Smoky White Bean & Ham Soup
This post may contain affiliate links. Read my full disclosure policy.
This Southern-style smoky white bean and ham soup adapted from chef Hugh Acheson is hearty and comforting.
This rich and smoky white bean and ham soup is modestly adapted from Georgia chef Hugh Acheson’s cookbook, How to Cook: Building Blocks and 100 Simple Recipes for a Lifetime of Meals. The book is intended for kitchen novices—Acheson wrote it with his teenage daughters, Beatrice and Clementine, in mind—but I think it’s a wonderful resource for seasoned cooks, too. This recipe, for example, begins with a lesson on how to cook dried beans, a skill every cook should have, and then shows how to transform them into a flavorful, hearty soup by adding smoked ham hocks, chicken stock, vegetables, and herbs. I made a few tweaks to the recipe, like adding more ham and puréeing a portion of the soup to thicken it up a bit. Feel free to skip the puréeing step if you prefer a brothier soup.
What You’ll Need to Make Smoky White Bean & Ham Soup
Smoked ham hocks, or pork knuckles, come from the ankle region of the pig’s leg. In Southern cooking, hocks are often used to add a rich, meaty, and smoky flavor to soups, stews, and greens. They are available in most supermarkets and are very inexpensive. If for some reason you can’t find them, pork shank can be substituted.
Step 1: Quick-soak the Beans
Place the beans in a large pot and cover with 2 to 3 inches of water.
Bring to a boil, then remove from the heat and let sit for one hour.
Drain the beans.
Step 2: Make the White Bean & Ham Soup
Place the drained beans into a 5.5-quart Dutch oven or large pot. Add the water, chicken stock, bay leaves, quartered onion, and ham hocks.
Bring to a boil over high heat, then cover and simmer over low heat until the beans are just tender, about 1 hour (depending on the size of the beans, it could take a bit longer).
Once the beans are tender, pull out the bay leaves, onion remnants, and ham hocks. Discard the bay leaves and onions, but set the ham hocks aside to cool.
Add the minced onion, carrots, celery, tomatoes, garlic, thyme, and 2 teaspoons of salt to the pot.
Increase the heat to medium and cook, uncovered, for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, while the soup is cooking, and when the ham hocks are cool enough to handle, pull the meat from the hocks, discard any bone, fat, and tough sinew, and chop the meat finely.
Use a ladle to transfer about 2 cups of the beans and vegetables, along with a bit of broth, to a blender or food processor. (If using a blender, be sure to remove the center knob on the lid and cover with a dishtowel to avoid splatters.)
Purée until smooth.
Stir the mixture back into the soup.
Add the meat and kale to the soup.
Simmer over medium-low heat for 5 minutes more.
Taste and adjust the seasoning with more salt, if necessary. At this point, you can serve the soup or refrigerate it for up to 3 days. When you’re ready to eat, garnish each bowl with a drizzle with olive oil (if using) and a heap of grated cheese.
You May Also Like
- Pasta Fagioli
- Split Pea Soup with Ham
- Lentil Soup
- Black Bean Soup
- Smoky Chickpea, Red Lentil & Vegetable Soup
Smoky White Bean and Ham Soup
This Southern-style smoky white bean and ham soup adapted from chef Hugh Acheson is hearty and comforting.
- 1 pound dried white navy beans or Great Northern beans, rinsed and checked for stones
- 6 cups water
- 4 cups chicken stock
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 yellow onion, peeled and quartered, plus ½ cup minced (you'll need 2 onions)
- 2 pounds smoked ham hocks
- 2 carrots, diced
- 2 celery stalks, diced
- 1 (14 oz) can chopped or diced tomatoes
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
- 1½ cups chopped kale or other dark leafy greens
- Extra-virgin olive oil, for serving (optional)
- Finely grated pecorino Romano or Parmigiano Reggiano, for serving
- Quick-soak the beans: Place the beans in a medium pot and cover with 2 to 3 inches of water. Bring to a boil over high heat and cook for 1 minute. Remove the pot from the heat and let sit for 1 hour. Drain in a colander.
- Place the drained beans into a 5.5-quart Dutch oven or large pot. Add the water, chicken stock, bay leaves, quartered onion, and ham hocks. Bring to a boil over high heat, then cover and simmer over low heat until the beans are just tender, about 1 hour (depending on the size of the beans, it could take a bit longer).
