This 15 bean soup is a warm and comforting soup, perfect for cool weather – and includes no strange seasoning packets!

15 bean soup viewed from above, bread is also pictured.

Repeat after me:

“I, beautiful, kind, smart and valued reader of Rachel Cooks, do solemnly swear, to never, ever, ever throw away a ham bone.”

Unless you’re a vegetarian or you don’t eat pork for religious reasons. But then I’m not really sure what you’re doing with a ham bone in the first place.

The ham bone takes this soup from mediocre to amazingly delicious. Trust me.

Did you know you can freeze ham bones? Now you really have no excuses for throwing it out. Just toss it in a zip-top bag and stick it in your freezer until you’re ready to make this soup.

You might be thinking, “Doesn’t the 15 bean dried bean mix come with a packet of ham flavoring?”

Ham seasoning packat.

Doesn’t look like ham to me!

And just for kicks, here is the list of ingredients: Salt, dextrose, maltodextrin, sugar, bacon flavor (which has nine ingredients in and of itself), disodium inosinate, disodium guanylate, ham flavor (which has an additional four ingredients), and silicon dioxide added as an anti-caking aid.

An anti-caking aid? Gross! I’m not an obsessive label reader and yes, I put some things in my body that probably aren’t the best for me and probably aren’t all-natural. But why put in nine ingredient “bacon flavor” when all you need is a ham bone and a couple of spices and herbs? And I’m willing to bet that the real thing probably tastes better than that little tiny package labeled “ham.” 

Overhead view of three small bowls of bean and ham soup with bread and spoons also pictured.


About 15 bean soup:

Don’t be scared off by the “total time” it takes to make this 15 bean soup. It’s almost entirely hands off time and it’s a super easy recipe to make.

After rinsing and sorting the beans, removing any foreign objects, dried beans need a good long time to soak. I recommend overnight, or at least 8 hours. If you don’t have 8 hours, there are directions on the package for the quick-soak method (cook beans for 2 minutes, then let them soak for an hour or more). Both methods are fine. 

When the beans have finished soaking, drain off the soaking water, rinse the beans again, and drain.

Ham bone and bean soup with 15 to 16 varieties of beans, shot from above, in three small white bowls.

Next, sauté onions, carrots, and celery in a Dutch oven or stockpot. When the veggies are softened, add the beans, water, and seasonings. Nestle that ham bone in, bring the soup to a boil, turn the heat down, and simmer. I recommend an hour and a half, but no worries if you go longer than that. 

Remove the ham bone and if there’s any ham still clinging to the bone, pull it off and add it to your soup. I like to add some additional ham at this point. If you don’t have any extra ham, don’t worry, there will be plenty of good flavor in the soup from the ham bone. Simmer the bean soup 15 minutes more to make sure everything is nice and hot. 

Serve with warm homemade healthy corn bread or whole wheat biscuits made with cornmeal, cheddar and black pepper. Yum!

15 or 16 bean soup in two small white crocks. Spoons and bread also pictured.

Make this 15 bean soup your own:

  •  Don’t have a ham bone? Or ham? While the ham bone does add really great flavor as it simmers slowly with the beans, you could substitute sausage. Kielbasa or smoked sausage would be great, or Italian sausage. Or stir in cooked and crumbled bacon at the end of the cooking time. Another great substitute for a ham bone: ham hocks. I always use ham hocks when I’m making the traditional Hoppin’ John with black eyed peas and ham.
  • Want to make this soup vegetarian or vegan? Just leave the ham bone and ham out. Try adding a couple of tablespoons of nutritional yeast to enhance the flavor and use vegetable broth instead of water. 
  • Like lots of veggies? You could easily increase the amount of carrots, celery, and onion, or add chopped bell peppers, or even stir in spinach or kale near the end of the cooking time. 
  • If you can’t find 15 bean soup mix, this soup would be delicious with just one type of dried beans. Great Northern or another white bean would be perfect.
  • Some bean soup packages include 15 types of beans, others include 16. Fifteen or sixteen, it doesn’t make a difference with this recipe, so feel free to use whatever you like. Call your soup 16 bean soup or 15 bean soup, it’s all the same to me! 

Ham bone soup with 15 beans, in three small white bowls. Bread and spoons are also pictured.

Warm up with soup!

Soup is so satisfying and delicious, perfect on a cold day. Here’s a few more soup recipes you may enjoy:


15 bean soup viewed from above, bread is also pictured.

15 Bean Soup

Yield: 8 servings
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour 45 minutes
Additional Time: 8 hours
Total Time: 10 hours

This 15 bean soup is a warm and comforting soup, perfect for cool weather – and includes no strange seasoning packets!


  • 20 oz. bag 15 (or 16) bean soup mix, seasoning packet removed
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 cup diced peeled carrots (about 3-4 medium carrots)
  • 1 cup diced celery (about 3 celery stalks)
  • 1 cup diced yellow onion (about 1 medium onion)
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon dried parsley
  • 1 whole bay leaf
  • 1 ham bone
  • 8 cups water
  • 8 oz. (2 cups) diced fully cooked ham


    1. Rinse beans and sort for foreign objects. Pour beans into a bowl or pan, cover with water, and soak overnight (for at least 8 hours). 
    2. Drain water from beans and rinse again.
    3. Heat oil in large Dutch oven over medium-high heat, and add onions, carrots, and celery. Season with salt and pepper.  Saute until softened, and onion is translucent, about 5 minutes.
    4. Add cumin, parsley, and bay leaf. Stir to combine. Add beans, ham bone, and water. You can add more later if it gets too thick. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for about 1 1/2 hours or until beans are tender.
    5. Remove ham bone, add diced ham, and simmer for another 10 minutes.
    6. Taste, adjust seasonings as desired. Remove bay leaf and serve!


  • If you don't happen to have a ham bone, no worries! Just skip that part and add diced ham at the end of the cooking time.
  • If you would prefer not to use ham at all, kielbasa, Polish sausage, bacon, or Italian sausage could be substituted.
  • Make this soup vegan or vegetarian by not adding any meat. Instead add a couple of tablespoons of nutritional yeast and use vegetable broth instead of water.
Nutrition Information:
Yield: 8 Serving Size: 1 of 8
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 466Total Fat: 12gSaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 7gCholesterol: 96mgSodium: 4098mgCarbohydrates: 45gFiber: 18gSugar: 10gProtein: 46g sometimes provides nutritional information, but these figures should be considered estimates, as they are not calculated by a registered dietitian. Please consult a medical professional for any specific nutrition, diet, or allergy advice.

Did you make this recipe?

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This recipe and the photos were updated January, 2020. For fun, below is one of the old photos.

16 Bean Soup in a brown crock with a piece of bread next to it.