Crock-Pot Ham and Beans

An up close shot of ham and beans in a white bowl with a spoon in it, sitting on a cheesecloth. Another bowl sits in the upper right corner.
Recipe At-A-Glance
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Slow Cooker7 hours
Affordable, delicious, and nourishing, this Slow Cooker Ham and Bean Soup is the perfect pantry meal to always have in your back pocket.

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When the pantry is bare and the grocery budget is empty, this is the meal I lean on—ham and bean soup or, as we call it in my house, ham and beans. This recipe can feed an army for just a couple of dollars, the flavor is excellent, and thanks to the Crock-Pot, the hands-on cooking time is almost nothing.

Two bowls of ham and bean soup, one with a spoon in it, sit on a counter.
We had ham and bean soup growing up a lot in my house, and it wasn’t until I was a broke newlywed that I learned just how magical a pot of beans can be. It’s easy on your budget, it’s filling in your belly, and it’s simple to pull together.

How do you make slow cooker ham and beans?

Thanks to your crockpot, this soup requires just a few minutes to pull together. Here are the steps:

  1. Soak your beans overnight in water.
  2. Add the beans, onion, celery, garlic, carrots, seasoning, and ham hock to the crock of your slow cooker.
  3. Cover with water.
  4. Cook for around 8 hours on low.
  5. Add in chopped ham, season to taste, and serve!
Carrots, onion, bay leaves, celery, dried beans, and a ham hock sit in the black crock of a slow cooker.

What in the world is a ham hock?

A ham hock is the joint that attaches a pig’s foot to its leg. For culinary purposes, it is usually smoked (like a ham or bacon), and then used in soups and stews to add flavor by long simmering—similar to making bone broth. When the soup is finished cooking, you remove and discard the ham hock, reserving any meat that’s left on the bone.

Where can I get a ham hock or ham bone?

To really get the most bang for your buck, save the bone the next time you make a ham roast, and use it here in this ham and bean soup to get a whole second recipe out of your ham purchase. If you don’t plan to make these ham and beans right away, you can freeze the ham bone with a cup of leftover ham in a freezer bag or freezer container for later.

If you haven’t just made a ham roast, most supermarkets sell smoked ham hocks in their pork aisle, and you can also check with your butcher or local farmers’ markets. We purchase ham hocks from a local farmer in our area in packs of four—I then freeze them individually so I can make ham and beans whenever I like.

In a pinch, you can use bacon in place of the ham hock or ham bone, and we’ve included the instructions below for how to make that tweak.

Dried beans sit in a glass measuring cup.

What kinds of beans should I use for ham and beans?

For this recipe, I recommend using Great Northern or navy beans. They are mildly-flavored, which lets the ham flavor shine through. Plus, they have a great texture even after simmering in the slow cooker all day—they hold their shape and have a tender bite to them, rather than turning to mush.

For this recipe, you’ll need to start with dried beans. Not only are they cheaper than canned, but they also have a better texture after all that time in your Crock-Pot. And because the slow cooker takes care of the long cooking time for you, it is almost faster to prep this ham and beans with dried beans than it would be with canned.

Do I have to soak the beans?

You don’t have to soak the beans overnight, but you might want to. Soaking the beans helps break down the complex sugars in beans, making them easier on your digestive system. If you have any sort of digestive distress after eating a bean meal, soaking your beans can really help prevent that.

A white bowl filled with ham and beans sits on a folded white cloth.

Why am I using water instead of stock?

A lot of the flavor in these ham and beans come from the ham hock. Because it is simmering right alongside your beans in the slow cooker, you are essentially making a stock while you cook the soup. The simplicity is the best part of this recipe!

How can I thicken these ham and beans?

Honestly, you probably won’t need to—as written, this recipe makes for a hearty, fairly-thick stew. But if you want it really thick, at the end of the cooking time, blend about a cup of the beans with an immersion blender and add it back in.

What’s the best slow cooker for this ham and bean soup?

This recipe makes a lot of servings (6 BIG servings), so I recommend a larger Crock-Pot for this dish. I usually use either my 6-quart Crock-Pot Multicooker or my 6-quart Hamilton Beach slow cooker.

Can I do this on the stovetop?

