Hearty Ham Bone Soups

by Brenda Hyde

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Bone-in hams, when bought on sale, are one of the most frugal cuts of meat you can use. Your main meal uses the meatiest part of the ham. Dice any bigger sections of ham that are left and use within three days or freeze for using in casseroles. The bone that is left will have so much flavor and a lot of meat closer to the bone. This is perfect for hearty bean soups. As with the meat, if you can't use the bone within three days, freeze it in a freezer bag and use in the recipes below. There really is no need to thaw it beforehand. Just toss it in the soup pan!

Blackeyed Peas and Ham

1 pound dried blackeyed peas
2 ham hocks or a ham bone with ham left on it
Pepper to taste
onions, sliced
hot sauce

Place the ham bones or hocks in a slow-cooker, add the peas after they have been rinsed (but not soaked), and cover with water completely. Cook all day on low or 4 or 5 hours on high. Slow-cookers vary, so keep checking. You may need to add more water. Stir a couple of times while checking. Some people like them almost mushy, but I like them not quite that soft. Season with pepper if you wish. Serve with slices of onion and hot sauce (a smooth cayenne variety).

Bean Soup with Ham

1 ham bone with some meat left on
2 cups Navy, Northern beans or mixed beans
8 cups water
1 clove garlic, minced
1 bay leaf
1 large onion, chopped
Salt and pepper, to taste

Wash beans the beans and add to a medium to large pan on the stove. Cover with water, boil, and turn off the heat. Let these sit about a 1/2 hour. Drain the beans and place all the ingredients in the slow-cooker. Cover and cook on high for 4 hours or so, then switch to low and continue to cook. You want the beans to be done, but not mushy. Add more water if needed to make it a soup consistency as it cooks. Cut the meat off the bone and put in with the beans and remove the bay leaf before serving.

Black Bean Soup

2 cups dried black beans
1 ham bone with meat still on
6 cups water
4 cups vegetable or ham broth
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 onion, minced
1 tomato diced (or about a half can-drained well)
1 cup chopped ham (optional)
1 tablespoon vinegar

You can soak the beans overnight in the refrigerator, covered with water, but what I usually do is place the dried beans in a pan, cover with water, and bring to a boil. Turn off the heat and allow them to sit for one hour. Drain and rinse with either method, then add them to a large pot with the water, broth and the ham bone. You can add salt if you wish, but most hams are pretty salty. Simmer, covered, for about 1 1/2 hours until the beans are tender. Remove the bone and take off any meat. Add this meat back to the pot. Sauté the onion, tomato and ham if you had extra that you diced, until the onion is soft. Stir in the vinegar to this mixture and add all to the soup. Simmer for 20 more minutes and serve. You can offer hot sauce and chopped onion as toppings for each person's bowl of soup.

Split Pea Soup

one ham bone with remaining meat
1 cup minced onions
2 tsp. black pepper
1 pound dried split peas, green or yellow
1 cup chopped carrot

Place the ham bone and other ingredients to a slow-cooker. Just cover with water, and cook on low all day long or high for 4-6 hours. I cook my peas until they are fairly mushy, but you can cook less if you like them less done. We always eat big bowls of this soup with bread and butter. Very simple! If the meat isn't falling off the ham bone, remove and use a fork to remove it and place the meat into the soup. Discard the bone. Season with salt if desired.

Brenda Hyde is a freelance writer, wife and mom to three kids living in the Midwest United States. For more family friendly recipes and cooking tips visit Brenda at OldFashionedLiving.com.

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