Ham and Red Bean Soup

Growing up, I wasn’t fond of ham. I wasn’t a picky eater, but ham seemed so salty to me (So did bacon. Honestly, I wasn’t much of a pork eater back then). Now I understand that one ham is not necessarily like the other, and some can be quite delicious – not too salty, just a tad sweet, and full of that wonderful porkiness. This year, for Christmas dinner, I chose a spiral-sliced ham. It made Christmas dinner much easier to prepare, so I could focus on other dishes and relax. On purpose, I chose a ham that was twice as large as we needed to feed our small group, just so there would be plenty of leftovers. Leftovers for my parents and my brother to take home, leftovers for my husband to happily snack on (okay, I snacked a bit too!), and leftovers for soup. Because if there is a ham bone, there must be soup.

I opted to make this soup entirely out of what I had left over in my fridge and pantry. I had small African red beans, (Really, that’s what they’re called. I bought them at an African grocery, asked the lady at the counter if they were called something other than “African Red Beans” – as this was what was on the package. They looked like Adzuki beans, which I realize are not African – but she said “They’re red beans.” I’m going with it.) so I opted to use them instead of a more traditional Navy bean or split pea. With the addition of some leeks, celery, carrots, garlic, and herbs, we were in business. After softening the vegetables in some olive oil and allowing the soup to simmer for 2 1/2 – 3 hours, the house filled with the aroma of savory, beany, hammy soup.

I felt that this was one of the best bean soups to grace my kitchen. The ham gave the broth a big meaty boost, and the beans were creamy and released a silky texture to the soup. It was deliciously rustic, perfect for this long stretch of cold days we’ve had lately. And like any good bean soup, it reheated beautifully for my lunch the next day. Am I venturing into the “too many soups” category yet? I hope not. I plan to crank out a few more before the winter is over.

This soup is hearty enough to serve as a main course. I paired it with gluten-free crackers, but you could always opt for gluten-free biscuits, or a nice winter salad.


Ham and Red Bean Soup

3 medium leeks, green tops and ends cut off and discarded, washed well and sliced thinly (reserve one green top)

3-4 sprigs thyme

1 bay leaf

1 t coriander seeds

1/2 t black peppercorns

1 t cumin seeds

1 T olive oil

3 carrots, peeled and diced

2 stalks celery, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 T tomato paste

1 lb small red beans, soaked overnight and rinsed

Bone leftover from ham (or you can substitute smoked ham hocks)

Water (approximately 10 cups)

3 c diced cooked ham

1 t ground chipotle chile powder

Salt and pepper to taste

Take the thyme sprigs and bay leaf, and wrap the reserved green leek top around. Tie with butcher’s twine to secure. Place the coriander seeds, peppercorns, and cumin seeds in the middle of a coffee filter or small piece of cheesecloth, and tie into a bundle using butcher’s twine. Set aside.

Heat the olive oil in a large stockpot over medium heat. Add leeks, carrots, and celery. Saute for 5 minutes or until softened. Add garlic and saute for another minute. Add tomato paste and saute for another minute. Add the beans, ham bone, the herb bundle and the spice bundle, and enough water to cover. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer, partially covering. Allow to simmer for 1 hour.

Add the diced ham and chipotle chile powder and stir in. Allow to simmer until beans are soft and are just beginning to break open, another 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Adjust seasoning to taste. Remove ham bone and pull any remaining ham from the bone and return to pot. Remove herb bundle and spice bundle, and serve.

Serves 4-6.



  1. says

    I love soups and this one sounds wonderful. We’re getting a blast of cold weather and I can see this being the perfect thing to warm us up. I often by “small red beans” for chili instead of larger kidney beans. I don’t know my beans well. I just go with what we like. Happy New Year!!

  2. says

    interesting as I share your same thoughts on ham,this year was my first ham ever that I made at Christmas although a tradition every year to do one in my family, never liked it growing up. This is a nice change to accompanying the beans. Sounds really good and healthy. :)

  3. says

    That looks and sounds really tasty, Alta! I’ve always loved ham, but NOT the salty, country ham. The sweet Virginia baked hams are my favorite. We just finished off a pot of soup I made using a leftover ham bone, Yukon gold potatoes, and black-eyed peas. Definitely soup weather. I have another ham bone to use in the near future … your recipe looks like a great alternative!

    Thanks, and Happy New Year, Alta!


  4. says

    Great recipe to use leftover ham. I still have some leftover ham but they’re in the freezer. I realized that I won’t be using them ahead of them. But thanks for the inspiration. It really good.

  5. says

    Ham and soup are such good friends. The thought of hot soup right now makes me feel a little ill though… today was 40 degrees C (104 F) so I think perhaps this recipe might have to be saved for a later date!

  6. says

    Alta, this looks great! I’ve never tried red beans in salty way. This is really an interesting flavour. Got to try it some time. Thanks for sharing.

  7. says

    I love the flavours in this soup, the coriander and cumin especially. I have some leftover ham, and once I get some more veg in, I’ll make this soup.

    Looks delicious.

  8. says

    I guess red beans are from all over, I used Louisiana red beans in a lot of dishes and red beans from Mexico. They are both small, flavorful and hold their shape when cooking. Very nice recipe with the spices.

  9. says

    That’s interesting about the beans – I wonder if these are the beans I should use in African dishes instead of kidney beans? Well, a bean by any other name would taste as delicious!!

  10. says

    Yum! THis is something perfect fot this cold weather! I love red beans and all the veggies you threw in there. I think I’ll try this without the ham, as it definitely looks hearty enough with all the yummy ingredients! Happy New Year!

  11. Patty Harman says

    Using a large (20 lb) ham from family holiday dinner – we use a hacksaw and cut the ham bone in two or three parts and freeze along with dripping from bottom of roasting ham and cut up leftover ham. It flavors two or 3 ham & bean soups through the winter months. I’m going to try adding celery and carrots, too. Patty

    • tastyeatsathome says

      glutenfreegidget – Awwww, I think I love you too!

      Shirley@gfe – blackeyed peas, potato, and ham? Wow, sounds awesome!

      Conor – 104 degrees? Yuck! I wouldn’t want ham soup either. But when it’s cold enough for you to enjoy this soup where you are, I’ll be over here griping about the 100+ degree temps!

      Noelle – I’ll be curious to see your minestrone, I love minestrone!

      Patty – Wow, I’m jealous of your 20 lb ham! I am here wishing I had another bone to make something else with.

      Linda, pegasuslegend, jenn, Divina, Sook, kristy, shirley, angie, lauren, simplylife, Drick, JodieMo, Cheah, Tasty Trix, Shelley Huang, MaryMoh, and TasteHongKong – Thank you!

  12. says

    Ah, so true about the ham bone. I don’t know what I’m more excited on the rare occasion we have a whole ham — the meat or the leftover bone! I love how it can be used in different kinds of soups. I can’t decide if I love it best in split pea soups or a Portuguese bean soup!


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