WWII Navy Bean Soup Recipe

June 3, 2022

Why is it called Navy Bean soup?

The small, white, and economical Pea Bean or Haricot provided a very filling, and nutritious protein during times of food rationing.  Over time the pea beans also came to be widely known as  Navy Beans because they were such a staple in the U.S. Naval diet during the second half of the 19th Century. The Navy’s original soup was called Bean Soup and this soup was served regularly to Navy members during World War II. Their original recipe called for the use of ham stock instead of chicken broth. A recipe for Ham Stock is included below.

Soup Ingredients

  • 3 cups (1-1/2 pounds) dried navy beans (pre-soak  according to package direction)
  • 1 can (14-1/2 ounces) diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 to 2 meaty smoked ham hocks (best),  or 1 cup of diced cooked ham
  • 2 cups chicken broth or ham stock (recipe below)
  • 2-1/2 cups of water
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2-3 cloves (optional)
  • 1/2 cup instant potatoes  (Can be used to thicken the soup)
  • Minced fresh parsley (optional)

Other Recommended Ingredients to use if you are not using ham stock:

  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 -2 teaspoons Better Than Bouillon Ham Base
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 bay leaf


  1. Rinse and sort beans; soak according to package directions.
  2. Drain and rinse beans, discarding liquid. Place in a Dutch oven. Add the tomatoes with juice, onion, ham hock, broth, water, salt, pepper, and any other optional ingredients. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer until beans are tender, about 1 to 2 hours.
  3. Add more water if necessary. Remove ham hock and let it stand until cool enough to handle. Remove meat from bone; discard bone. Cut meat into bite-sized pieces; set aside. Return ham to soup and heat through. See Three Options for thickening Navy Bean Soup Garnish with parsley if desired.

Three Options for thickening the navy bean soup:

  1. To thicken navy bean soup, let it cool slightly, then transfer some of the beans to a food processor or blender and puree. Return the mixture back to the soup and stir to combine.
  2. Add instant potatoes to thicken the soup.
  3. Make a flour roux and add the roux to the soup when adding chopped meat, and stir in and heat thoroughly until the soup thickens

If Cooking for Two: Freeze serving-size portions to enjoy later.

Recipe for Ham Stock:

2 ham bones or 1 large ham hock
1-gallon of water (16 cups)
1 chopped onion
3/4 cup chopped celery
1 cup carrot chopped
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 bay leaf

Sauté vegetables in a tablespoon of olive oil or butter for a few minutes in a big stock pot. Then add water, salt, pepper, and ham hocks bring to a boil then reduce the heat so that the mixture can simmer. Stir occasionally allowing the stock to reduce down and become concentrated in flavor over 3 hours. Then strain the stock. Remove the ham hocks or ham bones. Remove meat from the bone; Cut meat into bite-sized pieces; Reserve the meat to be added to soup once the soup is nearly finished.