Old-Fashioned Ham and Bean Soup

Total Time

Prep: 15 min. + soaking Cook: 1-1/2 hours


10 servings (2-1/2 quarts)

Updated: Nov. 01, 2023
This old-fashioned version of ham and bean soup starts with dried navy beans, but you could start with great northern beans instead. The first soak of the beans softens them, but they won't get tender until after they are simmered in the second step. —Taste of Home Test Kitchen
Old-Fashioned Ham and Bean Soup Recipe photo by Taste of Home


  • 1 pound dried navy beans
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 2 celery ribs, chopped
  • 8 cups water
  • 1 medium carrot, chopped
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 smoked ham hocks
  • 2 cups cubed fully cooked ham
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt


  1. Place beans in a Dutch oven; add water to cover by 2 in. Bring to a boil; boil for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat; cover and let stand for 1 to 4 hours or until beans are softened. Drain and rinse beans, discarding liquid.
  2. In the same pan, heat oil over medium heat; add onion and celery. Cook and stir until crisp-tender, 3-5 minutes. Stir in softened beans, 8 cups water, carrot, bay leaves, thyme and pepper. Add ham hocks. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 1-1/4 to 1-1/2 hours or until beans are tender.
  3. Discard bay leaves. Remove ham hocks; set aside until cool enough to handle. Remove ham from bones and cut into cubes. Discard bones. Return ham from ham hocks to soup. Stir in cubed ham and salt; heat through.
Old-Fashioned Ham and Bean Soup Tips

Can you use canned beans instead of dried beans?

Canned beans can definitely be used in place of dried beans. However, since they're already cooked, it’s best to add them in the last 30 minutes of simmering the soup. If overcooked, the beans won’t retain their shape and will become mushy. If you generally prefer to use canned beans over dried, try more of our canned bean recipes.

What can you use instead of smoked ham hocks?

A ham bone is the perfect substitution for ham hocks. If the ham bone is pretty meaty, feel free to omit the 2 cups of diced ham. Instead, remove the ham from the bone after cooking, shred or dice it, and return the ham to the soup.

How can you thicken old-fashioned ham and bean soup?

The beans will naturally thicken the soup. If using canned beans, consider pureeing 1/3 of the beans before adding them to the soup for a thicker texture.

How long will old-fashioned ham and bean soup last?

Store old-fashioned ham and bean soup in a tightly covered container in the refrigerator up to 5 days. It can also be frozen in a freezer-safe container for up to 3 months. If you liked this recipe, be sure to try more of our ham soup recipes.

Catherine Ward, Taste of Home Prep Kitchen Manager

Nutrition Facts

1 cup: 230 calories, 4g fat (1g saturated fat), 25mg cholesterol, 521mg sodium, 31g carbohydrate (3g sugars, 8g fiber), 20g protein. Diabetic Exchanges: 2 starch, 2 lean meat.