I often fall victim to wanting to be a foodie. I love to pore through stacks of recipes, experiment with different spices, and scavenge for unique foods. I love to find something new to obsess over, but I always find the most comfort in those things I already know.
Ham and beans is truly a humble dish, born from the necessity of making something out of… not much. Simple beans and a leftover ham bone (also known as ham hock) create a flavorful meal that’s hearty. Growing up, Mom would often make ham and beans on a winter-like day, simmering away on the stove and filling the house with smoky goodness. I love when a meal eats like a hug (weird phrase, but you know what I mean!) and these beans are full of the comfort that tastes so good.
The best ham and beans recipe is parred down and never over-complicated. There’s no reason to try to reinvent a wheel that’s already so delicious. The most important rule is you must start with dried beans. Canned beans have a great purpose and come in handy in many dishes where the beans aren’t the most important part. This dish is all about the beans, both in the flavor and the texture. If the dried beans are freshly dried, soaking is not always important. Since it’s hard to know, I always start by soaking the beans, just in case!
Much like a soup, ham and beans starts with a base of onion, carrot, and celery. The underlying vegetal flavor actually elevates the beans.
To flavor the beans, a ham bone with plenty of meat still attached is ideal. I don’t make large bone-in hams often, so thankfully it’s easy to find ham bones in many supermarkets.
The foodie in me can’t help but add a bit more umami flavor. And that comes in the form of a Parmesan rind, available at most grocery stores or cheese counters, which gives a rich flavor that rounds out the beans.
And since this is almost a soup, the liquid left in the bottom of each dish will need to be soaked up. That’s where cornbread comes into play! In our house, cornbread is traditionally served with this meal, and rightfully so. The texture and ability to finish the hearty meal makes this the best comfort food around!
Watch how to make this ham and beans recipe:
Homestyle Ham and Beans
- 1 lb dried white or navy beans (about 2 cups)
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 ½ cups roughly diced carrot
- 1 cup diced celery
- ¾ cup diced onion
- 2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp ground black pepper
- 1 ham bone/hock
- 1 4- to 6-inch Parmesan rind
- 6 cups chicken stock
- Cover dried beans with water and soak for 6-8 hours. Once soaked, drain beans and set aside.
- Over medium heat, warm olive oil in a 6-quart stockpot or Dutch oven. Sauté the carrot, celery, and onion with salt and pepper. Saute until the onion is translucent, 5 minutes.
- Add soaked beans, ham bone, Parmesan rind, and chicken stock. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Cook until the beans are tender, 2-4 hours.
- Once the beans are tender, remove the Parmesan rind and ham bone. Allow the beans to rest for 20 minutes so the liquid will continue to thicken. Remove any meat from the ham bone and add back to the beans. Alternatively, more ham can be added. Adjust beans for salt to taste and serve with cornbread.