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person holding a ladle of ham and bean soup
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4.84 from 6 votes

Old Fashioned Ham and Bean Soup

Our old fashioned ham and bean soup recipe is easy and economical.  This homemade soup uses an 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 Time40 minutes
Cook Time2 hours 25 minutes
Total Time3 hours 5 minutes
Servings: 15 cups
Calories: 300kcal


  • 1 cup dried pink beans
  • 1 cup dried pinto beans
  • 1 cup dried black eyed peas
  • 1 cup dried green lentils
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cups yellow onion chopped
  • 1 ¼ cups carrots peeled and chopped
  • 1 ¼ cups celery chopped
  • 3 ¾ teaspoons salt
  • 2 ½ teaspoons black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon dried thyme
  • 6 cups reduced-sodium chicken stock
  • 4 cups filtered water
  • 3 cups ham finely diced
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 44 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream


Preparing the Dried Beans

  • Rinse the three kinds of dried beans, discarding any discolored ones.  Put them in a large pot, and cover them with water.  Let the pot boil for 2 minutes.  Turn the heat off but keep the covered pot on the element.  Let sit for one hour.  Repeat this step one more time. Check the beans to see if they are soft enough to chew. 
  • When the beans are done, drain them and rinse in a colander.

Crock Pot Method

  • 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.
  • Cover and cook on low for 6 to 8 hours or on high for 4 hours.
  • Half an hour before serving, taste and adjust seasonings to your liking.  Remove the bouquet of fresh thyme and the bay leaves.  Turn the crock pot to the low heat setting and pour in the cream or the unsweetened coconut milk.  Cover and cook for another 30 minutes.
  • Serve warm.  Garnish each bowl with fresh thyme leaves and a few cracks of black pepper.

Stovetop Method

  • 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.
  • Add the dried spices and cook for 30 seconds to bloom the spices.
  • Pour in ⅓ cup of chicken stock to deglaze the bottom.  Use a wooden turner to scrape off the browned bits from sauteing the vegetables.
  • Pour in the chicken stock, filtered water, diced ham, soaked beans, green lentils and bay leaves, then stir until well combined.
  • Use kitchen twine to secure a handful of fresh thyme, about 40 sprigs.  Place the bouquet in the soup.
  • Cover the Dutch oven, bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium low and let the soup simmer for 2 hours.
  • Taste the soup, adjust seasonings, if necessary.  Remove the bay leaves and thyme bouquet. 
  • Remove the soup from the heat, and stir in the heavy cream.
  • Serve warm and garnish each bowl with fresh thyme leaves and freshly cracked black pepper.


  • Want to thicken the broth?  Puree 6 cups and stir it back in.
  • Want the best texture?  Chop up the mirepoix similar in size.
  • Want to freeze it? Hold off on adding the cream.


Calories: 300kcal | Carbohydrates: 31g | Protein: 19g | Fat: 12g | Saturated Fat: 6g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 4g | Cholesterol: 35mg | Sodium: 946mg | Potassium: 789mg | Fiber: 9g | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin A: 2950IU | Vitamin C: 9mg | Calcium: 85mg | Iron: 4mg