Warm and thick, ham and bean soup is a staple in our house when the weather begins to cool off. Such simple ingredients can make a decedent meal that the whole family can enjoy.
When I think of ham and bean soup I think of a creamy, stick to your bones kind of meal. Where the beans have turned into a thick consistency that coats your spoon. That’s the kind of soup I had in mind when creating this recipe. I didn’t want any of that beans and chunks of ham floating in a broth. And this recipe delivers!
It’s a little bit extra work but I think it is vital to use dried beans with this recipe. Canned just won’t hold up to a long cook all day, but they won’t have the right consistency if you add them at the end. As a bonus dried beans are dirt cheap and last forever in your pantry so I always have a couple bags on hand. Letting them soak overnight makes sure they will turn out soft and creamy when it is time for dinner.
What is a ham hock?
This recipe involves adding a ham hock to your beans while they cook. Regular chunks of ham just don’t add all of the flavor necessary to make this soup taste really great. If you haven’t cooked with a ham hock before don’t worry, they’re easier to find than you would think!
Most ham hocks are sold in packages of 1 or 2 smoked hocks. A ham hock is a lower leg joint from a pigs rear leg. They don’t have a lot of meat, but they impart a lot of flavor when slow cooked. They can usually be found in the meat section of any grocery store. Like dried beans they are also quite budget friendly. If you end up with more than one they last in the freezer for several months!
Can I cook ham and bean soup on high?
Sometimes I forget to plan ahead and end up adding things to cook in my slow cooker at lunch time rather than in the morning. Which usually mean I crank the temperature up to high and cook it only about 4 hours instead of 8 hours like I would on low. In a lot of recipes this is a perfectly fine substitution to make.
But to make the best classic ham and bean soup you will get the best results cooking it low and slow for at least 8 hours. This gives the beans lots of time to break down and for the fat to render on the ham hock. I’ve tried doing it both ways and it usually results in the beans overcooking into mush, which isn’t what anyone wants.
Classic Ham and Bean Soup
- 1 lbs Great Northern Beans Dried, soaked overnight
- 4 Cups Water For soaking beans
- 1 Smoked ham hock
- 2 Cups Cubed ham
- 2 Carrots Peeled and diced
- 1 Medium Onion Diced
- 1 Tbsp Apple Cider Vinegar
- 1/2 Tsp Thyme Dried
- 1/2 Tsp Salt
- 1/2 Tsp Pepper
- 1/4 Tsp Allspice
- 6 Cups Chicken Stock
- Fresh Parsley Optional garnish
Place dried beans in slow cooker the night before and cover with 4 cups of water making sure all of the beans are fully submerged. Let sit overnight.
Prepare ingredients by dicing the onions, carrots, and ham cubes. This can be done the night before or in the morning.
Add ham hock, seasonings, onion, carrots, and ham cubes to the beans in the slow cooker. Add chicken stock and cover with lid tightly. Cook on low for at least 8 hours.
After about 7.5 hours remove the ham hock from the slow cooker and allow to cook enough to handle. Remove meat by add to add back into the soup. Discard the ham bone and skin.
Stir in the addition meat from the ham hock and serve the soup warm. Garnish with fresh parsley and additional black pepper if desired.
This recipe can be cooked longer than the 8 hours recommended if necessary. Just give enough time to remove the ham hock and let it cool enough to handle as it will be very hot.
This soup can be refrigerated for up to 3 days. It makes great leftovers!