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.
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