In this from-scratch Ham and White Bean Soup, great northern beans are soaked overnight and then cooked with herbs, onions and a leftover ham bone in broth for a simple, comforting and flavorful soup. Yields 4 bowls or 6 smaller cups.
Have you ever made the perfect recipe on the perfect day?
I love when that happens. Which was the case yesterday when I woke up to a drizzling rain. It was chilly and cold – also known as the best day for soup. Pat took Finn to run him in fields at a nearby state park while I made this white bean and ham soup.
This year, I planned to make this recipe because I knew I would have a leftover ham bone from the holidays. So whatever you do, do not throw that bone away as it makes for excellent soup! And I always leave ham attached to the bone because it will come off during cooking and leave little meaty gems throughout.
When Pat came home with Finn, the soup was ready and I served it with toasty crostini for dipping. It’s so good.
To Make This Ham and White Bean Soup You Will Need:
- dried great northern beans – Cannellini beans and navy beans or any other white bean will work great!
- olive oil – Adds richness and flavor when sautéing vegetables.
- yellow onion – Adds a subtle sweet onion flavor.
- kosher salt – Enhances all the flavors in this soup.
- garlic – Adds distinct punchy flavor.
- thyme (fresh) – Lends an earthy, slightly minty and lemony flavor.
- bay leaf – Adds a somewhat minty or pine-y flavor with hints of black pepper.
- leftover ham bone – Adds a smoky ham flavor.
- low-sodium chicken broth – May substitute with vegetable broth.
- black pepper (freshly ground)- This will add some subtle bite and flavor.
What Vegetables Can You Add To make This More Hearty?
If wanting more vegetables, you can add 1/2 cup each celery and carrot and sauté them with with the onion until tender.
The night before, sort through the pound of great northern white beans and discard any debris or cracked beans. Add the beans to a large bowl and cover with 6 cups of cool water. Allow the beans to soak for at least 6 hours or over night. During this time the beans will double in size and soften a bit.
Before preparing the soup, drain the beans and set off to the side.
What Can You Substitute Cannellini beans for Great Northern Beans?
Yes! If you can’t find or don’t have great northern beans on hand, substitute with cannellini beans, navy beans or any other white bean.
Heat a dutch oven over medium to medium-low heat. Measure 1 teaspoon olive oil into the pot and add in 1 diced medium onion (about a cup, give or take) with a pinch of kosher salt. Stir and sauté for 5 to 8 minutes or until softened.
Next add in 1 large clove of fresh garlic that has been minced, 4 sprigs of fresh thyme and a bay leaf. Then stir and cook for 1 minute.
To that, add the leftover ham bone and pour in 8 cups (2 quarts) low-sodium chicken broth. Cover the pot, bring to a boil and reduce to simmer for 30 minutes.
I prefer using a ham bone instead of a ham hock. However, if you are using a ham hock know that this soup will be even more smoky.
Once the soup has simmered with the bone for 30 minutes, add in the drained beans. Cook with the lid skewed or cracked about an inch for 1 hour and 3o minutes or up to 2 hours.
After the time is up, the beans will be super soft and tender and the ham can easily be picked from the bone.
Remove the ham bone and add back any ham that didn’t already come off during cooking. You will also want to remove and discard the bay leaf and thyme stems.
Season the soup with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. For me it was about 1 teaspoon kosher salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper.
How To make Bean Soup Thicker?
Grab your potato masher and mash the beans a few times. Mashing the beans will help make this soup thicker.
Doing this will thicken the soup a tad, but is completely optional.
However, if the soup reduces too much, you can add 1 to 2 extra cups of broth.
Finally, it’s time to ladle the soup into bowl and top with a little extra ground black pepper.
Sprinkle with a sprinkle of fresh thyme or parsley and serve with grilled cheese sandwiches or buttery crostini.
Deliciously homemade and cozy. This soup will warm you up from the inside and it couldn’t be any easier.
Ham and White Bean Soup
- 1 pound great northern beans
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- 1 medium yellow onion, diced
- kosher salt
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 4 sprigs thyme
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 leftover ham bone
- 2 quarts (8 cups) low-sodium chicken broth
- black pepper, freshly ground, to taste
THE NIGHT BEFORE:
- Sort through 1 pound dry great norther beans, discarding any debris or broken beans. Pour 6 cups of cool water over top and let them soak for 6 to 8 hours or overnight. They should double in size.
THE DAY OF:
- Drain beans, rinse and set off to the side.
- Heat a dutch oven over medium heat and add in olive oil and onion with a pinch of kosher salt. Stir and cook for 5 to 8 minutes.
- Add in garlic, thyme sprigs and bay leaf. Stir and cook 1 minute.
- Next add in the ham bone and broth. Cover and bring to a boil, reduce to medium-low and simmer for 30 minutes.
- Add in the beans and simmer, with the lid cracked for 1 hour and 30 minutes to 2 hours or until beans are soft and tender.
- Remove ham bone, bay leaf and thyme stems. Use a potato masher and smash some of the beans to thicken the soup.
- Pick ham from bone (if it didn't come off already) and add the ham to the soup.
- Season with salt and black pepper to taste. For me it was 1 teaspoon kosher salt and 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper.
- If the soup reduces too much, you can add 1 to 2 extra cups of broth.
- I prefer using a leftover ham bone instead of a ham hock. However, if you are using a ham hock know that this soup will be more smoky.
- If reheating, add a splash or two of broth (as needed) or water to thin out the soup a tad.
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