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A large white tureen filled with smoked hams and white bean stew.

Smoked Ham and White Bean Stew

Course: Soup or Stew, Stew
Cuisine: American, German
Keyword: ham and kale stew recipe, how to make smoked ham and bean stew, how to prep dried beans
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Bean soak: 12 hours
Total Time: 13 hours 50 minutes
Servings: 12 people
Calories: 227kcal
This stew is an instant family classic. The flavors are so deep, and so comforting. Perfect for a cold, winter day. The aroma will fill your house with pure joy.
Print Recipe


  • 8 Qt Dutch Oven, or any large pot


  • 2 cups white beans dried
  • 2 tbsp bacon fat or unsalted butter, olive oil
  • 1 cup onion chopped
  • 1 cup celery chopped
  • 1 cup carrot chopped
  • 5 garlic cloves minced
  • 1 jalapeno pepper stemmed, seeded, and chopped
  • 2 bay leaves
  • tsp Kosher salt or more to taste
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper or more to taste
  • ¼ tsp cayenne pepper
  • 2 lbs smoked ham cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 2 tbsp whole-grain mustard
  • 1 tbsp rosemary fresh, chopped
  • 9 cups chicken stock
  • 3 cups kale


Do Ahead

  • Place the beans in a large pot with enough water to cover them by 2 inches. Soak overnight.

Make the Stew

  • Heat the bacon grease (or butter or oil) in a heavy pot (preferably a Dutch oven) over medium-high heat. Add the onion, celery, carrot, garlic, jalapeno, bay leaves, salt, pepper, and cayenne and cook, stirring until the veggies have softened, about 10 minutes.
  • Add the ham, mustard, and rosemary, cook for 3 minutes more, stirring occasionally.
  • Remove any beans from the pot that have floated to the top. Drain and pick over any skins that have come loose. Add the beans to the sautéed vegetables along with the chicken stock. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and cook the stew at a simmer for 1 hour.
  • Add the kale and cook for 30 minutes more.
  • Turn off the heat and let sit for 15 minutes, discard the bay leaves.
  • You can serve the soup as is at this point, but, to make it creamier...puree 2 cups of the stew in a food processor or blender and return to the stew. Stir until fully incorporated.
  • Taste for more seasonings, adding more salt and pepper if desired.



We love using Great Northern White or navy beans for this stew, but pinto, red, or kidney beans would work, too.  See below for how to fast-track the beans for cooking. 
In the video, we sauté the vegetables along with 5 fresh bay leaves and then remove 3 of them before simmering.   We've played around with the number of bay leaves every time we make the stew, and we think going with 2 to 3 bay leaves from the beginning is just right.  If you love the almost minty taste of bay leaves, then go with 5.  Wesley (The Loon) thinks 2 to 3 is best, and I (Kris) agrees. 
The stew can will keep in the fridge for up to 1 week.  We think it's even better the next few days after it has time to let the flavors really meld.
The stew freezes beautifully for up to 2 months.
  • Hot Soak. In a large pot, add 10 cups of water for each pound (2 cups) of dry beans. Heat to boiling; boil for 2–3 minutes. Remove from heat, cover, and soak for up to 4 hours. 
  • Quick Soak. This is the fastest method. In a large pot, add 6 cups of water for each pound (2 cups) of dry beans. Heat to boiling; boil for 2–3 minutes. Remove from heat, cover, and soak for at least 1 hour.
  • Traditional Overnight Soak. This is the easiest method. Place dry beans in a large container; for each pound (2 cups) of beans, add 10 cups of cold water. Cover and refrigerate 8 hours or overnight.  Drain and proceed with the recipe. 


Calories: 227kcal | Carbohydrates: 19g | Protein: 21g | Fat: 8g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Cholesterol: 44mg | Sodium: 1521mg | Potassium: 725mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin A: 3535IU | Vitamin C: 24mg | Calcium: 82mg | Iron: 3mg