They Got Us Through the Great Depression…

They Got Us Through the Great Depression…

Times were tough in the 1930s and people had to be creative with the few ingredients they could find and afford. This dish shows just how inventive our ancestors could be!

Hearty Navy Bean Soup

Great to keep the people in your family full. No wonder this made a great recipe during the depression.


  • 3 cups (1-1/2 pounds) dried navy beans
  • 1 can (14-1/2 ounces) diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 meaty ham hock or 1 cup diced cooked ham
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 2-1/2 cups water
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  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 and pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer until beans are tender, about 1-1/2 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. (For a thicker soup, cool slightly, then puree beans in a food processor or blender and return to pan.) Return ham to soup and heat through. Garnish with parsley if desired.

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


How do you thicken navy bean soup?

To thicken navy bean soup, let it cool slightly, then transfer the beans in a food processor or blender to puree. Return mixture back to the soup and stir to combine.

Why is it called navy bean soup?

It’s history stems from being served to members of the Navy during World War II. The small, white, economical bean provided a filling alternative during food rationing. Its history alone makes it one of the more interesting types of soup.

Are Great Northern beans the same as navy beans?

No. They are similar, but different: Both are white beans, but navy beans are smaller in size and require long, slow cooking. Navy beans are one of the central ingredients in canned pork and beans, though we love to use them in all different navy bean recipesResearch contributed by Rashanda Cobbins, Taste of Home Food Editor

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