This Navy Bean Soup recipe is hearty, comforting and the best way to use up leftover ham! It can be made with hambone, chopped ham or even shredded chicken and bacon (like pictured here). It is loaded with navy beans, ham (or chicken), potatoes, carrots, celery, fennel, onions, garlic and chives for complex, rich, satisfying spoonfuls. This Navy Bean and Ham Soup can be made with dried navy beans or canned navy beans and it can be made on the stove or in the crockpot – I’ve included directions for both; now there is no reason not to enjoy this wonderfully savory, smoky, salty Navy Bean and Ham Soup recipe!
Whether you have leftover nearly naked holiday ham in your refrigerator at this moment or simply want to devour a satisfying, easy soup, this Navy Bean Soup Recipe is for you! It is the absolute best way to clean out the fridge and it’s economical too!
This Navy Bean Soup is rich, slightly smoky with layers of creamy beans and potatoes. It is deeply satisfying and waiting for YOU!
I’ve included lots of tips and tricks below so you can make the perfect Navy Bean Soup based on your personal preference, time constraints and ingredients on hand!
Let’s get cooking – so you can get eating this fabulous Navy Bean and Ham Soup!
What Ingredients for Navy Bean Soup?
- NAVY BEANS! Navy Beans are also known as: haricot, pearl haricot bean, Boston bean, white pea bean, pea bean, or I often see them labeled simply “white beans” when canned. Navy beans are small white beans, much smaller than great northern beans or cannellini beans. Navy beans boast a distinguishable nutty, earthy flavor. For this Navy Bean Soup recipe, you can use dried beans for their more creamy, pure bean flavor without becoming mushy or you can use canned beans if you’re in a hurry. I’ve detailed them both below.
- Ham: You can use ham to make Navy Bean and Ham Soup or use chicken. If using ham, you can use the leftover meaty ham bone from your Easter or Christmas ham (YAY for leftovers) or you can visit the deli department and ask for 1/2 pound ham sliced into 1/4″ slices. then slice them the other direction to make cubed ham.
- Chicken: I also LOVE this Navy Bean with chicken and bacon instead of ham. I usually use shredded rotisserie chicken but you can also use 1 pound uncooked chicken breasts or thighs. If using chicken breasts or thighs, add the pieces whole and let them simmer in the soup until tender then remove to a plate to shred.
- Bacon: use thick cut bacon for its meaty texture. I added bacon because I used chicken this particular go around, but you can skip it if you choose to use ham. But then again, bacon makes everything better! You will also use the bacon grease for its fabulous flavor instead of butter or olive oil. If you skip the bacon, you will want to use 2 tablespoons butter, 2 tablespoons olive oil or a combination to saute the vegetables in.
- Onion: one large yellow onion will do the trick!
- Garlic: use more or less depending on your garlic love.
- Fennel: I am a huge fennel fan and love it in this Navy Bean Soup. If you’ve never cooked with fennel, please don’t be intimidated. Your should be able to find it in the produce section of your grocery store, if not, specialty produce stores such as Sprouts, Whole Foods, etc. definitely have it. You will purchase the whole fennel but we are going to use just the bulb, so chop off the fennel stalks at their base where they join the bulb.
- Celery and carrots: you will want to chop your celery and carrots into about 1/4-1/2″ pieces. You can purchase pre-chopped carrots and celery if you would like to save time or chop them beforehand.
- Potatoes: I prefer Yukon Gold potatoes for this Navy Bean Soup for their soft, buttery flavor. Yukon gold potatoes are waxy potatoes so they retain their shape and don’t fall apart when cooked for prolonged periods of time as opposd to Russet potatoes that will fall apart and become mealy tasting when overcooked.
- Chicken broth: please use REDUCED SODIUM chicken broth or your soup will be way too salty if you choose to add ham. You may use vegetable broth as well but chicken broth has more flavor.
- Fire roasted diced tomatoes: I get this question all the time so let me assure you that fire roasted tomatoes are NOT spicy – the fire simply means they have been roasted. This gives them a delightful smokiness and more complex, less tangy flavor than traditional diced tomatoes. If you can’t find fire roasted diced tomatoes, than traditional diced tomatoes work just fine.
WHAT SEASONINGS FOR NAVY BEAN SOUP?
Navy Bean Soup needs seasonings to come alive and to not taste like salty, one note soup. After all, we are going for the BEST Navy Bean Soup here!
For the rich, multi-dimensional flavor, we need help from aromatic, spices, and herbs.
- Aromatics: onions, garlic and fennel sweat together to create a complex flavor base. The fennel imparts a subtle sweet, bright, herby, slightly tangy flavor. Please don’t skip the fennel – it is one of my favorite flavors of this Ham and Bean Soup!
