Pennsylvania Dutch Ham and String Beans

Here is an old stand-by in the Coal Region and Pennsylvania Dutch kitchens and is a great one-pot meal.  You can use fresh or frozen green (string) beans, but I prefer fresh whenever possible even though there is a tad more work involved in cleaning the beans.

In all my years (okay…decades…) of making this, I have used ham hocks, frozen left-over ham ends from holiday dinners, ham ends bought at the grocery store just for this dish when I get the urge, or even a center cut slice of ham although my preference is hocks or the bone-in end for the best flavor in the broth. 

If your broth winds up a little “wimpy”, add some ham broth seasoning like Better Than Bouillon brand to taste.  I use plain white all-purpose potatoes for this dish although red or Yukon gold are great alternatives.

My family always ate it with a splash of white distilled or cider vinegar in the bowl when served but even red wine vinegar works, if adding vinegar is to your liking.  You can even add a small splash of vinegar to the pot when cooking the beans.

I prefer to make this one evening and reheat and serve the next day as I believe the flavors really develop that way, but you can make it and eat it immediately (it can be hard to wait after smelling the yummy fragrance in your home as it cooks!) And no crunchy, squeaky green beans here… the beans should be very soft in this dish.

The recipe is VERY forgiving; you add more or less potatoes, more or less ham, add some bacon, use more or less green beans… you get the idea. Almost every time I cook this, I wind up accompanying it with a “wilted lettuce” salad using Hot Bacon Dressing and shredded iceberg lettuce.

Pennsylvania Dutch Ham and String Beans

Recipe by A Coalcracker in the KitchenCourse: Entree, SoupCuisine: PA Dutch, Coal RegionDifficulty: Easy

A hearty, one-pot, traditional Pennsylvania Dutch meal great for using up left-over ham from holiday dinners.


  • 2 ham hocks OR a 3 to 4 pound bone-in ham end

  • Cold water (to cover in pot)

  • 3 to 4 pounds cleaned (ends removed) fresh green beans OR frozen green beans

  • 1 large onion, large dice

  • 2 to 2 1/2 pounds peeled potatoes, cut into chunks approximately 1 to 1 1/2 inches.

  • Optional if needed – ham flavor bouillon to taste

  • Optional when cooking – small splash cider, white, or red wine vinegar

  • Salt and pepper to taste (add salt after tasting the final broth!)


  • Place ham in a large pot with lid, cover with water, and bring to boil. Reduce to simmer and cook 1-1/2 to 2 hours to get nicely tender ham and a rich broth. Ham hocks may take longer to cook to fall-apart tender, but that is the stage you want them at.
  • Remove ham from pot, set aside, and allow to cool enough to handle. When cool, pull ham from bone and cut into chunks or pull into shreds.
  • Taste broth. You want a nice rich broth, if necessary, add some ham bouillon to enrich to your taste.
  • Place chunks of ham, diced onion, green beans, and potatoes into pot with broth and bring to boil. Reduce to simmer and cook slowly until beans and potatoes are very tender, about 45 minutes to an hour.
  • Serve in bowls with plenty of broth and, if desired, vinegar on the side to add to taste.