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The Kitchn: Classic navy bean soup is pure comfort in a bowl

From the 5 cozy recipes to try this week series
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Add this old-time classic to your go-to autumn soups.

Soup season is here, and the Southerner in me cannot wait for endless bowls of hearty beans. This navy bean soup, simmered low and slow with a smoky ham hock, is definitely on the list of yummy things to consume as much as possible.

If you’d to make your soup creamier, mash some of the beans with a potato masher or fork against the inside of the pot. You can also scoop out a small portion, run it through a blender, then return the blended beans to simmer a little more. And, of course, taking a few swipes through the pot with an immersion or hand blender works as well.

What are navy beans?

Other popular white beans you may see in your grocery store besides navy beans are cannellini, baby limas, and Great Northerns. Navy beans, aka pea beans, are the smallest of the four, and therefore cook more quickly. They are also milder in flavor and get super creamy as they simmer.

How to make navy bean soup vegetarian

  • Omit the ham.
  • Replace the chicken stock with veggie stock.
  • Increase your carrots and celery or add additional vegetables such as parsnips or celery root.
  • Replace the simmering ham hock with a Parmesan cheese rind.

Navy Bean Soup

Serves 6 to 8

  • 1 pound dried navy beans
  • 4 cups hot water
  • 1 medium yellow onion
  • 1 large carrot
  • 1 stalk celery
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 8 ounces thick-cut cooked ham
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more as needed
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 1 smoked ham hock (optional)
  • 6 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1. Rinse 1 pound dried navy beans and remove and discard split, broken, or discolored beans. Place the beans and 4 cups hot water in a large, heavy pot or Dutch oven. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Boil for 2 minutes, then remove the pot from heat. Cover and let soak for 1 hour.

2. Meanwhile, finely chop 1 medium yellow onion (1 1/2 to 2 cups), 1 large carrot (1/2 cup), and 1 medium celery stalk (1/2 cup). Finely chop 2 garlic cloves. Dice 8 ounces thick-cut cooked ham (1 cup).

3. When the beans are done soaking, pour through a colander to drain. Wipe the pot clean.

4. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in the same pot over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onion, carrot, and celery, and cook, stirring occasionally, until fragrant and begin to soften, about 3 minutes. Add the ham, garlic, 2 bay leaves, 2 teaspoons black pepper, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme, and 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary. Saute until fragrant, about 1 minute.

5. Add the beans and stir to combine. If desired, nestle 1 smoked ham hock into the bean mixture. Add 6 cups low-sodium chicken broth and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer gently, stirring occasionally, until the beans are tender, 1 hour 30 minutes to 1 hour 45 minutes.

6. Remove the ham hock. Add 2 tablespoons unsalted butter and stir until melted. Taste and season with more kosher salt as needed.

Recipe notes

  • The ham hock adds a subtle smokiness to the soup. If using, cut away any meat from the bone after simmering and stir it into the soup.
  • To soak the beans overnight, rinse the beans and discard any broken or discolored pieces. Place in a large heavy pot or Dutch oven, then add enough cold water to cover the beans by 2 inches. Cover and let sit at room temperature overnight, and continue with Step 2 the next day, skipping the quick boil.
  • Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to one week. To freeze navy bean soup, let the soup cool completely, then freeze in an airtight container for up to three months. Thaw the soup in the fridge overnight before reheating on the stovetop.

(Renae Wilson is a contributor to, a nationally known blog for people who love food and home cooking. Submit any comments or questions to


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