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.
Want super creamy beans? Just stir!
Everyone’s idea about the final texture of beans like this is a little different. If you prefer a more clear broth, I suggest following the recipe pretty closely.
If you want beans with a super creamy, thick broth, simply vigorously stir the beans when they’re nearly ready to eat and press some of the beans against the side of the slow cooker walls to break them up. This will help to thicken the broth and give you a super creamy texture.
This first picture below is of the beans right after cooking that haven’t been thickened. The next picture is after a vigorous stir while mashing up some beans to thicken the broth.
Do I need to soak my beans first?
As I’ve said before, I was taught that you always soak dried beans before cooking them – whether using the overnight or the quick soak method. Modern science and testing have revealed, however, that soaking beans really doesn’t do much other than cut down on the cook time (which isn’t a huge difference anyway).
I tested this recipe both ways and didn’t find a noticeable difference in texture, cook time, etc. One thing to note, though, is that if you do soak them, you’ll need less water in the slow cooker when cooking them. I recommend reducing the water amount to 6 cups if you’ve already soaked your beans.
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.
With my beans I got a Ham Flavor pack
That add a lot of flavor!
I cook my beans very similarly all the time. I do use a quick soak–boil 2 minutes and soak 2 hours. Drain that water and put fresh in the crockpot (reduces gas). I put some salt in the soaking water. Never thought to put the veggies and ham on the bottom, though. And I often use navy beans instead of great northern. A bit of bell pepper is also a good veggie to add–and a bay leaf can enhance flavor, as well–especially if you don’t add ham flavoring. This recipe also works for those 15-bean mixes you can buy at most supermarkets. Delicious!
BTW, we love a lot of your recipes. They’re becoming regulars.
Thanks so much, Amy!
Just wanted to let you know how delicious your recipe for Crockpot Ham & Bean soup was. I didn’t have the ham seasoning on hand so I just added thyme, garlic & pepper, a little salt too.
Thank you for sharing,
I’m so glad you enjoyed it!
You are so thorough with your recipes. I trust you on any of your recipes I see. Keep it up. Be proud of yourself! Doing great!!!
Thank you so much, Dean! That means a lot!
It’s refreshing to see someone who really cares about what they do and present!!! KOKO!!
Thanks! I do my best!
I made half of recipe and it was so delicious and so easy! I used Better Than Bouillon Ham Base and added to the water – it was great!
I am making another batch right now, this time I am making in my Instant Pot using pressure cooker – hope it turns out as good as slow cooker method!
Sounds delish! I need to try the Better Than Bouillon ham base!
How did it turn out when you tried using the Instant Pot?
I liked it but felt the flavor was a little richer in the slow cooker method. I cooked it for 35 minutes (unsoaked beans) – the texture of the beans was not as good to me. Still tasty though.
This soup was absolutely delicious and simple to prepare! The beans were perfect. I used a pork shoulder and diced it but followed the recipe otherwise. I will definitely try this again.
I’m so glad to hear it turned out great for you!
So good,just hit the spot.
Thank you so much Jane!
Try using an Instant Pot. Makes great beans in about 30 minutes (if soaked). That Goya seasoning is great in green beans also. Sometimes it is hard to find.
LOVE your recipes!
Wow wonderful. Thank you
Thank you Terry!
That looks absolutely delicious! I have never heard of ham seasoning before, I look forward to trying it.
Please try it Mary! It is delicious!