Senate Bean Soup Recipe – A Must-Try Timeless Recipe

“Step into a world of tradition and taste with our Senate Bean Soup Recipe, a dish steeped in history and brimming with hearty goodness. Savor the robust blend of creamy navy beans, tender ham hocks, and aromatic vegetables, all simmering together to create a symphony of flavors. Each bite is a tribute to the timeless recipes of Capitol Hill, offering a bowl of comfort and a taste of American culinary heritage. Embrace the legacy, savor the richness, and let this Senate Bean Soup connect you to the soul of culinary tradition.”

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Welcome to a culinary journey that transcends time and politics – the enchanting tale of Senate Bean Soup Recipe. Often served in the heart of American governance, this humble yet hearty dish continues to captivate with its simplicity.

Senate Bean Soup

Discover the tradition that has, for over a century, found its place amidst the bustling corridors of power. Explore its intriguing origins, decode its irresistible allure, and delve into its universally cherished recipe. 

Learn how to bring this revered soup from Capitol Hill’s hallowed halls to your kitchen table, savoring the authentic flavors of heritage, history, and harmony.

What Is Senate Bean Soup?

Senate Bean Soup is a classic American dish served over a century in the United States Senate’s dining room. With its roots deeply embedded in political tradition, this soup embodies simplicity and heartiness. Its main ingredients include navy beans, smoked ham hocks, and onions, creating a rich, comforting broth. 

A testament to timeless cuisine, Senate Bean Soup is a symbol of cultural continuity, reflecting the enduring essence of American culinary heritage from the high echelons of power to home kitchens across the nation.

History Of Senate Bean Soup Recipe

The history of Senate Bean Soup Recipe traces back to the early 20th century when it became a staple in the United States Senate’s dining room. While its origins are debatable, two senators – Idaho’s Fred Dubois and Minnesota’s Knute Nelson – are often credited with institutionalizing this recipe. 

Both reportedly demanded the soup be served daily, regardless of the weather. Since then, the navy bean soup, distinguished by its simple, hearty ingredients and deep flavor, has stood as a symbol of American culinary tradition, bridging the worlds of politics and comfort food in a uniquely flavorful way.

Interesting Facts About Senate Bean Soup Recipe

Despite its simplicity, Senate Bean Soup has remained a constant on the U.S. Senate’s menu for over a century, showcasing the power of tradition in shaping culinary choices.

There are two different versions of the soup’s recipe. The one attributed to Senator Fred Dubois includes mashed potatoes, while Senator Knute Nelson’s performance is simpler, containing just beans, ham hocks, and onions.

Interestingly, no actual law or resolution enforces the soup’s presence on the Senate dining room menu. Yet, it’s been served daily as a testament to the enduring culinary tradition.

Over time, the original recipe has been adapted to include a variety of other ingredients, such as celery, garlic, and parsley, demonstrating the soup’s versatility.

What Makes The Senate Bean Soup Special?

What makes the Senate Bean Soup special goes beyond its hearty and comforting ingredients. The soup carries a unique narrative steeped in American history and tradition, a culinary constant amidst the shifting political tides of the U.S. Senate. 

The simplicity of the recipe, with navy beans, ham hocks, and onions, contrasts with the complexity of the institution it represents, highlighting an intriguing dichotomy. Moreover, despite no official rule mandating its presence, the soup has been served almost daily in the Senate dining room for over a century, reflecting long standing respect for tradition and heritage in the heart of American governance.

Senate Bean Soup

Ingredient List

Dry great Northern beans6 1/4 cups
Smoked ham shank3/4 pound
Water12 cups
Ham base3 tablespoons
Onion, chopped1
Carrot, chopped1
Celery, chopped2 stalks
Garlic powder1 teaspoon
SaltTo taste
PepperTo taste

Ingredient Tips 

  • Beans: Opt for dried navy beans instead of canned ones for a more authentic taste. Remember to soak them overnight to ensure they cook evenly.
  • Ham Hocks: Choose smoked ham hocks for that traditional, deep flavor. If unavailable, substitute with a smoked ham bone or bacon.
  • Onions: Yellow or white onions work best in this recipe. They should be chopped finely to blend seamlessly with the soup.
  • Seasoning: Keep it simple with salt and pepper to highlight the natural flavors of the beans and ham. However, add bay leaves, thyme, or parsley for an extra flavor boost.
  • Broth: Use a good quality chicken or vegetable broth instead of water for an extra layer of taste.
  • Optional Ingredients: The basic recipe only calls for beans, ham hocks, and onions, but many variations include celery, garlic, or mashed potatoes for added texture and taste.
  • Cooking Time: Take your time. This soup’s flavors deepen the longer it simmers.
  • Freshness: Always use fresh ingredients to ensure the highest quality and taste of your Senate Bean Soup.

