The Very Best Navy Bean Soup

This really is the best Nave Bean Soup. It’s so very rich and full of flavor (because of my super-secret ingredient). Your entire family will be asking for more!

My family loves Navy Bean Soup. It’s sort of a joke around our house that every time I make this soup, my husband says, “I could eat this every day. Seriously, I could eat it every single day.”

I have a feeling he wouldn’t be so happy if I actually served it seven days a week, but it’s a pretty big compliment coming from him. He works for a world-class restaurant company, so when he loves something I make (and calls it “the best Navy Bean Soup ever”), I feel pretty awesome!

Uncooked navy beans in pan with broth being poured on top and the words The Very Best Navy Bean Soup

Honestly, this soup really is very tasty. The broth is rich and flavorful, and the beans are creamy and delicious. Plus, it’s super cheap to make, which is always a bonus.

Step-by-Step Guide to Making the Best Navy Bean Soup

This recipe uses dried Navy beans or Great Northern beans.  The Navy beans are traditional and smaller.  The Great Northerns are slightly bigger and tend to be creamer.  I probably like Great Northern best, but either one works well.

If you’ve never worked with dried beans before, don’t be intimidated.  They’re surprisingly easy to prepare using a couple different methods, depending on how much time you have.  

For any method you choose, you’ll want to start by rinsing and sorting the beans.  Basically, just dump them into a colander and run some water over them while you search for tiny rocks (yes, I’ve found some before) or yucky looking beans.

Beans covered with water in pan

Next, dump the rinsed beans into a pot and cover with about two inches of water for soaking. Remember that the beans will swell as they soak, so be sure your pot is large enough for the amount of beans you’re using.

If you think ahead (which I rarely do), you can put the beans in the pot with the water before you go to bed and let them soak overnight, or you can start them in the morning as long as you soak them for at least eight hours.

Now, if you REALLY want to kick it up a ‘lil bit, you can sprout the beans. Which sounds kinda weird and like the kind of thing someone who wanders the woods eating tree roots would do, but I promise it’s also for the rest of us (and if YOU are one of those people who wanders the woods eating tree roots, pleeeease send us a recipe!).

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To sprout the beans, you’ll still want to sort and soak the beans overnight, but you’ll want to do it two or three days before you plan to make the soup. When they’re done soaking for at least eight hours, drain them into a traditional colander or a mesh-strainer-style colander (my fave to use for this) and give them a good rinse. Then, set the colander of beans on a plate to keep them from dripping all over, lay a kitchen towel over the colander, and put it on the counter.

For the next couple days, rinse the colander of beans two or three times a day and return it to the counter. After a day or so, you’ll start seeing a little sprout pop out of each bean. When the sprouts are about a quarter-inch long, they’re ready to cook.

If it’s warm in your house, you’ll need to rinse more often and watch them a little more closely so they don’t spoil. And whether it’s warm or not, be sure to rinse them a couple times every day and do not use them if they start to smell yucky!

This has become my absolute favorite method of preparing the dried beans. They’re so much more digestible, and they take a lot less time to cook. So, with just couple minutes a day for rinsing the beans, it keeps all of our tummies happy. #winformom

Beans in metal colander

BUTTTT….if you suddenly remember in the middle of the afternoon that your family is going to expect dinner in just a few hours (the nerve of them!) and you totally forgot to soak or sprout your beans, you can also use the “quick soak” method. 

To “quick soak” the beans, after you dump them in the pot with the water, put them uncovered on the stove over hight heat. Once they come to a nice rolling boil, set your timer for two minutes.  When it beeps, remove the pot from the heat, cover with a lid, and let them set for an hour.  

I also usually add a small spoon of baking soda to the pot right before I put on the lid because I’ve heard it reduces the gassiness. I don’t know if it works or not, but I figure it’s worth a shot.  (By the way, don’t be surprised when the water fizzes up as soon as the baking soda hits it.  The bubbling only lasts a few seconds.)

When the beans are finished quick-soaking, dump them in a colander and give them a quick rinse with cool water.

Carrots and celery diced on cutting board

Now that the beans are all soaked or sprouted, it’s time to make the soup. First, dice a carrot and a stalk of celery.  I like to dice them pretty small, since they’re almost a garnish next to the star of the show.  

