My mom used to make us this hearty Navy Bean Soup regularly when I was a kid. The simple harmony of slowly simmered beans and pork was lost on me back then, but I’m happy to report that I’ve since seen the error of my ways. These days, I make this deliciously savory recipe throughout soup season — it’s perfect with a warm slice of homemade bread with butter!
The only real drawback of my mom’s navy bean recipe is that it’s a fully old fashioned, all-day crockpot affair. I rarely have the foresight to plan and execute crockpot recipes, so I’ve adapted her recipe so I can make it in my Instant Pot. (After all, I cook dry beans in my Instant Pot all the time, so this felt like a natural next step!)
The Instant Pot recipe is super fast and super delicious, but I’ve also included the original crockpot method for those who would prefer make this recipe the old fashioned way. (No crockpot? No problem — you can make it on your stovetop just as easily!)
What Are Navy Beans, And Why Are They Called That?
Navy beans are small, white beans, sometimes called pea beans or white pea beans. They are smaller than great northern beans or Cannellini beans (which are white kidney beans), and they’re often used to make baked beans. The U.S. Navy has been feeding them to its sailors since the 1800s, earning them the nickname “navy beans” that they’ve had ever since!
Navy beans are a healthy food, too. A half cup of navy beans has 128 calories, 9.6 grams of fiber, and 23.7 grams of complex carbohydrates. Not only are they high in fiber, but you can even use beans in baking to cut fat and calories. But enough about beans — let’s get to that soup!
Easy Navy Bean Soup Recipe
- 16 oz navy beans, rinsed and drained
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 3 slices smoked bacon, chopped (or 1 smoked ham hock)
- 10 cups water or chicken broth (or a combination)
- Salt and pepper, to taste
Pressure Cooker Directions
Place the chopped bacon in your Instant Pot, select the Sauté function, then cook until the bacon starts getting crispy and add the chopped onions. Rinse the beans well, then when the bacon is crisp and the onions are soft, add the rinsed beans, water (and/or stock), and salt and pepper. (The soup turns out just fine using water, but stock lends a deeper, more savory flavor.)
Place the lid on your Instant Pot, press the Manual or Pressure Cook button, then set to cook on high pressure for 23 minutes. When the timer goes off, let the pot release pressure naturally for 10 minutes, then use the Quick Release valve to release any pressure remaining in the pot.
Bonus Tip: If your soup looks a bit thin, use a ladle to scoop out some of the beans and blend them in your blender until they’re silky smooth. Add the blended beans back to the soup and stir well.
Serve your bean and bacon soup warm, topped some chopped fresh parsley, if desired. This truly is one of my favorite Instant Pot recipes!
Fill your crockpot about three-quarters of the way full with water (or stock, or a bit of both), then add the onions and a ham shank or hock, and season with salt and pepper. (Bacon works just fine if you’re making this in a pressure cooker, but for the crockpot method, it’s critical to use a ham hock! If you’re not sure where to find one, ask at the meat counter at the grocery store.)
Turn your crockpot on low and let the soup cook all day (about 6-10 hours), then serve warm.
Looking for a quicker cooking time, but don’t want to use a pressure cooker (or don’t have one)? This method is a great option!
The night before you plan to have the soup, sort through the dry beans and remove any small stones or debris, then rinse them thoroughly before soaking the beans overnight. In the morning, drain and rinse the beans, then store them in the fridge until you’re ready to make the soup.
Around 3 hours before dinnertime, heat some olive oil in a large soup pot, then sauté the onion until soft. Add the beans, ham hock, salt, and black pepper, then cover with the water and/or chicken or veggie stock and bring to a boil. Once the soup is boiling, reduce the heat to low and simmer for 2-3 hours, stirring occasionally.
Once it boils, lower the heat down to simmer and let the soup cook for at least 2 to 2-1/2 hours, stirring occasionally. (If you need to add liquid, make sure it’s hot first — cold water could make the beans turn out tough, rather than tender.) Serve warm, garnished with parsley or other fresh herbs.
Tasty Add-In & Other Suggestions
While there’s a delicious simplicity to this great recipe, there are plenty of ways to adjust it to suit your taste and preferences. While sautéing the onions, you could add some diced carrots and celery or minced garlic. Try adding a bay leaf or sprig of fresh thyme as the soup simmers, discarding it before serving.
To add more delicate vegetables like peas, add those about 30 minutes before the end of the cooking time (in your crockpot or on your stove top, obviously). You could even add cooked, pureed veggies (like squash, carrots, or peas) to the soup and cook for 5 minutes more — it’s an easy way to eat more vegetables and make your soup more flavorful.
The sky’s the limit with bean soups like these, so add whatever veggies, herbs, and spices the whole family will enjoy. (Got a leftover ham bone or some chopped ham? Toss it in for added meaty flavor!)
Storing Leftover Navy Bean Soup
Store any leftover soup in an airtight container in your fridge for up to one week, or freeze it for up to 3 months. (To freeze the soup, let it cool completely, then seal in a freezer-safe container.)
To reheat frozen soup leftovers, thaw them in your fridge overnight and reheat on the stove. You can also freeze the soup in individual servings and and reheat them in your microwave (a great option to have when you get home late and need a quick meal!)
BONUS: 2 Quick Shortcuts For Soaking Beans
Forgot to soak your dry beans overnight? Here are a couple of ways to speed up the process and soften beans fast:
- Recommended Shortcut: To soak 16 ounces of beans, cook them in 10 cups of boiling water for 2-3 minutes, then remove from heat and cover the beans for 4 hours. Rinse and drain before using.
- Even Quicker Shortcut: Cook 16 ounces of beans in 6 cups of boiling water for 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat, cover, and let sit for one hour or more.
Have you ever made navy bean soup from scratch?
Old Fashioned Navy Bean Soup
- 16 oz dry navy beans
- 1 small onion chopped
- 1 ham hock or 3 slices smoked bacon
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 10 cups water or chicken broth
Instant Pot Version
- Chop 3 slices of bacon, place them in your Instant Pot, and turn on the “Sauté” function.
- When the bacon starts getting crispy, add the chopped onions and cook until they're soft.
- Add the beans, water and/or stock, and salt and pepper, then place the lid on the pot, select Manual or Pressure Cook, cook on High for 23 minutes.
- Let the pressure release naturally for 10 minutes, then Quick Release the remaining pressure.
- To thicken the soup, scoop out some of the beans, blend until smooth, then stir them back into the soup.
- Serve with fresh parsley, if desired.
- Soak the beans overnight, then rinse, drain, and add them to your crockpot.
- Fill the crockpot 3/4 of the way with water, then add the chopped onion, a ham hock, and salt and pepper. (The ham hock is crucial in this version!)
- Turn your crockpot on low cook all day.
- Serve with fresh parsley, if desired.
Stove Top Version
- Soak beans overnight, drain, rinse, and sort out any small stones.
- Refrigerate beans until 3 hours before dinner time.
- Sauté onion and bacon (if using) in large soup pot.
- Add remaining ingredients, bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer for 2 to 2-1/2 hours.