Ham and northern beans are delicious and comforting whether you are living on a budget or not! Great Northern Beans are  mixed with veggies, ham and seasoning and simmered until tender and full of flavor.

Nothing could be more hearty and heart-warming more than this economical entrée.

Great Northern beans and ham in a pot with some being scooped out with a ladle

What are Great Northern Beans?

Sometimes called ‘common beans’ great northern beans have a mild flavor and are a popular addition to casseroles, soups, and stews. Since their flavor is delicate, they’re easily complemented by any kind of meat, but especially the smoky salty flavor of ham!

Navy Beans vs Great Northern Beans

What is the difference between navy bean and great northern beans? They’re not too different, both are a similar shape (and flavor), but great northern beans are a little bit bigger than navy beans. That being said, either bean can be substituted for the other in a recipe.

Ingredients for Great Northern beans and ham in a pot

How to Soak Beans

Rinse beans in a colander and pick out any debris like small stones or twigs. Place in a large pot and cover with enough water to cover the beans plus two inches. Cover and let soak overnight. It’s that easy!

For an even quicker soak, place beans in a stockpot, cover with water plus two inches and bring to a rolling boil about 3 minutes. Remove from heat, cover, and let stand an hour.

How to Cook Great Northern Beans

This easy soup recipe is ready in 1, 2, 3!

  1. First, sauté diced onion in oil until it’s soft and fragrant, about 5 minutes.
  2. Combine beans and the remaining ingredients.
  3. Bring everything to a boil and then simmer on low until the beans are tender.

To Serve: Remove the bay leaf and season with salt and pepper. Garnish with chopped parsley and serve.

To cook great northern beans in a crockpot, reduce the liquid a bit, soak the beans overnight and then cook on slow for 8 hours.

Great Northern beans and ham in a pot with a ladle

Tips for Cooking with Beans

  • Soak properly: Keep the beans underwater while they are soaking so they can cook uniformly.
  • Rinse and Sort: Be sure to rinse well and sort the beans looking for debris and/or little pebbles.
  • Simmer: Once the beans start cooking, keep them at a gentle simmer so they don’t overcook and burst.
  • Acidid Ingredients: Always add the salt and other acidic ingredients to the end of the cooking process because salt can sometimes interfere with the rehydration process.


Great Northern beans and ham in a pot with some being scooped out with a ladle
4.90 from 57 votes↑ Click stars to rate now!
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Great Northern Beans and Ham

Nothing is more hearty and heart-warming more than a basic ham and beans recipe. This is such an easy, economical entrée, it’s healthy and portable.
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Soak Beans 12 hours
Total Time 13 hours 50 minutes
Servings 8 servings


  • 1 pound Great Northern Beans dry
  • 1 ham hock or 1 lb smoked ham
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 onion diced
  • 2 carrots chopped
  • 1 stalk celery chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 tablespoon fresh parsley optional


  • Rinse beans in a large pot and remove any debris. Place in a large pot and cover with cold water. Let sit overnight. Drain well.
  • Cook onion in olive oil until softened, about 5 minutes.
  • Combine beans, onion, carrot, celery, bay leaf, ham hock, and seasonings in a pot. Add 4 cups chicken broth and 4 cups water, bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 1 ½ to 2 hours or until beans are tender.
  • Discard bay leaf, taste and season with salt and pepper. Garnish with parsley and serve.


Salt and acidic ingredients can interfere with the rehydration process. Add salt (and acidic ingredients if you make additions) at the end of cooking.
To Quick Soak Beans
Place in a saucepan and add enough water to cover at least 2 inches above beans. Bring to a boil for 3 minutes. Cover, remove from heat and let stand 1 hour.
To Cook in Slow Cooker
Reduce liquid (water and broth) to 6 cups. Soak beans as directed and add all ingredients to a 6qt slow cooker. Cook on low 8 hours.
4.90 from 57 votes

Nutrition Information

Calories: 160 | Carbohydrates: 17g | Protein: 10g | Fat: 6g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Cholesterol: 18mg | Sodium: 494mg | Potassium: 458mg | Fiber: 5g | Sugar: 3g | Vitamin A: 2612IU | Vitamin C: 12mg | Calcium: 63mg | Iron: 2mg

Nutrition information provided is an estimate and will vary based on cooking methods and brands of ingredients used.

Course Soup
Cuisine American
Ingredients for Great Northern beans and ham and Great Northern beans and ham pot with a title
Great Northern beans and ham with a ladle and writing
Ingredients for Great Northern beans and ham in a pot and Great Northern beans and ham with a ladle and writing


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Holly is a wine and cheese lover, recipe creator, shopping enthusiast and self appointed foodie. Her greatest passion is creating in the kitchen and making deliciously comforting recipes for the everyday home cook!
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Recipe Rating


  1. As I write it’s on the stove cooking. So simple, used all chicken broth will add water if needed. Cooking jalapeño cornbread to go along with it. Thought about adding rotel tomatoes, but might do that next time. Smells great already.5 stars

  2. This is my favorite recipe for Great Northern Beans with a meaty ham hock or two. The seasoning is spot-n, but I especially like the addition of carrots and celery. They certainly give this dish more color and interest, as well as a little more flavor and nutrition.
    This and a skillet of cornbread is an easy and filling comfort food meal.5 stars

  3. Ive made this recipe 5 times already thats how much I love it! After the beans are done I always take a potato masher and mash them up just a TINY bit bc I feel like it makes the dish creamy & little thicker
    I also add a few cloves of pressed garlic and a couple shakes of cayenne pepper for a little spice and I used Farmland cubed ham instead of a ham hock 5 stars

  4. I don’t know what I may have done wrong. I followed the recipe exactly. There was no flavor. I used homemade chicken broth as well. There was not enough carrots and celery. Also the ham hock I got did not taste the greatest. Maybe because it wasn’t smoked? Ugh.1 star

    1. Sorry to hear that, Annie! We would love to hear how you adjusted the recipe to your preferences. Smoked ham hock does add some additional flavor but this recipe should still turn out with a standard ham hock.

  5. Great recipe! I doubled up on the smoked ham hock. The smell with the bay leaf had the whole house smelling like it’s dinner time.5 stars

  6. Loved it! Added Italian seasoning because I didn’t have Rosemary and a cube of chicken bullion to add extra flavor. Added 5 cloves of minced fresh garlic also.4 stars

  7. I’m confused with the direction for the slow cooker, you say to decrease the water to 6 cups, the original recipe calls for 4, did you mean to say increase to 6 cups? Looking forward to making this yummy recipe!

    1. That is to reduce the liquid in the recipe to 6 cups (there are 4 cups of broth and 4 cups of water). Thanks for noticing Cheryl! Enjoy!

  8. These were great. We had all the ingredients on hand. Our pantry is well stocked with dried beans, as we do enjoy them. We can make a killer Cuban black bean, pinto beans, black eyed peas, etc. but I had a bag of northern beans, so, it was time. I only left out the sugar.
    Will be getting more next grocery trip.5 stars

  9. The instructions don’t say anything about the ham hock. I assume it’s boiled with the soup but I figured I should point it out. Thanks for the recipe :) love your site!