This navy bean soup is made with smoked ham shanks, vegetables and spices. It’s a hearty and delicious soup the whole family will enjoy.
Like with many bean soups, you can’t rush the process, so make this navy bean soup on a leisurely afternoon. Your time will be rewarded with a big pot of soup that will feed your body and soul!
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Navy bean soup ingredients
- 16 ounces Navy Beans
- 1 pound Smoked Ham Shank, rinsed
- 2 tablespoons Olive Oil
- 1 medium Onion, finely diced
- 2 Carrots, diced
- 2 Celery Ribs, diced
- 3-4 Garlic Cloves, minced
- 1 tablespoon Tomato Paste
- 1 teaspoon Dried Oregano
- 1 teaspoon Spanish Paprika
- ¼ teaspoon Black Pepper
- 4 cups Chicken Broth
- 4 cups Water
- 1 Bay Leaf
- Salt, to taste
How to sort navy beans
Sorting is the process of going through beans and removing substandard beans and anything that doesn’t belong. Sometimes foreign objects (stones, debris, etc.) inadvertently get packaged with the beans.
To sort the navy beans, pour them on a large, flat surface. A sheet pan, large cutting board, or kitchen towel on the counter will all work well. Arrange the beans so they’re in a single layer and pick through them. Remove any foreign objects (like small stones and twigs), broken, misshaped or oddly colored beans.
Don’t skip this step; there are always a few beans that are not up to par. Plus, I’ve found stones and tiny twigs in dry beans on more than one occasion.
Add the beans to a colander, rinse them with cold water and drain.
Do navy beans need to be soaked before cooking?
There’s debate on whether beans need to be soaked. Some claim soaking doesn’t make a difference; others insist they’ll take forever to cook if not soaked. Me, I split the difference and use a quick soak method. It has always worked really well.
That said, I do recommend soaking the beans using either the overnight or quick soak method. Soaking the beans hydrates them and I like having that head start.
Overnight soaking method
Add the beans to a pot. Cover the beans with 4-6 cups of water. Let them soak overnight. Drain the water completely and rinse the beans well with fresh, cold water.
Quick soaking method
(My preferred method) Add the beans and 6-8 cups of water to a large pot. Place the pot over medium-high heat and bring the water to a boil. Boil the beans for 2 minutes. Take the pot off the heat, cover and allow them to soak for one hour. Then, drain and rinse the beans.
How long to cook Navy Beans?
Cooking times vary when making fresh beans. The cooking time will depend on the freshness and quality of the beans. For any bean recipe, the best we can do is offer an estimated cooking time. Sometimes an hour is enough. Sometimes, the beans need to cook longer.
When cooking with fresh beans, follow the recipe cooking time and taste a couple of beans for doneness. If they’re still firm, then cook for 15 minutes at a time, tasting a couple of beans in between until they reach the desired tenderness.
Other than sorting and soaking the beans, there is some prep work involved with this from-scratch navy bean soup. If you’re using the quick soak method, do the prep while you wait.
- Start with rinsing the ham shanks with cold water and pat them dry.
- Dice the onions, carrots and celery. They’re all going into the pot at the same time so keep them in the same bowl.
- Mince the garlic.
- Measure out the tomato paste, oregano, paprika and black pepper.
We keep all our prepped ingredients in glass nesting bowls. They keep everything organized, keeping cooking stress free. Now we’re ready to cook!
Create a flavor base
The secret to making delicious soup is to start with a flavor base. Different recipes will use different ingredients, but the concept remains the same, cooking vegetables and spices gently in oil/fat until they start to soften. Then you build the soup from there.
Examples of flavor bases include sofrito – really common in Cuban recipes and mirepoix – a combination of onions, carrots and celery that’s French in origin. That’s what we’re starting with here.
Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy pot over medium heat. When the oil is hot, but not smoking, add the onions, carrots and celery. Cook the vegetables for 5 minutes, stirring frequently.
Next, add the garlic, tomato paste, oregano, paprika and black pepper, cook 1-2 minutes, stirring frequently.
Finish the soup
Add the smoked ham shank, navy beans, chicken broth, water, and the bay leaf to the pot and stir well. Raise heat to high and bring the liquid to a boil; it will take about 6-8 minutes. Then, lower the heat to medium-low, cover and cook the soup for 60 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Keep the soup at a simmer/gentle boil. If it’s boiling too vigorously, lower the heat a bit. Adjust the heat as necessary.
Remove the smoked ham shank from the pot onto a cutting board or plate (use tongs to make this easy). Cover the soup and continue cooking.
When the smoked ham shank is cool enough to handle, remove the meat from the bones. Discard the bones and any fatty pieces. Chop the meat and return it to the pot.
