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This delicious Ham and Vegetable Soup is the perfect way to cook with a leftover ham bone that you might have on hand after a ham dinner!
Transform leftover ham into a delicious Ham and Vegetable Soup
Among the many things that my husband Jack and I have in common, we were both taught by our parents to never waste food! So, with all of the cooking we do here for A Family Feast, we often freeze leftovers or extra ingredients to use in a future recipe.
Over the last few weeks, we’ve been on a mission to cook as much as possible with food from our freezer and pantry. In the bottom of our freezer drawer we found a bag of ham stock that Jack had made from the bone of our leftover holiday ham.
We also had a variety of vegetables on hand – onions, celery, carrots, leeks, potatoes, kale – and even a bag of frozen corn kernels in the bottom of the freezer drawer, as well as some Parmesan cheese rinds. (Always save and freeze the rinds – they add great flavor to soups and sauces!)
Then, we transformed all of those ingredients into this Ham and Vegetable Soup! It has a wonderful depth of flavor, and it’s loaded with lots of hearty and healthy ingredients.
Why You’ll Love Ham and Vegetable Soup
- Once the stock is ready, the soup comes together in under an hour.
- The flavors are sensational. The smoky ham infuses the soup with tons of flavor as well as a variety of vegetables.
- It’s the perfect way to enjoy another meal after preparing a baked ham.
- This recipe makes a generous amount of soup, so it’s great for feeding a hungry crowd or to enjoy for a few meals.
“I made this last year with our holiday ham and I’ve never been able to forget about it. I searched the internet high and low for it again and I’m so glad I finally found it! Can’t wait to make it again in a couple of weeks!” – Melissa
Key Ingredients and Substitutions
- Ham Stock – Made from a large meaty ham bone or bone-in smoked shoulder. We provide full instructions in the recipe below to make a homemade ham stock, or if you already have some ham stock on hand – use that.
- Cooked Ham – Ideally from the ham bone or smoked shoulder you use to make the stock. If you don’t have cooked ham from that, you can make this soup with deli ham steaks that you cut into chunks.
- Vegetable Stock – This soup includes both ham and vegetable stock, in part, to balance the overall flavor of the soup base. (Ham stock alone can be salty so the vegetable stock cuts the saltiness.)
- Bacon – Bacon also adds smoky flavor and the rendered fat from cooking it is also used to saute the vegetables in the soup.
- Vegetables – You can adapt this list to what you have on hand and also to suit your tastes. Our soup included leeks, celery, carrots, garlic, Roma tomatoes, Russet potatoes, Tuscan kale, and frozen corn kernels.
- Canned White Beans – Specifically, we used cannellini beans because they cook up nice and tender. Be sure to drain and rinse them before adding them to the soup.
- Spices and Seasonings – Dry thyme and bay leaves.
- Parmesan Rinds or Grated Parmesan Cheese – We buy chunks of Parmesan cheese and grate it as we need it for recipes. In the end, that leaves us with the rinds – that we then freeze to add to soups like this. It adds great flavor! If you don’t have rinds, you can add grated Parmesan cheese.
- Light Cream or Half and Half – Either can be used to add creaminess to the soup broth. (See Chef’s Note below.) Just be sure to add it at the end, so the cream doesn’t curdle.
In recent months, we’ve received a number of comments from readers who can’t find light cream at the supermarket, or have never heard of half and half. We’re not sure if this is a regional thing or a supply chain issue.
Here’s an overview of the different kinds of cream you can typically find in the dairy aisle at the supermarket:
- Half-and-half contains 12 percent milk fat. It’s often served with coffee, and you can make your own by mixing half light cream and half whole milk.
- Light cream contains 20 percent milk fat. It’s a great option to use in soups or quiche recipes because it adds creamy richness, but not so much fat as a heavy or whipping cream.
- Whipping cream contains 30 to 35 percent milk fat. It’s often used to make whipped cream that is light and fluffy.
- Heavy cream contains 38 percent fat. It can also be used for whipping and it is often used in frozen desserts such as ice cream and gelato.
Special Tools You’ll Need
- Cutting Board & Sharp Knife
- 8 to 12-quart Stock Pot – you’ll use this to make the stock and again, to prepare the soup
- Another (smaller) stock pot – to heat the ham stock while preparing the vegetables
- Vegetable Peeler
How do I make Ham and Vegetable Soup?
- Make the ham stock. Pick the cooked ham meat from the bones.
- Combine ham stock and vegetable stock. Keep warm while preparing the rest of the recipe.
