Potato Ham and Leek Soup is the perfect use-up for leftover holiday ham, but is a cozy favorite all winter long! With just a few simple ingredients, this stovetop soup is super creamy and ready in under an hour!
Potato Ham and Leek Soup is the perfect cheesy, creamy, chunky combination of everything there is to love about soup! Only 8 ingredients but huge flavor!
Leftover holiday ham is perfect for this soup, but you can buy a small fully cooked ham or ham steak pretty much any time of year!
I've found a small quarter ham to be so handy and last for at least 2 or 3 dinners. I usually slice it and fry it in a cast iron skillet one night, then soup, a quiche, or add it to mac and cheese with broccoli.
Ingredients & Substitutions
Just a few basic ingredients pack so much flavor into this healthy potato leek soup!
- Yukon Gold Potatoes -You can really use any kind of potatoes for this recipe. I prefer Yukon Gold because their thin skins don't need to be peeled. If you use potatoes with a thicker skin, such as russets, peel them. The number of potatoes will vary by size, so just measure out about 8 cups when chopped. Save 2 or 3 cups of the starchy water from the boiling potatoes to add to the soup.
- Butter & Flour - It may seem like too much butter to saute the leeks, but equal amounts of butter and flour combine to form a roux, the thickener for the soup.
- Leeks - A lovely member of the onion family, leeks give great flavor to this soup. Two large leeks at first seemed like too much, but they really melt right into the soup without being overpowering. The most important thing is to wash them free of dirt. The big green tops can be frozen to save for Homemade Chicken Stock, pull them apart to rinse them. A regular yellow onion can be substituted and you can add in some celery if you like.
- Ham - This soup is great for using up leftover holiday ham! But, you can really make it any time of year. Most stores carry a small boneless fully cooked smoked quarter ham. These are great to chop for soups, quiche, sandwiches or to add to mac & cheese.
- Garlic - Fresh is best, or substitute 1 teaspoon garlic powder.
- Milk - Whole milk is best for soup because of the higher fat content, but use what you have. Once you add the milk, keep the soup at a gentle simmer and don't boil.
- Salt & Pepper - This soup relies on its flavorful short ingredient list, and is simply seasoned with just salt and pepper. Measure it out ahead of time so you can add some to the sautéing leeks and the rest to the potatoes, they need the most seasoning.
- Cheddar Cheese - Ham, cheese and potatoes are a match made in heaven! Buy a block of cheddar and shred it yourself for the best quality. Pre-shredded bags of cheese don't melt as well.
See recipe card for quantities.
The potatoes are boiled separately in their own pot while you make the rest of the soup in another. This allows the potatoes to boil up quickly while not scalding your creamy milk sauce.
Step 1 - Chop your potatoes and boil them in a large pot of water over high heat as you would make mashed potatoes, about 30 minutes.
Slice off the dark green tops and root ends of the leeks and slice in half lengthwise. Chop them into half moons and submerge in water to allow the dirt to sink to the bottom.
Step 2 - Agitate the floating leeks in the water and then pull them off the top of the water with your hands, leaving the dirt behind.
Toss them in a colander and give them a good rinse.
Give your colander a rinse and save to drain your potatoes!
Step 3 - In a soup pot over medium heat, saute the leeks in butter, about 8 minutes. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper (pre-measure it so you can add as you go).
Step 4 - Add the ham and continue sautéing another 5 minutes until slightly brown and crisp.
Step 5 - Add the garlic and flour, stirring for just a minute to combine with the butter and form the roux, the thickener for the soup.
Step 6 - Pull out 2 cups of starchy water from the cooking potatoes, even if they aren't done. Add the starchy water and milk and simmer over low heat to thicken.
Step 7 - Whisk often, the soup will thicken in 7 or 8 minutes. Meanwhile the potatoes should be about done.
Step 8 - Add the drained potatoes and mash with a potato masher until you reach the chunkiness you like!
Step 9 - Add the cheese, saving some for topping. Serve soup garnished with sliced green onions or chives and a dollop of sour cream or plain yogurt.
- Storage - Store potato leek soup in airtight containers in the fridge for up to 4 days.
- Reheating - You can reheat potato soup in the microwave or over a low burner on the stove. You will most likely need to add liquid, either water or milk when you reheat. The soup thickens a lot when it cools!
- Any Kind of Potato - I used 6 larger Yukon Gold potatoes for this soup, but you can really use any type of potatoes you have including russets, red potatoes, baby potatoes or fingerlings. Just measure out 8 cups of chopped potatoes, a glass pyrex measuring cup works great.
- You don't need to peel the potatoes - Yukon Gold potatoes have thin skins that are fine not to peel for this soup. If you substitute potatoes with thicker skin, like a russet, you may want to peel them.
