Pinto Bean Ham Bone Soup

I love serving ham for special occasions. However, the next day, I’m looking at a picked over ham bone with enough bits still attached that I hate to throw it away. Over the years, I’ve learned the value of that leftover ham bone in making a delicious, hearty, homestyle bean and ham soup, chock full of veggies and bits of ham. Traditional bean & ham soups require a little advance planning as the dried beans need to be soaked for 24 hours. I’m okay with that, but if you’re not – some options can prep your beans in an hour or even 5 minutes (instant pot required). Another option is to simply use canned beans. Dried beans are a lot more economical, costing, per serving, about half of the canned beans. I like using pinto beans, but any small bean will work: great northern, cannellini, garbanzo, or navy beans. The mixed vegetables add flavor and color but are not required if you like just beans and ham. Sticking with tradition, I use carrots, onions, celery, garlic, and potatoes. Most root veggies will work. If you like parsnips or turnips – use them. Cut the vegetables as uniformly as possible for even cooking. If you want to move the Impress-O-Meter to the WOW zone, serve your soup with a pan of savory cornbread and a big salad. Enjoy!

Impress Rating: Outstanding Stress Rating: Coping
  • 1 pound dried pinto beans (or 4 cans of pinto beans)
  • 1 ham bone and ham scraps
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped carrots (about 3)
  • 1 cup chopped celery (about 3)
  • 1 cup chopped yellow onion (1 small)
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic (6 cloves)
  • 1 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 10 cups water
  • Salt and pepper
  1. Prep beans using one of these methods
    • Overnight Prep: Place the dried beans in a large bowl and cover with three inches of water. Soak the dried beans overnight (up to 24 hours) to soften. Drain when ready to use. 
    • One hour Prep:  Rinse dried beans in colander, drain. Transfer to a stock pot or 6-12 quart saucepan and cover with 2 inches of water. Bring to boil on high heat. Cook for 1 minute and remove pan from heat. Cover saucepan and let beans soak for one hour. Drain when ready to use
    • 5 minute Prep – Instant Pot Method: Place bean in Instant Pot, cover with water about 1 inch above beans. Pressure cook on high pressure for 5 minutes. Natural pressure release. Cook times may vary.
    • No Prep: Rinse and drain 4 cans of pinto beans
  2. 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.
  3. Then add in the drained beans, thyme, ground cumin, crushed red pepper, bay leaves 10 cups of water, and any remaining ham scraps. (Do not salt the soup until the end, because ham bones can be very salty.)
  4. 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.
  5. 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. Remove bay leaves. Taste, then salt and pepper as needed.
Ham bone, dried beans, veggies and seasoning
Prep dried beans by soaking in water
Prep the veggies (celery, carrots, garlic, potato, onion)
Saute veggies in bottom of large sauce pan
Add ham bone, seasonings and water. Bring to a boil and reduce heat. Cook for 90 minutes, stirring occasionally
Use a fork to pull any remaining ham off the bone and stir it into the soup. Discard the bone
Garnish with a sprig of fresh thyme. Enjoy!

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