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Thick, smoky and satisfying, this healthy ham and bean soup recipe is the perfect meal for a chilly day! The easy dinner can be prepared on the stovetop, in the slow cooker, or in an Instant Pot for a convenient option that suits your schedule. 15 bean soup is also a great way to use up that leftover ham from Christmas or Easter!

Close overhead shot of the best bean soup recipe served in white bowls

Bean Soup Recipe

There’s nothing more cozy than a warm bowl of hearty soup. Whether you prefer a vegetarian bean soup or a ham and bean soup, this simple recipe can be tailored to any diet and comes together with minimal effort!

I love to start a pot simmering on the stovetop on a Sunday afternoon so that it’s ready in time for supper, but you can also leave it in your Crock Pot all day to slowly cook while you head to the office. And if you’re rushing in the door at the last minute and you need the quickest option available? Throw it in the Instant Pot! No matter how you prepare it, this is truly the best bean soup recipe that you will ever taste!

Side shot of two bowls of bean soup on a dinner table

How do you add flavor to bland bean soup?

Some bean soup recipes may be watered down or bland…but not this one! You’ll add layers of flavor to the soup by sauteing aromatics (like onion, carrots, celery, and garlic) in olive oil at the start. The addition of ham not only makes it more hearty and satisfying, but also contributes great smoky, salty flavor to the dish. Finally, season liberally with dried or fresh herbs to really make the soup stand out!

Is homemade bean soup good for you?

Yes! Especially if you use lean diced ham, this soup is loaded with protein, fiber, and vegetables for a wholesome and healthy one pot meal! One cup has less than 200 calories, 25 grams of carbohydrates, 15 grams of protein, 6 grams of fiber and 3 grams of fat.

Stirring vegetables in a Dutch oven

Ingredients

This is a quick overview of the ingredients that you’ll need for a pot of bean soup. As always, specific measurements and complete cooking instructions are included in the printable recipe box at the bottom of the post.

  • Dried beans: I use a 15 bean mix, but you can use navy beans, cannellini beans (or other white beans), pinto beans, kidney beans, or other similar beans instead.
  • Olive oil: to sauté the vegetables.
  • Carrots, celery, onion and garlic: aromatics that add tons of flavor to the soup.
  • Broth: I prefer chicken broth, but you can substitute with vegetable broth as well. For a real treat, use homemade chicken broth!
  • Ham: use leftover ham from a holiday meal, or purchase smoked ham at the grocery store. I like to use thick-cut boneless ham steaks when I don’t have leftovers to enjoy. You can also use a smoked ham hock or a leftover ham bone to achieve that same smoky flavor.
  • Petite diced tomatoes: add extra flavor and nutrients to bulk up the soup.
  • Salt and ground black pepper: use sparingly, and season as you go. The ham and broth can be quite salty on their own.
  • Bay leaves: give the soup an earthy flavor that makes it taste like it’s been simmering for days — even if you cook it quickly in the Instant Pot!
Pouring broth into a Dutch oven

What beans do you use for ham and bean soup?

You will need a total of 2 cups of dried beans. I like this 15 bean soup mix, but you can also use a single type of bean (such as Great Northern Beans) to prepare Great Northern Bean Soup, or you can use a different combination of dried beans (such as navy beans, pinto beans, and split peas). This particular mix comes with a seasoning packet that I do not use.

What beans are in 15 bean soup?

The 15 bean soup blend typically contains 15 of these bean varieties: northern, pinto, large lima, yelloweye, garbanzo, baby lima, green split, kidney beans, cranberry, small white, pink, small red, yellow split, lentil, navy, white kidney, black bean. So much great flavor and texture in every bite!

Do I have to soak beans before making soup?

Yes, when starting with dry beans, it’s generally recommended to soak the beans overnight before preparing the soup. Soaking dried beans overnight reduces the required cooking time significantly. The texture of the cooked beans is also best after soaking, with fewer that split open and burst.

