Ham and Bean Soup

A pantry perennial, dried beans make an outstanding everyday soup when flavored with smoked ham. If you buy a big ham for the holidays, reserve the meaty bone. The leftover bits of ham and rich marrow from the bone infuse this soup with smoky flavor and provide a generous amount of meaty ham chunks.

Makes 10 servings


  • 3 cups dried navy beans
  • 20 cups water, divided
  • 1 (3½-pound) meaty smoked ham bone*
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 cup chopped yellow onion
  • 1 cup chopped carrots
  • ½ cup chopped celery
  • ½ tsp kosher salt plus additional, to taste
  • Black pepper, to taste
  • Chopped fresh Italian parsley (optional)


Rinse beans. In a large pot, combine beans and 8 cups water. Cover and let stand in a cool place for 6 to 8 hours or overnight. (Or for a quick-soak method, bring beans to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, uncovered, for 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Cover and let stand for 60 minutes.) Drain and rinse beans; set aside.

In the same pot, add ham bone and remaining 12 cups water. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, uncovered, for 1 hour. Add beans and thyme to the pot. Simmer, uncovered, for 40 minutes. Add onion, carrots, celery and salt to pot. Simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes or until beans and vegetables are tender and ham is falling off the bone.

Remove ham bone from pot. When cool enough to handle, cut meat off bone; coarsely chop. Discard bone. Using a potato masher, slightly mash beans and vegetables in pot. Stir in chopped ham; simmer mixture for 10 minutes more. Season to taste with additional salt and black pepper. If desired, garnish each serving with parsley.

*Note: If you don’t have a reserved ham bone at hand, purchase a 9- to 10-pound bone-in, smoked fully-cooked ham and cut off a 3½-pound portion that includes the bone to use in the soup. Reserve remaining ham for another use.

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