Can You Vary The Soup Ingredients?

Senate Bean Soup is a flexible dish that can be adapted to various dietary requirements. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Keto: Traditional Senate Bean Soup isn’t keto-friendly due to its high carbohydrate content from the beans. However, for a keto-friendly version, you could use lower-carb vegetables like cauliflower and broccoli instead of beans and high-fat meat like bacon.
  • Paleo: Swap out the navy beans for a paleo-friendly ingredient like butternut squash or sweet potatoes. Ensure your ham hocks are not cured with any sugars or non-paleo additives.
  • Gluten-Free: Good news – the traditional recipe is naturally gluten-free! Always double-check your ingredients, especially broth, to ensure they are gluten-free.
  • Whole30: Replace the navy beans with Whole30-compliant vegetables like zucchini or squash. As with the paleo version, make sure your ham hocks are Whole30-approved.
  • Vegetarian: To make the soup vegetarian, omit the ham hocks and use vegetable broth. Add smoked paprika for a hint of smokiness.
  • Vegan: Follow the vegetarian guidelines, and replace butter (if used for sautéing) with olive oil or a vegan butter substitute.

Recipe Directions 

  • Put the dry great Northern beans in a large bowl and add enough water to cover them. Allow the beans to soak overnight.
  • In a large saucepan over medium heat, combine the smoked ham shank and 4 cups of water. Simmer the ham shank for about 45 minutes.
  • Once the ham shank is cool enough to handle, remove the meat from the bone and shred it. Set aside the bone and shredded meat for later use. You can also reserve the stock from simmering the ham shank, if desired, to replace the ham base later on.
  • Drain the soaked beans and transfer them to an 8-quart pot.
  • Add 12 cups of fresh water to the pot along with the ham base. Alternatively, if you reserved the stock from step 3, measure it and add enough water to make a total of 12 cups of liquid, then use this mixture to eliminate the ham base.
  • Add the chopped onion, carrot, celery, garlic powder, shredded ham, ham bone, and season with salt and pepper to taste.
  • Bring the mixture to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to medium, cover the pot, and let it simmer for 1 1/2 hours, or until the beans are tender. Stir occasionally and add additional water if needed to maintain the desired consistency. The soup should be thick enough to heavily coat a spoon.
  • Once the beans are tender and the soup has reached the desired consistency, your Senate Bean Soup is ready to serve.
Senate Bean Soup

Variations, Add-Ons And Toppings

The beauty of Senate Bean Soup is its simplicity and versatility. Here are some variations, add-ons, and toppings that you can consider to personalize the dish:


  • Vegetables: Add veggies like diced tomatoes, bell peppers, or kale for extra nutrition and flavor.
  • Grains: You could add some barley or rice for texture and heartiness.
  • Spices: Depending on your taste preference, you can experiment with spices. Add smoked paprika, cayenne pepper for a little kick, or a bay leaf for a depth of flavor.


  • Protein: If you want more protein, add cubes of cooked chicken, turkey, or even sausage.
  • Legumes: Mix in other legumes like kidney beans or chickpeas for a twist.
  • Potatoes: Some versions of Senate Bean Soup include mashed potatoes. You could also add diced potatoes for a chunkier soup.

Scaling The Recipe

Scaling up or down a recipe like Senate Bean Soup up or down is relatively straightforward. You need to adjust the quantities of your ingredients in proportion to the number of servings you want. However, remember that cooking times might also need to be changed. Here’s how to do it:

Scaling Up

  • To scale up the recipe, multiply the quantity of each ingredient by the number of additional servings you want. For instance, if the original recipe serves 4 and you want to serve 8, you’ll need to double all the ingredients. However, the cooking time may be a little bit higher. Keep an eye on your pot to ensure the beans are properly cooked, and the soup is at the right consistency.

Scaling Down

  • To scale down, you’ll need to divide the quantities of each ingredient. For instance, if you want to make the soup for 2 instead of 4, you would halve all the ingredients. Be cautious with cooking times when scaling down – the soup may cook faster than you expect, especially since there is less volume to heat.

What Is Used For Garnishing Senate Bean Soup?

Senate Bean Soup is typically a simple, rustic dish; garnishes are only sometimes necessary. However, adding garnishes can elevate the dish’s presentation and add extra flavors and textures. Here are a few popular options:

  • Fresh Herbs: A sprinkle of chopped fresh parsley, chives, or dill can add a pop of color and a fresh flavor contrast to the hearty soup.
  • Croutons: Homemade or store-bought croutons can add a delightful crunch and a contrasting texture to the creamy soup.
  • Cheese: A sprinkle of grated Parmesan or cheddar cheese can add a delightful savory note that pairs well with the soup’s flavors.
  • Bacon Bits: If you want to enhance the smoky flavor of the soup, consider sprinkling some crispy bacon bits on top.
  • Sour Cream or Greek Yogurt: A dollop can give a tangy contrast and a creamy texture, enhancing the overall flavor profile.
  • Sliced Green Onions or Chives: These can provide a subtle oniony flavor and a vibrant color contrast.
Senate Bean Soup

Can I Make Soup In A Slow Cooker Or Instant Pot?

