I’ve only been dying to share this recipe with you for more than one million minutes.

The Best Old-Fashioned Bean Soup I howsweeteats.com

Seriously. DYING. No exaggeration. I mean, I am not a dramatic person or anything.

And it’s not even because of the RECIPE. It’s because of so much more. This soup encompasses the entire reason I started this blog… to tell you about my short  little legally blind and deaf, fluffy haired, housecoat wearing Betty White-esque grandmother.

Mother Lovett made the bean soup of all bean soups. It was my mom’s favorite comfort food (besides cake for breakfast) and while it took me a few years to get on board, when I did I fell off the ledge. IN LOVE.

So when I started this blog, her soup was #1 on my list to share because it was just SO GOOD. Definitely caps lock worthy. But… but what’s that you say? It’s been nearly 30 months and no bean soup has been shared? Well… I was afraid to buy a ham.

For real. I was afraid to buy ham with a bone inside it. Two years ago my mom warned me that it might be difficult to find in our local grocery store, and that I should probably talk to the butcher. Um… what? I don’t even like to call for pizza. I’m the world’s biggest procrastinator. I can’t talk to a stranger, especially about something I’m completely unfamiliar with. Because here’s a secret: I hate ham. Good news: if you hate ham, you will probably like the soup. I swear.

And P.S. if you’re wondering if I could ever survive in the real world, the answer is no.

The Best Old-Fashioned Bean Soup I howsweeteats.com

Two winters have since passed and I finally begged my mom take me to the store and do my dirty work because I am still a (very immature) child. Guts… I have none. I excitedly left with an armful of bone-in ham (hahahaha) after having to speak to no one and then my mom recited the recipe to me from heart since it wasn’t written down ANYWHERE. I was skeptical about the beans because Mother Lovett never soaked them and pretty much cooked this soup all.day.long.  Yes… this is like an 8-hour soup. I know that’s far from practical and makes you start to seize, but I wanted to make this soup as authentically as possible. I did exactly what Mother Lovett did. My house smelled incredible. An electrician was here halfway through and I think I saw him leave with drool on his chin.

Oh but what I didn’t do was stick hot pink rollers in my hair after washing it in the sink.

I might do that tonight though.

Anyway. The soup was perfect – exactly as I remembered and delicious even for this ham-hater. I forced it down the throats of many other family members who delivered the same response – “tastes just like Mother Lovett’s!”

The Best Old-Fashioned Bean Soup I howsweeteats.com

Fast forward 24 hours to a very late dinner and three empty bottles of wine, my mom and I tell my aunt that I successfully made enough bean soup to feed a small country. She recalls her memories of Mother Lovett prepping for bean soup day, adding in “…and the day before, she soaked the beans…”

UHHHH WHAT THE WHAT? My mom swears she didn’t soak the beans. My aunt, her only other child, swears she did soak the beans. The remaining restaurant patrons (I say remaining because at this point, let’s be honest… it’s like 1AM and everyone’s toasted) hate our guts because of the obnoxious, copious wine consumption and a 45-minute argument over bean-soaking at a decibel loud enough to beat out Mariah’s 1995 soprano pitch.

That was three weeks ago… and they are still arguing. Loudly. I dunno people. I didn’t soak the beans. I don’t think she soaked the beans. Somewhere my aunt is seething, screaming SHE SOAKED THE DAMN BEANS!

Still, the soup was comfort in a bowl. Like a big hug from Mother Lovett that left you feeling all warm and gooey inside but didn’t leave you sparkling from her Ciara perfumed lotion.

It was everything I wanted. Well, almost.  

The Best Old-Fashioned Bean Soup I howsweeteats.com

Mother Lovett’s Bean Soup

makes a GIANT pot, at least 12 servings

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 large sweet onion, chopped

3 cloves of garlic, minced

64 ounces of low-sodium stock

32 ounces of water

1 pound dry navy beans

3-3 1/2 pound ham with bone in

2 pounds of potatoes (yukon gold or idaho), peeled and cubed

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Dump beans into a bowl, cover with water and rinse well, finishing with a rinse in a colander. Set aside.

Heat a very large stock pot over medium-low heat and add olive oil. Add onion and cook for 4-5 minutes until soft, then add in garlic and cook for 30 seconds more until fragrant. Throw in ham and beans, then add in chicken stock and water. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, then cover and let cook for 4 hours.

After 4 hours, add the potatoes, cover again and cook for 2-3 hours more, stirring occasionally. Towards the end, the potatoes should break down causing the soup to become starchy. The ham should also fall right off the bone – remove the bone before serving and shred any ham chunks with forks. Season with salt and more pepper if desired – I found that I did not need to add any salt given the ham + chicken stock, so taste first. Serve hot! I store huge containers of this in the freezer for up to 6 months. Yum yum.