That said, you can certainly prepare this soup without soaking the beans in advance. You’ll just need to simmer the pot for longer, and you may need to add some extra water to thin the broth as the beans plump up and soften.

Overhead shot of dried 15 beans in a measuring cup

How to Make Bean Soup

I’m going to show you the stovetop method here, but I have also included the slow cooker and pressure cooker instructions in the recipe below.

  1. Soak the beans in water for 8 hours (or overnight).
  2. Sauté carrots, onion, celery and garlic in olive oil in a large stockpot or Dutch oven, just until they’re starting to soften, about 8-10 minutes.
  3. Add the soaked, drained beans and the rest of the ingredients.
  4. Bring the pot to a boil, then reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 2 – 2 ½ hours.
Ham and bean soup in a ladle

How to Make Bean Soup in a Crock Pot

The full slow cooker instructions are included in the recipe below. You’ll love that you can start this soup in the morning and come home to an easy dinner at the end of the day. The soup cooks on LOW for 8-10 hours.

How to Make Bean Soup in the Instant Pot

Again, the full instructions are included in the recipe below. The best aspect of the pressure cooker is that you can make your soup with about 30 minutes of cooking time. Don’t forget to soak the beans first, though!

Side shot of ham and bean soup in white bowls with parsley garnish

How to Thicken

There are a few of ways to thicken the soup. First, remove the lid towards the end of the cooking time. This will allow some of the liquid to evaporate, thickening the broth. You can also mash some of the beans with the back of a spoon or with a potato masher, or puree a portion of the soup with an immersion blender. The mashed beans and veggies will thicken the broth nicely!

Finally, if you have time, prepare the soup in advance. It just gets better as it sits and the flavors come together. It will also thicken as it cools.

Overhead shot of two bowls of 15 bean soup on a wooden board with a side of bread

What to Serve with Ham and Bean Soup

Pair the soup with any of these easy sides for a cozy and delicious winter meal:

Square side shot of two bowls of ham and bean soup recipe served on a dinner table

Storage

Store the soup in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. It’s a great make-ahead option for busy weeks.

How to Freeze

This is a great freezer meal, so prepare a big pot and stick any leftovers in the freezer for a quick-prep lunch or dinner option. Allow the soup to cool to room temperature. Stored in an airtight container, the soup will keep in the freezer for up to 3 months.

How to Reheat

Place the soup in a pot and warm over a low flame, just until heated through. You can also microwave individual bowls for about 1-2 minutes.

Close overhead image of a bowl of instant pot or slow cooker bean soup recipe

Recipe Variations

  • If you prefer a canned bean soup, try this Easy Ham and Bean Soup recipe.
  • Forgot to soak your beans? You can still prepare the soup with dried beans, but you will need to extend the simmering time on the stovetop to give the beans ample time to soften. You may also need to add water to the pot as the beans simmer and plump up.
  • If you’re looking for a recipe for Bean Soup with Ham Bone, try this easy recipe. It’s a ham and bean soup with canned beans and a smoked ham hock or ham bone. You can also try using the ham bone in this recipe; although I have not tested this particular recipe with a ham bone.
  • I used petite diced tomatoes (since the kids prefer the smaller bites), but you can use regular diced tomatoes or other canned tomatoes of choice.
  • For extra veggies, add fresh spinach at the very end or kale when there’s about 10 minutes left so that it has time to wilt in the hot soup.
  • For a vegetarian bean soup, use vegetable broth instead of chicken broth. Omit the ham, and add an extra ½ cup of dried beans. It will still be delicious! Season with cumin, salt, pepper or other spices, to add extra flavor to your liking.
Close overhead image of bean soup in a white bowl

