Well hey there, friends! I’m just over the flippin’ moon excited to bring y’all my family’s treasured recipe for the sweetest, smokiest Great Northern Beans simmered to tender perfection in the crockpot. This recipe has been passed down through generations in my family as the ultimate comfort food. But I put my own special spin on it with a splash of brown sugar to really amplify that signature ooey-gooey sweetness and molasses-esque kick of flavor that makes these beans so drool-worthy.
Now I know crockpot beans don’t exactly sound glamorous at first blush. But let me tell you – one whiff of these tender legumes all snuggled up and bathing happily in that soul-warming, aromatic broth with caramelized onions and smoky ham hock? And you’ll be hooked, my friends. Downright addicted to the sweet and savory sauce these babies cook in. And the beans themselves? The creamiest, protein-packed morsels of tender bean bliss you ever did see. They’re like an edible hug straight from the crock.
This recipe has gotten me through many a chaotic week over the years, I tell you what. Those scrumptious smells of onions low and slow caramelizing into sweetness permeates through my whole house while I’m buried under paperwork, wrangling laundry, hustling kids to practice, you name it. Just one inhale of that cozy aroma reminds me I’ve got a hearty, comforting meal in the works. No need to stress about dinner or resort to takeout after a long day when I’ve got my beans bubbling away. And ooh boy, don’t even get me started on the leftovers the next day! Those paragon beans just soak up allllll the rich flavors from that ambrosial broth overnight for a quick reheat anytime.
Now I know you’ve got questions, so let’s dig way in, shall we? Here’s the full tea on everything you could possibly want to know about my signature Great Northern Beans x Crockpot combo
How early can I start this recipe, really?
Listen here – you betcha you can prep these beans first thing in the a.m. before shuffling off to work for the day! Just toss everything in the crock and let it simmer away on low for a good 6-8 hours. I love swooping home after a long day to a just-tender bean and a house filled up to the rafters with those happy, homey smells.
What kind of ham hock really does work best here?
For the deepest, most aromatically euphoric flavor, I highly recommend smoked ham hocks – they will infuse your beans with that soulful, slightly smoky note you expect and crave. Plain ole uncooked ham hocks are fab too though! I’d avoid any pre-cooked ones if possible.
Okay but do I reeeeeally need to rinse the beans first?
Listen here, my bean-loving friend – yes, you surely do give those beans a thorough rinse before flinging them in the crock. Gotta wash away any dirt, debris, dust, etc that may be hangin’ around. Trust me, it makes a difference! Then you just let the crock work its slow magic, soaking up and tenderizing those beans into submission with no advance prep needed.
Help a neighbor out! What if my finished beans aren’t as saucily soupy as I envisioned?
Oh honey, no worries at all! If your batch ends up lookin’ a little thicker than you prefer once cooked, just splash a smidge more broth in there until you achieve that luscious spoon-coating broth factor you’re dreamin’ about.
Be honest, can I realllly sub ingredients if needed in a pinch?
I got you, friend! In emergency situations, you can use a yellow onion instead of white if needed. And for the ham hock, try swappin’ for a smoked ham steak, bacon, or even turkey leg or wings!
How in the heck should I be seasonin’ these beans, anyways?
I’d suggest starting with just a basic teaspoon of salt and pepper. Then you can adjust to taste once cooked, adding more salt, pepper, hot sauce, etc. to your heart’s content! I like to offer hot sauce, green onions, shreddy cheddar, and cornbread muffins on the side too for folks to customize.
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 6-8 hours
Total Time: 6-8 hours 10 minutes
- 1 medium yellow onion, diced (about 2 cups)
- 4 ounces smoked ham hocks, chopped
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1 pound great northern beans, rinsed and sorted
- 6 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1⁄2 teaspoon black pepper
- Chopped green onions, sour cream, hot sauce, and crusty bread, for serving (optional)
- Let’s start by getting our ingredients prepped. Chop that onion into roughly 1⁄2 inch pieces so they’ll break down nice and easy in the crockpot. Get your ham hocks sliced into 1-inch chunks as well for maximum smoky flavor distribution.
- Go ahead and give your beans a thorough rinse until the water runs clear – this removes any debris or dust. Now we’re ready to load up our cooker!
- Put those chopped onions right into the bottom of your crockpot – this will prevent any burning. Next add the ham, brown sugar, great northern beans, broth, salt and pepper on top and gently stir everything together until combined. Make sure the beans are fully submerged in all that flavorful liquid gold.
- Pop the lid on and set the heat to LOW. Now we let those babies slowly soak up the sweet and savory flavors for 6-8 hours until they are fall-apart, melt-in-your mouth tender. I like starting mine first thing in the morning, so they are ready to serve piping hot and creamy by dinnertime.
- Around hour 6, carefully remove the lid and check for doneness. Give the beans a test squish between your fingers – we’re looking for a totally creamy interior here. If needed, let cook for 1-2 more hours.
- Once ultra tender and saucy, have a taste and adjust seasoning if desired. I sometimes add a bit more salt and pepper or splash in more broth if the mixture seems too thick.
- Finally, serve your sweet and smoky beans into bowls while hot, ready for toppings! Go for crunch with chopped green onions, cooling sour cream, fiery hot sauce – or just enjoy their creamy goodness all on their own. Warm crusty bread alongside never hurts either.
- Don’t forget – these soulful crockpot beans makeleftover magic. Store in an airtight container up to 4 days and add to salads all week long! Freezer-friendly too.
- Can I prepare this recipe in advance? Yes! Cook the beans fully until very tender. Let cool completely, then transfer to airtight containers and refrigerate for up to 4 days, or freeze for up to 3 months. Reheat gently before serving.
- Are ham hocks necessary or can I sub something else? I highly recommend ham hocks for the signature smoky flavor. If needed, you could perhaps use 4 ounces diced smoked ham instead.
- Do I need to soak the beans first? Nope! The crockpot does the work of soaking and simmering the beans slowly. No advance prep needed.
- Can I double this recipe? Absolutely! Just use a larger crockpot and double all ingredients. Cook time will remain the same.
- What sides go well with these beans? I love serving them with hot sauce, chopped green onions, crusty bread, greens, or brown rice. Get creative with toppings!