White Beans and Ham served over rice is a comfort food staple in South Louisiana. Red Beans and Rice gets all the press, but a plateful of White Beans and Ham brings a creamy, smokey flavor that warms the soul. Perfect for a gathering and great with fried fish or shrimp and anything off the grill. Sweet Daddy D’s no-angst recipe for White Beans with Ham will bring them home.
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What Are White Beans?
White beans, sometimes called pea beans, are actually Navy Beans, a small, oval, white-colored bean that holds its shape when cooked. High in nutrients and proteins and a good source of fiber, Navy Beans are inexpensive and have a long storage life. Those characteristics led to them being designated as standard rations for US Navy sailors back in the 19th Century, thus earning the name Navy Beans. They are also the bean at the center of the world-famous Senate Bean Soup, served daily in the U. S. Senate restaurant. White Beans and Ham served over rice is a very popular offering in South Louisiana, but these versatile beans actually transcend cultures and have found a place in many of the world’s cuisines.
Here Is What You Need
Dry Navy Beans. Check out the Hints and Tips section below for other types of dry beans that can be used.
- Thick sliced smoked bacon
- Smoked Ham
- The Trinity (yellow onion. bell pepper, and celery)
Herbs and Spices
- Creole seasoning
- ground black pepper
- bay leaves
- kosher salt (added at the end)
Long Grain White Rice-see the Hints and Tips section below on how to cook this.
Here Is What You Do
First...you have a beer. This is a simple recipe made even more simple by a little preparation. You’ll need to soak the beans before you start so you have to plan ahead. Pop the cap off a beer and read the recipe all the way through. Check out what you need and what you will do with each ingredient. Mise en place is simple but important.
Soak your beans
Pre-soaking your beans will soften them and decrease the cooking time slightly. It is optional though, and if you have the time to cook the beans longer, then that's your choice. There are three methods for soaking beans and you can check them out in the HInts and Tips. I use the 3-hour method (usually) which means that you bring about 8 to 10 cups of water to a heavy boil then add the beans. When the water returns to a boil, take the pot off the heat, cover it and let it sit for about three hours.
Prep the ingredients
Separate two slices of bacon for the bean pot and three for the frying pan for the Trinity; chop each slice into three or four pieces. Cube the ham, then chop the trinity (place all in one prep bowl) and the garlic which goes in its own prep bowl. You should have about 2 cups of chopped yellow onions, ½ cup of chopped bell peppers, ½ cup of chopped celery and about 4 teaspoons of chopped garlic. Measure the Herbs and Spices into a small prep bowl. Set about 2 quarts of cold water aside in a measuring cup or carafe.
Start the beans in the Dutch oven
Starting in a cold Dutch oven, fry two slices of cut-up bacon over medium-high heat. Once a lot of the fat has been rendered, add the cubed ham and stir well to coat all the ham in bacon grease. You can leave the bacon in the Dutch oven.
After about 2 minutes, add the beans and the bay leaves and stir them around to coat with the bacon grease in the same manner.
Add enough cold water to cover the beans by no more than an inch. Stir well and increase the heat to bring the beans to a high boil. Lower the heat to a simmer, cover the Dutch oven and simmer for an hour, stirring occasionally.
Saute the vegetables
Meanwhile, fry the remaining bacon starting with a cold cast iron skillet. Once the fat is rendered, leave the bacon in the pan and add the trinity. Stir well and saute them until the onions are starting to clear and brown slightly on the edges.
Add the garlic, and the Creole seasoning and black pepper and stir for about 2 minutes. (Note: do not ad the kosher salt yet). Set the cast iron skillet off the heat until needed.
Add the vegetables to the beans
After the beans have simmered for 1 hour, add the sauteed Trinity and seasonings to the beans.
Adjust heat to maintain a slow simmer. Simmer the beans for 30 minutes, uncovered. Add water if needed to keep the beans slightly covered, stirring occasionally.
After 30 minutes, stir well and cover the Dutch oven and continue to simmer for another 30 minutes. Test the beans for doneness and add 1 teaspoon kosher salt. The beans should be done at this point, but if they are not done, continue to simmer uncovered for an additional 10 minutes or until tender. Add more water if needed, but only enough to keep the beans just covered. You want the beans to be slightly thick and creamy.
That’s it, all there is to it.
Hints and Tips
I generally never salt beans until right at the end. The primary reason for this is the bacon, ham and most commercial Creole seasonings have salt and I do not want to over-salt the beans at this point. Check out my Lagniappe article (Do You Soak Your Beans?) to learn more about salting, soaking and other useful or useless facts about beans.
Smoked ham gives an extra dimension of the smoky flavor (also why I use smoked bacon). This is a perfect fit for any leftover baked or smoked ham that you have. If I don’t have leftover ham, use smoked ham shanks, which are very flavorful and meaty. If a portion of ham bone is available, stick that in there too. However, if you cannot find suitable smoked ham, a good substitution is smoked pork sausage or andouille.
If you can not find Navy Beans, good substitutes are Great Northern Beans, Cannellini and even Baby Limas.
Soaking the beans: There are at least three good methods to do this. Whatever method you use, first rinse the beans in a colander, sort through them and remove any bad-looking beans or pebbles or things that don’t belong. When you are finished soaking the beans (whatever method you use) drain the beans and discard the liquid. Again you can read more about salting, soaking and other useful or useless facts about beans in my Lagniappe article, Do You Soak Your Beans?.
