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Red Beans and Ham

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Sometimes there is just nothing better tasting than an old childhood favorite food.  For example, macaroni and cheese or the simple fare of this pot of Red Beans and Ham!  Good memories makes it taste so good.

Red Beans and Ham
Plain and simple, Red Beans and Ham.

At Christmas time I served a large spiral ham at a party and there was a nice chunk of it left, as well as the ham bone.  They have been in my freezer but today I rescued them to make a pot of Red Beans and Ham for dinner tonight. 

It has been ages since I have made red beans and ham and it brings back old memories. 

Red Beans and Ham….An Old Family Favorite:

This was one of my dad’s favorite bean dishes which he especially liked with cornbread.  But I remember how much I loved it with that white Wonder Bread mom would buy. 

Red Beans and Ham
Red Beans and Ham…an old-time favorite that is still enjoyed today.

I would slather that bread with butter and get it all soaked up with the liquid the beans had been cooked in and then pile the beans on top. 

Yum…Dad didn’t like the Wonder bread as he said you ate it and wondered what you ate. Wonder bread is no longer in business but I love this with a piece of buttered sourdough bread.  

One pound of dried red beans
One pound of dry red beans

Beans are inexpensive and very nutritious, in just one-half cup of cooked beans there are 60 calories, seven grams of protein, zero fat, and a hefty 16 grams of fiber. 

We ate a lot of beans when I was growing up and I fixed them quite often for my family as well. 

It was my kids that taught me that little ditty…”beans, beans, the magical fruit..” and they loved to sing that whenever I fixed this red bean and ham recipe, or chili beans, or whatever bean dish was on the menu.

Red Beans and Ham
Red Beans and Ham! Nutritious and budget friendly.

How to Cook Red Beans and Ham:

Do you have any recipes that bring up sentimental memories? This one sure takes me down memory lane.  What a trip!

This is an easy meal to put together and if you soak the beans, either overnight or a fast-soak, it makes the cooking go much faster, plus soaking helps reduce flatulence. 

I didn’t soak my beans overnight but did the fast soak which is to sort, rinse and add the beans to a large pot and cover the beans with several inches of water, bring it to a boil and cook for three minutes.  Then, just take it off the heat and let it sit for about an hour.  After an hour you just drain off the soak-water, add fresh water and the ham bone and get it cooking again until the beans are tender.  

Red Beans and Ham
Red Beans and Ham…an old family favorite.

 If you don’t have a ham bone handy a smoked ham shank will give off a lot of flavors. And of course, if you don’t have a bone then just toss in chunks of ham meat. The bone really imparts a lot more flavor but it is still very tasty without the bone.

Also, chunks of sausage taste wonderful with beans.  Experiment and be creative.  A tossed green salad is all that needs to complete the meal.  Unless….maybe a chocolate cake?

Here is one of our older photos:

We first posted this recipe for red beans and ham in January of 2015. The photo below is the photo that was originally used in the post. We updated the post with newer photos but thought we would include the original photo as well.

Our photography skills are slowly improving and although we still have a lot to learn, we have made some pretty big changes in the past few years.

Red Beans and Ham
Plain and simple, Red Beans and Ham.

You might also like these recipes:

Slow Cooker Turkey and Beer Chili With Beans:

Lamb Shank Cassoulet cooked with Great Northern Beans

Old Fashioned Baked Beans

What kind of beans to use in this recipe. 

There are a few different varieties of red beans. You can use red kidney beans or small red beans in this recipe. Small red beans are smaller and rounder than kidney beans and they will cook a little faster. If you use small red beans, reduce the cooking time by 30 minutes. 

Why won’t my dry beans soften?

Your beans will soften even if you use salt in the cooking process. Older beans will take much longer to soften but acidic ingredients have the biggest impact on the cooking process. 

Acidic ingredients that will prevent your beans from getting soft:

  • Tomatoes
  • Vinegar
  • Lemon and limes
  • Molasses and brown sugar
  • Honey 

This recipe doesn’t call for any acidic ingredients so if your beans won’t get soft then they are probably old beans. A small pinch of baking soda to the cooking water will help soften old beans. Don’t use more than 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda though or the flavor will be a bit soapy. And don’t use baking powder which is acidic. 


