Southern navy beans recipe (with ham bone)

Hey there! This stovetop version of Southern-style navy beans, or Navy bean soup with a ham bone, is a breeze to prepare and might just become your new favorite recipe. It does take a bit of time, but don’t worry, it’s not at all hard. Plus, it’s a tasty way to put those leftover holiday ham or ham bones to delicious use. Let’s get cooking and savor the flavors!

Package of navy beans and a ham shank on a table

Ingredients for Navy beans

I personally like to kick things off with dried beans, but if you’re in a pinch, canned beans can also do the trick. Just keep in mind that canned beans tend to be a bit on the salty side, especially when ham is in the mix. Now, if you’re going the dried bean route, a little prep goes a long way. Give those beans a good soak overnight, and when you wake up in the morning, just give ’em a rinse, and they’re all set for the cooking adventure!

Feel free to get creative with your choice of meat! Whether you’ve got some delicious ham chunks, a leftover ham bone, or a tasty ham shank, any of them will work like a charm, adding that rich, deep flavor to your beans. And if you’re not into pork, don’t worry – smoked turkey wings are a fantastic alternative that can do the trick just as well!

Yellow onions have a mild, sweet flavor that complements the beans without overpowering them. They provide a gentle oniony taste that works well in the background of the dish.

Garlic is a versatile ingredient that pairs well with various flavors commonly found in navy bean recipes, such as ham or ham bone. It can enhance the overall taste of the dish and bring out the best in the other ingredients.

Pepper, especially black pepper, adds a warm and slightly spicy flavor to navy beans, enhancing their overall taste. It complements the mild flavor of the beans and adds depth to the dish.

Salt is a natural flavor enhancer. When used in moderation, it can intensify the existing flavors in the dish, making the navy beans and their accompanying ingredients taste more vibrant and appealing.

Salt can help improve the texture of beans during cooking, making them more tender and less likely to split or burst.

Optional Ingredients – Customize Your Recipe!

When it comes to making navy bean soup, there’s room for personal touches. Here are some optional ingredients to consider:

Bay Leaves: While some like to add a bay leaf or two for an extra layer of flavor, it’s totally fine to skip them if you prefer.

Stock Swap: To give your dish an extra flavor boost, you can use chicken stock instead of water. It can add a richer taste to your soup.

Seasonings: I enjoy adding a dash of Creole or Cajun seasoning for a touch of zing, but I often reduce the salt since I like to control it separately.

Spicy Twist: For those who like a bit of heat, red pepper flakes are an option to consider. They can give your soup a nice kick.

Green Bell Pepper: Some folks like to include green bell pepper for a touch of color and flavor. However, it’s just as fine to leave it out if it’s not your thing.

So, feel free to make this recipe your own by mixing and matching these optional ingredients to create a delicious, personalized navy bean soup that suits your taste perfectly!

Rinsed beans in a colander.

Bean Preparation – A Little TLC for the Best Results

When I get my beans ready for soaking, I like to give them a little extra care. Here’s how I do it:

1. Inspection: First things first, I sort through the beans to make sure there are no unexpected guests or any beans that don’t look their best. It’s a quick quality check.

2. Rinse: I then place them in a colander and give them a gentle rinse under cold water, just to freshen them up.

3. Soaking Time: Next, I transfer the beans to a spacious bowl and cover them with water. I add a few extra cups until they’re submerged by about an inch or so. To keep them cozy, I cover the bowl with a clean kitchen towel.

4. Overnight Soak: Now, the waiting game begins. I let the beans soak overnight, allowing them to absorb the water and get all plump and ready for cooking.

Do navy beans require soaking?

Navy beans, like many dried beans, benefit from soaking before cooking. Soaking helps to reduce cooking time, improve the texture of the beans, and make them easier to digest. While it’s not absolutely necessary, it’s a recommended step for cooking navy beans. There are two common methods for soaking navy beans:

Overnight-soak method for dry beans

  • Place the dried navy beans in a large pot or bowl.
  • Cover the beans with water, ensuring there’s enough water to submerge them by a couple of inches.
  • Let the beans soak for at least 8 hours or overnight.
  • Drain and rinse the beans before cooking.

Quick-soak method dry beans.

  • Place the dried navy beans in a pot.
  • Cover the beans with water, again with a couple of inches to spare.
  • Bring the water to a boil.
  • Boil for 2-3 minutes.
  • Remove the pot from heat, cover it, and let the beans sit for an hour.
  • Drain and rinse the beans before cooking.
Stock ingredients in a pot

I like to infuse my beans with lots of flavor, so I usually opt for a tasty stock. If you have a ham shank handy, making your own stock from scratch is a great idea. But don’t worry, you can use premade stock too if that’s what you have.

Here’s how I roll: I toss that ham shank and some chopped onions into a nice, big, heavy pot or Dutch oven. Then, I generously cover them with water, and it’s go-time! I get the pot on medium heat and keep it covered until the ham gets tender on the bone. In my case, it took nearly an hour. But if you’re working with leftover ham, your cooking time will be shorter.

Once that ham is tender, I remove the bone and give the ham meat a good chop. After that, the ham and bone go back into the pot, and now you’ve got yourself a stock with a mild, smoky flavor.

Add your soaked or canned beans to the pot with your ham bone stock. If you’re using canned beans just heat them up. If your using dry beans cook them until they are tender.

The total time I spent cooking this batch of dry beans was one hour and forty-five minutes. Keep in mind that cooking times can vary with altitude. If you’re at a higher elevation, it will take a bit longer.

Oh, and as the beans do their thing and soak up the liquid, you might need to add a bit more water to keep them from drying out.

What beans are used in Navy bean soup?