Continue cooking the navy bean soup for another 15 minutes. Taste a couple of beans; if they are tender, the soup is done.
If the beans are still a little firm, cover and continue cooking. Check the beans every 15 minutes or so, until they reach the desired tenderness. As the soup thickens, stir more often so the beans don’t stick to the bottom of the pot.
Use tongs to fish out the bay leaf from the soup and discard. Taste the soup and add salt if needed and stir. As a reference, we added ¾ teaspoon to ours.
Serve the navy bean soup with a nice piece of crusty bread or a side of white or brown rice, if desired.
How to thicken bean soups?
If your navy bean soup is not thickening, there’s an easy fix for that. By the way, this thickening method works really well with other bean soups too.
- First, uncover the pot and let the soup continue simmering for a few minutes. Some of the liquid will cook out and this will help the soup start to thicken.
- Then, use a small mesh strainer to remove 2-3 tablespoons of the beans from the pot.
- Mash them up in the strainer with a fork, kind of like making smashed potatoes.
- Finally, add that bean paste back to the soup and stir well. Let the soup simmer a little while longer.
- Stir occasionally to keep the soup from sticking to the bottom of the pot; and to gauge how thick it is.
If you’ve made this soup before, please note that this recipe has been updated with the following changes:
- Instead of 8 cups of water we used 4 cups of chicken broth and 4 cups of water.
- We doubled the amount of carrots and celery
- Dried oregano was substituted for fresh oregano
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Navy Bean Soup
- 16 ounces Navy Beans sorted, rinsed and soaked
- 1 pound Smoked Ham Shank rinsed and patted dry
- 3 tablespoon Olive Oil
- 1 Medium Onion finely diced
- 2 Carrots diced
- 2 Celery Ribs diced
- 3-4 Garlic Cloves minced
- 1 tablespoon Tomato Paste
- 1 teaspoon Dried Oregano
- 1 teaspoon Spanish Paprika
- Black Pepper to taste
- 4 cups Chicken Broth
- 4 cups Water
- 1 Bay Leaf
- Salt to taste
- Pick through the beans to remove any foreign objects (like small stones). Don’t skip this step, I’ve found stones in dry beans on more than one occasion. Add the beans to a colander and rinse them well with cold water and drain.
Soak the beans – use the overnight or the quick soak method.
- Overnight method: Add the beans to a pot. Cover the beans with 4-6 cups of water. Let the beans soak overnight. Drain the water completely and rinse the beans well with fresh, cold water.
- Quick soaking method: Add the beans and 6-8 cups of water to a large pot. Place the pot over medium-high heat and bring the water to a boil. Boil the beans for 2 minutes, then remove them from the heat, cover and allow them to soak for one hour. Drain and rinse the beans. I use the quick soak method and it has worked well so far.
Prepare the smoked ham shank
- Rinse the ham with cold water, pat dry.
Make the navy bean soup
- Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat; add the onions, carrots and celery to the pot. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently.
- Add the garlic, tomato paste, oregano, paprika and black pepper. Cook 1-2 minutes, stirring frequently.
- Add the smoked ham shank, navy beans, chicken broth, water, and the bay leaf to the pot and stir. Raise heat to high, bring the liquid to a boil, lower heat to medium-low, cover and cook 60 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Remove the smoked ham shank from the pot and place on a cutting board. Cover the soup and continue cooking. When the smoked ham shank is cool enough to handle, remove the meat from the bones. Discard the bones and any fatty pieces. Chop the meat and return it to the pot.
- Continue cooking the navy bean soup for another 15 minutes. Taste a couple of beans; if they’re tender, the soup is done. If the beans are still a little firm, cover and continue cooking. Check the beans every 15 minutes or so, until they reach the desired consistency.
- Taste the navy bean soup and add salt if needed. As a reference, we added ¾ teaspoon to our soup.
- Remove the bay leaf and discard.
- Replaced 8 cups of water with 4 cups of chicken broth and 4 cups of water
- Doubled the amount of carrots and celery (2 of each instead of 1)
- Dried oregano was substituted for fresh oregano
Good recipe! I made it too smoky for my tastes – I think because I used ham broth (Better Than Bullion) instead of the chicken broth called for in addition to the smoked ham hock. I didn’t add any extra salt and it was fine for us.
Hello Everyone, I have made this soup twice it is a great recipe ! Thank you so much I shall share this with a lot of my friends ❤️
It is my pleasure! Happy to hear you enjoyed it, thank you for stopping by.
I make this recipe in my crockpot. So delicious. I don’t add as much water and don’t need to precook the vegetables. Just dump and go for eight hours on low or six hours on high. I typically use a leftover ham bone from a holiday, pull it out of the crock and pull the meat off. I have also used ham hocks with the same results. Serve with crusty bread. My family loves it.