- Once the beans are tender, pull out the bay leaves, onion remnants, and ham hocks. Discard the bay leaves and onions, but set the ham hocks aside to cool.
- Add the minced onion, carrots, celery, tomatoes, garlic, thyme, and 2 teaspoons of salt to the pot. Increase the heat to medium and cook, uncovered, for 15 minutes. While the soup is cooking, and when the ham hocks are cool enough to handle, pull the meat from the hocks, discard any bone, fat, and tough sinew, and chop the meat finely.
- Use a ladle to transfer about 2 cups of the beans and vegetables, along with a bit of broth, to a blender or food processor. (If using a blender, be sure to remove the center knob on the lid and cover with a dishtowel to avoid splatters.) Purée until smooth, and then stir the mixture back into the soup. Add the meat and kale to the soup and simmer over medium-low heat for 5 minutes more. Taste and adjust the seasoning with more salt, if necessary (I usually add about 1 teaspoon more; beans require a lot of salt to bring out their flavor). At this point, you can serve the soup or refrigerate it for up to 3 days. (It will thicken up in the fridge; thin it with a bit of water, if necessary.)
- When you're ready to eat, garnish each bowl with a drizzle with olive oil (if using) and a heap of grated cheese.
- Freezer-Friendly Instructions: The soup can be frozen for up to 3 months. Defrost the soup in the refrigerator for 12 hours and then reheat it on the stovetop over medium heat until hot. through.
- Per serving (Nutritional data is based on 2 tsp salt and does not include oil and cheese - 8 servings)
- Calories: 468
- Fat: 14g
- Saturated fat: 4g
- Carbohydrates: 46g
- Sugar: 7g
- Fiber: 11g
- Protein: 41g
- Sodium: 1326mg
- Cholesterol: 73mg
This website is written and produced for informational purposes only. I am not a certified nutritionist and the nutritional data on this site has not been evaluated or approved by a nutritionist or the Food and Drug Administration. Nutritional information is offered as a courtesy and should not be construed as a guarantee. The data is calculated through an online nutritional calculator, Edamam.com. Although I do my best to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures should be considered estimates only. Varying factors such as product types or brands purchased, natural fluctuations in fresh produce, and the way ingredients are processed change the effective nutritional information in any given recipe. Furthermore, different online calculators provide different results depending on their own nutrition fact sources and algorithms. To obtain the most accurate nutritional information in a given recipe, you should calculate the nutritional information with the actual ingredients used in your recipe, using your preferred nutrition calculator.
Couldn’t find ham hocks, could I use 2 pounds of ham from a boneless spiral ham? If so I’m assuming after the beans have soaked and cooked for an hour.
Hi Scott, Yes that’s fine. Enjoy!
Could this be made with turkey sausage instead of ham?
Hi Jackie, Yes I think that will work. Enjoy!
Hi Jenn, this is a great soup recipe! I have a bag of 15 bean mix I need to use, do you think it will work with this recipe?
Thanks, Sharon T
This is SO delicious! We followed the directions exactly. For greens, we used chopped baby spinach. Thanks Jenn for another wonderful recipe!
So good! Had a leftover ham bone from Christmas and was looking for something to do with it other than Pea Soup ( my husband doesn’t like it- so sad!) I knew I would find something on this site. Wow!! We loved it and it was so easy.
Thanks for a great dinner. Your blog has become my go-to place for just about everything. Love your cookbook too!
This was a lovely cool-evening meal… very tasty. I chose to get a thick slice of ham from the deli and dice it instead of fighting with the ham hocks which in my case didn’t reveal much meat, but that was the only deviation. The texture was perfect (blending some of the mix was a great idea), the smokiness of the ham came through, and since I used my own chicken stock, the stock was GREAT!! Hahaha
Just another in a long list of dependable, satisfying and well-described recipes from Jenn. Thanks so much for giving us such treasures. It’s always stress-free to use your recipes… I know they’ll turn out great.
Jenn I’m making this soup right now,and I can tell this is another winner.
BUT, I thought you would want to know, the amount of advertising has practically doubled (or seems that way-and I know it’s a busy season).
But what’s different now is the advertising/advertisements appear OVER your actual recipe leaving the reader unable to make out portions of the recipe.