Navy bean soup, as the name suggests, is traditionally made using navy beans. Navy beans are small, oval-shaped white beans that are particularly well-suited for soups and stews due to their mild flavor and ability to absorb the flavors of the ingredients they are cooked with. These beans are a popular choice for making hearty and creamy bean soups, and they are often used in classic dishes like Senate bean soup and Boston baked beans as well. Navy bean soup is known for its creamy texture and is often prepared with ingredients like ham, ham bone, or bacon to add rich, savory flavors.

So, when it comes to beans for your soup, my top pick is navy beans for that classic flavor and creamy texture. But if you’re feeling adventurous or want to try something different, Great Northern Beans are my second choice and they work like a charm too. After that, you’ve got cannellini beans, and even baby lima beans can make a tasty twist.

If you’re curious to learn more about the different types of white beans and how to use them, I’d recommend checking out an informative blog post by Camellia, which is actually my favorite brand for dry beans. You’ll find some great insights there!

Instant Pot Version of Navy Beans

If you’ve got an Instant Pot, you’re in for some quick and easy cooking! Start by tossing all the ingredients you need for your stock, including those flavorful ham bones, into your trusty Instant Pot. Pop the lid on, and set it to manual mode for a brief twenty-five-minute cooking session. After that, just hang tight for twenty minutes while it naturally releases the pressure.

Crockpot or slow cooker version of Navy Beans

Preparing navy beans in a slow cooker is the ultimate convenience! Just toss in all your ingredients, including those soaked beans, into the pot. Cover it up, and set it to cook on low. Let it work its magic for a cozy eight to ten hours. By the time it’s done, you’ll have a delicious, fuss-free meal ready to enjoy.

What if your beans will not soften?

One of the main reasons why beans might refuse to get soft and tender is their age. If you stumble upon a forgotten bag of beans in your pantry and aren’t sure how long they’ve been there, it’s probably best to grab some fresh ones. Fresh beans have a better chance of becoming wonderfully tender when cooked.

Another factor to consider is the water you use. If you have hard water at home, it can be a bean buzzkill. In such cases, consider using bottled water when you’re simmering those beans to ensure they get as tender as can be.

Now, let’s talk about acidity. Cooking beans with acidic ingredients like tomatoes can delay their softening. It’s best to add those tomatoes once the beans have already reached that lovely tender stage.

And then there’s the great salt debate. While some believe you should only salt beans after they’ve softened, I’m all for adding a pinch early in the process to give them some flavor from the get-go and avoid any blandness. So, season to your heart’s content!

How to serve your Navy bean soup?

One of the absolute best ways to savor our Navy bean soup is by pairing it with a generous slice of homemade cornbread and a side of collard greens, topped with a drizzle of our favorite hot sauce. To me, that’s a full-blown comfort meal right there. Now, while some folks like to go for white rice instead of cornbread, it’s all about personal preference, and it still brings that delightful Southern-style comfort. And if you’re feeling a bit fancy, you can sprinkle some chopped green onions or fresh parsley on top to add that extra touch of flair.

How to store leftover Navy beans

In case you end up with some extra beans, no worries! You can keep them fresh in the fridge by placing them in an airtight container. They’ll stay good for up to a week. If you want to keep them for a longer haul, here’s a tip: let them cool down, then pop them into a freezer bag and squeeze out all the air before laying them flat in the freezer. That way, you’ll have your beans ready to roll whenever you need them!”

Navy Beans on a Keto Diet:

Wondering about navy beans and the keto diet? Well, I’ve got the scoop for you. Navy beans, delicious as they are, aren’t really a keto-friendly food. However, they do pack a punch as a great source of clean protein, so they’ve got their own perks!

Navy Beans and Gout:

Now, if like me you’re dealing with gout, here’s a little something to keep in mind. Beans, including navy beans, are relatively high in purines by weight. That means if you’re managing gout, it’s a good idea to enjoy them in moderation.

If you’ve had a blast with this recipe, you might just find my Crockpot Pinto bean recipe a tasty adventure too!

Finished navy beans with ham in a pot and a ladle. This is a Pin for Pinterest

If you had a great time with this recipe, why not spread the joy? Share it with your friends and let them enjoy it too!

Finished navy beans with ham in a pot and a ladle.

Southern navy beans recipe (with ham bone)

Simple Southern style Navy beans with a ham bone
Prep Time: 8 hours
Cook Time: 2 hours
Total Time: 10 hours
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Keyword: navy beans, red beans
Servings: 10
Calories: 175kcal
Author: James Strange


  • 1 pound Navy beans Dry
  • 1 pound Ham With hambone
  • 1/2 each onion medium
  • 2 cloves garlic chopped
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoon Salt


  • Sort and soak beans overnight
    1 pound Navy beans
  • Add chopped onion, garlic, and ham shank to the pot. Cover and cook until ham is tender.
    1 pound Ham, 1/2 each onion, 2 cloves garlic, 1 1/2 Tablespoon Salt
  • Cut the ham into small pieces and return it to the pot. Add the soaked beans and cook until the beans are tender.
  • Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.
  • The beans are now ready to serve.


Calories: 175kcal | Carbohydrates: 12g | Protein: 14g | Fat: 8g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 4g | Cholesterol: 28mg | Sodium: 1585mg | Potassium: 309mg | Fiber: 5g | Sugar: 0.2g | Vitamin A: 0.1IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 36mg | Iron: 1mg
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5 stars
Adding ham to this bean soup gave it a nice flavour. So satisfying

5 stars
I could eat these beans everyday! They are so delish

5 stars
This is exactly how I ate them growing up. The hambone makes all of the difference. Definitely making!

5 stars
this beans recipe turned out so so good! love how tasty and flavorful it turned out!

5 stars
These were delicious! Made exactly as written and the entire family devoured every last bite. Will make again- thanks for sharing!

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