- Overnight Method: Soak the beans overnight (at least 8 hours) in a bowl of cold water.
- The 1-hour Method: Bring about 8 to 10 cups of cold water to a rapid boil then add the beans. When the water returns to a boil, let them boil for about three minutes, then remove the pot from the heat, cover and let it sit for at least an hour.
- The 3-hour Method: Bring about 8 to 10 cups of water to a rapid boil then add the beans. When the water returns to a boil take the pot off the heat and cover and let it sit for 3 hours.
I always use long-grain white rice, although you can use whichever type of rice you like. My go-to rice is Uncle Ben’s Converted Rice. Converted rice (also called parboiled rice) means that the rice is partially pre-cooked in its husk before milling, which helps retain its nutrients and texture, and helps produce fluffy, separated grains of cooked rice. For any rice nerds (like me) check out this article for more than you need to know about parboiled rice!
Cooking rice can be very challenging for people, but it does not have to be. No need for a rice cooker or specialty equipment. Here are the simple steps I take to make perfect rice, every time:
- Bring about six cups of cold water to a boil. It’s optional whether or not you rinse the uncooked rice-sometimes I do, but more than not I don’t. I’ve noticed no difference in cooking or the taste of the rice.
- Once the water reaches a rapid boil, add salt (about two teaspoons), then the rice.
- Give it a stir and when it returns to a boil, leave it on a heavy simmer for 10 minutes.
- After 10 minutes, test the rice to see if it is cooked to your liking. I usually go for an al dente texture. If it's still hard and or has a little crunch, simply simmer it for a couple more minutes.
- When it's done to your liking, drain the rice into a colander and rinse.
- Actually, the rinsing part is optional, but I do it every time. The result is fluffy, separate grains of rice. It's not “sticky rice”.
- The only way you can mess this up is to overcook the rice. If the water is boiling out, simply add more water while you cook it and return to a boil. It works every time for me.
Leftover White Beans and Ham can be kept in the fridge for up to a week and will even become more flavorful the day after you first cook them. They reheat easily in the microwave or on the stovetop. You can also store them in the freezer for up to 2 or 3 months. The key to maintaining their quality in the refrigerator or the freezer is storing them in airtight containers. If you have a lot of beans leftover, consider freezing them in one or two portion sizes. They will defrost quicker and you can just grab the quantity you need without having to defrost the whole batch.
If you want to try something a little different with the leftovers, here are a couple of ideas:
- Make a great bean dip. Just smash the beans with a potato masher or run them (beans and ham) through a food processor and add just a little water or broth to thin it out, if needed. You can flavor it with some cumin and chili powder to give the dip a southwest flair or add some creole seasonings and cayenne to give them a Cajun twist.
- You could also make soup out of the leftovers. Just saute some onions in butter until clear. Stir in the leftover beans and until warmed, then add chicken broth or stock to thin it to a soup consistency. Add some Herbs and Spices to your liking and there you have it.
Here are some other great bean recipes from Sweet Daddy D:
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Yeah You Right!
White Beans and Ham
Here's What You Need
- 1 pound Navy beans dry
- 5 slices smoked bacon divided
- ½ pound smoked ham cubed
- 2 cups yellow onions chopped
- ½ cup bell pepper chopped
- ½ cup celery chopped
- 4 teaspoons garlic chopped
- 1 tablespoon Creole seasoning
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 bay leaves
- 4 to 6 cups water
Here's What You Do
- Soak beans according to your preferred method
- Cube ham, slice the bacon, chop vegetables and measure the seasonings.
- Fry two slices of bacon starting in a cold Duch oven over medium-high heat.
- Leaving the bacon in the Dutch oven, add the cubed ham and sautee for about 2 minutes, stirring well to coat all the ham with bacon grease.
- Drain the beans and discard the soaking water.
- Add the beans to the Dutch oven with the ham and mix well.
- Add 2 bay leaves and add enough cold water to cover beans (about 5 cups).
- Bring the Dutch oven to a boil, then reduce heat, and simmer for 1 hour, covered.
- While the beans are simmering, add three slices of bacon to a cold cast iron skillet over medium heat.
- When the bacon fat has rendered, add the Trinity to the bacon in the skillet and saute until softened and beginning to brown on the edges, about 10 minutes.
- Add the garlic, Creole seasoning and black pepper (not the salt), stir well and continue to saute for about 2 minutes. Set aside until needed.
- After the beans have simmered for 1 hour, stir well and add the sauteed Trinity and seasonings to the beans.
- Adjust heat to maintain a slow simmer and simmer for 30 minutes, uncovered, stirring occationally.
- After 30 minutes, stir well and cover the Dutch oven. Continue to simmer for another 30 minutes.
- Add 1 teaspoon kosher salt and test the beans for doneness.
- If beans are not done, continue to simmer uncovered for an additional 10 minutes or until tender. Add more water if needed, but only enough to keep the beans just covered.
- Remove the bay leaves and serve over cooked white rice.
Jenean E. McKay
Not sure what creole seasoning and I don't think my grocery store (Giant) has it. Could I create it with other seasonings? Thanks. Jenean McKay, a friend of Susan Coco's
Sweet Daddy D
Hey, Jenean. Thanks for reaching out. I sent you an email with some ideas. Enjoy.