Hi Lisa, Thanks for your feedback and I’m sorry you’re seeing so many ads! I totally get your frustration. And your observation is correct — the amount of advertising is increased during the holiday season, so that’s temporary. Also, a couple questions:
-What type of device are you using? If it’s an iPad, the ads can move around depending on how you’re holding it. Also, I’ve spoken to my ad networks about it and they’ve definitely find that iPad users tend to have more complaints across the board because of the unique sizing and formatting that happens on an iPad.
-If you’re using a computer, do you have it in full-screen mode? If not, depending upon how narrow the page is displayed, if the ads don’t have room to be alongside the content, they will display on top of it. This will resolve itself with the full-screen view.
Again, I’m really sorry for the frustration!
I APOLOGIZE for not responding after your comments to my post.
The soup came out so good,I think I completely forgot about all those pop-up adds.
I have an iPhone…admittedly I’m not the most sophisticated when it comes to technology.
In the end,it all worked out. Everyone loved the soup, and it made for a wonderful meal. I’ve never made anything from your books (I have them both), or your site that hasn’t been absolutely wonderful! You provide the best step by step instructions,complete w/photographs so all of us can have success in our home kitchens.
Thank you so much…
Hi Lisa, glad that you were able to focus on the recipe and kind of dismiss the pop-ups! And thanks for your nice words about the recipes — so happy to hear you’ve had success with them. 🙂
I don’t do many reviews. That being said, this soup REQUIRED one! I made this recently. I had one pork hock frozen, but did not see any at my grocery store. I substituted a MASSIVE smoked turkey leg…so large I had to cut it in half to fit in the stockpot I was using. When I was ready to thicken the soup, I put about 3 cups of it in my food processor, along with a small handful of both meats, then returned everything to the stockpot. The consisyency was perfect! With the exception of the turkey leg, I followed Jenn’s recipe completely. Having made several of her other recipes, I have the “why mess with perfection” attitude! Once again, Jenn did not disappoint. The soup is fantastic. My wife raved about it and ate it 3 days in a row.
I brought about half of it to a good friend…she lives with her daughter and son in law and they are all from Romania. A few days later, I spoke with her and she told me they all loved this soup. Her son in law told her that this soup was the first meal he has had in the U.S. (outside of a Romanian restaurant) that truly “tasted like home”. I’ve been a guest in their home many times, and they have asked me to come to their home again soon and make this soup there. They insist on buying all of the ingredients and told me to let them know what I would like to drink while cooking (it’s not a sweet tea or lemonade kinda thing😉).
Sooo, there you go Jenn…sort of like two reviews in one! Awesome!
I only had dried lima beans so used those. I knew better than to add all that salt – Swanson’s broth is already salted and so are ham hocks. I recommend only adding salt at the table if you feel the need – I didn’t. Otherwise a great feast of a recipe!
Tried this recipe for the first time tonight, and it was absolutely amazing!!! I did make one change though… I used two smoked turkey wings since we don’t eat pork. Still, fabulous. The kale was a very nice addition and it gave it nice color. There isn’t a recipe of Jenn’s that I’ve tried that isn’t delicious. Thank you for the recipes.
In December I was looking for an easy recipe to use up our leftover holiday ham and decided to make this given that the ingredients were all pantry basics that I had on hand. Since I was using ham and not a ham hock I ‘cheated’ and just sauteed the chopped veggies for a couple of minutes before adding a can of diced fire roasted chipotle tomatoes (for heat), a couple of bay leaves and some fresh thyme sprigs. The kale was omitted because our kale patch was frozen under a foot of snow, and I also added a bit of smoked paprika as suggested in a previous comment. When we sat down to dinner I was surprised by how tasty this soup was– a perfect example of simple food, cooked right. It is now mid-January and I just made a second batch with some nice smoky ham; half will be for our supper, and half for sharing with a friend. Thank you Jenn for sharing this delicious winter soup recipe with us, and for introducing us to the culinary talents of Hugh Acheson.
This soup was excellent. I made it exactly as per the recipe. Found ham hocks at the farmers market in St. Jacobs, Ontario even though they have them at my local grocers. I often share meals with my 80 year old neighbour, and she summed this recipe up best, yum, yum, yummy.
Do you make any recipes with an instant pot? My husband gave me one as gift so I want to make good use of it. I love to make dishes the traditional way, but I’m often short on time. Any thought about pressure cookers?