Diced carrots and celery cooking in Dutch oven

Heat a couple tablespoons of oil in the bottom of your soup pot (this is my absolute favorite pot for making soup) and cook the veggies until they’re tender, but not browned.  

If you’re short on time when you’re starting to make the soup, you can hold off on cooking and adding the veggies.  I’ve often cooked the beans first and then softened the carrot and celery in a separate skillet before adding them to the nearly-finished soup.

Navy beans in Dutch oven with broth being poured on top

Once the veggies are tender, add the drained beans to the pot and get ready to pour in my “secret ingredient.”  I’ve found that the very best way to have a flavorful bean soup is to use packaged or homemade chicken stock.

This soup is still pretty good if you use just water and cook it with a ham bone or ham hock (or even some bacon grease, in a pinch), but the chicken stock makes it so rich and flavorful that it might make you cry.  It’s worth trying if you’ve never cried over a pot of soup before.

Beans and ham hock covered in broth in Dutch oven

Next, nestle a ham hock or ham bone down into the broth.  I always save the bone when I make my Simple Glazed Ham for a holiday dinner (freeze it if it’s not being used right away). A ham hock from the meat department will also do the job, and it adds a nice smokey flavor, too.

Beans and ham hock cooking in Dutch oven

Then, turn the stove to high or medium-high and bring the pot to a boil.  Once it starts boiling, turn it down and let it simmer (just barely bubbling) for the next few hours.

You can leave it uncovered, cover it, or put a lid on it just halfway so the steam escapes.  I always forget what is the “right way” to do it, and I’ve never had a pot of soup ruin because I did (or did not) use a lid. Just follow your heart.

Soup being stirred with wooden spoon

Stir the soup occasionally and start checking the beans for doneness after about an hour or so. If you’re using sprouted beans, they may only take about an hour and a half so you’ll want to watch them carefully. Beans that have been soaked but not sprouted may take up to three hours to fully cook. You want them be very tender and creamy.  Not hard and not mushy.  

If they aren’t done after checking them the first time, check them at half hour intervals. If you’re checking them early and often, you’ll know if you should turn down the burner, turn up the burner, or add a little extra liquid.  

When the beans are finally cooked, remove the ham hock or bone and let it set on a plate for a few minutes until it’s cool enough to handle.  Pick off whatever meat you can find and stir it back into the soup.

Finally, bake some Everyday Biscuits or slice some homemade French Bread (YUMMMM!), ladle this deliciousness into bowls, and surprise your family with the news that bean soup really can taste this good!

Here’s the handy dandy printable Navy Bean Soup recipe:

The Very Best Navy Bean Soup
Print Recipe
4.67 from 3 votes

The Best Navy Bean Soup

This really is the best Nave Bean Soup. It's so very rich and full of flavor. Your entire family will ask for more!

Ingredients

  • 1 pound Navy beans or Great Northern beans
  • 1 ham bone or ham hock
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 stalk celery
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 8 cups chicken stock

Instructions

  • Rinse and sort the beans, carefully looking for dirt or small rocks. Put rinsed beans in a large pan and cover with two inches of water. Let soak for at least 8 hours. After the soaking is complete, drain the beans and rinse with fresh water.
  • If you want to sprout the beans to make them easier to digest, keep the soaked and rinsed beans in the colander, set it on a plate, and cover with a kitchen towel for TWO TO THREE DAYS prior to using them.
    It is very important to rinse the colander of beans two or three times every day. After a day or so on the counter, a small sprout will pop out of each bean. When the sprouts are about a quarter-inch long, they're ready to cook.
    (IMPORTANT: The beans may have a slight smell, but it should more of a "sweet" smell and not gross smelling. If the beans smell like they've spoiled, throw them out and start again!)
    Alternatively, if you don't have time to do an 8-hour soak or to sprout your beans, you can use this "quick soak" method. To "quick soak" the beans, put the pot of sorted beans and water on the stove over hight heat. Bring to a rolling boil. Boil for two minutes, then cover with a lid and remove from heat. A spoon of baking soda can be added to the water after removing from the heat to aid in breaking down the beans for easier digestion. Let soak for one hour. Drain and rinse beans before using.
  • For making the soup, dice the carrot and celery stalk. Heat the oil in the soup pot over low or medium-low heat. Add the carrot and celery and cook until tender, stirring often. Do not allow the vegetables to brown.
  • Add the soaked and rinsed beans to the softened vegetables in the pot and cover with the chicken stock. Place the ham bone or hock into the pot, being careful to arrange it as deep into the pot as possible. Turn up the heat to medium-hight and bring to a boil. Then, reduce the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally.
  • After 1 1/2 hours check the beans for doneness (check after just one hour if using sprouted beans). The finished beans should be tender and creamy. They should not be too firm or mushy and falling apart. Keep checking the beans every half hour until they are cooked. This could take about an 1 1/2 hours for sprouted beans, or three hours for beans that were soaked but not sprouted.
  • Once the beans are cooked, remove the ham bone or hock onto a plate to cool slightly until it can be handled. Remove any meat from the bone and stir it into the soup.
  • Add salt and pepper to taste.