- Spices: We add smoked paprika, red pepper flakes, pepper and dried mustard to enliven the soup with their kickin’ flavors. The smoked paprika also ads a little smokiness. I don’t think the red pepper flakes make the soup spicy, but you can add to taste.
- Salt: ham can be VERY salty so I have not included salt in the recipe BUT everything needs salt to taste flavorful. I advise making the recipe without salt and salting to taste at the very end. You may need up to 1 teaspoon salt depending on your protein. Use a little at a time and proceed with caution.
- Herbs: Dried parsley, dried basil, dried oregano, dried thyme all impart glorious earthiness. The fresh chives added to the Navy Bean Soup at the very end brighten the soup with their delicate, onion-garlic flavor.
Navy Bean and Ham Soup
Transforming Navy Bean Soup into Navy Bean and Ham Soup is a fantastic way to reinvent the holiday favorite. Here are a few things to look out for when cooking soup with hambone:
- Start with a meaty hambone. The meat left on the bone will be all that’s left once you remove the bone so don’t trim it too much before using.
- Remove fat: You will want to scrape off excess fat so your soup isn’t swimming in grease or so no one bites into an unappetizing chewy piece of fat.
- Rinse hambone. It is important to rinse the hambone to remove:
- glaze: If you’re using an Easter ham, it likely coated in a sweet glaze. You want to rinse the glaze off so you’re left with pure ham flavor.
- salt: ham can be incredibly salty. Rinsing off the salt allows you to salt to taste instead of of your soup being too salty.
Why Make Navy Bean Soup with Dried Beans?
You can make Navy Bean Soup with dried beans or canned beans, but if you have the option – go for dried!
- Dried navy beans have a better texture. They emerge wonderfully creamy without becoming mushy, falling apart or losing their skins.
- Dried navy beans boast a more authentic, pure flavor because they haven’t been sitting in cans for months.
- Dried beans absorb the soup liquid as they cook so they become flavorful through and through.
- Dried navy beans are more economical.
- Dried navy beans reduces sodium.
How do you Soak Navy Beans for Soup?
The method and ingredients for making Navy Bean Soup with dried beans is similar to canned beans. The main difference is you need to soak the dried beans and they take longer to cook. Here is how to soak dried navy beans:
- Pick through beans: make sure you give the beans a good comb through to remove any pebbles or rocks.
- Soak navy beans: dried beans should be soaked in about 3 inches of water for 8-24 hours.
- Rapid soak: if you don’t have time to soak your beans for hours, or simply forgot, you can use the rapid soak method which cuts the soaking time down to one hour. To do this, add dried beans to a large saucepan and cover with with triple their volume of cold water. Bring to a boil then set your timer for 2 minutes. Remove saucepan from heat, cover, and proceed to let the beans soak in the same pan for one hour.
- Rinse beans: after the beans have soaked, give them a good rinse in fresh water.
- Add water: we need to add additional water to the soup when using dried beans because they will soak up water as they cook as opposed to canned beans.
How to Make Navy Bean Soup with Canned Beans
You can definitely make this Navy Bean Soup with canned beans – and it will take you less than 30 minutes! Here are a few things to look out for:
- You will need three (15 oz.) cans of navy beans. They are often labeled “white beans” at the store.
- If you can’t find navy beans, you can use your favorite beans such as cannellini beans, great northern, pinto, etc., or a mix.
- Rinse the beans very well to remove excess salt.
- You will not need to add the water in the recipe when using canned beans as they will not absorb the water like dried beans.
Slow Cooker Navy Bean Soup
The EASIEST way to make this Navy Bean Soup is in the slow cooker! This is a great option because you don’t have to spend any time over the stove sauteing your veggies – just cooking bacon if that’s your thing – and bacon is always my thing.
To make Slow Cooker Navy Bean Soup, soak the beans, add them to the slow cooker along with chicken broth, water, broth, onions, carrots, celery, potatoes, fennel, garlic, bay leaf and all seasonings as well as whatever protein you decide to use.
Give everything a good stir and cook until the beans are tender. This is about 5 hours on high or 7-9 hours on low. You’ll know your Navy Bean and Ham Soup is done when the beans and vegetables are tender.
EVERY slow cooker is different, however, so always check your recipe on the early side of the time window when making for the first time and allow some wiggle room. I never suggest making a recipe for the first time when you need it done by a specific time. I had 13 crockpots cooking in my home for a dinner function – and every one was done at different times! Moral of the story – there is no hard line here. Make the Navy Bean Soup and see what timing works for YOU.
What CAN I PREPARE AHEAD OF TIME?
This Navy Bean Soup is mostly dump and simmer, but it does require some planning and chopping if using dried beans. To save you time, you can prep the following ahead of time:
- Soak Beans: If you plan on using dried beans, they require at least 8 hours to soak. You can either start them soaking the night before or first thing in the morning. If you forget to soak your beans, however, use the rapid soak method described above.