You can definitely make these on the stovetop. But truthfully, the stovetop cook time is so long, you might be better off getting out your slow cooker. The slow cooker is ideal for making ham and beans, which benefit from cooking low and slow—exactly what Crock-Pots were made for. Instead of babysitting your beans on the stovetop for hours, you can toss everything in your slow cooker and go about your day.

Can I make this in the Instant Pot?

Sure can! You can make it using the slow cooker setting in the Instant Pot, following the recipe as written. Or, if you didn’t get a chance to plan ahead and put this soup in the slow cooker in the morning, you can speed up the cooking process using the pressure cooker. It’ll be ready in around 45 minutes that way! We’ve included instructions for this in the printable recipe below.

Bean soup cooks inside of a black slow cooker. A Bay leaf is seen floating on top, as a ladle dips into the pot.

Can I freeze these slow cooker ham and beans?

You sure can! Let them cool completely, and then freeze them in freezer bags or containers. These leftovers are great for sick days or bad weather days—you know, those “just screams for comfort food” times. To defrost, either thaw overnight in the fridge, or thaw at room temperature for about a half hour (just enough for it to loosen from your container), and then dump into a stock pot or saucepan and warm covered over low heat on the stove.

What can you serve with ham and bean soup?

A big, cozy bowl of soup just begs for some bread! Cornbread, braided seed bread, Irish soda bread, and biscuits all do the trick. If you’re looking for something fresh on the side, a nice salad is a great addition.

An up close shot of ham and beans in a white bowl with a spoon in it, sitting on a cheesecloth. Another bowl sits in the upper right corner.

Crock-Pot Ham and Bean Soup Recipe

Yield: 6
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 7 hours
Total Time: 7 hours 15 minutes

Affordable, delicious, and nourishing, this Slow Cooker Ham and Bean Soup is the perfect pantry meal to always have in your back pocket.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound dried navy beans (or Great Northern beans)
  • 1 large onion, diced (about 1 ¾ cup)
  • 3 celery stalks, diced (about 1 cup)
  • 1 medium carrot, diced (about ½ cup)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 large smoked ham hock (or ham bone)
  • 4-6 cups of water
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1 cup chopped ham
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Instructions

  1. Soak the beans in water (the water should rise a few inches above the beans) overnight. Drain beans before cooking.
  2. Add the beans, onions, celery, carrots, garlic, bay leaf, and ham hock to the slow cooker.
  3. Fill the slow cooker with water until just barely covering the beans.
  4. Cover and slow cook for 5 ½ -6½ hours on high, or 7 ½ -8½ hours on low, until beans have softened and begun to fall apart.
  5. Remove the ham hock or bone from the slow cooker and strip off any meat. Chop and add the meat to the slow cooker along with the Italian seasoning, remaining chopped ham, salt and pepper.
  6. Cover and cook for another 30 minutes.

Notes

  • Top the soup with sliced green onions and serve with a crusty slice of sourdough bread for the ultimate comfort food!
  • To make on the stovetop: Soak beans as listed. Then add all ingredients except the chopped ham to a large Dutch oven. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, reduce heat to low, and simmer for 80-90 minutes, or until the beans are fall-apart tender. Remove and discard the ham hock, then add in the ham and season to taste.
  • To make in the Instant Pot: Soak beans as listed. Then add all ingredients except the chopped ham to the Instant Pot, seal, and set to manual, high pressure for 30 minutes. Let the pressure release naturally. Remove and discard the ham hock, and then add in the ham and season to taste.
  • No ham bone or ham hock? That's okay, you can use bacon in a pinch. It won't be quite as flavorful, but it'll do the trick. Cut 8 slices of bacon (thick-cut prefered) into 1/2" pieces. Saute over medium-high heat in a skillet or Dutch oven until crisp (you can also do this in your slow cooker if it has a "saute" function). Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon and set aside. Add the onions, celery, garlic, and carrots to the bacon grease, and saute until just slightly tender, about 3 minutes. Add one cup of water, and make sure to use your spoon to scrape up any good bits left on the bottom of the pan from the bacon. Pour the veggie/water mixture into your slow cooker along with soaked beans, bay leaf, and additional water. When using bacon, you might consider replacing half of the water with chicken broth to increase flavor. Cook as listed in the original recipe. Top finished soup with the cooked bacon.

