Old Fashioned Ham and beans made oh so easy in the crock pot. Creamy Great Northern Beans, smoky salty chunks of ham, sweet corn bread and you’ve got a winning flavor combination. Slow Cooker Old Fashioned Ham and Bean Soup is pure comfort food.
About This Recipe and Why It Works
Old Fashioned Ham and bean soup, a meal that my mom served a lot when I was growing up. It wasn’t something that just appeared after Christmas to use up that holiday ham bone. She made it often, made it year round, and used ham shank or chopped ham.
It wasn’t always accompanied with corn bread, but as with every single meal she served, you can rest assured there was bread on the table. “Eat your bread, you have to support the Wheat Farmers,” she’d order. Which is exactly how our family made its living.
The flavor combination for this crock pot ham and beans recipe is simply outstanding.
It starts with a base of mirepoix. What is mirepoix? Simple. It’s a mixture of 2 parts onion, to 1 part carrot, and 1 part celery. Then sauteed to create a flavor base for many soup recipes.
As far as ham and beans seasoning? My recipe calls for a couple tablespoons of my soup seasoning mix. A combination of spices that elevates the flavor of any bean soup. If you don’t want to use my recipe, try this combination:
Ham and Beans Seasoning
- 2 sprigs of fresh thyme,
- 2 sprigs of fresh rosemary,
- a bay leaf
- and 1 tablespoon brown sugar.
Creamy great northern white beans soak up the flavor from that sweet salty ham shank. And the rest is culinary history.
It’s easy to make ham and beans in the slow cooker. Let’s take a look.
Ingredients to make Crock Pot Old Fashioned Ham and Beans
The ingredients to make ham and beans are simple and straight forward:
- Chicken Broth: Any brand will do. The recipe calls for 6 cups and that’s why you see a 14.5 ounce can and a 32 ounce carton. Those two containers came close enough to that amount.
- White Beans: Great Northern White beans are my choice. Large, plump and perfect for ham and beans.
- Ham Shank: A nice big meaty ham shank is preferred for this recipe. I like to buy ham shanks from Whole Foods. Seasoned, uncured and excellent in flavor. The meat that comes off this ham shank is superior in quality. A reputable butcher shop is another resource for a nice meaty ham shank.
- Soup Seasoning Mix: I keep a supply of homemade soup seasoning mix in my pantry to use all Winter long. It’s a mix of many spices and it turns any bean soup into a flavor extravaganza.
- Mirepoix: Mirepoix is a very common vegetable mixture for many soups. If you’re in culinary school, the ratio is important. Two parts onion to one part each celery and carrots. For this recipe, I used one cup of each. Practice you knife skills and try to get even small cubes for each vegetable. Flavor and texture will be more consistent if you do.
Recipe Ingredient Swaps
- Navy Beans: What’s the difference between Navy Beans and Great Northern White Beans? Navy beans are smaller, and have thicker skins. The flavors are similar. Substitute the smaller Navy Beans if you have them, the only difference it will make to the soup will be the size of the bean.
- Ham Hock: Ham hocks tend to be bonier and have less meat. That’s because they come from the “ankle” part of the leg. Ham shank on the other hand is meatier because it comes from the leg area just below the shoulder and hip. You can substitute ham hocks, they’ll bring that smoky ham flavor to the soup, but with much less meat.
- Ham Bone: And by all means, this is a perfect recipe to use that Holiday leftover ham bone. Slow cooker ham and bean soup is the first thing I make during the holidays, once that ham as been devoured.
- Seasonings: If you don’t have a supply of my Bean Soup Seasoning, you can season ham and beans by simply adding a couple of bay leaves and a good pinch of dried thyme.
Step by Step Instructions, It’s Easy
- Step 1: Rinse 1 pound dried Great Northern White Beans and sort for misfits. Cover with two inches of water and soak overnight. No need to refrigerate while soaking beans. I use my crockpot insert for this.
- OR For the 2-2-2 hot water soaking method, in a sauce pan on the stove, cover beans with water. Water should be 2 inches above the bean level. Bring to a rolling boil and cook them 2 minutes. Remove from heat and let the beans stand in the water 2 hours before cooking. Drain beans and proceed.
- Step 2: Saute the celery, onions and carrots. Add a couple of tablespoons of oil to a hot pan stovetop. Saute the vegetables until just getting tender, about 5 minutes.
- Add the drained Great Northern Beans, vegetables, ham shank and seasonings to the slow cooker.