Hi Tammy, There’s one recipe on my blog that uses an instant pot. You can find it here. And while I have an instant pot, I don’t think I’ll be developing a lot of recipes for it. I know that people that have Instant Pots really love them, but because many people don’t own them and I try to “appeal to the masses” I don’t plan to use it a ton for new recipes. I know that there are some sites and cookbooks out there that really specialize in IP recipes, so they probably would be your best resource in that area.
I loved this recipe. It had deep flavor, and the kale was perfect as a final touch. I had a big ham bone in my freezer that I used in place of the ham hock (so I didn’t have a lot of meat to include in the soup), but it was wonderful nonetheless. The broth was perfect for us so I didn’t puree for thickness.
I will make this again. Probably soon.
What would be the equivalent of canned beans to dry and would I alter the liquid amount due to not needing hydration for the beans. Thank you in advance for your reply.
Hi Dave, I’d use three 15-ounce cans of beans for the soup and you shouldn’t need to alter the amount of liquid at all. Hope that helps and that you enjoy!
This is actually very traditional soup meal in my country. We make it with a few differences. With sausages, pork ribs or veggie style. And we soak the beans overnight. Also fresh or dry mint. And at the end to make it thick we use thinly chooped onion, oil, and paprika (all together combined) saute till the onion is golden, add the paprika and all in the soup. Let the soup cook on medium high for 10 min and the soup will get thick. In some regions people put a spoon of yogurt or sour cream. It’s still often on my table
I ended up using bacon and Canadian ham steak because it was impossible to find the ham hocks around here. It was delicious, hearty and easy.
I have a leftover ham bone from our Easter dinner. Can I use that instead of the ham hocks?
And, most of the ham is actually eaten. Can I add some sausage? And use canned beans?
Yes, yes, and yes. 🙂
The ham bone will work, you can add some sausage, and canned beans are fine. Just add the beans at the end so they can heat through. Hope you enjoy!
I grew up on white beans in the South so this was comfort food. I now live in a large urban area which surprisingly doesn’t have things like smoked ham hocks in the stores and stand-alone butchers don’t really exist anymore. I substituted a smoked turkey leg which is about the right size for this recipe and it worked beautifully.
I would give this ten stars if I could. Have made this about 4 times and my family is now craving it. I made the mistake of giving some away to my cousins and now they keep asking for it! The only problem I have is finding meaty smoked ham hocks…it’s become my new mission! Thank you again Jenn for a wonderful meal!
I found this recipe this morning and because our roads are snow-packed I couldn’t go to the grocery store so I made a couple minor substitutions but this soup was excellent! The Parmesan added richness and we will definitely make this soup many more times. It was perfect for a cold winter day.
Made this recipe exactly as you did the first time and it was great as usual. I have made it 3 or 4 times since then using different greens and smoked turkey wings with or without the hocks. Only other change is I like my hocks a little more cooked and was having trouble getting them there before the beans were cooked. So last time I cooked the hocks in a small pot for 30 mins while the beans were soaking. Replaced some of the water with the broth from the hocks and it came out perfect for me. Love your site! Always the best recipes!
I haven’t made this recipe yet, but earlier this winter I tried making baked beans for the first time using dried white beans and the same technique of a boil and a one hour sit. I followed the recipe for the baked beans and after cooking many hours longer than the recipe called for the beans were still semi hard and I threw it all out, which makes me cautious about wanting to use dried white beans again.
Hi Maxine, what I’ve learned is that when beans are really old, they are harder to soften. If you try the soup, make sure to pay close attention to the beans you buy; I’d check the date to make sure they are on the newer side. Hope that helps!
Could canned beans be substituted and if so, how and when to include? Thanks!
Sure, Jennifer, canned beans will work here. Because they just need to be warmed through, I’d add them right before you pull out the ham hocks. Please LMK how it comes out!
I have some leftover ham steak and steak and some virgins country ham pieces in the freezer. I would like to use these instead of a ham knuckle or hock. How much meat would I need for this substitution?
Hi Barbara, I’d recommend at least 1.5 cups, but you can use more if you’d like. Hope you enjoy!
I made this for the first time and it was excellent for the cold winter weather we are having! My husband declared it a winner and said we need to make it every week. High praise indeed!
Great winter time soup. The smoky flavor is wonderful. Delish!
I adore this soup! It is rich in flavor and the chopped kale is a wonderful touch.
Thank you, Jenn, for the gift of your shared knowledge and step by step recipes.
