Our leftover ham and bean soup recipe is easy and economical.  This homemade soup uses an old fashioned assortment of dried beans.  Make this creamy classic ahead in the crock pot or on the stovetop; either way it will hit the spot on a cold day.

Prep Time: 35 minutes
person dipping a piece of bread into ham and bean soup
Soups & Stews

Leftover Ham and Bean Soup Recipe

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This recipe was originally published on January 30, 2018.

Are you looking for a fresh new recipe to use up leftover ham?  This ham and bean soup could be the answer, as it’s economical, healthy, and really easy. 

person holding a ladle of ham and bean soup

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What is in ham and bean soup?

  • Meat: cubed ham
  • Beans: pink, pinto, black eyed peas, and green lentils
  • Mirepoix: onions, carrots, celery
  • Seasonings: salt, black pepper, bay leaves, thyme
  • Dairy: heavy whipping cream
  • Broth: chicken

What spices do you use for ham and bean soup?

The most common spices are salt, black pepper, thyme, and bay leaves.  You can also use freshly squeezed lemon juice to brighten the soup right at the end.

What beans go in ham and bean soup?

This soup has three kinds of beans (pink, pinto, black eyed peas) plus green lentils, but feel free to use what you have in your pantry.  This is a forgiving soup recipe.  Other popular beans to try are Great Northern, cannellini, or a 20-ounce bag of dried bean soup mix.

person holding a bowl of ham and bean soup

How to thicken ham and bean soup?

If you want the broth to be thicker, try:

  • Pureeing 2 cups of the soup and stirring it back in.
  • Adding some bread crumbs.
  • Adding some mashed potatoes.

How to make ham and bean soup creamy?

If you like a creamy soup, here are some options:

  • 1 cup of heavy cream
  • 1 cup of 1/2 and 1/2
  • 1 cup of whole milk
  • 1 can of evaporated milk
  • 1 can of coconut milk

closeup of a bowl of ham and bean soup

How can I add more flavor to ham and bean soup?

  • Adding more seasonings.  Taste it and adjust seasonings during the last 30 minutes to get the right balance of salt, pepper and thyme.
  • Cook it longer.  Low and slow always adds more flavor.  I simmered this soup for 2 1/2 hours.
  • Make it a day ahead.  Soups and stews with beans taste better the next day.
  • Start with a ham bone.  If you have one in the freezer, add it to the soup.

What do you serve with ham and bean soup?

How long will ham and bean soup last in the fridge?

Any leftover soup can be stored in the fridge in an airtight container for up to 4 days.

bowl of ham and bean soup with a wooden spoon

Can you freeze leftover ham and bean soup?

It depends.  If you know in advance that you want to freeze some soup, set that aside before adding the heavy cream.  When creamy soups are frozen, they don’t look as good when defrosted as the cream separates and the soup becomes watery.  If this doesn’t bother you, then freezing the soup will be fine.

Remember to allow the soup to fully cool before freezing in a freezer zip top bag or another freezer friendly airtight container.  This soup can be frozen for up to 3 months.  Simply defrost it in the fridge and reheat in a pot on the stovetop.

How do you make ham and bean soup in a crock pot?

  • Put the soaked beans, green lentils, mirepoix, chicken stock, water, cubed ham, and spices in a large crock pot.  Stir.
  • Cover and cook on low 6 to 8 hours or on high 4 hours.
  • During the last 30 minutes of cooking, turn the heat to low and pour in the heavy cream.  Stir.
  • Serve warm garnished with fresh thyme leaves, black pepper, grated Romano, or freshly bread cubes.

How to Make Ham and Bean Soup

First start by getting the dried beans you want to use.  I have pink, pinto and black eyed peas.  Be sure to pick out any damaged or shriveled up beans.

sorting through dried beans

Rinse well in a colander.

rinsed dried beans in a colander

Place in a Dutch oven and cover with water.  Bring to a boil and cook for 2 minutes.  Turn the heat off and let it sit for overnight.

dried beans in a pot of water

In the morning, drain the rinse the beans.  Repeat the above step twice or until your largest bean is soft to chew. 

person holding a ladle full of soaked beans

Once the beans are soaked, gather the ingredients for the soup.  Chop the onion, carrots and celery.  Dice the ham and measure out the spices.

ingredients for ham and bean soup

Heat up the olive oil over medium high heat.  Add the mirepoix (onions, carrots, celery).

mirepoix in a soup pot

Sauté for roughly 8 minutes, stirring occasionally.

cooking the mirepoix

Add the dried spices to the mirepoix and cook them for 30 seconds to make them bloom.

adding salt and pepper to the mirepoix

To deglaze the pan, pour in 1/3 cup of chicken stock and use a wooden turner to scrape the bottom of the pan to release all the brown bits.

deglazing the pan with chicken stock

The pan is deglazed when all the brown residue on the bottom is scraped away.

scraping the fond off of the bottom of the pot

Pour in the liquids of chicken stock and filtered water.

pouring chicken stock into the pot

Add the cubed ham and the bay leaves.  Stir until well combined.

adding cubed ham to the soup

Add the soaked, dried beans.

adding the soaked dried beans to the soup

Get a large handful of fresh thyme leaves, tie them up with kitchen twine, and submerge in the pot of soup.

adding a bouquet garni of fresh thyme to the soup

Cover the soup and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer the covered pot for two hours.