Great recipe — it will be my go-to from now on. Sautéing the smoked paprika and tomato paste add a depth of flavor to the soup. I made it according to the recipe with one addition. I added about a cup of leftover chopped kale and collard greens that had been cooked with bacon, onion, and garlic and seasoned with sherry vinegar. It was a nice addition.
Thank you. The addition of the greens sounds delicious!
Sheila in MD
Does this soup freeze well? THanks!
Yes, but it may be necessary to add a little broth (or water) to reheat if it is too thick.
My mom always made this soup using bacon. Anyone else? Love this soup with fresh Italian bread
I love making soups but had never made Navy Bean. I used to order from a restaurant for lunch at my job years ago and loved it! I made this recipe today and have to say, it was a winner! Hubby texted at lunch to say it was awesome soup! I just had some and agree, it’s delicious! I soaked the beans overnight and followed recipe exactly but I did mix a little flour with water and added to soup at the end just to thicken slightly. Will definitely be in my soup rotation recipes!
Thank you for your kind review, I’m glad you both enjoyed it!
I made this wonderful recipe today….mostly because the picture looked just like the navy bean soup my Granny made years ago….followed the recipe except…..I confess to adding heavy cream as my Granny always did….about a cup or so. Just WONDERFUL!!!
I’m happy to hear you enjoyed it. The cream sounds like a good idea, I usually add it to pureed soups, but I can see how it would work with this too. Thanks for sharing!
Oh my stars! Absolutely delicious soup made with a Honey Baked Ham bone. I followed the recipe as written and used an immersion blender on half of it at the end. So, so good. Thanks for sharing.
Thank you! Glad you enjoyed it.
I made this soup tonight and it was fabulous. Used a meaty ham bone from a previous dinner rather than the smoked ham shank. I’ve made my fair share of navy bean soup over the years, (husband’s favorite), but this was hearty and incredibly flavorful. Thanks you!
Thank you for your kind comment. I’m happy you enjoyed it!
Making this at the moment. We love this soup but look forward to try this recipe.
What are navy beans called in England
Hi Heather, according to the top results in google they are called haricot beans. Hope that helps, thanks for stopping by.
That’s odd. Haricot is French for beans
Is that 538 calories per serving or for the whole batch?
That is per serving.
White Haricot and red kidney beans, but almost any beans will do.. I used chirzio instead of the ham, it was great
Made this yesterday on a cold rainy day – used boneless smoked ham but otherwise followed the recipe except that I thickened it a bit more with a stick blender. My husband and I loved it – thanks!
Happy you enjoyed it!
MARGARET, I also like a little thicker stock. Did you only use immersion blender with a portion of the beans ?? Or beans & ham ????
How much is in a serving?
I have made this so many times. It is so delicious. I increased the garlic and use fresh herbs. Also have to cook it much longer than an hour. Probably more like 2, 2.5. After removing the shank for shredding, I use a potato mashes for a few quick mashes in the pot. Gives the soup a great texture. Thank you for sharing your recipe.
I made this soup today because I had a pkg of mixed beans and wanted to make something finally. I also had bbq ribs leftover from a restaurant. I used the your quick method for soaking the beans. Wonderful!! I did add one tablespoon of chicken garlic “better than bouillon” and I had 4 small tomatoes from our garden that needed to “go”. I did not use the tomato paste. This recipe is so versatile !! My husband did use a small bowl but a big serving bowl to eat this soup. (I always make a big pot of soup to last a few days and this recipe is exceptionally DELICIOUS.
Thank you for your recipe.
We don’t eat pork in my house so, can I use turkey ham in place of the ham hock? Also, can I use canned Navy beans and adjust the cooking time?
The turkey ham should give the soup the meaty smoky taste you need. I’ve never made this soup with canned beans so I can’t speak to the results. Aside from the cooking time you may need to adjust the amount of liquid too. Good luck, I hope you enjoy it.
I am wanting to make this soup for my kids, but I only want to make half of the amount used here to avoid leftovers (leftovers usually don’t get eaten in my house). Can you tell me how halfing it will affect the cook time?
The cooking time is probably not going to be affected too much because fresh beans take their own time to soften. You are going to have to gauge the final cooking time by how far along the beans are. Also, I would keep an eye on the liquid make sure it’s not cooking away too fast add more broth/water if needed. Good luck, let me know how it turns out.
Just made the soup. Delicious! Used a leftover ham bone with some meat still on. Removed meat after cooking. Best ever.
Happy to hear it! Thank you for stopping by.
Beans usually freeze well. I always make a big pot and freeze some for later.
We love this soup! I made it for first time a few months ago and my husband especially, loved it so has become a staple in our home. Thank you!
