This copycat recipe based on Campbell's Bean with Bacon Soup can be made in a dutch oven, Instant Pot, or slow cooker.
One of my favorite soups growing up was Campbell's Bean with Bacon soup.
I didn't eat a lot of different soups as a kid. It was this soup and chicken noodle soup.
Over a decade ago, when I began learning how to cook more things for myself, relying less on prepared foods, this is soup is something I wanted to replicate.
Through some trail and error not only did I eventually get it right, but I would say that my version is Better than Campbell's Bean with Bacon Soup - it certainly has less sodium in it.
How to Make Bean with Bacon Soup Like Campbell's
The soup is pretty easy to make. The ingredients is what makes it special, and a little bit of technique.
For the soup to be mmm mmm great...
- Use dried, not canned
- Use fresh tomatoes
- Add good bacon
- Cook the carrots separately
- Puree some of the soup after cooking
- Eat it leftover!
Seriously about the leftover thing, the soup is actually better the next day, as it will thicken when chilled and still be thick when you re-heat it.
There are a few different ways you can make this soup. I am going to address three of those - slow cooker, dutch oven, or Instant Pot.
How to Make Bean Soup in a Dutch Oven
When I first developed this recipe I made the soup in my Dutch Oven. I like the Dutch Oven because of the way it distributes heat and how it will keep the soup warm for serving.
I pre-soak the beans before cooking the soup to help it cook faster. Still it will take about 2 ½ to 3 hours. You bring the soup to a boil and reduce to simmer with the lid on for that time.
How to Make Bean Soup in a Slow Cooker
The slow cooker method is going to be well slower of course, but it's a great way to start the soup and forget it.
For most slow cookers, it's going to take 4-5 hours on the high setting or 7-8 hours on the low setting. You can get away without soaking the beans if you cook them for a long time.
How to Make Bean Soup in the Instant Pot
The newest way I have made the soup and now my go-to method is with my Instant Pot. What I like about this is speed. 35 minutes of cook time is all you need to cook the beans to the perfect doneness for the soup (add in time for the pot to come to pressure as well as time for it to naturally release, but still it's the fastest by far).
No soaking again needed with this method and I can tell you then it came out wonderful this way. The best batch I ever made was with the Instant Pot.
Step by Step Instructions
Let's go through the step by step instructions on how to make this delicious soup. For the instructions I will be using the Instant Pot, however if you aren't doing that method still read through them as there will be helpful tips that apply to anyway you make the soup.
Put the beans into the Instant Pot and cover with either 8 cups of water with 4 ounces of tomato paste or you can use 6 cups of water with 2 cups of tomato soup. When I made it I used tomatoes that I got from my garden that I had not thicken up enough yet to be sauce.
Set your Instant Pot to 35 minutes. Seal it. Let it naturally release when done which takes about 15-20 minutes.
The rest of the instructions are good for any method you choose to cook the beans.
Cook the Bacon Separately
While it may be tempting to just throw everything into the pot at once, I choose to cook the bacon separate and add it when the soup is done. The way you are getting the best flavor out of the bacon.
I cut the bacon in half and place it into a non-stick pan. Cook it over medium heat so that it cooks more evenly and doesn't burn in spots.
Once cooled, cut/chop into pieces and add to the finished beans after step 8.
Cook the Carrots Separately
Same thing applies to the carrots. Unless you don't mind your carrots being super soft, I like to chop the carrots and cook them in a pan with a little oil. This caramelizes the carrots giving them incredible flavor.
I like to use different colors of carrots, that each have a different flavor. They also make the soup look prettier!
Add them to the finished beans after the 8th step.
Thickening the Soup
The key to thickening the soup is to take 2 cups of the beans and puree them.
I use my Immersion/Stick blender in the cup that came with it. You can do this in a food processor too. This will add body to the soup.
Make sure to do this BEFORE adding the carrots and bacon
What also will help thicken the soup is putting in the fridge. As the soup cools, the scratches released by the beans will further thicken the soup. When you have the soup the next day the texture it will be even better.
Here are some potential ingredients substitutions you can try with this recipe:
Water --> Chicken Stock/Broth
You can use chicken stock to add more flavor, however I think the tomato flavor in the soup is strong enough and the soup is pretty flavorful without it. If you want to give it a try.
Onion Powder --> Half a freshly chopped onion or 1 shallot
Onion powder makes it easier but you can use a fresh onion or shallot as well. Make sure to saute them before adding them to the soup. I was fine with the onion powder as I didn't really want that strong of an onion flavor.
Tomato paste --> Tomato soup
You can either use tomato paste or replace some of the water with tomato soup. Homemade tomato soup would be the best.
Great Northern Beans --> Navy beans
Either of these white beans will work.
Smoked Paprika --> Liquid Smoke or Smoked Salt
I originally used liquid smoke in the recipe but I found a smoked paprika from Burlap & Barrel has plenty of smokey flavor and adds another dimension of flavor from the paprika itself.
If you do use liquid smoke I would recommend using Wright's brand. It's the only one I could find without added ingredients.
A good smoked salt would also be delicious.
Other Recipes You Might Like
Better Than Campbell's Bean with Bacon Soup
- Rinse and sort your beans. Add them to the Instant Pot. If using a slow cooker or dutch oven see recipes notes for cooking times.
- Cover the beans with 8 cups of water. Add in the tomato paste, garlic powder, smoked paprika, and onion powder.
- Set the Instant Pot for 35 minutes. Seal. Allow for natural release.
- While the beans cook, put the bacon into a non-stick pan and cook over medium heat until crispy. Once cooled, cut into bite sized pieces. Set aside.
- Cut the carrots into small, bite sized cubes. Add oil to a pan or use some of the bacon fat from cooking the bacon. Cook the carrots over medium heat until they are soft and have taken on some color. Set aside.
- Remove the lid from the Instant Pot, slow cooker, or dutch oven. Ladle out 2 cups of the soup. Include both beans and the liquid. Puree til smooth with a food processor or stick blender. Add back to the soup. Stir to combine.
- Add the carrots and bacon to the soup. Salt to taste and enjoy.
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