Pinto beans and ham is a southern classic comfort food made with dry pinto beans and a leftover ham bone served with a delicious piece of skillet cornbread. This budget-friendly, easy recipe can be made on the stove-top or in a slow cooker making it a delicious one-pot meal. But the best part about this beans and ham recipe is it’s an easy main course to throw together after a long holiday week.
WHY YOU’LL LOVE THIS BEANS AND HAM RECIPE
It’s so easy to make ahead for a long, chilly weekend. A big pot of pinto beans and ham will store in the fridge for days.
Leftover pinto beans and ham, stored in an airtight container, freeze well for months in the freezer.
Ham and bean soup is extremely budget friendly with a one-pound bag costing about two dollars.
One of the best things about making this beans and ham recipe is it’s a one-pot meal, fewer dishes to clean!
WHAT INGREDIENTS YOU’LL NEED FOR BEANS AND HAM
Beans: dry pinto beans are my first choice, but white beans, lima beans, and kidney beans all make a hearty bean for soup.
Protein: In my bean soup opinion, there’s nothing better than a big, smoked, leftover holiday ham shank in a slow-cooked pot of beans. But there are many delicious protein varieties that go really well in a pinto bean recipe. Different cuts of ham like a smoked ham hock, a cut-up ham steak, or leftover pieces of ham. Smoked turkey legs and turkey wings are very common as well. Thanksgiving turkey leftovers are really good too.
Broth: Chicken broth, vegetable broth, or water instead of any broth.
Vegetables: onions, garlic, and jalapenos.
Seasonings: fresh thyme, bay leaves, and rosemary.
6-8 cups chicken broth, water, or a combination of both
1 tbsp chili powder or to taste
1 tbsp cinnamon more or less to taste
1 tbsp garlic powder
2 tsp cumin
salt and black pepper to taste
HOW TO MAKE THE BEST HAM AND BEANS
Step 1: In a large pot or Dutch oven, brine the pinto beans. This “brine” doesn’t include salt like a chicken brine does, but it does require fresh woody herbs like Rosemary and Thyme Sprigs. Add a few Bay leaves, cover the dried beans with water. Let the beans soak overnight.
Note: The quick soak method is just as good: Place the dried beans and woody herbs in a large soup pot with water. Bring the beans and water to a rolling boil for a couple of minutes. Turn off the heat and let them sit in the warm water with the lid on for a couple of hours.
Step 2: Once the beans are soaked and softish, drain in a large colander and discard the Rosemary, Thyme, and Bay leaves. It’s ok if you don’t get all the leaves but do try and discard the woody stems.
Step 3: Place the beans back into the big pot, and add cut onion, garlic, and jalapeno. Add the seasonings and pour 6 cups of broth or water: make sure you add enough water or broth to cover the beans. Add the whole ham bone or shank. Cook on medium-high until it boils then turn down to a low heat. Let all the goodness simmer for about an hour and a half.
Step 4: Once done, let them sit for about 10 minutes. After beans and ham have cooled and rested cut up the ham off the bone into bite-sized chunks. Note: Cut the meat with a knife and fork in the pot (should be really easy to break up) or take the ham out and break it apart and add it back into the beans. Discard the bone.
Step 5: Scoop into bowls and serve with a side of cornbread, buttered French bread, or saltine crackers!
Note: If the liquid is too thin, take about a cup of beans out and mash up with a fork or the back of a spoon. Return mashed-up beans to the pot to make the broth thicker. The longer the beans sit the thicker they get.
COOKING TIPS FOR THE BEST HAM AND BEAN SOUP
To soak or not to soak…
Soaking the beans overnight is the traditional and probably most thought of when it comes to making ham and beans. Add the beans and herbs to a large soup pot, add water to cover and the beans are ready to cook the next day.
The faster method is the quick soak method. Add the unsoaked beans and herbs to a large Dutch oven and cover with water. Bring the water to a rolling boil, cover with a heavy lid, and take them off the heat. Leave them alone in the hot water for a couple of hours.
Another cooking process is the slow cooker method. Place everything in the crockpot in the morning and cook, low and slow, all day. Crockpot pinto beans are a great alternative when you’re out of the house all day.
black eyed peas
…any kind of hearty beans just as long as they’re dried. Canned beans will not work in this recipe.
Traditional southern-style beans and ham usually include greens of some kind. Collard Greens are my personal favorite, but Mustard Greens are delicious too. Spinach will not work because it is not hearty enough.
Another southern-style tradition is using turkey wings and legs. Smoked turkey necks are also common.
Really, a big pot of beans is delicious without a protein added. Just don’t forget the hot buttered skillet cornbread!
HOW TO STORE LEFTOVER BEANS AND HAM
Leftover pinto beans make delicious, refried beans. Put them in a skillet, mash up with a fork, and, pour a little water into the skillet, and then add Mexican seasonings. Mix up and cook on low until beans are soft and yummy.
Leftover beans and ham will keep in the refrigerator for about 4-5 days.
If you freeze leftovers, you’ll need a freezer-safe container.
Fresh Rosemary, Thyme, Bay Leaves4-5 sticks and leaves each
waterenough to cover the bean in the bean brine
1ham hock or leftover holiday ham, any ham will do
1onion, medium sizecut up
1-2jalapenosto taste, cut up
6-8cupschicken brothdepend on how thick or thin you like
1tbspchili powderor to taste
1tbspcinammonmore or less to taste
salt and pepper to tasteadd after it's cooked through
Step 1: First you start out by "brining" your beans. This brine doesn't include salt like a chicken brine does but it does require fresh woody herbs like Rosemary and Thyme Sprigs. Add a few Bay leaves, cover the dried beans with water. Let them soak overnight or boil them for a couple of minutes, turn the heat off, and let them sit in the warm water for a couple of hours.
Step 2: Once the beans are soaked and softish, drain in a colander, and discard the Rosemary, Thyme, and Bay leaves. It's ok if you don't get all the leaves but do try and discard the woody stems.
Step 3: Place the beans back into the big pot, add the cut up onion, garlic, and jalapeno. Add the seasonings and pour the 6 cups of broth over all the bean ingredients. Cook on medium-high until it boils then turn down and let all the goodness simmer for about an hour and a half.
Step 4: Once done, let them sit for about 10 minutes. After it's rested cut the ham into bite-sized chunks…either with a knife and fork in the pot (should be really easy to break up) or take the ham out and break it apart and add back into the beans.
Step 5: Scoop into bowls and serve with yummy corn bread, buttered french bread, or saltine crackers!
Note: If the liquid is too thin, take about a cup of beans out and mash up with a fork or back of a spoon. Return mashed up beans to pot…it should make the broth thicker. The longer the beans sit the thicker they get.
Keyword beans, cinammon, comfort food, cornbread, ham, herbs