You can prepare Senate Bean Soup in either a slow cooker or an Instant Pot. Both methods offer convenience and hands-off cooking while delivering the soup’s signature hearty flavor. Here’s how you can do it:

Slow Cooker

  • Soak the beans overnight as in the traditional method.
  • Add the soaked and drained beans, ham hocks, diced onion, and other ingredients to the slow cooker.
  • Cover with water (or broth for added flavor).
  • Set your slow cooker low for 7-8 hours or until the beans are tender.
  • Once cooked, remove the ham hocks, shred the meat, and return it to the slow cooker. Adjust seasonings if necessary, and serve.

Instant Pot

  • Using the sauté function, cook onions, celery, and carrots until softened.
  • Add the soaked and drained beans, ham hocks, and other ingredients into the pot. Cover with water or broth.
  • Secure the lid and set the Instant Pot to the ‘Bean’ setting or manually set it to pressure cook on high for about 35-40 minutes.
  • Let the pressure release naturally for at least 15 minutes, then vent to release any remaining pressure.
  • Open the pot, remove the ham hocks, shred the meat, and return it to the pot. Adjust seasonings if necessary, and serve.

Can I Use Store Broth, Or Should I Make My Own?

The choice between using store-bought broth or making your own for Senate Bean Soup comes from personal preference, time constraints, and dietary needs.

Store-Bought Broth

  • This is a convenient option and perfect for when you’re short on time. It can still deliver a flavorful soup. When selecting a store-bought broth, opt for low-sodium versions to control your soup’s salt level. Also, check the ingredients list to ensure there are no additives or preservatives you should avoid.

Homemade Broth

  • Making your broth gives you the most control over the flavors and the quality of ingredients. It’s a great way to use leftover bones and vegetable scraps, and it can be made in large batches and frozen for future use. Homemade broth often has a richer flavor than store-bought versions, which can elevate the taste of your soup.

Can I Use Different Types Of Meat/Fish/Pasta/Vegetables For The Soup?

Senate Bean Soup is quite versatile; you can make substitutions or additions based on your preferences. Here are some suggestions:

  • Meat: While ham hocks or shanks are traditionally used, other cuts of ham can also work. Smoked sausage or bacon can add a unique flavor. Chicken or turkey could be used if you prefer poultry, but bear in mind that they may alter the soup’s flavor profile.
  • Fish: Senate Bean Soup isn’t traditionally made with fish, but you could experiment with smoked fish like haddock or salmon for a different twist. However, these will significantly change the taste of the soup.
  • Pasta: Small pasta shapes like ditalini, orzo, or elbow macaroni could be added for extra heartiness. Add them near the end of the cooking process to prevent them from getting too soft.
  • Vegetables: Feel free to add or substitute other vegetables according to your preference. Options could include potatoes, tomatoes, bell peppers, zucchini, kale, or spinach. Adjust the cooking time depending on the vegetables used to ensure they’re cooked properly.
Senate Bean Soup

Success Tips – Tips And Tricks For Making Soup

Making soup can be simple, but a few tips and tricks can take your soup from good to great. Here are some to consider when making Senate Bean Soup or any soup:

Success Tips

  • Start with Quality Ingredients: Begin with high-quality navy beans, ham hocks, and vegetables to ensure the best flavor in your Senate Bean Soup.
  • Soak Beans Overnight: Soak the navy beans overnight to reduce cooking time and ensure they cook evenly.
  • Use Ham Hocks: Ham hocks are traditional in Senate Bean Soup and add a rich, smoky flavor. Ensure they are fully cooked and tender before serving.
  • Homemade Chicken Broth: Make your own chicken broth for a flavorful base. If using store-bought, choose a high-quality, low-sodium option.
  • Sauté Aromatics: Start by sautéing onions, celery, and carrots in butter or oil. This forms a flavorful foundation for the soup.
  • Add Garlic: Include minced garlic for added depth of flavor. Add it towards the end of the sautéing process to prevent burning.
  • Herbs for Flavor: Use a bay leaf and a sprig of thyme for herbal depth. Remember to remove the bay leaf before serving.

