The Best Way To Use Your Leftover Ham Bone, Other Than Soup

If ham is a staple in your house — or if it's your go-to protein for holidays — you probably already know that the leftover bone can be used to impart a smoky ham flavor into other dishes. The most typical way to repurpose a ham bone is to use it (and the remaining meat still clinging to it) to flavor soups like split pea, navy bean, and, unsurprisingly, ham bone soup. Those are solid choices, but if you want to think beyond the soup bowl, there are other options too.

When considering what to do with ham bones, think about other dishes to which you may typically add pork — a ham bone can help enhance those recipes with more flavor. Or, you can infuse a meaty flavor into recipes that didn't already call for it. A good place to start is with longer-cooking vegetables like greens, various types of beans, or dishes that incorporate rice.

How to use leftover ham bone

If you're looking to enhance veggies with smoky, salty flavor, consider incorporating ham bones into greens like collards, fresh Swiss chard, or mustard greens. While it is traditional in the South to use ham hock (also known as pork knuckle), ham bones can also be used. The flavor imparted by the ham bone may not be quite as pronounced as when using a ham hock, but the long cooking time that greens require will give plenty of opportunities for the ham bone flavor to infuse into the greens.

Two other Southern favorites are pinto beans and red beans and rice, also sometimes made with ham hock. For these, you can also substitute a ham bone. Or, you can substitute any other bean that you like, from white beans or black beans to kidney beans or lima beans. And while they're called "peas," black-eyed peas are another legume that can be jazzed up by cooking them with a ham bone.

Other uses and how to store ham bones

One other popular use of ham bones is to make a stock, just like you might with chicken. While you could certainly use the stock to make a soup or stew, there are other uses. Consider using it as cooking water for rice or other starches or vegetables. Or substitute it for the water in a dish like risotto alla carbonara. You can make it ahead of time and keep it in the freezer for up to three months, either in a resealable plastic bag, a freezer-safe container, or in ice cube trays for smaller servings.

Whether you're dressing up veggies or beans, or making stock with a leftover ham bone, you'll want to ensure proper storage — after all, it's unlikely you're going to hop up from a holiday dinner and start cooking all over again. If you intend to use the bone within three days, wrap it tightly and store it in the refrigerator. Otherwise, place it in the freezer for up to three months and thaw it when you're ready to take your rice, beans, and veggies to the next level.