If you’re looking for a super cheap, super nutrient-packed, delicious crockpot meal, look no further than this Slow Cooker 15 Bean Soup with Ham and Kale. It’s warm, cozy, freezable, and hearty. It makes a TON. And it’s a great way to use up any leftover ham you may have!
Yes, I said it. The “K” word. KALE. But please, don’t run screaming away! You KNOW kale is good for you.
And you may think it’s a bitter pill (or leaf) to swallow, but wilted in soup it’s absolutely delicious. In fact, you won’t even taste it! This soup is the perfect way to enjoy one of the healthiest leafy greens out there, since cooking is one of the ways you can take the bitterness out of bitter greens. (There are other ways too, such as soaking them or massaging them, like in this massaged kale salad).
If you really, REALLY don’t like kale, fear not. You can easily substitute spinach or some other leafy green in this soup.
Have you ever heard of 15 bean soup before?
In the dried beans section of your grocery store, you will find a pack of beans that is labeled “15 Bean Soup Mix.” Or it might be “16 bean soup mix” or “13 bean soup mix.”
The numbers don’t really matter- you can use this recipe with any of them.
15 bean soup mixes include a combination of TONS of legumes, that may include pinto beans, red beans, pink beans, kidney beans, northern beans, small and big lima beans, white beans, black beans, black eyed peas, chickpeas, peas, split peas (yellow and green), lentils, and sometimes even pearl barley.
Phew! That’s a lot of beans… and a TON of nutrients! Add the kale and you have a nutritional powerhouse that simply cannot be beat.
Some 15 bean soup mixes may come with a flavoring packet. You can just toss it for this recipe- it’s likely packed with preservatives and artificial flavoring, anyway.
Traditionally, 15 bean soup is made with ham and chicken broth. I used both, with kale as an added bonus. It’s a great way to use up leftover ham (or ham bone) from the holidays you may have hanging around, but you can also use a cut up ham steak from your deli or meat department.
I recommend using smoked ham for this, as it will lend a smoky flavor throughout the soup. Yum.
Alternatively, you can easily make this soup vegetarian/vegan by omitting the ham and using vegetable broth instead. If you do this, I recommend adding a little bit of smoked paprika to get that smoky taste you’ll be missing without the ham.
The BEST thing about this slow cooker 15 bean soup is that it cooks all day in your crockpot. It can cook for about 10 hours on low, so it’s great for a long work day.
I used to work 10 hour days before I became a full-time blogger, and I always struggled with slow cooker recipes since they usually only took 6-8 hours. This one was always perfect.
But you can also cook it for 4-6 hours on high if you’re in a crunch for time!
This is a classic dump-everything-all-at-once-in-the-crockpot recipe. There aren’t any multiple steps, aside from adding a little fresh parsley in at the very end.
All you have to do to prep is make sure you pre-soak the beans in salted water (which will help with lessening the indigestion beans are well-known to create and help flavor them) overnight and rinse them well just before adding them to the slow cooker.
Chop some carrots, onion, and celery, and throw it all in your slow cooker with the beans, ham, kale, and broth. Season with salt and pepper, cook, and serve! Add some parsley at the end if you want.
As an added bonus, this 15 bean soup freezes extremely well for a future meal (and this recipe makes a ton!).
If you like this Slow Cooker 15 Bean Soup with Ham and Kale, you’ll love this Slow Cooker Black Bean Soup, this Instant Pot Split Pea Soup (slow cooker friendly), this Instant Pot Black Eyed Pea Soup (also slow cooker friendly), and this Slow Cooker Butternut Squash Soup with Curry and Ginger.
Hope you enjoy this cozy, inexpensive, delicious, and nutrient-packed meal!
Slow Cooker 15 Bean Soup with Ham and Kale
- 1 lb. 15 bean soup mix or 16 bean, or 13 bean, or whatever you can find!
- 1 onion diced
- 2 ribs celery diced
- 2 carrots diced
- 1/2 lb. cooked ham diced (about 2 cups), or leftover ham bone
- 1 bay leaf
- 7 cups chicken stock/broth or vegetable stock
- 2 cups kale stems removed, chopped
- 2 tablespoons fresh parsley chopped
- salt and pepper to taste
- Before making this soup, soak the beans. Put beans in a container and cover with double the amount of water, as well as 1 tablespoon of salt, and allow to soak in the refrigerator overnight.
- Discard any seasoning pack that comes with the soup mix.
- When you are ready to cook, drain and rinse the beans very well.
- Add all ingredients, including a pinch of salt and some pepper, except parsley to your slow cooker.
- Cook on high for 4-6 hours, or on low for 8-10 hours.
- Stir in the parsley, along seasoning with salt and pepper to taste. Serve.
- Don't like kale? Substitute with spinach or another leafy green. If you use baby spinach, I recommend adding it at the end when you add the parsley.
- If the soup seems too thin, you can thicken it by either cooking it longer or using an immersion blender to blend just a little bit of the soup in the crockpot. Or, use a potato masher to mash up some of the beans directly in the soup.
- To make this in your instant pot or pressure cooker, add all ingredients except parsley and cook on manual on high pressure for 15 minutes. Allow to naturally release pressure for at least 10 minutes. Add parsley when it's done. If you like, you can use the sauté setting to sauté the veggies in 2 tablespoons olive oil or butter before adding the remaining ingredients.
- To make this on the stovetop, add all ingredients except parsley to a large pot and cook on low covered for about 2 hours, or until beans are tender. Stir in the parsley.
- You can freeze leftovers in an airtight container for up to 6 months.
- Vegan or vegetarian? Omit the ham and make sure to use vegetable broth instead of chicken. I recommend adding some smoked paprika for a smoky taste without using ham.
- For a gluten-free version, please ensure that your bean soup mix doesn't contain barley and that you are using a GF ham.
- The provided nutrition information does not include any added sodium from seasoning to taste, any optional ingredients, and it does not take brands into account. Feel free to calculate it yourself using this calculator or by adding the recipe to Yummly.