- Step 3: Add the chicken broth and you’re ready to cook. Set the crock pot on low and cook for 7-ish hours. Depending on how fresh your dried beans are, the soup could be ready in 6 hours or perhaps as long as 8 hours. Also, beans that have been soaked overnight will cook faster.
- To Finish: To finish the soup. Once the beans are tender, remove the ham shank. When the ham shank is cool enough to handle, using two forks, shred the meat from the bone. Add the shredded pork back into the soup.
FAQ’s And Tips
You don’t have to soak dried beans overnight. But here’s the benefit of doing so. Soaking dried beans overnight will simply reduce the time it takes them to cook them to a tender state. Soaking beans overnight will also improve their texture.
If you forgot to soak dried beans the night before, never fear, you can always use the heat soaking method. Cover the beans with water, the water level should be two inches above the beans. Bring them to a boil stove-top and cooking time will only be two minutes. Turn off the heat, let them soak for two hours and then start the cooking process.
I must admit, that I’ve added rinsed and sorted dried beans directly to my crockpot and cooked them on low until tender. No soaking at all. It works fine because you’re using a slow cooking method to gently bring those beans into tender goodness. A scoop of lard always adds to their silky texture.
Yes and No. There are several theories about this. The science behind draining the soaking water and adding new liquid dictates that you’re removing some of the sugar components that cause gassiness. On the other hand cooking the beans in the same water they soaked, can also create a thicker broth. For this recipe, you’re using chicken broth to cook the beans, so yes, you’ll drain the water.
If you want to soak the beans in chicken broth, you’ll need to place the container in the refrigerator overnight. I usually don’t have that sort of room in the fridge. No need to drain the broth and add new broth to cook the beans.
Recipe for Crock Pot Old Fashioned Ham and Bean Soup
I think serving ham and beans with cornbread should be a law. 🙂 A spoon filled with a chunk of that sweet cornbread and a scoop of beans, is a wonderful flavor combination.
And a sprinkle of raw sweet chopped onions on top of the finished soup is always a nice addition.
And if you’ve been toying with the idea of making homemade cornbread, take a look at my recipe. It’s one of the most popular recipes on my site.
I hope you give this recipe for Old Fashioned Ham and Beans soup a try and if you do, please come back and give the recipe a star rating and leave a comment about your experience with the recipe.
And if you have a favorite soup recipe using dried beans, please let me know, I’d love to give it a try.
More Dried Beans Soup Recipes
- Lemony Potato Soup with Mayocoba Beans
- Bolita Beef and Bean Soup
- Great Northern White Bean Soup with Bacon
- Cowboy Chili with Kidney Beans
And if you’re a soup fanatic like we are here on the ranch, you won’t want to miss my Soup Category. You’ll find lots of delicious soup recipes. Including the most popular on my site, Anthony Bourdain’s New Mexico Beef Chili Recipe.
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Crock Pot Old Fashioned Ham and Beans
- Crockpot, Slow Cooker
- 1 pound Great Northern White Beans sorted for misfits and rinsed. Or you can use Navy beans
- enough water to cover beans by 2 inches
- 1 Tablespoon olive oil
- 1 cup carrots diced
- 1 cup celery diced
- 1 cup sweet onion diced
- 6 cups chicken broth or water
- 1 ham shank or ham bone
- 1 Tablespoon Soup Seasoning Mix or 2 bay leaves and 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- corn bread for serving
- Rinse beans and sort for misfits.
- Cover the beans with water. The water level should be 2 inches above the beans. Soak the beans overnight. No need to refrigerate while soaking. The next morning, drain the water.
- Heat a fry an over medium high heat. Once the pan is hot, add 1 tablespoon oil. Add the celery, onions and carrots. Saute until until tender, about 5 minutes.
- Add the beans, the cooked vegetables, the ham shank, chicken broth and Soup Seasoning Mix to the crock pot.
- Let cook on low for 6 – 7 hours on low or until beans are tender.
- Remove ham hock and when it’s cool enough to handle, shred meat and return the meat to the crock of beans
- Season with salt and pepper.
- To serve, place a square of cornbread in a soup bowl. Ladle a couple of scoops of ham and beans beside the corn bread and sprinkle with chopped raw onion.
- 2 sprigs of fresh thyme,
- 2 sprigs of fresh rosemary,
- a bay leaf
- and 1 tablespoon brown sugar.
Slow Cooker Old Fashioned Ham and Beans …It’s what’s for Dinner.
Why Trust These Recipes? Lea Ann Brown has lived, worked and played in Colorado for 45 years. She has immersed herself in the Colorado Culinary space, is a Culinary School Graduate and publishes her Colorado food Blog, Cooking On The Ranch.