Bill Knapp's Michigan Bean Soup

"Before they closed their doors in 2002, Bill Knapp's Restaurants were a 54 year tradition in Michigan, Ohio, and Indiana. Delicious served hot with cornbread. Adapted from a 1997 edition of The Detroit News. Posted in response to a recipe request."
photo by darvsgirl photo by darvsgirl
photo by darvsgirl
Ready In:
11hrs 45mins




  • Wash and sort the beans and soak overnight in cold water to cover.
  • Next morning drain beans.
  • Put beans, ham and garlic in stockpot, add 2 to 3 quarts water.
  • Bring to a boil, cover and simmer 3 hours or until beans are tender.
  • While the beans are cooking, in a separate pan boil the onion, celery and carrots in enough water to cover for 30 minutes.
  • Drain and add to the beans and ham and continue cooking for 45 minutes more.
  • Put soup contents in blender or food processor to slightly puree the soup(You will need to do this in batches).
  • Add salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.
  • Note: To use canned beans, allow 3 (15-ounce) cans undrained Northern beans and omit 1 quart water. Continue recipe as directed.

Questions & Replies

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  1. When I make Lima bean soup I don't soak the beans first so I didn't soak the navy beans either. You just have to boil it a lot longer and add more water a couple of times. When I used to eat this soup at Bill Knapps, I thought the beans were larger. I wonder if the great northern beans are closer to what the restaurant used. Either way, this soup was amazing. Your results will vary depending on the kind of ham you use. I used smoked ham. But I added a few drops of liquid smoke and once I did that, I felt like I was back at Bill Knapps in the 70's
  2. I've made this soup probably 10 times in the last 6 months - and each time, someone has asked for the recipe; it's simply delicious. My very minor changes: I use about 3/4 lb of smoked ham and probably a cup each of onions, celery and carrots. I also throw in a few bay leaves and usually add some dried thyme. I put about half the vegetables in with the ham and beans and, about 45 min before the soup is done, I mush up the beans with a potato masher then add the remainder of the vegetables. If you choose to use canned beans, start with two cans and mush up the third can to add at the 45 min mark.
  3. so good! tastes just how i remember!! used 3 cans of beans and a quart of water, an immersion blender to get the consistency i wanted. i also used the other reviewers tips for the veg and 3rd can of beans but otherwise followed. thank you!!



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