Hi Danette, I’m really happy you enjoyed it. Thank you for your kind comment.
This is by far the best bean soup recipe I’ve ever made! So flavorful!!
I’m so glad to hear you enjoyed it! Thanks for stopping by.
I made this with my leftover ham, it was very good on a cold winters night.
I added some vegetable stock and thyme. Toasted some ciabatta bread in the bottom of the bowl and poured the soup over top! Yummy
That ciabatta bread in the bowl sounds amazing! I’m really happy you enjoyed it.
Made this and froze half it was just as good the second time. Making it again half to eat half to freeze. Love it
Really happy you enjoyed it!
This is my second time making this soup for my wife and I , gotta say it is now our. favourite, thanks for sharing it
Thank you for your kind comment. I’m really happy you enjoy it!
Made the soup tonight and thought it was delicious. The tomato paste gave a punch of flavor I really enjoyed. Had to cook it about one hour and forty five minutes to get the desired softness of beans. I made it with chopped ham and no bone, but was delicious.
Hi Sue, I’m really glad you enjoyed it. Thanks for stopping by!
Can this be made in the crock pot?
I have never made it in a slow cooker, but I’m sure you can find a recipe online.
Can I use canned navy beans?
Hi Tammy, Not with the cooking times provided. I would make the soup and put the canned beans at the end. Let them simmer, maybe half an hour. And if the soup is not thickening, uncover the pot and let it simmer for a few minutes. Hope that helps.
I made this soup a couple days ago. I soaked the beans almost 24 hours, cook as directed in the recipe but after and extra hour of cooking it still wasn’t ready so I made something else for dinner that night, put the soup in the crock pot on low for 8 hours and then it was on warm until I woke up the next morning. We had the leftover soup for the second time tonight and it was delish. In the future I will cook in the crockpot on low all day.
A fall favorite. Sometimes the shanks are salty so I use low sodium chicken stock.
Hi Barb, thank you!
Although it was 90 degrees today, hoping to encourage cooler Fall temperatures, I prepared this recipe. The warmth of the paprika and oregano was soothing and delicious. I will definitely be making this recipe again this fall. Thank you for sharing it.
I’m in Miami so I know what you mean! I love soup and can’t let the heat win! So happy you enjoyed the soup and thank you for your kind review.
Can I substitute with canned white beans ?
It will change the cooking time and the consistency of the soup.
Hi! I’m just making this soup now and I’m trying to be a little more accurate with the serving size. I notice it says 6 servings but I’m wondering what size the nutritional information is based on, 1 cup or more? It’s a huge pot and it’s smelling good. Thanks!
The nutritional information is computer generated and is only an estimate. The servings are based on the final product that we ended up with (6 serving of the soup as the main meal). You can divide the soup into six servings, and then separate it further from there – so half of one serving would be approximately half of the nutrition information, etc. I’m sorry I can’t be of more help. I do hope that the soup turns out good! Thanks for stopping by.
How can I make this in my instant pot?
Hi. I don’t use an Instant Pot so I can’t offer any guidance. Thanks for stopping by.
What can be used to substitute Spanish paprika.? Can use smoked paprika?
Yes, smoked paprika is also called Spanish paprika or pimenton. It’s made from smoked, dried peppers that are ground into powder. Thanks for stopping by!
I’m really glad you enjoyed it!
Would I be able to use the ham bone from our Easter ham instead of the ham shanks?
Hi Lisa, I think the ham bone will work just fine. If it’s not very meaty, chop a little leftover ham to put in the soup too.
Granny a Jean McDaniel
I am going to try this in the Slow Cooker, instead of on the stove top. I am elderly and forgetful. I would forget to tchange temp. or remember when to stir and end up with a mess. Hope it turns out ok. I am going to use celery salt to sneak in celery because my husband dislikes celery. If he sees it. The pictures look a lot like Campbell’s Bean and Bacon soup which we both love.. Anxious to make it after Easter, so I will have ham.
Thanks for posting.
That sounds great!
Hi Granny A. Jean McDaniel, how did your
Navy Bean Soup turn out in the Crock-Pot? Did you cook it on Hi or Low and for how long? Thanks!
How’d it do in the crockpot?
I can’t rate it yet, because I’m about to cook it. I just went to the store & purchased the ingredients. I’m smoked pork sausage.
I have amazing pork ham hock broth that I froze into 3 silicone cupcake trays. The broth recipe was from Nom Nom Paleo.
I want to have easy breakfast/lunch/dinner so I’m going to make your recipe & leave it in a crock pot on low. Thanks for the recipe, I’m sure it’ll be delicious.
That sounds really good! Thanks for stopping by.
Can all ingredients be put in a crockpot and slow cooked all day?