Hungarian Bean Soup (Bab Leves)

Homemade Bean Soup
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Prep: 20 mins
Cook: 3 hrs 30 mins
Soak Time: 60 mins
Total: 4 hrs 50 mins
Servings: 4 to 6 servings
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
215 Calories
9g Fat
23g Carbs
11g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4 to 6
Amount per serving
Calories 215
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 9g 12%
Saturated Fat 4g 22%
Cholesterol 28mg 9%
Sodium 250mg 11%
Total Carbohydrate 23g 8%
Dietary Fiber 5g 18%
Total Sugars 5g
Protein 11g
Vitamin C 4mg 18%
Calcium 57mg 4%
Iron 2mg 10%
Potassium 449mg 10%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

This recipe for Hungarian bean soup or bab leves (bawb LEH-vesh)—leves is the generic word for soup—can be made with a meaty ham bone or ham hock.

The real trick to the flavor is to use the defatted drippings from a baked ham. If you have none, ham base or chicken stock are good substitutes, just be careful with adding any additional salt. This recipe can easily be doubled.


  • 1/2 pound dried navy beans

  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

  • 1 large carrot, peeled and sliced

  • 1 medium onionfinely chopped

  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

  • 1 large bay leaf

  • 1 ham bone, or smoked ham hock

  • 4 cups smoked ham stock, or ham base, or chicken stock, or water

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter

  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped onion

  • 1 teaspoon mild paprika, or hot Hungarian

  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

  • 1/4 cup sour cream

  • 1 teaspoon vinegar

Steps to Make It

  1. Place beans in a medium saucepan and cover with water. Boil for 5 minutes, cover, turn off heat but leave on the burner and let soak 1 hour.

  2. Drain and rinse beans and place in a large saucepan (but not something as large as a stockpot).

  3. Add pepper, carrot, onion, garlic, bay leaf, and ham. Add ham stock plus enough water to cover 2 inches above the beans. The ham bone may be sticking above the water a little.

  4. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook, partially covered, until beans are tender, 2 1/2 to 3 hours, stirring occasionally and adding additional water to make sure beans are covered with liquid. Remove bay leaf and discard and remove meaty ham bone or hock to a separate plate and reserve.

  5. In a small skillet, make a roux by sautéing 2 tablespoons chopped onion in butter until they are translucent. Add paprika and flour, stirring and cooking for 2 minutes. Mix in the parsley.

  6. Add several ladles of hot soup liquid to the roux and stir until smooth. Pour the roux back into the soup, bring to a boil, and simmer 10 minutes, stirring frequently.

  7. If soup is too thick, thin with additional water. If soup is too thin for your taste, continue to simmer until of the right consistency.

  8. At this point, the soup can be chilled overnight to allow it to be defatted. The sour cream and vinegar can be added to the cold soup and reheated gently when serving.

  9. Otherwise, temper the sour cream with a few ladles of hot soup. Return the tempered sour cream to the soup and mix thoroughly. Add the vinegar and mix again.

  10. Add the reserved ham meat, which has been cut into bite-sized pieces. Serve hot with bread.