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ladle of navy bean soup.
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5 from 7 votes

Navy Bean Soup

This easy stovetop recipe combines soaked dried navy beans with smoked ham hocks, vegetables, broth, seasonings, and a secret ingredient at the end.
Prep Time10 minutes
Cook Time2 hours 10 minutes
soak time1 hour
Total Time3 hours 20 minutes
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Servings: 6 servings



  • 1 pound dried navy beans
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 large onion diced
  • 3 large carrots diced
  • 2 stalks celery diced
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 1/2 pounds smoked ham hocks okay if larger, score with sharp knife
  • 6 cups chicken broth see note below
  • 6 cups water see note below
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar to be stirred in at the end
  • kosher salt Taste before adding salt. Depending on the saltiness of the ham, you might not even need any, but if you do add salt, start with a small amount and adjust after tasting.
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste


Soak beans:

  • Soak: Rinse and sort the navy beans. Discard any that don't look right. Soak overnight in cold water. Alternatively, do a quick-soak by covering them with about 2-inches of water in a large pot, bring it to a boil, turn off the heat, let them soak, covered, for an hour.
  • Drain and rinse: Drain the navy beans and discard the soaking liquid.

Cook Soup:

  • Sauté veggies: In a large stockpot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat, saute the onion, carrot, celery, and garlic in butter. Stir only occasionally to prevent burning. Allow to cook for about 10 minutes.
    sauteed carrots, onion and celery in pot.
  • Combine ingredients: Add rinsed soaked beans to the pot. Use a sharp knife to make cuts in the ham hock and place it in the pot. Add the liquid (chicken broth, water, vegetable broth - whatever combination you choose), oregano, nutmeg, and bay leaves. Do not add the apple cider vinegar.
    process photo of making navy bean soup.
  • Simmer: Bring soup to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to maintain a simmer. Do not cover. As the soup cooks and the liquid evaporates, heat may need to be reduced to maintain a gentle simmer. After about an hour of cooking, remove the ham hock and transfer it to a cutting board (look ahead to next step). Cook until beans are tender, about 90 minutes to two hours. It may take less time depending on how soft the beans got after your soak.
    cooked navy bean soup with ham hocks.
  • Cut ham: As soon as the ham hock is cool enough to handle, cut any meat into small pieces and return to soup. Discard any skin, fat, and bones.
    diced ham from ham hocks for soup recipe.
  • Add the secret ingredient: When the beans are completely soft and the soup is ready to eat, stir in the apple cider vinegar. Taste, and add salt and pepper, as desired. To thicken, you can process about 2 cups of the soup in the blender and mix it back in.
    adding apple cider vinegar to navy bean soup.
  • To serve: Remove bay leaves and enjoy with cornbread.


  • Ham bones with some meat can be used instead if the ham hocks, if desired. This is a great option if you have leftover holiday ham from Christmas or Easter.
  • You need a total of 12 cups of liquid. I found equal parts of chicken broth and water worked perfectly, but you can also use vegetable broth in addition or in lieu of either the water or chicken broth. Any combination will work as long as the total volume is 12 cups. 
  • I used only navy beans, but you can easily swap with a mixture of beans or pre-made mixes that can usually be found in the bulk aisle at the grocery store.
Slow cooker modification: Soak the beans first. No need to sauté vegetables. Cook on low for 7 hours or high for 3 hours.
Recipe Tips:
  • Soaking the beans: You do not have to soak the beans, however, it is highly recommended because it shortens the amount of time they need to cook. You can soften them overnight in cold water or do a quick soak by bringing them to a boil, removing them from heat, and letting them sit, covered, for an hour. Always discard the soaking water and rinse the beans before adding them to the soup.
  • Canned beans are an option if they are drained and rinsed, however, they are not preferred because of how soft they are. 
  • To thicken: Run about 2 cups of the cooked bean soup through the blender and stir into the soup.
  • Optional - add tomatoes: Some people like to add a can of tomatoes to their navy bean soup. If you do, you must add them after the beans have cooked. If tomatoes are added early in the recipe, the acidity in the tomatoes may result in crunchy beans, no matter how long you cook them. Additional salt will also be needed.
  • Use less liquid: If you would prefer the consistency to be closer to chili or baked beans, reduce the total amount of liquid from 12 cups down to 8 cups.


Calories: 440kcal | Carbohydrates: 54g | Protein: 30g | Fat: 12g | Saturated Fat: 5g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 5g | Trans Fat: 0.1g | Cholesterol: 51mg | Sodium: 1034mg | Potassium: 1274mg | Fiber: 20g | Sugar: 7g | Vitamin A: 6144IU | Vitamin C: 5mg | Calcium: 164mg | Iron: 5mg