This Ham and White Bean Chowder is the perfect recipe to use up leftover ham. The salty ham enhances the subtle flavor of the white beans, and cream gives a silky smooth finish to the broth. Even better - this recipe only takes thirty minutes to pull together!
Note: this post was originally published in 2019 and updated in 2020 with new photos and improved instructions.
If you are currently sitting on a huge hunk of leftover holiday ham and you're already sick of ham sandwiches, this recipe for ham and white bean chowder will come in handy for you! And, since you may be tired of cooking after the holidays, the even better part is that this recipe is simple to make and takes only about 30 minutes from start to finish!
Love creamy dishes as much as I do? You have to try this recipe for Creamy Cajun Chicken Pasta!
- Canned white beans: I used cannellini beans, but this recipe will work equally as well with any type of canned white bean.
- Cream or half and half: you have the choice of using either half and half, light cream, or heavy cream. The results will vary based on which you choose. Half and half will have the lightest broth; heavy cream will be very rich. And of course, light cream is somewhere in the middle. My preference is using light cream!
- Ham: you can use any type of ham you have, either leftover spiral ham or even a ham steak. You can even try using turkey ham!
Step by step photos
1. Chop the ham into cubes (or squares if your ham is pre-sliced). Cut the carrots, onion and celery.
2. Cook the ham, veggies, dried thyme, salt and pepper in the butter until the onions start to soften and some liquid begins to release.
3. Add the water and beans (undrained!) and simmer until the carrots are soft.
4. Then, add in the half and half or cream. Taste the soup and add more salt and/or pepper if needed.
Tips and tricks
Keep the beans from sticking to the bottom of the can
Here is a very tiny bean hack for you. Does it annoy you how the bottom layer of beans in a can sometimes get stuck to the bottom? This is especially irksome when you don't need to rinse the beans like in this recipe.
To prevent this, shake the can of beans vigorously before you open it! In this picture, I shook the can on the right for ten seconds before opening. All the beans slid right out!
Other helpful tips
- If you are not in the mood to peel carrots (which I totally understand!) you can also use a couple handfuls of baby carrots and give them a rough chop. You will need about 1 ½ cups of chopped carrots. But, the amount doesn't need to be exact!
- To get the soup up to a boil faster, you can use the hottest water from your tap, or pre-boil the water in an electric kettle while the veggies cook! I like using the electric kettle because it already has measurements on the side. To speed up the process even more, you can place a lid on the pot just while you are waiting for it to come to a boil.
- If you are using leftover ham and have a ham bone, throw that in too! It will add some nice additional flavor to the soup broth.
You can store the soup in the fridge, in an airtight container, for 3 days. Since the soup has cream (or half and half) in it, you will need to reheat it gently so it doesn't split. I like to do this on the stovetop so you can see everything that's happening. Just heat it in a saucepan over low heat, stirring frequently, and avoid boiling the soup.
I don't recommend freezing soup that has cream in it because I think the broth gets kind of grainy and separated when it thaws.
But, if you want to freeze the soup, you could prepare the soup but stop right before adding in the cream and freeze it at that point. Then, when you are ready to serve the soup, thaw it out and heat it gently on the stove, and just add the cream in at the end!
This is a pretty hearty and filling soup, especially if you use cream instead of half and half. So, I like to keep it simple and serve with crusty bread and a green salad!
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Ham and White Bean Chowder
Ham, white beans, and vegetables are sautéed in butter, then simmered in water to form a broth. Cream added at the end provides a silky richness. This is the perfect use for leftover ham, and is ready in 30 minutes or less!
- Prep Time: 10
- Cook Time: 20
- Total Time: 30 minutes
- Yield: 4 - 6 servings 1x
- Category: Main Course
- Method: Stovetop
- Cuisine: American
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 ½ pounds cooked ham
- 1 medium onion
- 2 medium carrots
- 2 stalks of celery
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste (see note 1)
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 2 cups water
- 2 cans cannellini beans (or any type of canned white beans)
- 1 cup half & half, light cream, or heavy whipping cream (see note 2)
1. Peel the carrots. Chop the carrots, onion, celery and ham into roughly ½ inch pieces. (If your ham is already sliced, just cut it up into bite-sized squares.)
2. Heat the butter in a stock pot on medium high heat. Add in the vegetables and ham, plus the kosher salt (see note 1), pepper, and dried thyme.
3. Sauté, stirring frequently, until the ham and vegetables start to give off some liquid and the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. (If you have an electric kettle: half way through the cooking time, start heating 2 cups of water in the kettle.)
4. Add 2 cups of water to the pot, either already boiling (see step 3 above), or very hot from the tap. Add the 2 cans of beans, undrained, to the pot.
5. Turn the heat up to high until the soup begins to boil. (You can cover the pot if you want to speed up the boiling process; uncover the pot again once the soup is boiling.) Turn the heat down to medium or medium low to maintain a simmer.
6. Simmer for 10 minutes or until the carrots are tender. Turn the heat off and add the half & half or cream, stir to combine. Taste the soup and add more salt and/or pepper if needed.
- The amount of salt needed will vary based on how salty your ham is. If your ham is very salty, add only ½ teaspoon of salt to begin with. Then, taste the soup at the end and add in more if needed. If your soup turns out too salty, you can add in a splash more cream.
- Using half & half will yield a lighter soup broth and whipping cream will be rich and super creamy; light cream will be in-between. (I prefer using the light cream!)
- You can store the soup in the fridge, in an airtight container, for up to 3 days. To reheat the soup, heat it in a saucepan over low heat, stirring frequently, and avoid bringing it to a boil.
Keywords: ham soup, ham and white bean soup, ham chowder, ham and white bean chowder, white bean chowder
This sounds like a delicious way to use some of the ham from Easter 🙂 I never thought to shake the can of beans before opening! That will definitely make it easier to get them out haha. I only have salted butter so I will probably leave out the extra salt tho.
Yes I think that's a good idea to go easy on the salt, you can always taste it at the end and add a bit more if needed. And I'm glad you found the bean can trick useful!
Ham and white bean chowder is an amazing way to use up that holiday ham and create a brand new meal the family adores!
Thank you Amy!
What a delicious soup! It's such a smart way to use up leftover ham and it's awesome that it's ready in 30 minutes too. I love the food tips you included, especially on saving time on getting soup to boil. I've never thought to pre-boil water with a kettle. I need to give it a try next time.
Thank you so much Marie! I'm all about saving time where I can (that way I can eat sooner haha!).
I didn't have any milk so I used last milk and added corn starch to thicken. Tastes great, thanks
That's a great idea Max, I'm so happy you enjoyed the recipe!