- Cook chopped bacon in the large stock pot – just shy of crispy.
- Add vegetables to the bacon and saute for five minutes. Add garlic and cook for one minute more.
- Add stock, spices and seasonings, tomatoes, and Parmesan rinds to the pot.
- Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer and cook until vegetables are tender.
- Add potatoes and kale and simmer again for five minutes.
- Add corn, beans, diced ham, then simmer again for five more minutes.
- Stir in the cream and immediately remove the pot from the heat.
- Remove bay leaves and Parmesan rinds from the soup and discard.
- Serve immediately.
Frequently Asked Questions
- Can I make this soup ahead of time? Yes – in fact, we suggest that you make the ham stock a day or so ahead of time, then do the rest of the soup prep and assembly the day you plan to serve it.
- Can I freeze Ham and Vegetable Soup? Yes, but we recommend waiting to add the cream to the portions you plan to freeze. Dairy tends to separate when thawed and reheated. Portion out what you would like to freeze, then stir in some cream when you reheat it.
- Can I make this recipe in a slow cooker? The stock could be made in a slow cooker (although it will take a longer time than if you simmer it on the stove.) Once you’ve done that, the rest of the soup doesn’t take very long so we would suggest that you make that on the stove.
- What if I don’t have a ham bone? Can I still make ham stock? Sometimes, you can find ham bones for sale at the supermarket. Or, ask the butcher if he has any you can buy. If all else fails, you can use vegetable stock for this soup, but just note that the flavor won’t be the same and you’ll definitely want to season the soup more.
This Ham and Vegetable Soup recipe originally appeared on A Family Feast in June 2016. We’ve updated the post and photos but the delicious recipe remains the same.
Click here for more delicious Soup Recipes!
- 4 pound bone-in smoked picnic shoulder or a large meaty ham bone
- 4 cups yellow onion, large dice (about 4 medium onions)
- 4 cups celery, large dice (about 3-4 stalks)
- 4 cups carrots, large dice (about 4-5 medium carrots)
- 4 sprigs fresh parsley with stems
- 2 whole crushed garlic cloves
- 2 bay leaves
- 4 whole peppercorns
- 4 quarts water
- Ham stock from above, about 2 quarts
- 1 quart vegetable stock
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 8 slices bacon, diced
- 1 1/2 cups leeks, white only, cleaned of sand and diced
- 1 cup celery, small dice, about two large stalks
- 2 1/2 cups carrots, bite sized pieces
- 2 tablespoons fresh garlic, minced
- 2 teaspoons dry thyme
- 3 bay leaves
- 1 Roma tomato, seeded and diced
- 8 ounces Parmesan cheese rinds, optional (If you do not have any Parmesan rinds, add a cup of grated Parmesan cheese instead as the soup cooks)
- 1 1/2 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and diced into bite sized pieces
- 1 head Tuscan kale, cleaned from ribs and cut up (about four cups)
- 2 cups frozen kernel corn, thawed
- 1 15.5–ounce can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
- 2 pounds leftover ham from smoked shoulder (or purchase a deli ham steak and dice if you started stock with a meaty ham bone instead of a smoked shoulder)
- 1 cup light cream, or half and half if light cream is not available
- Start by making the stock. Place the smoked shoulder into an 8-12 quart pot, cover with water and bring to a boil. Discard water then add smoked shoulder back in with all stock ingredients and bring to a boil again. (This first step will remove any excess salt)
- Reduce to a simmer and cook uncovered for three hours. Strain stock and pick meat from bone. Discard the rest. Skim fat from top of stock and discard. (This step can be done in advance and the stock frozen until needed. Cool and freeze in zip lock gallon bags.) You should be left with two quarts of stock and two pounds of meat.
- Mix ham stock with vegetable stock and heat. Taste and adjust seasoning, but salt only if needed.
- In a large Dutch oven or heavy bottomed soup pot, heat oil over medium high heat and add bacon. Cook for 7-8 minutes until just short of crispy.
- Add leeks, celery and carrots and cook for five minutes.
- Add garlic and cook one minute.
- Add stock, thyme, bay leaves, tomato and Parmesan rinds or grated Parmesan cheese. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer.
- Simmer uncovered for about 15 minutes or until vegetables are just short of tender.
- Add potatoes and kale and bring back to a boil then simmer until tender, about five minutes.
- Add corn, beans and diced ham and simmer five minutes.
- Stir in cream and remove from heat.
- Pick out bay leaves and Parmesan rinds and discard. Serve immediately.
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