For as long as I can remember, the hallmark of Navy Bean soup has been the old standby, Senate Navy Bean soup – wonderful as it is, I’ve found that even those who don’t care for it like this highly flavorful Navy Bean Soup with Bacon. I’ve been making this soup for close to 40 years, now, and it is, hands down, my family’s all time favorite.
I know there’s a few “strange” ingredients in this soup that aren’t often found in your basic bean soups. Trust me on this one, none of the flavors stand out on their own – the soy, thyme and oregano blend beautifully; the potato with the milk lends just enough body to make the broth wonderfully satisfying, and the bacon – what can I say?
This soup is the perfect candidate for your left over ham bone. Try it – you’ll thank me, and so will your wallet! 12 servings of this soup run $2.95, so there is room in your budget for a marvelous corn bread and/or salad.
Recipe: Navy Bean Soup with Bacon, serves 12
- 1 pound dried navy beans, soaked overnight
- 1 ham bone
- 6 slices bacon, diced
- 12 cups chicken stock or water or a combination
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 tablespoon tamari or soy sauce
- 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1/2 pound potatoes, peeled and diced (one very large or two medium)
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1 1/4 cups chopped celery (around 3 good-sized stalks)
- 1 1/4 cups chopped onion (3 medium)
- 1 1/4 cups chopped carrot (3 large)
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 1/4 cup chopped parsley
- 1/2 teaspoon oregano
- Salt and Pepper to taste
- chopped parsley, chives or sliced green onion for garnish, as desired.
Drain beans, rinse if desired. Place in a large pot and add 12 cups of stock, bay leaf, tamari and thyme, along with the ham bone. Bring to a boil and simmer 30 – 40 minutes, till beans are just tender.
Meanwhile, in another pan, cook potatoes in boiling water until tender. Drain and mash potatoes with 1/2 cup milk and set aside.
Fry bacon, remove and set aside, then saute vegetables, garlic and parsley in three tablespoons of drippings. (Note: if you’re watching your cholesterol, use oil.) If there are not enough drippings, add a bit of oil or butter. After the vegetables have softened, add to beans along with the oregano, and simmer, one hour or so.
Remove about one cup of beans and the bone, along with any chunks of meat. (Note: although I’m not overly picky about this, I do try to avoid the carrots as I remove the beans – most of the carrots will be floating on the top. They can make the soup look orange when mashed.)
Mash the beans and return to the pot along with the mashed potato mixture. Shred the chunks of ham and any ham remaining on the bone. Discard bone and return meat to the pot.
Simmer gently about 10 more minutes to thicken the soup. Taste for seasoning and add salt or pepper as desired. Crumble the reserved bacon and sprinkle over the individual servings. Garnish with reserved bacon, parsley, chives or sliced green onion, as desired.
Note: The bacon may be mixed in with the soup instead of being used as a garnish, although I prefer it crisp on the top; it will lose it’s crispness if mixed in with the soup as a whole.
Let’s talk about how to save money/time on this recipe:
- Use a coupon matching site! One of my favorites in my area is Pocket Your Dollars, but every store has a group of enthusiastic Coupon Matchers. Do not discount the savings! I check their site every week, even if I don’t “need” to go to the store and often find bargains I can’t pass up.
- Follow my 12 Strategies – You’ll see them on the upper drop down menu of every page and how I apply them, below.
- Don’t get discouraged if your prices don’t match mine! Keep shopping at the best prices and your fridge/freezer and pantry will be stocked with sales priced ingredients.
- Read below for additional tips as well as throughout the recipe, for saving time and managing food.
- Make a double batch of this soup – it freezes beautifully. It will separate during the freezing process; simply stir back together as you reheat. Consider freezing in meal sized and individual portions so you’ll have some for lunches. I will often cook, crumble and freeze bacon for the second batch, in a Ziploc bag, and then open the frozen soup and place the bag inside and reseal. Before I defrost, I remove the bag of frozen bacon and reheat it in the microwave when I serve.
- Consider making a large batch of ham broth from the bone, then freeze half and use half for this soup. Alternatively, make two soups from the broth: divide the broth and ham into two pots, cut up the vegetables for both soups at the same time. Think Navy Bean and perhaps Cuban Black Bean or Split Pea.
- Beans: The lowly bean is one of the healthiest foods one can eat – eating beans regularly basically eliminates the issues so commonly known. Dried beans are so inexpensive to start with that they are seldom advertised as being on “sale,” but they often are after any Holiday in which Ham is considered an option for the main meal. Check for great pricing, too, in the ethnic aisles of the grocery store, as well as the pasta/bean aisle. Prices range, on sale, from $.79 to $1.00 a pound. Aldi’s had three-pound bags for $2.39, which is the lower number.
- If you’re used to buying canned beans, unless a 15 ounce can is less than 26 cents with sales and coupons, they are more than the 79 cent per pound price at Aldi’s. A fifteen ounce can is about 1 1/2 cups of beans, and a pound is roughly the equivalent of 3 cans. Cost for this soup, 79 cents.
- Ham Bone: I don’t really count the cost of the Ham bone, although technically, it would probably be priced out per pound the same price as the ham. They vary so in size and amount of meat left, and I consider it a throw away item. When I save my ham bone, I also save any drippings left over from the cooking.