- Protein: If you choose hambone, you can prep it by rinsing and scraping off fat; for chopped ham, you can chop your slices; for shredded chicken, you can separate it from the rotisserie chicken; for bacon, you can cook and chop it entirely before hand and store in an airtight container. Store all prepared proteins in the refrigerator.
- Chop Veggies: You can chop your onions, fennel, garlic, and carrots ahead of time and store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator. You can also chop your potatoes but they will need to be stored submerged in
a bowl of water in the refrigerator or else they will turn brown.
- Store-Bought Mirepoix: (pronounced “meer-pwah”), is a French term for the combination of diced carrots, onions and celery sautéed in butter/olive oil. You can buy mirepoix by the jar and keep it in your refrigerator for dinner shortcuts. I believe Trader Joes carries a good mirepoix blend.
- Spices: It doesn’t take long to measure out the spices, but you can certainly do it beforehand and store the mix in an airtight bag or container.
Tips and Tricks for the Best Navy Bean and Ham Soup
- Do I have to use ham? Nope! You can use chicken and bacon or just chicken or mix it up with turkey, smoked sausage, Italian sausage or ground beef!
- Can I make Navy Soup vegetarian? Absolutely! i would suggest adding some liquid smoke to give it a smokey depth. I would also add additional vegetable such as spinach, peas, etc. (you would add both of these at the end simmering).
- Can I use different vegetables? I would keep with the magic mirepoix trio of carrots, celery and onions but beyond that, use your imagination!You can add spinach and peas as previously mentioned or whatever leftover veggies you have on hand – sweet potatoes, zucchini, corn, mushrooms, green beans etc.
- Can I use different beans? Well, it won’t be Navy Bean Soup without navy beans, but this soup will still work with other beans, or a mixture of few.
- How do I thicken Navy Bean Soup? The soup should be quite thick after simmering but if you would like it even thicker, then you can mash some of the beans and potatoes directly in the soup pot.
- Consistency: This Navy Bean Soup is on the thick side – just how I like it, but if you would like it less “chunky” simply add additional water to thin to desired consistency at the end of cooking.
- Can I half this recipe? Absolutely! This Navy Bean and Ham Soup makes quite a lot of soup so feel free to halve it to meet your needs.
- Is Navy Bean Soup gluten free? Yes! We are not using any flour, pasta, etc. so as long as your leftover ham is gluten free (the glaze), then your entire soup will be gluten free.
- Can I make Navy Bean Soup ahead of time? Yes! The soup only tastes better the next day as the flavors have time to build so this soup is a fantastic make and reheat option.
What to Serve with Navy Bean Soup?
This Navy Bean Soup is hearty and comforting full of protein, carbs and veggies, so it doesn’t need much as far as sides go. I love serving it with crusty bread, dinner rolls, or cornbread along with big green salad,or wedge salad,and fruit salad.
NAVY BEAN SOUP STORAGE
Navy Bean Soup should be stored in an airtight container in your refrigerator. When properly stored, it is good for 3-5 days.
HOW DO I REHEAT NAVY BEAN AND HAM SOUP?
For large quantities, heat Navy Bean Soup in the crockpot or on the stove. Reserve the microwave for smaller quantities. You will likely need to add additional water or broth in every method to thin soup:
- Crockpot: Add Navy Bean Soup to slow cooker (or refrigerate soup in the crockpot ceramic insert if you made it in the slow cooker). Heat on low for 1-2 hours.
- Stove: Heat over medium low heat, stirring occasionally until the Navy Bean Soup is heated to 165 degrees F.
- Microwave: Transfer soup to a microwave-safe dish, cover with a microwave-safe lid or paper towel. Microwave for 2 minutes, stir, then continue to microwave for 30-second intervals, if needed.
CAN I FREEZE NAVY BEAN AND HAM SOUP?
The potatoes in this Navy Bean Soup do not freeze well. They break down and become an unpleasant, mealy texture. So, if you are planning on freezing this soup, then I would omit the potatoes.
To freeze Navy Bean Soup:
- Cool: Allow soup to cool completely before freezing to preserve the integrity of the ingredients and to prevent bacteria growth.
- Package: Transfer soup to an airtight freezer safe container or freezer bag. You can even use sandwich size plastic bags for individual soup portions. Squeeze out any excess air to prevent freezer burn and label.
- Freeze. Freeze soup for up to 3 months.
- Defrost/Reheat. When ready to use, thaw overnight in the refrigerator then reheat in the microwave, crockpot or stove according to aforementioned instructions.
Looking for More Soup Recipes with Beans?
- Creamy Ham and White Bean Tortellini Soup
- White Chicken Lasagna Soup
- Chicken Tortilla Soup
- Italian Vegetable Soup
- BBQ Chicken Chili
- White Chicken Chili
- Minestrone Soup
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