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 6 Serving Size: 1 serving
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 166Total Fat: 3gSaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 2gCholesterol: 14mgSodium: 407mgCarbohydrates: 25gFiber: 9gSugar: 2gProtein: 11g

At Wholefully, we believe that good nutrition is about much more than just the numbers on the nutrition facts panel. Please use the above information as only a small part of what helps you decide what foods are nourishing for you.

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Cassie is the founder and CEO of Wholefully. She's a home cook and wellness junkie with a love of all things healthy living. She lives on a small hobby farm in Southern Indiana with her husband, daughter, two dogs, two cats, and 15 chickens.

Leave a Reply

53 Responses
  1. Heather

    Mmm. Love ham & beans. Haven’t had it in forever. Just saw a post about it on Pioneer Woman too. Must be in the air. My boyfriend will most definitely hate it (he hates beans and cornbread! crazy!!), but I’ve gotta try it.

    1. Cassie

      It is definitely in the air! (Especially today. 52° what?!) And WHAT how can someone not like cornbread!? What does he not like about it!? I don’t understand!

      1. dee

        My MIL used to make cornbread. She was health conscious, so she used some sort of artificial shortening, and nonfat milk instead of whole or lowfat, and instead of sugar she used artificial sweetener – not the kind used for baking, either. She made corn bricks. My daughter got sick off them, and ever since then, no matter how I make the corn bread, she still thinks of getting sick and can’t eat it. That’s why some people don’t like some foods. Me, I love cornbread, and even I couldn’t eat Grandma’s Corn Bricks.

      2. Ruth

        I have ham n beans cooking in my crockpot right now. I had planned to bake cornbread as soon as I got home to go with it, but my oven broke last night. So that means I have to buy cornbread, but I can never find any in the grocery store that isn’t sweet. I don’t want it sweet.

  2. Lesil

    Oddly enough, ham and beans was my “yuck face” food as a kid also, and now I love it. The cafeteria at work makes awesome ham and beans and I check the menu every day to see if it’s being served. Thanks for this; I think I’ll throw this in the slow cooker for tomorrow!

  3. Mr Leslie Merle Price

    I make Ham and Beans all the time, but not in a slow cooker. I use ham shanks instead of ham hocks. I found out the ham hocks has a lot of fat which leaves the Ham and Beans greasy. Ham Shanks has a lot of ham with a little of fat.

  4. I grew up with beans with ham hocks. Served with cornbread (sometimes Mexican cornbread) and fried potatoes and onions. Still love it today (MANY years later).

    1. Chuck Orem

      I cook my ham hocks with my beans in the slow cooker. When it comes time to seperate the bones from the hocks, a few small bones invariably fall out of the hocks into the beans making them very hard to find.

      Is there a food grade mesh that I could wrap the hocks in, allowing the cooking to occur, and the flavor from the hocks to pass out of? A mesh small enough to catch the small bones? Sort of like a… tea infuser for cooking… much larger of course.

      Would cheesecloth work, ya think? Or would the cheesecloth dissolve after a couple days of being in the crockpot?

      Thank you in advance.

      Chuck

      1. Cassie

        Hmm. I never had that issue, but I don’t see why cheesecloth wouldn’t work. Although admittedly, I’ve never had cheesecloth under that kind of heat for that long to see how it reacts. If you try it, see if you can find unbleached cheesecloth so you’ll have less chemicals seeping in.

        Another option would be to scrap the ham hock all together and replace it with some thick cut chunks of bacon or salt pork.

      2. Patsy

        I’ve had the problem of ham bone (or chicken bones if I cook chicken in slow cooker) falling apart and then there are bones everywhere. I take piece of cheese cloth and sew a bag (couple of seams on the cheese cloth), put the ham bone in there and tie the top with cooking twine. Works great! If/when the bones fall apart they are all in the bag. I just pull out the bag and get the meat off as per the recipe.

  5. Betty

    Yummm! So good. I hated carrots when I was young; now I eat them all the time. Maybe you should try Chinese food again. It doesn’t all taste the same, and you might find something you like.

  6. Christi-TX

    I love Ham & Beans with sweet cornbread & butter. One food that made me GAG when I was a child was avocado–but now I eat them all the time. Another was any kind of cooked cereal and I still get nauseous even thinking about them.

  7. Donna Clarke

    When I bake a ham, I usually save the ham broth and freeze it down along with miscellaneous pieces of meat from the bone (including the bone. When it comes time to make ham and bean soup, the broth makes the beans so much more flavorful than water. Also, in lieu of Italian spices, I use a pint of Italian marinara in the soup. Lucious.

