Looking for a cozy, hearty soup recipe to rely on during soup season? Ham and bean soup is an easy choice when you’ve got leftover ham on hand and need dinner on the table quickly. Although it tastes like it’s been simmering on the stovetop all day, this homemade soup recipe takes just 30 minutes from start to finish because it calls for canned (not dried) beans.
- Cubed ham: Use up leftover cooked ham to make this easy ham and bean soup. Try to avoid using leftovers from recipes that have a super sweet or overpowering glaze, since the flavors will carry over into the soup. Or, cut off the edges of each glazed ham slice and use the insides.
- Chicken broth: While ham and bean soup recipes often call for water, chicken broth makes this recipe more flavorful and nourishing. Store-bought or homemade chicken broth will work.
- Beans: Drain and rinse four cans of great northern beans to keep the prep time to a minimum.
- Veggies: A mirepoix made with sauteed carrots, onion and celery creates a base for the soup. Cut the vegetables into the same size so they cook evenly.
- Herbs and spices: Bay leaf, minced garlic, chili powder and black pepper give the ham and bean soup a little warming spice and depth. Don’t forget to remove the bay leaf before serving—they’re tough and unpleasant to eat. If you’ve ever wondered, “can you eat bay leaves?”, the answer is no!
Step 1: Make the mirepoix
In a large saucepan, saute the carrots, celery and onion in butter until tender.
Step 2: Add the remaining ingredients
Stir in the rinsed, drained great northern beans. Add the chicken broth, cubed ham, chili powder, minced garlic, pepper and bay leaf.
Step 3: Let the ham and bean soup simmer
Bring the soup to a boil. Reduce the heat and cook for 15 minutes or until heated through. Discard the bay leaf before serving.
Ham and Bean Soup Variations
- Add bacon: Bacon makes a delicious duo with ham and provides some salty flavor. If you go this route, you could cook the carrots, celery and onion in the residual bacon fat instead of the butter.
- Toss in some greens: Add a big handful or two of fresh spinach toward the end of the cook time.
- Add some heat: Top a bowl of soup with jalapeno slices for a kick, or add a drizzle of hot sauce.
How to Store Ham and Bean Soup
Ham and bean soup will last for three to four days in an airtight container in the fridge. While it might be easiest to keep all of your leftovers in one covered pot or lidded container, storing soup in several smaller airtight containers helps it cool down faster, and makes it easier to reheat individual portions in the microwave later. You can also reheat ham and bean soup over gentle heat on the stovetop instead of in the microwave.
Can you freeze ham and bean soup?
Since our ham and bean soup recipe contains no dairy, it’s one of the many soups that freeze well. Store it in a freezer container for soup, or ladle cooled soup into freezer bags and put them flat in the freezer in a single layer. Once they’re frozen solid, you can stack them to save space. Here are more tips and tricks for how to freeze soup.
Ham and Bean Soup Tips
Can you use other types of beans to make ham and bean soup?
This ham and bean soup recipe is particularly easy because it calls for canned beans instead of dried beans. While you could use dried, you’d have to soak them before beginning the recipe, which requires more time.
You can use other types of canned beans in place of the great northern beans. Cannellini beans or navy beans would both make sensible swaps.
How do you thicken ham and bean soup?
The best way to thicken this soup is to mash half of the beans in the pot before adding the remaining ingredients. If you still want the same amount of whole beans in every spoonful, simply add more than four cans of great northern beans to make up the difference. You could also add a cornstarch slurry to thicken up the soup. Often, you can apply the same tricks for how to thicken sauce to a soup recipe.
What do you serve with ham and bean soup?
Crackers always make a perfect pairing for soup. If you’ve got the time, homemade crackers, like these thyme sea salt crackers, would make a particularly lovely combination with this recipe. Of course, a crusty baguette, a slice (or two) of cornbread or even fluffy biscuits complement most soup recipes. If you want to try something new, here are more ideas for sides for soup.