Who doesn't like a good ham and bean soup recipe? Tasty, buttery beans, rich and savory ham, and an easy roux combine to make this classic Balkan stew also known as pasulj or grah. Shall we?
Today's well-known Balkan bean soup goes by pasulj or grah. It's a really tasty stew! If stuffed sour cabbage is the queen of winter, pasulj is the king of fall!
The best thing about this soup is that you can adjust the ingredients freely and it'll still taste unbelivably good.
Most types of dried beans, and almost any (non-poultry) meat work! We like it the best with dried beef or ham, and that's exactly what we'll be doing today.
If you haven't made dried beans before, here's the perfect opportunity to try. Made the right way (soaked and then cooked) dried beans have a soft, chestnut-like consistency, and a great flavor.
We'll also show you an easy roux that you can later use to thicken any stew or soup.
Ham and bean soup recipe ingredients:
- Dry beans you can use for this ham and bean soup recipe include cannellini, navy, great northern, canary beans, kidney beans, black beans, cranberry beans, pinto beans, and black-eyed peas. Avoid chickpeas, soybeans, and canned beans.
- Yes, the beans must be dry. No worries though! Take a look at the recipe FAQ for our super simple soaking directions.
- Meat you can use include ham (glazed, smoked, city, country, fresh, and wet-cured - your pick!), bacon, dried or smoked beef, ham hock, ribs, ham bones, beef bones and sausage (beef, pork, mild or spicy). Avoid poultry.
- Spices and Seasonings: parsley, bay leaves, bouillon cube (or stock powder), and pepper (or peppercorn), and paprika. Substitute with your own spice mix.
- Water can be exchanged with beef or pork broth, however it's not necessary. The meat provides plenty of flavor. If you still go for broth adjust for saltiness by adding less of the seasonings, or by mixing broth with water.
Roux or no roux?
This is up to you, but we love to add it. It thickens the soup in just the right way,
Roux for the ham and bean soup recipe ingredients:
- All you need for the roux are vegetable oil (coconut and sunflower are ok too), flour (avoid substitutes), and paprika (smokey, hot or sweet, your choice!).
Instructions for ham and bean soup recipe:
Step 1. Soak the beans by placing them in a large bowl and covering them with water. Leave for 7-8 hours, or overnight.
Step 2. Simmer onion, garlic, carrots, and meat.
Step 3. Add beans, seasonings, and water. Cook for a few hours.
Instructions for the easy roux (thickener):
Step 4. Heat up oil. Whisk in flour. Whisk in paprika. Whisk roux into the soup.
- Storing: store in the fridge (or in a really cool place, like a terrace or the porch in the winter) for up to 3 days.
- Freezing: let the soup cool down to room temp and portion it out into freezer-ware. Freeze for up to 3 months.
- Reheating: when ready to eat the soup after storing in the fridge, take it out and reheat using your preferred method. When ready to eat after freezing, transfer to the countertop a few hours before you intend to eat it, or to the fridge the night before. Reheat just before eating using your preferred method. If the soup is too thick, add a little bit of water, or broth.
Place the beans in a bowl and cover with water. Let them soak on a countertop for several hours, or overnight. When ready to use, strain the water and wash the beans, then transfer them to your cooking pot.
The length of soaking will depend on the age of your beans. Younger beans take about 4 hours to soak and older beans 8-12 hours (overnight).
Yes. Anything longer than 12-14 hours is too long. Look for signs of wrinkling (shriveling).
Ultimately, beans are OK to soak for up to 24hrs. However, there is really no need to soak them this long. Also, after this amount of time they may sprout, and shrivel up too much.
No. The countertop is fine.
The point of soaking beans is to get rid of elements that cause bloating and indigestion, as well as to shorten the cooking time. The water they've been soaking in absorbs everything you're trying to eliminate. It's best to discard it.
The best spice for this particular soup is paprika (hot or sweet). Paprika provides a smoky, deep dimension to the dish.
Bay leaf is also great for this ham and bean soup recipe. However it can be strong, so we usually take it out at the end of cooking.
However, feel free to experiment with spices and seasonings.
You can use almost any type of dry beans for this ham soup. Some great choices are white beans like cannellini, navy, or great northern, then canary beans, and also kidney beans, black beans, cranberry beans, pinto beans, and black-eyed peas.
Look for younger dried beans. This means beans that have been dried recently as opposed to a couple of years ago. Younger beans take a shorter time to make and they soak for a shorter amount of time as well. Finally, they taste better and have a chestnut, soft, consistency when made.
Avoid lentils (soy) and chickpeas (garbanzo) beans as they have a different consistency when cooked.
A simple roux will thicken this ham and bean soup recipe. A roux is a quick and easy sauce you make with fat and flour. It takes minutes to make and then you pour it into the dish to thicken it.
Sold on the beans, but want something a little bit different? Here you go!
- Sausage Bean Stew
- Prebranac: Balkan Baked Beans
- Quick Macedonian Tavče Gravče
- Baked Romano Beans
- Romano Bean Veal Stew
If you make today's Balkan ham and bean soup (pasulj or grah), and like it, please consider leaving a ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (5-star) rating. This will help others find the recipe more easily!
You can also leave a comment, I read EVERY one! Finally, if IG is more your thing, consider tagging us @balkanlunchbox.
Prijatno and bon appetit!
Easy Ham and Bean Soup Recipe (Pasulj or Grah)
- 12-14 ounces dry beans (kidney, white northern or canary, etc) look in the notes for more dry bean options
- 3 tablespoons vegetable oil or coconut or sunflower oil
- 1 onion large, peeled, minced
- 2-3 garlic cloves peeled, minced
- 2 carrots medium, peeled, diced
- 3-4 ounces ham, bacon, or dried beef diced, look in the notes for more meat options
- Salt and pepper to taste
- (Optional) 1 tablespoon stock powder, Vegeta, or a bouillon cube
- 1 bay leaf
- 5-6 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1.5 tablespoon flour
- 1 tablespoon paprika
- 1 tablespoon parsley minced
- Soaking: In a large bowl (or pot) cover beans with water, and leave to soak for 7-8 hours (or overnight).* The following day strain the beans and discard the water. Then wash them again, strain them, and set the beans aside.
- Soup: In a deep pot, heat oil over high and add onion and garlic. Lower to medium and simmer until translucent (2-3 minutes). Add carrots and meat. Simmer for an additional 5-10 minutes occasionally stirring.
- Add the seasonings and beans in, and cover with 6-7 cups of water. Mix ingredients well, cover with a lid, and raise the temperature to high until the liquid boils (about 15 minutes). Add the bay leaf in.
- Bring the temperature down to low, and continue cooking until the beans are tender, but not falling apart.* (Think about 2.5 hours.) If you lose a lot of liquid, add another cup of water during cooking.
- Roux: A few minutes before the beans are done, heat the oil up in a small pan over high temperature. Lower the temperature, add flour and stir vigorously for 30 seconds to 1 minute ensuring the mixture doesn't clump. Add paprika in and continue stirring for 1-2 minutes more.
- Whisk the roux into the soup. Cook soup for an additional 5 minutes and remove off heat. (Optional: discard the bay leaf, and garnish the soup with parsley.)
- Serve warm.* Store in the fridge for up to 3 days. Reheat using your preferred method. If freezing, let cool down to room temp, place in freezer-ware, and freeze for up to 3 months.
- Cooking time: