Try this frugal and delicious classic recipe for Northern Beans and Ham Soup. Easily made in the Crock-Pot or Instant Pot and perfect for cool winter days! Ladle over our Instant Pot Rice or Cast Iron Skillet Cornbread for a hearty dinner.
Growing up, my parents cooked most dinners at home. I remember very few meals that I didn’t like, but there are definitely a few meals that have stood out as my favorites.
Pot of beans – or more commonly known as northern beans and ham soup – is one of them.
I confess, there was a several year gap while I was in college when I didn’t have much of anything resembling a home-cooked meal. So when I visited my mom one night and she cooked a pot of beans, it was like a rewind to my childhood.
And it was utterly amazing.
Just like I have my own memories, I want my kids to grow up and remember me making their favorite dishes. My daughter has grown VERY fond of my tomato basil soup – or tomato sauce soup, as she affectionately calls it – and I love that she’s the first one to finish her bowl when it’s on the table.
My son is a little on the tricky side. He’s a HUGE fan of fruits and vegetables, but a bit peculiar with certain textures. However, he does like ham, so I’m hoping to win him over since the enormous flavor of a simple pot of beans comes from the fact that they cook all day with a smoked ham hock.
A short side note… Before you fellow moms and dads start to think that I’ve got a trick up my sleeve to feed my kids beans without complaint, I don’t. It’s taken a few years of dedicated persistence before they realized that I’m not going to not ever serve them beans. So here’s a tip from the trenches: Just keep trying. Eventually they’ve cave!
Northern Beans and Ham Soup
My favorite part of northern beans and ham soup are the little pieces of ham that are hidden among the beans. It’s like finding a gem among a beach of grey rocks, and the more the merrier! Why cook this soup? Because it’s:
- Hearty. It has a consistency of stew (it’s SO good served with my no-knead artisan bread), which makes it thick and hearty and perfect for colder temperatures outside.
- Versatile. It can be served as a stew, or over rice (I like to make Instant Pot Rice), or over my cast iron skillet cornbread!
- And It Freezes Well. This soup reheats even better, and can be made in the slow cooker (like this one) even when you’re not home!
Since the ham imparts the natural saltiness to this dish, I didn’t include any added salt. You will need to add salt and pepper to taste. YUM!
See? I told you it was amazing…
Ingredients in Northern Beans and Ham Soup
At first, it may seem like it’s a lot of ingredients, but trust me, it’s so quick and easy to put together. Especially if you prep the veggies ahead of time.
- Northern beans, soaked overnight
- Olive oil
- Carrots, Celery, Onion
- Italian seasoning
- Chicken broth / stock (preferably Homemade Chicken Stock – Try this easy Instant Pot Recipe)
- Ham Hock
- Chopped ham (optional) If the budget is tight, you can omit the additional chopped ham and just use the ham hock. You’ll still get plenty of wonderful meat from the ham hock. The chopped ham is just an extra option!
- Notes: I have seen some other recipes that call for bay leaves, which I haven’t added to this recipe, but you can definitely add a bay leaf to this recipe if you’d like!
What are Great Northern Beans?
Great Northern Beans, also called Northern Beans, are medium white beans, that are mild and delicate in flavor, and can be found at any grocery store. The Harvard Medical School says that eating beans are a cheap and nutritious recipe for health! Perfect!
Can you Freeze Ham and Bean Soup?
YES! Ham and Bean Soup freezes very well (and you can freeze it for up to three months). Once cooled, if you portion the soup into freezer bags and lay them flat, you’ll save a lot of space in the freezer – with more room for freezer meals like these dinner plans and these breakfast plans!
How do you Soak Beans for Bean and Ham Soup?
I think soaking overnight is the easiest way to do it, but at a minimum, soak for 6-8 hours beforehand. You can learn about how to soak and de-gas beans here.
Note that the dried beans should be soaked, but not par-cooked. Par-cooking them will yield a soup texture instead of stew, which is fine if that’s what you prefer.
But I like stew, and in order to get that, the beans need to literally cook with the ham hock and as they do, they’ll shed the outer coating which will break down into the stock and create a creamy, stew-y sauce. YUM!
How To Make Northern Bean & Ham Soup in the Slow Cooker
This is one of several great recipes where you can toss all of the ingredients together, set the slow cooker and GO – That is, of course, after you give the veggies a quick saute, which deepens the natural flavors and makes them even more delicious!
- Drain soaked beans.
- Saute vegetables until fragrant.
- Add the beans, vegetables, and all of the remaining ingredients to a slow cooker.
- Cook for 6-8 hours and serve over prepared white rice, Instant Pot Brown Rice, or skillet cornbread.
- Salt and black pepper to taste.
How To Make Northern Bean & Ham Soup on the Stovetop
Similar to the slow cooker, but in a large pot, saute the vegetables until fragrant. Add the seasonings and saute another minute (this deepens their flavor).
- Add the soaked and drained beans, and all of the remaining ingredients into the pot.
- Bring to a boil and then turn down to a simmer on medium-low for 1 ½ – 2 hours, or until the beans are tender.
- Serve over rice, or cornbread.
- Salt and black pepper to taste
How To Make Northern Bean & Ham Soup in the Instant Pot
Use the IP saute function to saute the vegetables in the instant pot until fragrant, then add the seasonings to the vegetables for another minute (this deepens their flavor).
- Add the soaked / drained beans, ham hock and all of the remaining ingredients.
- Lock the lid and make sure the release lever is turned to ‘sealing.’
- Cook on manual high pressure for 40 minutes.
- Allow a natural pressure release for another 20 minutes.
- When you remove the ham bone, you may have to cut the meat and then stir meat back in. Serve over rice or cornbread.
- Salt and black pepper to taste
Try Some Other Easy Soup Recipes
- Garlic White Bean Soup With Kale
- Kung Fu Panda Soup
- Red Lentil Vegetable Soup
- Hearty Minestrone Soup
- Homemade Tortilla Soup
- ½ pound dried northern beans, soaked overnight
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- ½ onion, diced
- 2 ribs celery, diced
- 2 medium carrots, diced
- ¼ tsp thyme
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 tsp Italian seasoning
- 1 quart homemade chicken stock
- ¼ tsp sage
- 1 ham hock (approx 2lbs)
- 1 cup chopped ham (optional, approx 1 ham steak)
- Drain soaking liquid from beans and set beans aside.
- In a skillet, heat olive oil over medium. Add onion, celery, carrot, and garlic and cook until fragrant, about 3-5 minutes.
- Add cooked vegetables, beans and all other remaining ingredients to a slow cooker.
- Cook on low for 6-8 hours, until beans are cooked through.
- Serve over prepared white rice or cornbread.
What’s one of your favorite childhood dishes?
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