Tips for the Best Bean Soup Recipe

  • If possible, make this soup 1-2 days in advance. It just gets better as it sits in the refrigerator, and it will thicken up a lot as it cools!
  • This recipe calls for a very small amount of salt, since ham is often salty on its own. Feel free to season the soup with additional salt and pepper at the end of cooking. You can always add more, but you never want it to be too salty!
  • Spicy: add a dash of cayenne or garnish with crushed red pepper flakes.
  • Garnish with fresh herbs or add extra herbs and seasoning to the pot. Good options include parsley, thyme, oregano, basil, cilantro, and rosemary. A dollop of sour cream is also a nice finishing touch.
Overhead shot of two bowls of bean soup on a table with French bread on the side

More Easy Soup Recipes to Try

Square overhead shot of a bean soup recipe in a white bowl

Bean Soup {Slow Cooker, Stovetop or Instant Pot}

5 from 11 votes
Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 2 hours 30 minutes
Soaking Time 8 hours
Total: 10 hours 45 minutes
Servings 12 cups
Calories 186 kcal
Thick, smoky and satisfying, this healthy ham and bean soup recipe is a perfect meal for a chilly day!

Ingredients
  

  • 2 cups dried beans (I used a 15-bean mix, but any variety will work. You can use just navy beans or just pinto beans, if you prefer)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 4 celery ribs, diced
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 tablespoon minced or grated garlic
  • 8 cups chicken broth or vegetable broth
  • 1 lb. cooked ham, diced (about 3 cups total)
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 (14.5 ounce) can petite diced tomatoes, not drained
  • 2 bay leaves

Instructions

STOVETOP:

  • Place beans in a large pot or bowl. Cover with water 2 inches above beans and soak for 8 hours (or overnight). Drain beans.
  • Heat olive oil in a large stock pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat until oil shimmers. Sauté carrots, celery, onion and garlic until starting to soften, about 8 to 10 minutes. Stir in drained beans, broth, ham, salt, tomatoes, and bay leaves. Bring to a boil; cover; reduce heat to low, and simmer (covered) for 2 – 2 ½ hours (or until beans and vegetables are tender). Remove bay leaves; serve.

SLOW COOKER:

  • Place beans in a large pot. Cover with water 2 inches above beans and soak for 8 hours (or overnight). Drain beans.
  • Transfer soaked beans to slow cooker insert.
  • Heat olive oil in a large stock pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat until oil shimmers. Sauté carrots, celery, onion and garlic until starting to soften, about 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer vegetables to the slow cooker.
  • Stir in broth, ham, salt, tomatoes, and bay leaves. Cover and cook on HIGH for 4-5 hours or on LOW for 8-10 hours, or until beans and vegetables are tender. Remove bay leaves; serve.

INSTANT POT:

  • Place beans in a large pot. Cover with water 2 inches above beans and soak for 8 hours (or overnight). Drain beans. Set aside.
  • Turn the Instant Pot to “Sauté” function. Add oil and heat until oil shimmers. Sauté carrots, celery, onion and garlic until starting to soften. Turn off the pot.
  • Add soaked beans, broth, ham, salt, diced tomatoes, and bay leaves. Cover with the lid and seal to lock. Press the manual pressure cook button and set the timer to 20 minutes.
  • Let the pressure release naturally for 10 minutes and then move the valve to “venting” to release the rest of the pressure. Remove the lid; remove bay leaves; serve!

Notes

  • If possible, make this soup 1-2 days in advance. It just gets better as it sits in the refrigerator, and it will thicken up a lot as it cools!
  • This recipe calls for a very small amount of salt, since ham is often salty on its own. Feel free to season the soup with additional salt and pepper at the end of cooking. You can always add more, but you never want it to be too salty!
  • Spicy: add a dash of cayenne or garnish with crushed red pepper flakes.
  • Garnish with fresh herbs or add extra herbs and seasoning to the pot. Good options include parsley, thyme, oregano, basil and rosemary.