- Bacon: Used to be an inexpensive ingredient, its price has risen with its popularity. Let’s face it, bacon isn’t the healthiest – we seldom use it here on its own as a meat, but do use it in small amounts in recipes, where I consider it as a “flavoring” rather than a protein. I buy on store specials and take advantage of coupons – my go to price is between $2.00 and $3.00 a package. I freeze until needed, partially thaw (until a knife will go through) and cut across the bacon from top to bottom. 1/16th is the same size as a strip. I wrap the bacon back up and freeze again.
- If we’re making something like a BLT, I’ll think about cooking a bit extra for something like this recipe. Cost for the bacon for this soup, $2.89 for the last pound bought, 6 slices is $1.08.
- Chicken Broth: I always make my own with leftover bones and parts. Cost free.
- Tamari or Soy Sauce: Substitute regular soy sauce if you don’t have Tamari on hand. Often on sale during the Asian New Years, and often with coupons – Soy Sauce is an item I normally am able to pick up at no cost. Even without coupons, a tablespoon is just pennies.
- Potatoes: If you have leftover mashed potatoes from your ham dinner, use them instead of cooking up potato and mashing it with milk. Potatoes are dirt cheap – look for a great sales price of $1.99 for 10 pounds in the fall and winter; regular sales price is $1.99 for five pounds in my area. Store in a cool dry area, not near your onions – I like to store in a loosely closed paper bag.
- Don’t know what to do with a large bag? Make what recipes you’d like to, then make Freezer Twice Baked Potatoes with the rest. I often pick out the smaller, misshapen potatoes for mashing and save the more regular sized ones for baking or other recipes. Cost for this recipe: 10 cents.
- Milk: About $2.50 a gallon in my area on sale, the cost for this recipe runs about 18 cents. Buy on sale – unopened it keeps a bit past it’s “sale by” date – then you can pick up one for the beginning of the week, and another at the end of the week for the week following.
- Be careful with your milk, and even opened it will last a lot longer – pour, lid and put away, don’t bring it to the table or leave it on the counter while you eat dinner or down your cereal and you’ll notice it stay fresh last MUCH longer. We’ve cut way back on dairy, as most health experts suggest – putting it away helps with that, too. Cost for 1/2 cup, about 8 cents.
- Celery: generally inexpensive, but does go on sale from time to time, so I buy extra when it does. Celery keeps so well, there’s no reason to not buy when it’s not on sale. Remember to use your leaves, they’re full of flavor, and if you don’t use them in your cooking, save them, along with the bottom parts for soup or stock. Always wash your celery extremely well. To keep longer, slip a plastic bag loosely over the exposed top of the celery. A good price in my area is 98 cents a sleeve, with about 15 or so stalks in a sleeve. Cost for Celery, 20 cents.
- Carrots: An inexpensive item even not on sale – but it keeps so well I buy a couple of packages if it is cheaper. $1.00 a pound is standard in our area, but the larger packages of 5 pounds are often on sale for $2.50 – that’s 50 cents a pound, or about 15 cents for three. Carrots will keep longer if you rotate the package, which is so often on the bottom of the drawer, so they don’t sit in condensation.
- Onion: They keep well, so try to buy on sale. Aldi’s is a good place to find reasonably priced onions. Always less expensive in the fall/winter months, the pricing in my area runs from 33 to 66 cents a pound. Store them in a dark, cool place but not near potatoes. If you’ve bought too many onions, don’t let them go bad.
- Slice or dice them, saute and portion into Ziplocs labeled “onions” and freeze. You’ve just saved yourself a step for next time you make a dish. If you have enough, consider making French Onion Soup. If you use half an onion, consider if you can sauté the rest and put it in a Ziploc in the freezer. If not store in the door where you’ll see it when you’re cooking next. 3 onions run (at 56 cents a pound) about 52 cents.
- Garlic: I look for a price of about $2.99 a pound, or about 54 cents a head. Check the pricing of the bulk per pound as opposed to the packaged. I never really find it on sale, but I use so much, I pay attention and buy a bit more when I see the price is lower. Cost for 2 cloves, around 3 cents.
- Garnishes: I grow herbs outside in the summer (and keep a strawberry pot full of them on my back steps for convenience and bring it in during the winter) so I don’t count the cost of herbs – even if you don’t grow herbs successfully, a plant is generally cheaper than a packet of herbs at the store, so you can’t lose. If your plant dies, just dry and use. Green onions I buy on sale, usually during holidays, then put the white bulb portion on a sunny window sill where they’ll regrow. Kids love taking ownership of this project.
Per Serving (about 2 cups): 196 Calories; 2g Fat (11.9% calories from fat); 11g Protein; 30g Carbohydrate; 10g Dietary Fiber; 3mg Cholesterol; 230mg Sodium. Exchanges: 1 1/2 Grain(Starch); 1/2 Lean Meat; 1/2 Vegetable; 0 Non-Fat Milk; 1/2 Fat.
Put Your Own Spin on it:
- Consider serving this with biscuits, maybe leftover from ham dinner, or vary it up and serve with corn muffins, Spider Cake, or Parmesan toasts. (Spread thick slices of bread with a mixture of butter and garlic salt, sprinkle with Parmesan and broil.)
- Garnish as you wish, with parsley, chives or green onion.
- A drizzle of vinegar gives this soup a little zip, and I know people (but I’ll never tell who they are, but NOT me!) who actually like a little ketchup mixed in this soup.
- A dirt cheap, hearty soup that so flavorful and filling, you’d never guess it was a budget meal.
- It has a good amount of fiber, is low in fat, fairly low in carbs (and they’re the good kind) and full of vegetables.
- This one soup will make several meals for my family
Recipe made and priced in 2012 as $2.00 – I repriced in February 2014 as $2.95.