Recipe: Nana’s Epic Navy Bean Ham Bone Soup

Big pot full of soup with a wooden spoon

What To Do With Leftover Hambone

Chances are, after yesterday’s Easter dinner (or any holiday feast), you have a nearly-naked ham bone in your refrigerator at this very moment. Maybe you even finished off your ham to the point of placing the ham bone in the freezer for future use. Either way, today I want to show you exactly how to use your leftover ham bone to make the most of every last bite of flavor your baked ham can offer!

Top view of the pot full topped with some sprigs of thyme leaves

Ham Bone Recipe

Navy bean soup is the food of my childhood. It’s rich, filling, comforting, and can feed a large crowd on a small budget. Growing up with five kids in our family, my mom made a lot of meals that could either be stretched to feed extra guests or could be eaten as leftovers.

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Single serving of soup with beans in a red bowl with a handle and a metal spoon sticking out

Our Best Ham and Bean Soup

One of my favorite childhood meals was Nana’s Epic Navy Bean Ham Bone Soup, i.e. navy bean soup simmered with a leftover ham bone. My mom (now known as Nana) had a special gift for using her resources wisely. Nothing went to waste, ever. All leftovers were either eaten or repurposed, even bones.

Red bow in the background of a metal spoon with this soup

Bean Soup (Made With Leftovers)

Nana’s Epic Navy Bean Soup was a meal we ate somewhat regularly, every time a ham graced our table. Nowadays it seems like we only bake a ham a couple of times a year, usually around the holidays. Yet, as a child, I remember having ham at least once a month. Maybe because it is a food that is so easily stretched and repurposed?

A pot full of the beans soaking before making this soup

Ham and Bean Soup

But I digress… Adding a ham bone to soup is a marvelous way to create rich flavor, finish off the last scraps of ham left on the bone, and eliminate the need to buy added stock. A ham bone boiled in water develops a lovely soup base on its own!

Dutch oven with a leftover bone for this ham bone soup

Although Nana’s Epic Soup recipe varied from time to time, depending on what veggies and spices she found in the kitchen, I’m sharing the most simplified version with you today. With just a handful of ingredients, including a ham bone and an inexpensive bag of dried navy beans, you can make a rustic hearty deeply satisfying meal your whole family will love.

  • Dried Navy Beans – or other small white beans like great northern beans or cannellini beans
  • Ham Bone + Ham Scraps – or a ham hock
  • Olive Oil
  • Large Onion – peeled and chopped
  • Cloves Garlic – Minced
  • Fresh Thyme Leaves
  • Ground Cumin
  • Crushed Red Pepper
  • Water
  • Salt and Black Pepper
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Sometimes Nana (and I) add 2-3 chopped carrots and 2-3 chopped celery stalks to the soup for additional veggie goodness. They are not necessary ingredients but do add a bit of extra color! If using, add the carrots and celery when you add the onions.

Sauteed onions and garlic in the dutch oven

How to Make Nana’s Epic Navy Bean Ham Bone Soup


Start by soaking dried beans in water overnight to prep them for cooking. This does take thought to prepare ahead, but it also saves money (on canned beans), reduces sodium, and gives the beans a better texture and consistency.

Quick Tip: If you don’t have time to soak your beans overnight and you own an electric pressure cooker like an Instant Pot, you can pressure cook the beans instead of soaking them to speed things up.

Added beans, spices, and herbs to the dutch oven pot

Ham Soup and Beans

Place a large 6-quart pot over medium heat on the stovetop. Next, sauté the ham bone, onions, and garlic in a little oil. This browns the leftover ham and softens and sweetens the aromatics. Then add in the soaked beans, herbs, spices, and water. Bring the soup to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 60-90 minutes, covered, until the beans are very soft. Uncover and stir occasionally, then place the lid back on top.

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Use a fork to pull any remaining ham off the bone and stir it into the soup. Discard the bone. Add 1-2 cups additional water if the soup is too thick. Taste, then salt and pepper as needed.

Serve warm. You may even want to pair a jalapeno cheddar cornbread with this hearty soup.

Quick Tip: You can add any additional vegetables, herbs, or spices you like. Or add extra ham scraps you might want to use up.

Side view of this finished recipe in a dutch oven with a wooden spoon

Careful with the Salt

Do not add any salt until the soup is fully cooked. Hambones have a lot of salt in them, and it’s easy to overdo it if you salt the soup too early. Taste and adjust accordingly.

That’s it! Next time you buy a ham, make sure to grab a bag of dried beans as well. You won’t be sorry!

See The Recipe Card Below For How To Make Easy Ham and Bean Soup. Enjoy!

Ladle full above a full pot fresh off the stove

Frequently Asked Questions

How to Store Navy Bean Soup

You can freeze Nana’s Epic Soup in an airtight container or freezer bags for later quickie meals. Even consider pureeing it into an incredible bean dip with a blender to eat with tortilla chips.

Can This Be Made With Canned Beans?

You can use canned beans, and it will reduce the cooking time, but honestly, it’s best with dried-soaked beans. It takes about 3 of the 15-ounce cans of beans per 1-pound dried beans. Drain the liquid well to reduce the sodium. You can even rinse the beans to make sure you get as much sodium off as possible.

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Is There A Crockpot Version Of This Recipe?

You can make this recipe in the crockpot… And you do not need to soak the beans ahead of time! Saute the veggies on the stovetop until tender, then add everything to the slow cooker. Set on low for 10-12 hours, or on high for 5-7 hours. Then you can serve your slow cooker ham soup warm.

Can I Use The Ham Bone More Than Once?

I usually just use a hambone just once. However, I have heard that if there is still meat on the bone and marrow in the center, you can wrap and freeze it for later use. Yet if you’ve “picked the bone dry” in a recipe, throw it out.

What If I Threw My Ham Bone Out?

You could make this with your leftover ham or you could buy a ham bone (or ham hock) from the grocery store.

Single serving of this recipe with a fabric napkin in the background

More Soup Recipes You Will Love

  • Portuguese Caldo Verde Recipe
  • Creamy Poblano Turkey Soup Recipe
  • Slow Cooker Guacamole Soup Recipe
  • Simple Egg Drop Soup Recipe
  • Spring Pea Wasabi Soup Recipe
  • Creamy Chicken Tortellini Soup Recipe
  • Navy Bean Vegetarian Soup Recipe
  • Rustic Ribollita Recipe (Tuscan White Bean Soup)
  • Nana’s Creamy Potato Soup Recipe
  • Ham and Potato Soup Recipe by Simply Recipes
See also  Old Fashioned Beef Vegetable Soup Recipe

Check the printable recipe card below for nutrition information, including calories, protein, fiber, and vitamin percentages.

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This article is curated by Takeout Food.

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