Nutrition

Serving: 1cupCalories: 186kcalCarbohydrates: 25gProtein: 15gFat: 3gCholesterol: 20mgSodium: 1282mgPotassium: 675mgFiber: 6gSugar: 4gVitamin A: 3530IUVitamin C: 7mgCalcium: 59mgIron: 3.1mg
Keyword: bean soup, bean soup recipe, ham and bean soup, healthy soup recipe, leftover ham recipe
Course: Dinner, Lunch
Cuisine: American
Author: Blair Lonergan

This recipe was originally published in December, 2018. The photos were updated in December, 2021.

blair

Hey, I’m Blair!

Welcome to my farmhouse kitchen in the foothills of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. Inspired by local traditions and seasonal fare, you’ll find plenty of easy, comforting recipes that bring your family together around the table. It’s down-home, country-style cooking!

Read More

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Comments

  1. What would the protein be if no Ham? Also, why do you need to saute the veggies first? Taste? I mean they will soften in the slow cooker so???

    1. Hi, Debbie! Beans still have a fair amount of protein, so you’d get it that way if you omit the ham.

      I like to saute the veggies first to add an extra layer of caramelized flavor. I think it makes the soup even better. That said, it’s not necessary if you’d rather skip the step and just put them into the slow cooker raw. Enjoy. 🙂

      1. Hi! It’s a matter of personal preference — you can certainly use the soaking water if you prefer. I’ve always heard that soaking not only speeds up the cooking time, but also eliminates stuff in the beans that can cause gas and difficult digestion. If you use the soaking water, you’re not really getting rid of those elements that you were trying to eliminate in the first place. Again, I’m not sure if this is true or not (I’m definitely no expert or scientist), but I prefer to start with fresh water. Whatever you like is fine, though!

  2. I was looking for a very easy recipe for bean soup. I’m gonna add pork neck bones to mine. This recipe sounds nice and easy and looks great in the photos!

  3. 5 stars
    Throw out all your recipes for bean soup…This one is the best!! Not only is it easy, but the ingredients are few! Easy and delicious recipe! Thank you!

    1. Hi, Scott! I don’t have soup recipes that are described as such, because I’m not too familiar with those specific dietary concerns. This Vegetable Soup is a healthy option, but it’s not low carb: https://www.theseasonedmom.com/crock-pot-vegetable-soup/

      This Beef Barley Soup might be a better option: https://www.theseasonedmom.com/beef-barley-soup/ along with my Grandmother’s Hamburger Soup: https://www.theseasonedmom.com/grandmothers-hamburger-soup/

      This Broccoli Cheese Soup is also a favorite: theseasonedmom.com/slow-cooker-ham-cheddar-soup/

      Hope that helps!

    2. I have type 1 diabetes for 39 years, and I recommend eating bean/vegetable soup as an effective way to help moderate your blood sugars. It contains complex carbohydrates and is rich in protein and fiber. The carbs in the beans will be slowly absorbed and not overburden your pancreas. Just check the serving size to ensure you don’t consume too much carbs in your meal.

  4. 5 stars
    I made this soup in my Ninja Foodi and it was amazing. Such flavour in 20 minutes of cooking. We like a bit more tomato flavour so I added a 1/4 cup of ketchup. Was absolutely delicious. Great recipe.

  5. 5 stars
    Delicious. I made it with Beyond Meat spicy italian “sausage” and it was a great substitute for the ham. I also pureed some of it after cooking.

  6. 5 stars
    I omitted the ham, added 1 teaspoon of lemon zest, 1 tablespoon of lemon juice and 2 cups of chopped fresh beet greens, stems removed. Kale or spinach would work well, too. Excellent.

  7. 5 stars
    This is great, thank you. I really appreciate the variety of cooking processes here. If I wanted to cook in the oven, Like in a cast iron Dutch oven for example, can I simply follow the stovetop process but then put it in the oven at some temperature like 300 F for three hours? Thanks!

    1. Hi, Mike! Yes, I think that would work fine! Just pop it in the oven and let it go until the beans are nice and tender. 🙂

  8. 5 stars
    Made this soup for supper on this cold day. It was excellent and so easy to make. Next time, I will use leftover baked ham which should make it even better.