Note: I have not tried this in the crockpot, but I am pretty sure that it would work if the beans are rinsed, then the whole mixture (including the potatoes) are cooked for 8-12 hours. Additionally, you can use canned beans (rinse and drain), cut the ham into pieces and cook the soup for a shorter time – perhaps 1-2 hours (depending on how tender you want your ham. haha.).

The Best Old-Fashioned Bean Soup I howsweeteats.com

The end.

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148 Responses to “Mother Lovett’s Bean Soup.”

  1. #
    Jordan — February 11, 2012 @ 12:21 pm

    The only thing that could make this better would be hot sauce! I’m on maternity leave and due to have a baby any day now, so I’m looking for easy recipes (such as this) to put together in between feedings, etc. I have a feeling this bean soup will be slightly (more) better than my husband’s version, but don’t tell him I said that! I can’t wait to make it!


  2. #
    Annie — February 11, 2012 @ 2:39 pm

    Made this last night. Absolutely AMAZING!!!!!


  3. #
    Jean — February 12, 2012 @ 11:19 am

    Made them last nightand they were delish.


  4. #
    T.A. Helton — February 12, 2012 @ 4:55 pm

    I’m making this right now. Already smells amazing!


  5. #
    Linda — February 16, 2012 @ 3:49 pm

    Smells good. Had leftover hambone with leftover ham I froze from Christmas. Was looking for a ham bean potato recipe that didn’t have tomato base so thanks for the guideline. Am using canned beans white kidney and great northern .
    Also garlic powder as fresh doesn’t agree but wild probly taste better. Your blog story is hilarious. Am gonna share with my mom just for a laugh.
    Thanks for making me smile!


  6. #
    Pat — February 17, 2012 @ 4:51 pm

    In making bean soup does anyone add either baking soda or baking powder in while soaking the beans to eliminate gas?


  7. #
    Juliann — February 23, 2012 @ 11:41 am

    I want to make this soup, but have called all over for a fresh 3 pound bone in ham and I cant find one anywhere by me. They all come in the 10 lb range. I am at a loss and not sure what to do about this…..Any suggestions?
    I was thinking of buying the ham bone, and a fresh ham separate? Wonder if that would work?
    The more I search the more I WANT this soup!


    • Jessica — February 23rd, 2012 @ 11:42 am

      I think that would definitely work. The only other thing I can think of is to buy the 10lb, cut (or have them cut it) out what you want, then freeze the rest?


    • Shannon Farren — September 20th, 2012 @ 8:32 pm

      Here’s a thought about the hambone problem. I’m using ham shank or hocks (depending on where you live) just purchase equivalent weight.


    • Judy — February 23rd, 2014 @ 2:52 am

      I had the same problem and the butcher suggested ham shanks. (They have more meat than ham hocks.)The shanks came in packages of 2 at my supermarket. One package was too little and 2 packages too much, so he made up a package of 3 for me and it was exactly 31/2 lbs. It worked perfectly and the soup was wonderful. I will definitely make this again. .


    • cheryl — November 22nd, 2014 @ 2:15 pm

      I always get the bigger ham, feed my family a nice ham dinner one night and maybe a few sandwiches the next day, then use the bone and left over ham for the bean soup! Thats at least 2 meals maybe more out of 1 ham.


  8. #
    kristi — February 25, 2012 @ 1:57 pm

    Making this right now.
    This is the first time in all of my thirty-tfohewonee years I’ve ever bought an actual ham. And just for this purpose. I feel very adult-like. Even though the minute I finished unpacking grocieries I had to run with ham in hand to the basement to play show-and-tell with my husband like “LOOKIT what I just bought!!!” (aren’t you proud of me???) He was like, I’m busy painting closet doors, are you serious? He’ll see. Heeeee’ll see.


  9. #
    Kasia — March 1, 2012 @ 1:27 pm

    She probably did soak the beans. The older generations knew more than us it appears. Soaking the beans gets rid of Phytic Acid which we can’t digest (which might be why we get gassy),and the phytic acidalso inhibits the absorbtion of many of the minerals in our food. Jordan up there on Maternity Leave should absolutely soak the beans so she gets all of the benifits of the meal since growing and birthing new people is so tough on our bodies.


  10. #
    Kgwirtz — December 31, 2012 @ 12:01 am

    Delicious soup! Love your blog and everything I’ve made from it . Happy New Year!


  11. #
    Diane — January 6, 2013 @ 12:05 am

    omg i need this now!!! just discovered your website and im 100% in love!!! i wish i could absorb your whole website right now.because all of this is delicious and amazing. i can’t wait to read more! yay!!!


  12. #
    Jada LaCroix — January 30, 2013 @ 2:24 pm

    omg, i am soooo taking my ham bone from christmas out of the freezer right now!!! Now i just have to try this recipe.


  13. #
    Lindsey — February 7, 2013 @ 3:57 pm

    I’m dying to make this recipe! Is this a raw ham, or cooked ham? I can’t wait to try it.


