Nana’s Epic Navy Bean Ham Bone Soup recipe is a delicious way to use up your holiday ham bone!
Chances are, after yesterday’s holiday dinner you have a nearly-naked ham bone in your refrigerator at this very moment.
Maybe you even finished off your ham to the point of placing the ham bone in the freezer for future use.
Either way, today I want to show you exactly how to use your leftover ham bone, to make the most of every last bite of flavor your baked ham can offer!
Ham Bone Soup Recipe
Navy bean soup is the food of my childhood. It’s rich, filling, comforting, and can feed a large crowd on a small budget.
Growing up with five kids in our family, and a string of tag-along neighborhood friends, my mom made a lot of meals that could either be stretched to feed extra guests, or could be eaten as leftovers.
One of my favorite childhood meals was Nana’s Epic Navy Bean Ham Bone Soup, i.e. navy bean soup simmered with a leftover ham bone.
My mom (now known as Nana) had a special gift for using her resources wisely. Nothing went to waist, ever. All leftovers were either eaten or repurposed, even bones.
Nana’s Epic Navy Bean Ham Bone Soup was a meal we ate somewhat regularly, every time a ham graced our table.
Nowadays it seems like we only bake a ham a couple times a year. Yet as a child, I remember having ham at least once a month.
Maybe because it is a food that is so easily stretched and repurposed?
Navy Bean Soup
But I digress… Adding a ham bone to soup is a marvelous way to create rich flavor, finish off the last scraps of ham left on the bone, and eliminate the need to buy soup stock.
A ham bone boiled in water develops a lovely soup base on its own!
Although Nana’s Epic Navy Bean Ham Bone Soup recipe, varied from time to time, depending on what veggies and spices she found in the kitchen, I’m sharing the most simplified version with you today.
With just a handful of ingredients, including a ham bone and an inexpensive bag of dried navy beans, you can make a rustic hearty deeply satisfying meal your whole family will love.
PS – If you didn’t have ham for you holiday dinner, you can buy a ham bone from the butcher for next to nothing.
How to Make Nana’s Epic Navy Bean Ham Bone Soup
Start by soaking dried beans in water overnight to prep them for cooking.
This does take thought to prepare ahead, but it also saves money (on canned beans) reduces sodium, and gives the beans a better texture.
Next sauté the ham bone, onions, and garlic in a little oil. This browns the leftover ham, and softens and sweetens the aromatics.
Then add in the soaked beans, herbs, spices, and water. Simmer the soup for at least an hour to soften the beans and draw the flavor out of the ham bone.
Do not add any salt until the soup is fully cooked. Ham bones have a lot of salt in them, and it’s easy to over do it if you salt the soup too early.
You can add any additional vegetable, herbs, or spices you like. Or add extra ham scraps you might want to use up.
You can freeze Nana’s Epic Navy Bean Ham Bone Soup for later quickie meals. Even consider pureeing it into incredible bean dip to eat with tortilla chips.
Next time you buy a ham, make sure to grab a bag of dried beans as well. You won’t be sorry!
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Nana's Epic Navy Bean Ham Bone Soup
- The Night Before: Place the dried beans in a large bowl and cover with 3 inches of water. Soak the dried beans overnight (up to 24 hours) to soften. Drain when ready to use.
- Place a large 6 quart pot over medium heat. Add the oil, ham bone, onions, and garlic. Sauté for 3-5 minutes to soften the onions.
Then add in the drained beans, thyme, ground cumin, crushed red pepper, 10 cups of water, and any remaining ham scraps. (Do not salt the soup until the end, because ham bones can be very salty.)
- Bring the soup to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 60-90 minutes, covered, until the beans are very soft. Uncover and stir occasionally, then place the lid back on top.
- Use a fork to pull any remaining ham off the bone and stir it into the soup. Discard the bone. Add 1-2 cups additional water if the soup is too thick. Taste, then salt and pepper as needed.
Sometimes Nana (and I) add 2-3 chopped carrots, and 2-3 chopped celery stalks to the soup for additional veggie goodness. They are not necessary, but do add a bit of extra color! If using, add the carrots and celery when you add the onions.