- Adjusting the Thickness - Potato Ham Leek Soup has a tendency to get way too thick the longer it cooks or sits. This is easy to adjust by adding more milk or water, the starchy water from boiling the potatoes or just regular water. If your soup is too thin, just continue to simmer it over a low burner and mash the potatoes up with a potato masher.
- Holiday Leftovers - If you've got leftover mashed potatoes, you can throw a few scoops into this soup at the end! Just decrease the amount of potatoes you use depending on the amount you intend to add.
- Toppings - Add extra shredded cheese, fresh herbs like sliced scallions, chives or parsley, a dollop of sour cream or plain yogurt, oyster crackers or saltines. For a kid-friendly potato leek soup topping, my kids love goldfish crackers or cheddar bunnies!
- Serve With - Potato soup is starchy and rich enough, so I usually avoid garlic bread or grilled cheese sandwiches. I instead do a soup and salad night to make it a bigger meal. Try my Italian Mixed Greens Salad with Crispy Prosciutto.
I don't recommend pureeing potato soup because the consistency can turn gluey. This potato soup has ham sauteed before adding the potatoes which wouldn't be very good blended. This ham and leek soup is meant to be chunky and thick and best not pureed!
No, this ham and leek soup uses butter and flour, a roux, as the thickener. You can use a gluten-free flour in its place, such as tapioca or rice flour. You can also try making the soup without the flour and just mash the potatoes with a potato masher to thicken the soup. If you do this and it isn't thick enough, you can thicken it with a slurry of cornstarch and water.
Always season soup as you go with salt and pepper. This means pre-measuring the salt and pepper and adding a pinch to the sautéing leeks, and then the rest to the potatoes. Potatoes need a good amount of salt not to be bland. The ham and cheese also add salt and great flavor to the soup. Taste the finished soup and add more salt and pepper if needed.
If you forget to pull out some of the liquid from the boiling potatoes, don't worry. You can just use regular water or chicken stock instead. The potato water just gives extra starchy potato flavor, but your soup will be fine without.
Potato soup is not the best soup to freeze since the potatoes can have a grainy texture after being thawed. I wouldn't make extra on purpose just to freeze, but I do think it is ok to freeze if you have a bit leftover. Make sure to mash it with a potato masher to be smoother. Freeze for up to 3 months and thaw overnight in the fridge before reheating. Reheat over a low burner on the stove, you may need to add more milk or water.
More Favorite Soup Recipes!
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Potato Ham and Leek Soup
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- 8 cups Yukon Gold potatoes chopped (about 6 potatoes)
- 3 Tablespoons butter
- 2 leeks washed and sliced
- 3 cups ham diced
- 4 cloves garlic
- 3 Tablespoons flour
- 2 cups starchy water from the boiling potatoes
- 2 cups milk
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 8 grinds fresh black pepper
- 2 cups cheddar cheese shredded
- Cook the potatoes in a separate pot of water as you would mashed potatoes. Boil over high heat until soft and breaking apart, about 30 minutes. Ladle out 2 cups of the starchy water before draining.
- To clean leeks, slice off the dark green top and root end. Cut the leeks in half lengthwise and slice into half moons. Put the chopped leeks into a bowl of water, agitating them with your fingers to allow any dirt to fall to the bottom. Pull the clean leeks from the top with your hands. You can give them another good rinse in a colander.
- Heat a large soup pot or Dutch oven over medium heat and melt the butter. Add the leeks and saute until soft, about 8 minutes. Pre-measure your salt and pepper, adding a pinch to the leeks.
- Add the ham to saute along with the leeks, about 5 more minutes until slightly brown and crispy.
- Add the garlic and flour and stir in another minute until fragrant.
- Add the milk and 2 cups of starchy water from the boiling potatoes. Use a ladle or measuring cup to pull it out and measure, even if the potatoes aren't done.
- Simmer the soup over medium low heat, whisking often until the liquid thickens, 7 or 8 minutes. Add the drained potatoes when done, sprinkle with the remaining salt and pepper as you add them. Stir the soup together, continue simmering to thicken it more. You can choose to mash the potatoes further with a potato masher.
- Stir in the cheese, save some to garnish the top, and serve with a dollop of sour cream or plain yogurt and fresh scallions or chives.
- Potatoes - Use any kind of potatoes for this soup. Yukon Gold potatoes have a thin skin that doesn't need to be peeled. Potatoes with thicker skin, like russet, you'll want to peel.
- Use leftover holiday ham or chopped Boneless Uncured Ham or ham steak.
- If you don't have leeks, a regular onion can be subbed and celery can be added.
- If your soup becomes too thick, especially when reheating, thin it with water or milk.