Taste the soup, adjust seasonings, if necessary.  Remove the bay leaves and bouquet of thyme leaves.

taking the bay leaves out of the pot of soup

If you want, skim the fat off the surface of the soup with a large spoon.

skimming the fat off of the soup

Remove the soup from the heat and stir in 1 cup of heavy cream.

pouring the cream into the pot of soup

Serve warm garnished with fresh thyme leaves, cracked black pepper, grated Romano cheese, or fresh bread cubes.

person holding a ladle full of ham and bean soup

Pro Tips

  • Want to add more green vegetables?  Try kale, cabbage, or collards.
  • Want to add more carbs?  Try rivels, dumplings, or small pasta.
  • Want to add more starch?  Try cubed potatoes.
  • Want to thicken the broth?  Puree some of the soup and stir it back in.
  • Want to use a ham bone or ham hocks?  Go right ahead; it will add some healthy collagen.
  • What are some other seasonings?  You can add some fresh lemon juice right at the end.
  • Need more garnish ideas?  Try fresh bread cubes, grated Romano, or fresh thyme leaves.
  • Need this to be dairy free?  Use coconut milk.
  • Want to skip the dried beans?  Use no salt canned beans that are well rinsed.
  • Want the best texture?  Chop up the mirepoix similar in size.

person dipping a roll into a bowl of ham and bean soup

Our Favorite Kitchen Tools for this Recipe

Looking for other soup recipes to use up leftover ham?  Try these ones.

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The pleasure of a 5-star review for this ham and bean soup would be greatly appreciated.

 

Print
person dipping a piece of bread into ham and bean soup

Leftover Ham and Bean Soup Recipe


  • Author: Brooke
  • Prep Time: 35 minutes
  • Cook Time: 2 hours 30 minutes
  • Total Time: 2 hours 50 minutes
  • Yield: 15 1/2 cups 1x

Description

Our leftover ham and bean soup recipe is easy and economical.  This homemade soup uses an old fashioned assortment of dried beans.  Make this creamy classic ahead in the crock pot or on the stovetop; either way it will hit the spot on a cold day.


Scale

Ingredients

  • 1 cup dried pink beans (170g)
  • 1 cup dried pinto beans (170g)
  • 1 cup dried black eyed peas (170g)
  • 1 cup dried green lentils (170g)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil (30 ml)
  • 2 cups yellow onion, chopped (260g)
  • 1 3/4 cups carrots, peeled and chopped (250g)
  • 2 1/4 cups celery, chopped (295g)
  • 3 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 6 cups reduced-sodium chicken stock (1.41 liters)
  • 4 cups filtered water (945 ml)
  • 3 cups ham, finely diced (410g)
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 44 sprigs fresh thyme (8g)
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream (240 ml)

Instructions

Preparing the Dried Beans

  1. Rinse the three kinds of dried beans, discarding any discolored beans.  Put the beans in a large pot, and cover them with water.  Let the pot boil for 2 minutes, then turn the heat off and let the pot sit covered overnight.
  2. After 12 hours, rinse and drain the beans.  Dump them back into the same pot and cover with water.  Let the pot boil for 2 minutes.  Turn the heat off and keep the pot covered.  Let sit for at least one hour.  Check the beans to see if they are soft enough to taste.  If they aren’t, repeat this step.  I needed to repeat this step with the beans I used.
  3. When the beans are done, drain them and rinse in a colander.

Crock Pot Method

  1. Pour the chicken stock, filtered water, onions, carrots, celery, diced ham, and the bay leaves into a large crock pot.  Add the soaked beans, lentils, salt, pepper, and the dried thyme.  Tie together 38 sprigs, or a handful, of fresh thyme with kitchen twine and add it to the soup.
  2. Cover and cook on low for 6 to 8 hours or on high for 4 hours.
  3. Half an hour before serving, taste and adjust seasonings, if necessary.  Remove the bouquet of fresh thyme and the bay leaves.  Turn the crock pot to the low heat setting and pour in the cream.  Cover and cook for another 30 minutes.
  4. Serve warm.  Garnish each bowl with fresh thyme leaves and a few cracks of black pepper.

Stovetop Method

  1. Heat up the olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat heat, then saute the onion, celery and carrot for roughly 8 minutes.
  2. Add the dried spices and cook for 30 seconds to bloom the spices.
  3. Pour in 1/3 cup of chicken stock to deglaze the bottom.  Use a wooden turner to scrape off the browned bits from sauteing the vegetables.
  4. Pour in the chicken stock, filtered water, diced ham, soaked beans, green lentils and bay leaves, then stir until well combined.
  5. Use kitchen twine to secure a handful of fresh thyme, about 40 sprigs.  Place the bouquet in the soup.
  6. Cover the Dutch oven, bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium low and let the soup simmer for 2 hours.
  7. Taste the soup, adjust seasonings, if necessary.  Remove the bay leaves and thyme bouquet.  If you want, remove the extra fat from the top of the soup with a large spoon.
  8. Remove the soup from the heat, and stir in the heavy cream.
  9. Serve warm and garnish each bowl with fresh thyme leaves and freshly cracked black pepper.

Notes

  • Make this recipe perfectly the first time.  Check out the step-by-step photos and pro tips before the recipe card.
  • The pleasure of a 5-star review for this ham and bean soup recipe would be greatly appreciated.
  • 👩🏻‍🍳 Want to see our latest recipes?  Subscribe to our email newsletter to get our latest recipes, fun food facts, food puns, and behind the scenes news about our blog.
  • Category: Soup
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: American

Keywords: best ham and bean soup, creamy ham and bean soup

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4 thoughts on “Leftover Ham and Bean Soup Recipe

  1. This soup smells delicious! The beans are soft, and the ham is chewy. I like this soup warm! The spices in it are nice, and the carrots and celery taste good. 😀

  2. This soup smells so good! It reminds me of wild rice soup. It is very creamy and chunky, and everything is soft and colorful. The flavors added by the herbs are delicious!

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