Hello everyone, I’m back with another comforting recipe that’s a real hit at my family table! As a mom of two energetic boys and wife to a wonderful husband, I’m always on the hunt for hearty meals that I can prep in advance.
Meals that can simmer away on their own, filling the house with delicious aromas. While I juggle between school runs, homework, and my baking projects.
That’s why I adore my slow cooker. It’s a game-changer for busy families like ours! And today, I want to share with you a simple, yet incredibly satisfying recipe: Slow Cooker Beans and Ham.
This is a dish that combines the earthy, robust flavors of mixed beans with the savory, comforting goodness of ham, all slowly cooked to perfection in a rich, homemade chicken broth.
It’s a meal that guarantees empty plates and second helpings from my boys and husband every time!
Understanding Your Ham
In this slow cooker beans and ham recipe, the choice of ham plays a significant role in determining the final flavor of the dish. Ham, with its savory and slightly sweet notes, imparts a unique taste that balances the earthiness of the beans perfectly.
While there are many types of ham available in the market, for this recipe, we’re looking for a ham that can hold its own during the slow cooking process. A 2-3 pound piece, cut into chunks, is ideal.
It’s substantial enough to provide a meaty bite in every spoonful while distributing its flavors evenly throughout the broth.
Don’t feel restricted to a specific type of ham. You could go for a smoked ham for a deeper, smokier flavor. Or perhaps a honey-glazed ham if you prefer a touch of sweetness in your dish.
The key here is to choose a ham you love, as its flavor will be front and center in this delicious, slow-cooked meal. Remember, the best recipes are the ones that you can tweak to your family’s tastes, and this recipe is no exception!
Unveiling the Beans
When it comes to the beans in this recipe, I’ve found that a mix of Pinto and Northern Beans works wonders. These beans are not just filler ingredients! They’re nutritious powerhouses that contribute significantly to the overall health quotient of this meal.
Pinto beans are a staple in Mexican cuisine, known for their creamy texture and ability to absorb flavors well. They’re packed with protein and fiber, which makes them a great choice for a filling, satisfying meal.
Northern Beans are larger than Pinto and have a delicate, mild flavor. They hold their shape well during the slow cooking process, adding a delightful texture to our dish.
The combination of these two varieties creates a perfect balance of taste and texture in our slow cooker beans and ham. They also add a good dose of fiber and protein, making this dish a healthy option for our family meals.
Should the Beans be soaked?
A common question that pops up when dealing with dry beans is whether they need to be soaked before cooking. The truth is, both methods have their own merits.
Pre-soaking beans can help decrease cooking time and make the beans more digestible for some people. However, in this slow cooker beans and ham recipe, soaking isn’t necessary. Why, you ask?
Well, we’re cooking our beans for an extended period in the slow cooker, which gives them ample time to soften and absorb the flavors of the ham and the chicken broth.
Moreover, skipping the soaking step doesn’t just save time, it also ensures that our beans retain their maximum flavor and nutritional content. Which can be partially lost during the soaking process.
So, in this recipe, we keep it simple: sort, rinse, and straight into the slow cooker they go!
The Recipe Unfolded: A Step-by-Step Guide
Creating this hearty slow cooker beans and ham dish is a breeze. Even with the busy schedules we juggle every day, we can still deliver a comforting, home-cooked meal for our loved ones. Let’s walk through each step together.
Sorting and Rinsing the Beans
The first step is to sort through your beans. This may seem tedious, but it’s an essential step to ensure there are no little stones hiding among them or any beans that look past their prime.
After sorting, give the beans a good rinse. This not only cleans the beans, but also removes any loose skins or dust.
Layering the Ingredients
Now, let’s begin building our flavors. Place your clean, sorted beans in the slow cooker. Then, nestle your chunked ham on top.
The ham on top helps its flavors drip down into the beans as it cooks, permeating the entire dish with its savory goodness.
Adding the Broth
Next, pour in your chicken broth. Making your own broth can significantly elevate the taste of your dish, and it’s more budget-friendly than store-bought versions.
If you prefer a store-bought one for convenience, go for a low-sodium option to control the saltiness of your dish.
Setting the Cook Time
Now, set your slow cooker to low and let it do its magic for about 12 hours. If you’re short on time, setting it on high for about 8 hours works just as well. The goal is to cook it until the beans are tender and the flavors well integrated.
Shredding the Ham
Once cooked, shred the ham into smaller pieces. This ensures that there’s a bit of ham in every bite, distributing its flavor evenly throughout the dish.
Finally, serve your delicious slow cooker beans and ham with a side of cornbread. The sweetness of the cornbread complements the savory beans and ham, rounding out the meal perfectly.
Achieving the Ideal Consistency
Now that we’ve cooked our beans and ham to perfection, the next question that often arises is how to reach the perfect consistency for this dish. After all, we’re aiming for a thick, hearty meal rather than a watery soup.
The beauty of slow cooking is that it allows the flavors and textures to develop over time. As the beans cook, they naturally break down and release their starches into the broth.
This process naturally thickens the broth, transforming it into a rich and hearty sauce that coats every bite.
If, however, you find that your dish is not as thick as you’d like, there are a few tricks you can use to adjust the consistency. You could remove a portion of the beans, mash them, and then return them to the pot.
Alternatively, you could let the dish cool slightly, and then reheat it. Both these methods will encourage further thickening.
Remember, though, that the dish will continue to thicken as it cools, so it’s best to err on the side of a looser consistency when it’s still hot.
Tips for Storage and Freezing
Once you’ve savored this comforting slow cooker beans and ham dish, it’s likely you’ll have some leftovers, as this recipe is generous!
But worry not, this meal is just as delicious when reheated, making it perfect for those busy days when cooking from scratch isn’t an option.
Storing in the Refrigerator
To store the leftovers, let the beans and ham cool completely before transferring them into an airtight container. They can then be refrigerated and enjoyed within the next 3–4 days.
Freezing for Longer Storage
If you wish to store the dish for a longer period, freezing is a great option. Place the cooled leftovers in freezer-safe containers or heavy-duty freezer bags, leaving some space for expansion.
The frozen beans and ham can last for up to 3 months while maintaining their quality.
When you’re ready to dig in again, if refrigerated, simply reheat the beans and ham on the stove over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until heated through. For frozen leftovers, it’s best to let them thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating.
Slow Cooker Beans and Ham
- Slow Cooker
- 2-3 Lbs Ham Chunks
- 2 Lbs Pinto and Northern Beans
- 12 Cups Chicken Broth
- 1/2 Tsp Ground black pepper
- Sort through the beans to make sure there are not any rocks or odd looking beans.
- Rinse and place beans in the slow cooker.
- Place the ham on top of the beans and then pour in the chicken broth.
- Cook on low for 12 hours (high for 8 hours), and/or until the beans are tender.
- Shred the ham to distribute it among the beans.
- Serve with cornbread.
More Slow Cooker Meals
If your slow cooker is your primary means of dinner production, I have some more great recipes here for you: