White Bean Soup With Smoked Ham Shank

white bean and ham shank soup
Jonathan Lovekin/Photolibrary/Getty Images
  • Total: 2 hrs 45 mins
  • Prep: 15 mins
  • Cook: 2 hrs 30 mins
  • Servings: 8 servings

Smoked ham shanks make a tasty broth for this classic white bean soup that is Southern right down to its soul. This recipe may take a while to make, but it is mostly unattended and your efforts will be rewarded with a deeply satisfying meal. Once the broth has simmered for an hour, the beans and herbs are added and the soup is cooked again; then a final simmer is done once the tomatoes are included, allowing the beans to become nice and creamy. At the end of cooking time, the smoky meat is sliced from the bone and served on top of the stew.

The must-have side dish for beans and ham is cornbread, and collard greens are also traditionally served alongside. If collards aren't your thing, this white bean soup pairs nicely with Brussels sprouts or green beans tossed in bacon bits.


  • 1 tablespoon butter

  • 1 medium onion (diced)

  • 4 cloves garlic (chopped)

  • 1 1/2 pounds smoked ham shanks or ham hocks, or 1 meaty smoked ham bone

  • 2 cups chicken broth

  • 4 cups cold water

  • 2 bay leaves

  • 1 pound dried cannellini beans (or white kidney beans)

  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

  • 1 teaspoon dried rosemary (or 1 sprig fresh rosemary)

  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

  • Salt to taste

  • 1/2 cup fresh or canned diced tomatoes (drained)

  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley (chopped)

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

  2. In a Dutch oven or any heavy pot with a lid, melt the butter over medium heat.

  3. Saute the onions and garlic in the butter until translucent.

  4. Add the ham shanks, broth, water, and bay leaves to the pot and bring to a boil.

  5. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, covered, for 1 hour.

  6. Uncover the pot and add the beans, oregano, rosemary, red pepper flakes, and black pepper.

  7. Cover, bring back to a boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 45 minutes. More liquid can be added at any time if the beans soak up all the existing liquid as they cook.

  8. Uncover the pot, taste, and add salt if needed. (The ham might have been salty enough.)

  9. Add the tomatoes, cover, and simmer for another 45 minutes, or until the beans are tender and creamy (time will vary depending on the kind of beans you use).

  10. Remove the ham shank to a cutting board and slice off chunks of meat from the bone.

  11. Spoon the soup into a large serving bowl or individual bowls. Top with the ham pieces and sprinkle with fresh parsley.

  12. Enjoy.


If you happen to have leftover ham on the bone from a family feast, feel free to use it in place of the smoked ham shank. If you prefer to buy boneless ham, ask the butcher for a ham bone to use in this recipe. If you'd like to skip the ham altogether, try some smoked turkey wings in its place.

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