A leftover ham bone makes the best soup! Hearty, delicious, and very customizable. It’s ideal in potato, bean, or split pea soups, all of which follow the same basic formula.
One of the very best parts about enjoying a delicious ham is the resulting ham bone that is an absolute treasure for soup making. Whatever you do – don’t throw it out! Just a few simple steps to transform it into the most comforting soup.
HOW TO MAKE HAM BONE SOUP
No matter what kind of soup you’re making with your ham bone (bean, split pea, or potato), they’ll all follow the same very easy and customizable formula:
- Prep your ham bone.
- Cook aromatics; add seasonings.
- Add ham bone, water, beans/potatoes and simmer.
- Remove ham bone and stir in diced ham.
PREPPING A HAM BONE FOR SOUP
Cut off as much of the meat as you can. The bone itself will give so much flavor to the soup, so you really don’t need extra meat on there.
Here’s what we do with the meat:
Slices – We use the sliced ham for more ham sandwiches than are probably advisable as part of a balanced diet. Whatever we won’t use in 2-3 days, I freeze for later. (You could also dice this ham.)
Wedges of good ham – Parts that aren’t neatly spiral sliced, I lob off and either dice or slice thick to use as ham steaks.
Fatty or gristly pieces – I save any ‘reject’ pieces in the freezer to use in future soups. (They make great broth if you don’t have a ham bone available.)
I also like to rinse off any remaining glaze from the exterior of my ham before chopping or using in soup because I don’t like the sweetness it adds.
Once you’ve trimmed the ham bone as much as you can, it’s ready for soup!
Onions and garlic are a must. If you want extra veggies, slice 2-3 stalks of celery and 2-3 carrots and add them with the diced onion and garlic. I like to add a diced potato to bean soups, too, to help thicken them up.
The recipe below calls for 8-10 cups of water. I recommend starting with 8 cups and adding more if needed. I don’t use broth because the ham bone adds so much flavor and salt that I don’t find it necessary.
I prefer to not use any of the meat from the ham bone in the final soup. By the time it’s simmered in the soup, it’s really had the flavor cooked out of it. I discard the ham bone and stir in 1 1/2 cups of the diced ham that I got when prepping the bone.
A NOTE ABOUT SALT
This is a rare food that you should wait until the end to salt. Ham is so salty that I usually don’t need to add any.
FREEZING A HAM BONE
If you want to save your ham bone to use later, you can freeze it in an airtight container for 2-3 months. Transfer it to the fridge to thaw 2-3 days before you want to make soup.
Any of these soups can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days, or frozen for up to 3 months.
Split Pea Soup with Leftover Ham Bone
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 large yellow onion, diced
- 1 1/2 cups sliced carrot (optional)
- 1 cup sliced celery (optional)
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 pound dried split green peas (see note for variations)
- 1 medium red skin potato, diced (optional)
- 1 ham bone
- 8-10 cups water (see note)
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 1/2 cups diced ham
- Melt the butter in a large stock pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion, carrot, celery, and garlic and cook until softened – about 5 minutes. Stir in the pepper and thyme and cook 1 minute more. Stir in the split peas and diced potato. Place the ham bone on top and pour over the water. Tuck in bay leaves. Bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cover. Simmer 1 to 1 1/2 hours – until peas are cooked through and potatoes and carrots are soft.Remove ham bone and discard. Stir in the diced ham. Adjust seasoning to taste and add additional water if desired. Serve hot.Soup can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days, or frozen for up to 3 months.
- Potato soup – Use 6 cups of peeled and diced potatoes instead of the split peas and add them when there are 15 minutes of cook time left.
- Bean soup – Substitute a pound of dried beans for the split peas. Navy beans or a mixed bag both work well here.