Smoked ham or turkey bones are one of the most underrated (not to mention easiest) ways to add deep, savory flavor to whatever you're making — and this soup is no exception. Grab them from the butcher or out of your freezer, pick up a bag of those dried bean blends in the grocery store, throw everything else into the slow cooker with some water, and go about your day.
When you come back, the water will magically transform into a thick, comforting broth that holds tender beans, vegetables, and shreds of tasty, smoky meat.
Smoked Meat = Flavor
The kind of smoked meat you use here is really quite flexible: turkey or ham legs give you the most meat, but ham hocks and wings still contribute tons of flavor and smokiness. It also means that the soup can be made with water and not broth.
Bean Blend, Not Bean Soup
It turns out that there are as many dried bean blends out there as there are brands. Each brand seems to have their own blend, from a few different kinds of beans to up to 15! Just pick up what's available (and don't worry if the package isn't exactly a pound) — but make sure it's not a soup blend that has added dried vegetables, spices, or herbs to it.
There's also no need to soak the beans beforehand, as the long stint in the slow cooker does all the hard work to yield soft, flavorful beans. A tiny of spoonful of apple cider vinegar at the end brings sharpness and focus to all the long-simmered flavors, so don't skip the step — you'll be amazed at the difference it makes!
Easy Slow Cooker Bean Soup
Makes about 2 1/2 quarts; serves 6 to 8
- For the soup:
(2 quarts) water
bag (about 1 pound) dried bean blend (not bean soup blend)
1 1/2 to 2 pounds
smoked ham hocks, ham bone, or turkey leg or wings
medium yellow onion, small dice
peeled and diced carrots
freshly ground black pepper
- To finish:
Apple cider vinegar
Coarsely chopped fresh parsley leaves
Place all the soup ingredients in a 6-quart or larger slow cooker, making sure everything is submerged in water. Cover and cook on the LOW setting until the beans are tender, 8 to 10 hours.
Using tongs, transfer the ham or turkey onto a cutting board and let cool slightly. Meanwhile, stir the soup, taste, and season with salt and vinegar (1/2 teaspoon of vinegar at a time) as needed. Remove the meat from the bones, shred, and stir back into the soup (discard the bones and any skin). If you want a thinner broth, add water as needed. Serve topped with parsley.
Storage: Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or frozen for up to 3 months.