Kale with White Beans and Ham

Subscription food services teach you how to cook seasonally and often present you with products you’ve never cooked before. In Kentucky, leafy greens are abundant 365 days a year. One plaintive Facebook poster asked, “How much kale can a person eat?”
May 01, 2010

About this recipe

Leafy greens top the list of healthy foods — low in calories, dense in nutrients — so it’s good to eat as many as you can. The good news: In the sauté pan or soup pot they shrink to a fraction of their fresh size. Soups are one great way to use greens, and the one below is traditional. Check Southern Italian cookbooks for recipes that are familiar and delicious — often they combine greens with ham and beans, like we do in the South.


  1. Drain the beans if you’ve soaked them, then put them in a large, deep pot over medium-high heat. Add the ham bone, stock, onions, 1 teaspoon salt, and black pepper and red pepper to taste. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to simmer and cover partially. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the beans are very soft and any meat is falling off the bone, about 90 minutes. Add more liquid as necessary so the mixture remains soupy.
  2. Remove the bone from the pot and set aside. Mash or purée the beans, then return them to the pot and place over medium heat. When the ham bone is cool enough to handle, remove the meat and put it in the soup along with enough water to get the thickness you like.
  3. Bring to a boil and add kale. Simmer until tender, 30 minutes or so, adding water as necessary. Season with salt, black pepper and red pepper as desired.


  • 3 cups any dried white beans, washed, picked over and soaked all day if time allows
  • 1 ham bone or 2 or 3 smoked ham hocks
  • 3 quarts chicken broth, beef broth or water
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • Salt, freshly ground black pepper and red pepper flakes to taste
  • 1½ pounds kale, thick stems removed, washed and chopped
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