You’ve given me such confidence in the kitchen!
Excellent !!! Have made twice. A success each time. Husband loved it. Smoked ham hocks add a wonderful taste.
Flavorful, healthy and satisfying! Simple to make. Thanks Jenn!
This is a really nice and easy recipe. This time of year is great for soups and this is a perfect recipe. I made the recipe and the flow, as typical for Jenn’s recipes, was easy to follow and accurate. I made one change to the original recipe and this substituting pork shanks vs the ham hocks. They’re more meaty and easier to strip the meat. I’ve done the recipe with both and the flavor is the same. Thanks for another great recipe!!
Of all of the food blog sites I have “subscribed” to, Jenn’s is the one I can always count on for something to make “today”. Take this cozy, homey soup for example. It is simple (though it takes a little time) and I have all of the ingredients on hand. I always have some hammocks in the freezer plus a bumper crop of kale in the garden. It is delicious and I wouldn’t change a thing. Thanks Jenn.
This was delicious especially on a cold winter day!
Do you think 8 servings are approx 1.5-2 cups each? Sorry if I’ve missed this. Soup is great!
Hi Betty, I think that sounds about right. (And glad you like it!)
Soups are my go to. And I nearly always have smoked ham hocks.
This was a far superior soup to my kitchen sink efforts! I’m in Maine, it’s cold in the winter, and there is a stew or soup on my stove nearly every weekend.
This recipe got attention. Many bowls doled out! Croutons, crusty bread, bacon, or cheese optional. We absolutely loved this.
I’ve made this soup several times. Always good. Have used spinach instead of kale. I used just smoked ham cut into pieces and it turned out great.
I made this recipe and it was delicious! I have made many different variations of ham and bean soup, and this was by far my favorite. I really liked the addition of kale.
Yesterday, I made this Smoky White Bean and Ham Soup and We Loved It♡♡♡. It was so simple to make with your beautiful instructions!! With the weather being so cold and snowy, It hit the spot!! Thank You So Much For Making It So Easy To Cook With Your Recipe Instructions!!
Your recipe for Smoky White Bean and Ham Soup has replaced a Betty Crocker great northern bean and ham soup that I have made for 30 plus years. It is delicious. I didn’t have celery, but I used celery seed, about 1/4-1/2tsp. I would rather use celery, but celery seed is better than none. Adjust measurement if you really like celery seed in soups. I just add and taste and adjust as necessary. I used spinach instead of kale because that is what I had in the house. Both of these substitutions worked fine. When we ate it the second day (as we all know it is even better the next day) I added frozen cauliflower, broccoli, carrot, and squash. I didn’t measure. I just added as I wanted for my bowl of soup. I love veggies. I didn’t add the oil or cheese, just added cornbread with honey. Your Everyday cornbread recipe is great, too. Thanks for all your experimenting so I don’t have to. Selena.
Made this soup after thanksgiving! Delicious.
Hearty and satisfying. Easy to make
This soup is so good! Take it easy on salt and add more as you go. The first time I made it way too salty by adding extra.
this is an excellent soup and wonderful in cold weather. did not change a thing!
I made this soup a snowy day this week and let me tell you… it was so so delicious and hearty!! My daughters and husband have it a 2 thumbs up.. thank for you sharing your delicious recipes with us!
This soup is excellent. I soaked the beans overnight. I had to make adaptations, the grocery didn’t have ham hocks, so I bought a smoke flavored ham steak, chopped it, and used a package of Goya ham bullion. I used frozen chopped collards in place of the kale.
I shared w/a friend and her husband, they both loved it. The parm on top was icing on the soup! This recipe is a keeper, I hope the next time I make it I can find a ham hock. My grandmother used them all the time and that is what prompted me to give this recipe a try.
I have made this wonderful soup several times. I love to make soup and always make great soups and stews. This is by far the best recipe I have tried. It is user friendly, the ingredients are simply and delicious. I hate having to buy something in a large quantity for a recipe. Everything on the list are things I normally have. The best part is how unbelievably delicious it is. The leftovers are even better. This is one is a go to fir sure. Thank you!
Delicious and easy to make
I LOVED this recipe! It took me back to my mother’s Italian kitchen…so often ham hocks were a part of her repertoire. The aroma in my house was one of deliciousness and it certainly created an anticipation for “family dinner” that evening. 🥰 Another wonderful recipe Jenn.