I’ve updated this Easy Ham & Bean Soup recipe AGAIN! I wanted to cut down the cooking time a bit so it would be more practical to make. So, I adjusted the cooking time down to 8-9 hours using a combination of high and low heat (instead of a full 12 hours on low heat). It also has both Instant Pot and slow cooker directions. Don’t worry, the soup itself is just as tasty as it always has been 🙂
Beans are so good year ’round but to me, they are especially good in the winter months—and Easy Ham & Bean Soup is a good example of why. It’s filling, comforting, thick, warming and nutritious. It’s also an inexpensive recipe. Dried beans are a bargain any time, and a leftover ham bone is often hanging around in the freezer or fridge after holiday feasts.
Do I have to use navy beans?
Feel free to use whatever type of dried beans you like best (I happen to like the small navy beans). I like smaller beans, but there is no reason you couldn’t use a bean mixture or another variety of bean that you like. The last time I tested this I used a 16-bean combination and it was delicious and quite colorful, too.
How do I soak the beans?
When I make this recipe in the slow cooker I usually just soak the beans for about 12 hours, but if you pre-soak for 24 hours you may want to add the beans to the slow cooker later as they won’t need as long to cook (they will hold their shape better that way). On the other hand, if you don’t mind them being soft, you certainly can put them in right away—it’s totally up to you. The soup is done when then beans are cooked to the texture you prefer. I like very soft beans and thick soup, hence the longer cook time on this recipe. For a thinner soup or more firm beans, adjust the cooking time down.
Do I need to soak the beans for the Instant Pot?
This time around I made the soup in my Instant Pot, and for that you don’t need to pre-soak the beans at all. The total time to prepare the soup in the Instant Pot will be around 1 1/2 hours (compared to about 12 1/2 hours for the slow cooked version).
Can I add other ingredients to this soup?
You can adjust the ingredients as you like. In general, soup recipes are very forgiving and adaptable. I sometimes add extra vegetables to this recipe. Chopped carrots are a natural fit, but you could also stir in chopped kale or spinach leaves toward the end of cooking. When I remade the recipe so I could re-shoot the photos for this post, I happened to have a ham bone that had a lot of meat still on it, so I didn’t add the full 2 cups of cubed ham. (This is why most of the ham in the pictures looks like it is shredded— it just fell off the bone and isn’t cubed.) Take a look at the ham bone you are using, then decide if you want to add more ham to your soup.