prep: 30 min. + soaking Cook: 1-3/4 hours
When comfort food calls, make this hearty navy bean soup. It's soul-warming and filling, a perfect way to use up leftover ham.

Updated: Mar. 15, 2024

When soup season hits our house, we have a steady list of recipes on rotation. We love all the classic homemade soup recipes because they’re affordable and easy to make in bulk, and they can use up those vegetables in your crisper! This Test Kitchen-approved navy bean soup is one of our favorites, and you might even already have all the ingredients on hand.

Soaking beans overnight is recommended when cooking dried beans, which this recipe calls for. Though it means having to plan ahead just a bit, you’ll never regret cooking dried beans from scratch. As the beans simmer with the rest of the ingredients, everything melds together to create a creamy, delicious soup base. A minimal number of other ingredients, time and simple seasoning are all it takes to make a heart-warming, tummy-filling soup.

Ingredients for Navy Bean Soup

  • Dried navy beans: Cooking dried beans is important for this recipe because the cooking liquid becomes part of the soup base. If you don’t have time to soak them overnight, you can quick-soak dried beans. Soak the rinsed beans in boiling water for just an hour.
  • Ham: Ham is important here, as it adds a whole depth of flavor to this soup. Navy bean soup is one of those great leftover ham recipes you’ll want in your back pocket to use up leftover meat!
  • Chicken broth: You can use store-bought or homemade chicken broth if you have the time. In a pinch, you can also use vegetable broth or even water.


Step 1: Rinse and soak the beans

Sort through your navy beans, removing any dirt, cracked beans or rocks. Rinse the beans thoroughly, and soak them according to package directions.

Step 2: Simmer the soup

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Drain and rinse the beans, discarding the liquid. Place the beans in a Dutch oven. Add the tomatoes with their juice, onion, ham hock, broth, water, salt and pepper. Stir well, and bring everything to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer. Cover and cook until beans are tender, about 1 hour and 30 minutes.

Step 3: Finish the soup

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If you used a ham hock, remove it from the pot, and let it stand until cool enough to handle. Remove the meat from the bone, and discard the bone. Cut the ham into bite-sized pieces, and set aside.

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If the soup has thickened up too much, add more water until it’s the consistency you’d like. If you want a thicker soup, let the soup cool slightly, then puree some of the beans in a food processor or blender, and return to pan. Add the ham back to the soup, and heat through while stirring often. Garnish with parsley if desired, and serve.

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Navy Bean Soup Variations

  • Substitute canned beans: If you don’t have time to cook beans from scratch, you can still enjoy this soup. Add extra water or broth as needed, and shorten the cooking time to 30 minutes in Step 2.
  • Add leafy greens: Leafy greens make a great addition to soups. Greens add texture and nutritional value, and they’re also delicious. We recommend spinach or kale for a little extra fiber.
  • Use a different cooking method: If you want a more hands-off experience, try making this as a slow-cooker soup recipe. You can set it and forget it, then several hours later you’ll have delicious soup, ready to eat.
  • Make it vegetarian: To make vegetarian navy bean soup, omit the ham, and use vegetable stock or broth. You can also add extra vegetables like diced celery and carrots.

Can you make navy bean soup ahead of time?

Soups are great to make ahead. It gives time for all the flavors to come together. Let your cooked soup cool, then store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to four or five days.

How to Freeze Navy Bean Soup

Freezing soup is a great way to get ahead on your meal prep, and it also helps prevent food waste. Freeze the cooled soup in freezer-safe airtight containers or resealable bags for up to three months. Let the soup thaw overnight in the fridge before reheating, or thaw it in the microwave according to manufacturer’s directions.

Navy Bean Soup Tips

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Do you have to soak the beans for navy bean soup?

Soaking dried beans before cooking them helps them cook faster and more evenly. It’s always preferred to soak your dried beans first, but it’s not strictly required.

Why is it called “navy bean soup”?

It’s all thanks to the navy bean, whose name stems from the bean being served to members of the US Navy during World War II. This small, white, economical bean provided a filling alternative during food rationing.

How do you thicken navy bean soup?

To thicken navy bean soup, let it cool slightly, then transfer the beans in a food processor or blender to puree. Return mixture to soup, and stir to combine.

Are great northern beans the same as navy beans?

Great northern beans are not the same as navy beans, but they are similar. Both are white beans, but navy beans are smaller in size and require a long, slow cook time. Navy beans are one of the central ingredients in canned pork and beans, though we love to use them in a number of other navy bean recipes too.

Watch how to Make Hearty Navy Bean Soup

Hearty Navy Bean Soup

Prep Time 30 min
Yield 10 servings (2-1/2 quarts).


  • 3 cups (1-1/2 pounds) dried navy beans
  • 1 can (14-1/2 ounces) diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 meaty ham hock or 1 cup diced cooked ham
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 2-1/2 cups water
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Minced fresh parsley, optional


  1. Rinse and sort beans; soak according to package directions.
  2. Drain and rinse beans, discarding liquid. Place in a Dutch oven. Add the tomatoes with juice, onion, ham hock, broth, water, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer until beans are tender, about 1-1/2 hours.
  3. Add more water if necessary. Remove ham hock and let it stand until cool enough to handle. Remove meat from bone; discard bone. Cut meat into bite-sized pieces; set aside. (For a thicker soup, cool slightly, then puree beans in a food processor or blender and return to pan.) Return ham to soup and heat through. Garnish with parsley if desired.

Nutrition Facts

1 cup: 244 calories, 2g fat (0 saturated fat), 8mg cholesterol, 410mg sodium, 42g carbohydrate (5g sugars, 10g fiber), 18g protein. Diabetic Exchanges: 3 starch, 2 lean meat, 1 vegetable.

My family loves navy bean soup! Beans were a commodity you did not survive without in the '30s. This excellent navy beans and ham soup is a real family favorite of ours and I make it often. —Mildred Lewis, Temple, Texas