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Red Beans and Ham

Red Beans and Ham

Yield: 10 servings
Prep Time: 1 hour 10 minutes
Cook Time: 2 hours
Total Time: 3 hours 10 minutes

Healthy and nutritious red beans are low in calories, zero fat, and packed with protein and fiber. This is budget-friendly and an easy main meal, just add a nice green salad.


  • 16-ounce bag of dry red kidney beans
  • 1 ham bone, ham shank or ham pieces
  • 1 teaspoon salt


  1. The easiest way to sort through the beans is to lay a clean kitchen towel on the counter top and sprinkle the beans on it. Pick through the beans removing any pesky stones or little dirt clots. Gather the ends of the towel and empty the beans into a large pot.

If you choose to soak the beans, choose one of the following options:

  1. Fast soak: Put beans into a large pot and cover with 2 to 3 inches of cold water. Bring to a boil then boil briskly for 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from the heat, cover and set aside for one hour. Drain off the water and proceed with cooking:
  2. Overnight soak: Put beans into a large bowl and cover with 2 to 3 inches of cold water. Set aside at room temperature for 8 hours or overnight. Drain off the water and proceed with cooking:

Cooking the beans

  1. Put beans into a large pot and cover with 3 inches of water. Add the ham bone and the salt. Slowly bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, cover and simmer, for 1-1/2 to 2 hours until tender, season to taste. Remove from heat and transfer the beans and ham to a large serving bowl.


If you choose to not soak the beans it will take a little longer for them to cook.

If you use small red beans then reduce the cooking time by 30 minutes.

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 10 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 114Total Fat: 2gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 1gCholesterol: 26mgSodium: 710mgCarbohydrates: 11gFiber: 3gSugar: 1gProtein: 13g

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Red Beans and Ham
Red Beans with a meaty ham bone
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Friday 3rd of January 2020

Add coleslaw, cornbread sweet tea and a peach cobbler and invite the neighbors. This brings back such great memories of Sundays at Grandma's house. You could invite as many as you had chairs for and there was always plenty. Thanks for sharing.

Pat Nyswonger

Friday 3rd of January 2020

Yum! Lyn...that sounds amazing! Let me know when the party starts. Thanks for your memories ?


Friday 6th of December 2019

You say brown sugar is acidic but what about the glaze already on the ham? There’s still a little left in my ham pieces. Will that ruin the beans?

Pat Nyswonger

Friday 6th of December 2019

Hi, Diane! Thanks for that great question! No, the brown sugar remaining in the glaze of the baked ham will not harm the beans. They will be delicious! Old beans will sometimes take longer to cook due to aging and a pinch of baking soda will help to soften them up. I like to buy my beans (and rice) in the bulk section as most likely they are fresher than a package of beans from the grocer shelves. If purchasing a package of beans be sure to check the 'Use By' date stamped somewhere on the package. Thanks for your comment ?

carl brooks

Saturday 28th of July 2018

You must do beans right. After soaking and draining, put beans and fresh water into pressure cooker with ham or hambone and one tbsp. garlic, two tbsp. chili powder, one whole onion (quartered) and a few jalapeno rings and one small can of tomato sauce. Cook for 40 minutes and serve with fresh, buttered cornbread. Yum, yum Grandpa, what's fer dinner?


Saturday 28th of July 2018

Thanks, Carl...that sounds delicious! I'll try it :)

Yum Girl

Tuesday 17th of February 2015

Oh this looks so good - nice good southern comfort food. I am sharing on Face Book today and I may even go in there and dig out my own Christmas ham bone to make some beans with today! Thanks for submitting!


Tuesday 17th of February 2015

Thank you, yes,this makes good use of the leftover ham bone.

John@Kitchen Riffs

Wednesday 14th of January 2015

I love this dish! So much flavor, and so perfect for this time of the year -- it's cold and gloomy where I am. Thanks for this.


Wednesday 14th of January 2015

Yes, this is a gloomy time of year and this recipe is good ole comfort food for me. Thanks for your comments. :)

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