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13 Comments

  1. Belva Cote says:

    Thank you for your recipe. I chose your version rather than all of the others posted because your illustrations are great! I can’t wait to try it.

    1. 4 stars
      Good basic recipe but add some dry mustard and ketchup and you take it up a notch or two. Of course include cornbread to go with it.

  2. Thank you for the confidence boost. Seems you and I cook ham bone bean soup pretty much the same way. Instead of chicken broth, I save the residual water and drippings from the baked ham and add that to the cooking water as a starter. Half way through cooking I add 1 to 2 pealed, cut up russet potatoes to absorb salt. I can’t remember if I leave the lid on or off the pot so I will follow your lead and do what seems okay for the day.

  3. Joseph Feilen says:

    Can u use can navy beans

    1. I would not recommend using canned beans. They wouldn’t hold up to the long cooking time, and a shorter time wouldn’t allow the flavors to develop and season the soup.

      1. I use them all the time and they hold up fine. I also use a couple of potatoes cut into a small dice and I use 1/12oz can of tomato sauce and a little of whole marjoram. My grandmother’s recipe,she had a little restaurant.

  4. Crockpot method should work? Throw everything in crockpot on low for 8 hrs? I am soaking beans overnight prior

  5. Mark Kirkpatrick says:

    5 stars
    I have been making this exact recipe for 30+ years !! Nice to see the ham hocks, I use them as well. But I will try to pick up a large spiral ham on sale after Thanksgiving or Christmas ( 89 Cents a pound this year woooo ! ) I dice the whole thing up and make 1lb vacuum sealed bags for soups and salads all year. Baking soda helps level the PH and I think it does help with gas. But the biggest help I have found is to not have to many fats or mix your fats so I stopped with oil and or butter and I even stopped the chicken stock ( I know it’s nice ) I have just gone to “browning/rendering” the high fat ham parts then adding the veggies from there on as low heat as possible. I use 1 cup chardonnay some thyme and bay. I also use the heart of the celery with leaves and some scallions from the garden as a late add. I still have the same onion/celery/carrot as you say since Julia child said so too … Ha. So when good ham is short I will use an oil (avacado/olive ) with the ham hock as you did. I soak exactly as you describe both ways – heavy salted water that I throw away.

  6. 5 stars
    Excellant! It’s wonderful so minimal Ingredients this will definitely be a staple in my house. Used better than bouillon and didn’t have ham hock so just put some hormel bacon bits in serving if desired and brings me back to growing up and the old Campbell bean and bacon only better thank you for sharing!

  7. Joe Bacon says:

    My grandma made Bean soup with the chicken broth and chopped veggies. She never made it with a ham hock. I wish I had her recipe because it was so tasty and it really filled me up after 2 bowls!

  8. Bambi Schulz says:

    I love this recipe. The only thing I don’t add are the carrots. My family just do not like carrots. I save my ham bone from a ham from a previous dinner. Works great. I do like using chicken stock instead of water. My whole family loves bean soup. From the youngest to the oldest. Thank you. Bambi Schulz

    1. I’m so glad your family loves this recipe as much as mine does! (And I have one kid who doesn’t like carrots either, so I always go light on the carrots…and then the rest get picked out of the bowl! 😂)

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