This recipe for Slow Cooker Ham and Beans is cooked low and slow with onions, celery, carrots, and ham making for a delicious bowl of creamy beans filled with savory, smoky flavor.
For me, there’s not much more comforting than a big bowl of white beans with a chunk of cornbread and some diced fresh onion. And it’s a bonus if that bowl of beans is filled with chunks of ham and smoky ham flavor.
But lots of folks are intimidated by cooking dried beans. That’s why this method of using the slow cooker is so perfect. It makes the process virtually hands off and results in tender, creamy, smoky Great Northern beans that just taste like home.
And while this recipe is amazingly easy, there are a few things I’d like to run through. Your success is my ultimate goal, so let’s walk through a few things…
Great Northern Beans – I use regular dried Great Northern Beans – I think I even used the generic brand this time. I do not soak them for this recipe. Be sure to see my FAQ below on soaking beans for more info.
Celery – Nothing fancy here – just celery.
Carrot – Same goes for the carrots. I used one large carrot. Feel free to use more or less.
Onion – I prefer a white or yellow onion here, but any onion should work.
Water – You could opt for broth, but I’d recommend unsalted to control the salt content. I think water works just fine and it’s less expensive. While I don’t recommend soaking your beans, if you do, you’ll need to adjust your water amount. See the FAQ below for more info on soaking beans.
Ham – I used leftover pieces of spiral sliced smoke ham because I wanted larger pieces of meat in the beans. You could use a large leftover ham bone, a few smoked ham hocks, or even smoked turkey pieces.
Salt – The amount of salt you’ll need depends on the amount of salt in the meat you’re using, so I recommend only adding salt after cooking and after you’ve added the ham seasoning.
Ham Seasoning – This is an optional ingredient, but one that I highly recommend. Ham seasoning is a great way to add even more smoky ham flavor to lots of dishes, specially these beans. I’ve included a photo of the one I use below, but there are other options. If you’re going to use this, add it before salt as there is some sodium in this. Then you can add salt to taste.
The slow cooker/Crock Pot is the perfect way to cook beans. The low and slow method makes for tender, creamy beans with tons of flavor.
With that being said, the slow cooker does present a few challenges – all of which are easy to deal with if you know about them.
The main issue is with cook time. There are huge variations in cook time with many slow cooker recipes – and for good reason. Every slow cooker cooks differently. In fact, in testing this recipe I used two slow cookers of the same size and even same brand and they produced different results.
One slow cooker had the beans tender in about 5 hours on high. The other took a little over 6 hours on high. The reason was temperature. The one that finished first was cooking at about 208°F while the other was cooking at about 194°F. That’s a 14° difference between the exact same slow cookers.
So just keep in mind that the time can vary a bit based on your specific slow cooker.
Slow Cooker Ham and Beans
- 1 pound dried Great Northern beans
- 2 ribs celery, diced
- 1 large carrot, peeled and diced
- 1 large white onion, diced
- 2 cups diced ham
- 8 cups water*
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
- salt (about 1 teaspoon)
- 1 packet ham flavored concentrate (about 1 teaspoon)
- Lightly spray the crock of a slow cooker with nonstick cooking spray. Set the temperature to low.
- Rinse and sort the dried beans to eliminate any bad beans or foreign debris.
- Add the celery, carrot, onion, and ham to the slow cooker. Pour the beans on top. Add the water. Add the pepper. Cover and cook on high for 5 to 6 hours or on low for 8 to 10. (See blog post about cook time.)
- Once tender to your liking add the ham seasoning packet and salt to taste. For us, it's about 1 teaspoon of salt.
- For a creamy broth, stir vigorously, pressing some of the beans against the side of the crock to mash them up. Stir to combine.