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Hungarian Ham and Bean Soup

This hearty Hungarian Ham and Bean Soup is a rustic and soul warming recipe you can make stove top or in the slow cooker. Full of great northern beans, carrots, ham and seasonings in a thick and flavorful broth. This is the perfect recipe to use up that holiday ham bone!
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time3 hrs
Course: Dinner
Cuisine: Hungarian
Keyword: beans, soup
Servings: 9 servings
Author: Lora

Ingredients

  • 1 pound dried Great Northern beans
  • 1 ham bone + ham scraps 1-2 cups leftover chopped ham
  • 1 large onion peeled and cut into large chunks
  • 4 carrots peeled and cut into large chunks
  • 3 celery stalks sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic peeled and cut into small pieces
  • 10 cups water
  • 2 tsp bouillon paste I used vegetable, or a bouillon cube or sub some of the water for no-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 10-12 cups water may need more, if it is too thick
  • 2 to 3 teaspoons white vinegar
  • Salt and pepper to taste, I used about 2 teaspoons salt and 1 tsp freshly ground pepper
  • ROUX
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil or butter (or lard, if you happen to have some)
  • ¼ cup flour
  • 2 tsp Hungarian sweet paprika
  • cups of broth from the soup
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 Tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

Instructions

  • NIGHT BEFORE:
  • If you are sorting beans night before, go ahead and do this method. Sort through the pound of great northern white beans and discard any debris or cracked beans.
  • Add the beans to a large bowl and cover with 6 cups of cool water. The beans absorb some water, so be sure to add an extra few inches of water above the beans.
  • Allow the beans to soak for at least 6 hours, or over night. During this time the beans will double in size and soften a bit. Do no soak for more than 24 hours.
  • Before preparing the soup, drain the beans and set off to the side. If you are cooking the soup after soaking overnight, add the drained beans to the large sauce pan (or Dutch oven)and cover with water (make sure covered 2-inches over the beans). Continue on with rest of recipe.
  • SOUP
  • WITHOUT soaking overnight:
  • (This is mom’s way to make it)
  • Sort through the beans, checking for any debris or broken beans and discard them. Rinse out the beans with cold water and drain them in a colander.
  • Place beans in a large saucepan (or Dutch oven, that is what I use) and cover with water. Add enough water to cover 2-inches above the beans.
  • Add the ham bone, onion chunks, couple of cloves of garlic, bay leaves and a little salt and pepper. Boil for 5-7 minutes (the ham bone may be poking out of the water a little…just try to push it back in, but it’s ok if it peaks out a little).
  • Bring to a boil, lower heat to reduce to a simmer and cook, partially covered for 2-2.5 hours (set a timer)until beans are tender, stirring occasionally and adding additional water to make sure beans are covered with liquid. *IF you soaked beans overnight, they should be ready in 60-90 minutes on the low simmer.
  • During last 45 minutes of simmering, add the bouillon paste, carrot chunks, and the extra ham chunks (I had almost two cups chopped up).
  • Remove bay leaves and discard. Carefully remove the ham bone and place on cutting board. With a fork, remove any remaining ham off the bone and stir it into the soup. Discard the bone. If soup is too thick, add 1-2 cups additional water and stir. Check soup for flavor, add salt and freshly ground pepper, as needed (I added 1 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper).
  • THE ROUX
  • In a small skillet, heat the oil (or butter or even lard if you happen to have some on hand)over medium heat. Whisk in the flour until smooth. Cook 2-3 minutes until the flour spreads over the bottom of the pan. The color will first be white and then turn light golden color. Be sure to keep close eye and not let it turn from golden to a brown color that will taste burned (you’ll have to do all over again).
  • Remove pan from the heat and add paprika in the skillet. Stir off the heat for one minute.
  • Return the pan to medium-low heat and ladle in some of the soup broth (make sure no beans, just the broth). Add it in small batches while stirring so it will thicken. If it seems lumpy, switch from using a spoon to a whisk to get out any lumps. Keep on adding broth and stirring until you added in all the broth.
  • Add the roux and the vinegar to the soup and cook for 10 minutes more. Mom likes to drizzle on a little extra-virgin olive oil at the end to give it a nice shine. If soup is too thick, add 1-2 cups additional water and stir.
  • Slow cooker method: Add into the slow cooker the beans, celery, carrots, onion, garlic, bay leaves and ham bone. Cover with water.  Cook the soup on low for 6-8 hours. When you make the roux, that gets added in the last 30 minutes to thicken up the soup (and that’s when you can add the extra ham chunks). Check seasoning and add any salt and pepper, if needed. When ready, discard bay leaf. Remove ham bone and use a fork to remove any ham that is flaking off and add to the soup.

Notes

HAM BONE SUBSTITUTES:
Every butcher at most any market should be able to supply you with a ham bone (and they're inexpensive). But in case you can't get one...
Ham hocks or even smoked ham shanks are a nice substitution if you do not have leftover ham bone. Shank has more meat, which is better for this recipe.
Uncooked smoked bacon or even salted pork are good substitutions, if you can't get ham shank or hock.
If you're unable to use a ham bone or any of the substitutes: replace 8 cups of water with  chicken broth. 
SKIM SOUP: If you notice any foamy scum on top, simply skim it off. You could use a large metal spoon and grab it off the top of the soup (this happens from the fat in the meat in any soup). 
BOUILLON:
I love to use vegetable based bouillon paste. You could also use bouillon cubes or add in some no-sodium broth in place of the water (I would use chicken or vegetable).
BEANS: Go ahead and use whatever white beans you have on hand (cannellini, navy, or even pinto beans would work). Dried beans are ideal, just be sure to soak them overnight. Or follow mom’s recipe of slowly simmering them that I mention in the recipe above.
THICKENING: I explain how to make a roux to thicken the soup. If you want to skip the roux step, you could even mash up some of the beans and add them back into the soup and stir it to combine.
REHEAT: The soup will keep on thickening as it cools and while stored in the fridge. You will have to add a bit of water to loosen it up and thin it a little to reheat.