  14. #
    Aunt Sally — July 31, 2013 @ 3:13 pm

    Jess, she DID soak the beans over night . . . I can still see the heavy roaster sitting on the yellow Formica countertop. She never owned a bottle of olive oil in her life, and she also added minutely diced carrots. Love you!


    • Darlene — January 13th, 2015 @ 10:49 am

      Yay! I am so glad I read through the comments to see Aunt Sally’s response! I don’t know you, Jessica, but I agree, she probably soaked the beans the night before. But what a a great post/recipe! Love you writing style.


  15. #
    www.organicwhitekidneybeanextract.com — August 5, 2013 @ 1:19 am

    Hi there, You have done an excellent job. I’ll certainly digg it and personally recommend to my friends. I am confident they will be benefited from this web site.


  16. #
    Alyssa — October 17, 2013 @ 1:11 pm

    Omg I’m the same way – I don’t like to call people, I hate talking on the phone to strangers (AWKWARD), I avoid going to places and asking strangers for help about things, etc. Basically, I hate confrontation with people I don’t know or have to work with… I hate making things weird. I have enough awkwardness in my life already, lol.


  17. #
    Kristine — October 24, 2013 @ 8:44 am

    What kind of stock should I use?? Thanks!


  18. #
    Judy — October 27, 2013 @ 8:52 am

    Would soaking the beans mess it up? Replacement for ham. It’s not kosher?
    I love your blog.
    My parent’s family misprnounced words but that was they came from Russia in the early 1900’s and only spoke Yiddish with some words of English.
    My poor mum was brought up speaking Yiddish. Until she went to school didn’t know much English. Her mum sent her, when she was small, to buy a bootroot. She got to the greengrocer but didn’t know the word. She was trying to explain when a woman in the shop said ‘I know what she wants. S beetroot for that red soup they make’. That meant borsht.
    Sorry. I tend to ramble. You can forbid it if you want and I’ll try to curb myself.


    • Trish — October 28th, 2013 @ 9:52 pm

      Judy, You can use smoked turkey or if you want no meat there a liquid seasoning called Liquid Smoke. It gives that same smell and flavor without the meat. Even those of us brought up on the pork have switched to smoked turkey. good luck
      Love this blog.


  19. #
    Judy — October 27, 2013 @ 8:54 am

    Actually I do have another story about a lettuce if you want to hear it!


  20. #
    Fran B — January 12, 2014 @ 7:49 pm

    I didn’t get to read all the comments so forgive me if this is s duplicate tip. Our Honey Baked Ham store in town will sell you ham bones. They always have meat on them and are very inexpensive. Great for cooking beans.


  21. #
    Janice Seaton — January 23, 2014 @ 1:43 pm

    My family gas been going to a Eatery called Ole Hickory forever. We live in Owensboro,Ky. It is the Mutton Captiol of the world. This Restraunt has the BEST Navy Bean Soup I had eaten. I have been dissecting this soup for a long time trying to figure out what the ingredients were. Well I thought I dad it all figured out and I started looking on the Internet for a recipe similar. Well I just found it. I mad it yesterday. It tasted just like Ole Hickory’s except it was missing the smokey taste. I didn’t have a ham bone just some little ham piceces that I bought in a package. I thought, if I can’t get a ham and bone next time I could use Liiquid Smoke. Anyway. It was sooooooo good nd I m hooked on your blog. You are my kinda person..


  22. #
    stacio — August 3, 2014 @ 5:14 pm

    I vote for NO soak. Throwing out the soaking water throws out valuable flavor. I’ve never had a problem with gas even when I’ve experimented and soaked, but NOT thrown out the soaking water, just added the other soup ingredients and more water to it and continued on. There are arguments on both sides of the soak v no soak, but it just plain kills me to taste the difference (for the worse) when people toss that water with all kinds of goodness in it. *steps off soapbox* Back to topic: FABULOUS recipe, thanks so much for the chuckles, too :D


  23. #
    Audrey — December 4, 2014 @ 3:26 pm

    I followed the link to Mother Lovett’s cookies and now I’m dying to have the recipe of the cookies in the pictures. Is it anywhere on your website? Couldn’t find it…
    The soup looks amazing too…
    Miam as we say in French !


  24. #
    Melissa — March 30, 2015 @ 1:58 pm

    First off thanks for the amazing recipe! My husband was home sick today and eating this for dinner was the happiest he’s been all day. We made it in our crockpot, without soaking the beans ahead of time, plus a handful of carrots, and it was successful! But as a warning to others, the recipe as-written uses WAY more volume than we could fit in our standard-issue crockpot (although our bone was admittedly huge). We added a little less ham and potato than called for, and I saved the 32 oz water for adding after we took the bone and some dinner bowls out. I’d probably recommend reserving 1-2 more cups than that, though, because we had some leaking. Worth it though!


  25. #
    plasterer bristol — August 17, 2015 @ 12:01 pm

    This sounds lovely. Going to give this a go. thanks for sharing this recipe.




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