  8. Donna Pitts

    made this yesterday. I put in about twice the carrots called for as I had some I needed to use and it made the dish a tad sweet but we really enjoyed the beans with some cornbread and sauerkraut. mmmmm.

  9. Brenda King

    I hated spinach as a child, because my parents boiled it, and it came out slimy! YUCK! Love it raw now, and in all kinds of dishes- quiche, salads, soups, etc. Love your blog. Nice to meet you. Keep up the good work! I fight the battle of the bulge too, and was born in the South, so many of these recipes ring familiar and yummy to me.

  10. Sarah Tracy

    I’m making this tomorrow but could not find “smoked” ham hock at the store, just bought a regular ham hock. Hope thats okay. Seemed like it had the skin still on it?? Super yuck, my squeamish husband just trimmed that all off so its just meat and bone now. I just hope this all turns out well in the end lol

  11. Debbie Worters Robertson

    Are the beans drained after soaking and before putting them in slow cooker? Can you use other kinds of beans, or just the listed beans in the recipe? can you leave out the carrots, because my husband don’t like carrots especially in ham ‘n’ beans?

    1. Cassie

      Yes, drain the beans before the go in the slow cooker. And yes, you can use whatever beans you want. And just leave out the carrots.

  12. nicole

    I’m gonna try this, but IMHO Chinese cuisine is superior to American food in terms of subtlety, flavor, diversity, history, etc… You should give it another try, but I understand that there may not be a lot of options in the Midwest.

  13. Diane C

    I have this in the slow cooker right now. I tried it a few months ago and loved it. It’s so easy and delicious. I saved the bone and some meat from our ham to use and I didn’t add the Italian seasoning. I’ll try adding a little to a bowlful and see how we like that. I’m also going to try this with split peas instead of the beans for a little variety. Thank you so much for sharing this.

  14. Cseeger

    All of the foods I hated as a kid I still hate today — pancakes with sugar water syrup with imitation maple flavoring (Yuck), Kraft box macaroni and cheese (eeew), fresh whole dairy milk straight from the cow with unseparated cream (oh god yuck) poured over tasteless wheat puff cereal (gross), Peanut butter on cheap brown bread packed in an oversized grocery bag (just throw it in the trash on the way to school), I quit eating breakfast and lunch by age 13.

    But my favorite food as a kid is still my favorite food — Tacos — in all it’s delicious varieties.

  15. Gary Burcalow

    I despised beans growing up! There was just something about them that was not very appealing!
    But now, I absolutely love them. My wife introduced me to Great Northern beans when we married. I rarely use salt pork and go with smoked ham hocks or a leftover ham bone if I have one in the freezer. I’ve not tried the Italian seasoning. I will do that tomorrow when I make this recipe!

  16. Jennifer

    After my dad had an accident and was disabled when I was a kid, we ate LOTS of ham & beans, I don’t know how, but it remains a favorite meal of mine. I enjoy it with bread & butter as much as cornbread. I ate so much spaghetti at the babysitter’s that I couldn’t eat it for years, but I still love me some ham & beans!

  17. Sally

    I made this last week, along with some pumpkin biscuits that, now that I think of it, maybe are also from your blog? They both were delicious, and the soup leftovers only get better. Thanks!

  18. Debora Delaney

    We love ham and beans! BUT, we can’t eat salty foods because of dietary restrictions. So I’m making our beans and I’m using pork loin for our meat. We do not add any salt to our meals and we don’t miss it at all.

  19. Wendi L

    Hi, I’ve been using your slow cooker ham and bean recipe for a few years now, BUT I just got an instant pot and wanted to see how it worked. I did not soak my beans first (because I wasn’t planning ahead) and they turned out perfectly!

    This is how I did it; I increased the water to 8 cups, cooked high pressure for 40 minutes, and did a FULL natural release and viola! I use this method on a pinto bean recipe that I also love and it always comes out well each time.

    Thank you!

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Hello. My name is Cassie, and I’m a healthy home cooking expert.

I'm a Certified Holistic Nutritionist, and I've been developing healthy recipes professionally for over 15 years. Food is my love language, and my kitchen tips and nourishing recipes are my love letter to you!

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