Prepping Tips

  • Soak Beans Overnight: This reduces the cooking time and helps the beans cook more evenly. If you forget to soak the beans, you can use the quick soak method: Cover beans with water, bring to a boil, then turn off the heat and let the beans sit in the water for about an hour.
  • Prepare Ingredients: Have all your ingredients chopped, measured, and ready to go before starting. This “mise en place” helps the cooking process go smoothly and quickly.
  • Ham Choice: Opt for a smoked ham hock or shank if possible. It will infuse your soup with a deep, smoky flavor that’s signature in Senate Bean Soup.

Cooking Tips

  • Sauté Aromatics: Sauté your onions, carrots, and celery (the mirepoix) until they are softened for added depth of flavor.
  • Layer Flavors: Add ingredients in stages to build a depth of flavor. Start with the mirepoix, then add the garlic, then the ham, beans, and seasonings.
  • Keep an Eye on the Heat: A good soup should be simmered, not boiled. Boiling can make the ingredients tough and the broth cloudy. A gentle simmer will meld the flavors together without compromising the texture of the ingredients.
  • Taste as You Go: This is the most important part. Always taste your soup at different stages to adjust the seasonings.
  • Skim Off Foam: Beans often release a foamy substance at the start of cooking. Skim this off for a clearer soup.
  • Let It Rest: Once the soup is done, let it sit for a while. Soups often taste better after they’ve had some time to cool and then reheated, as this allows the flavors to meld together more thoroughly.
Senate Bean Soup

Nutritional Values

Senate bean soup is not just a delicious dish, but also a nutritious one. It offers a range of essential nutrients that contribute to a healthy diet. Senate bean soup contains a good amount of protein, which is essential for building and repairing tissues, supporting immune function, and maintaining overall health.

What Are The Total Calories In The Soup?

The total calories in Senate Bean Soup can vary widely based on the exact ingredients and their quantities used. However, a rough estimate for a traditional version of the recipe serving four people could be around 250 calories per serving.

Factors influencing the calorie count include:

  • The cut and amount of ham used: Fattier cuts or larger quantities will increase the calorie count.
  • The type and amount of broth used: Low-sodium or vegetable broths tend to be lower in calories than regular or beef broths.
  • The type and quantity of beans: Navy beans are most commonly used, but other varieties may slightly affect the calorie count.
  • Any additions, such as extra vegetables or garnishes like cheese or sour cream, will also add to the total calories.

Dietary Restrictions Of The Soup

Senate Bean Soup can accommodate a range of dietary preferences with a few modifications, but as traditionally prepared, there are some dietary restrictions to be aware of:

  • Dairy-Free: Senate Bean Soup doesn’t typically contain any dairy products, making it suitable for those with a dairy intolerance or following a dairy-free diet.
  • Nut-Free: The soup is naturally nut-free, making it safe for individuals with nut allergies.
  • Low-Fat/Low-Calorie: The soup is relatively low in fat and calories, especially if you use lean cuts of ham or limit the amount.
  • Low-Sodium: The soup can be high in sodium, particularly if you use ham and store-bought broth. To reduce sodium, use low-sodium broth and limit the added salt.

Health Benefits Of The Soup

Senate bean soup offers a range of health benefits due to its nutritious ingredients. Here are the health benefits of Senate bean soup:

  • High in dietary fiber: Promotes healthy digestion, prevents constipation, and aids in weight management.
  • Low in fat and cholesterol: Supports heart health and reduces the risk of cardiovascular diseases.
  • Good source of plant-based protein: Essential for muscle growth, repair, and maintenance.
  • Rich in vitamins and minerals: Contains vitamin A, which supports vision and immune function, and vitamin C, which boosts the immune system and aids in collagen production. It also provides calcium for strong bones and teeth.
  • Antioxidant properties: Some ingredients, such as beans and vegetables, contain antioxidants that protect against oxidative stress and chronic diseases.
  • Nutrient-dense: Offers a variety of nutrients, including iron, magnesium, potassium, and folate, which are essential for overall health and wellbeing.
  • Satiating and low-calorie: Helps control hunger and can be beneficial for weight management.

Nutrition Table

Nutrition Table

How Can I Make The Soup Lower In Sodium? 

To make Senate Bean Soup lower in sodium, you can follow these tips:

  • Use No-Salt-Added: It can be high in sodium. Choose a no-salt-added or low-sodium version to control the amount of sodium in your soup.
  • Avoid Using Ham: Traditional Senate Bean Soup is made with ham, typically high in sodium. Omitting this or using a lower-sodium alternative will significantly reduce the soup’s sodium content. You could replace the ham with a low-sodium smoked turkey leg for a similar flavor.
  • Rinse Your Beans: If you’re using canned beans, rinsing them can remove up to 40% of the added sodium. You don’t have to worry about this step if you’re using dried beans.
  • Limit Added Salt: Hold back on adding extra salt until the end of the cooking process. Sometimes, the ingredients you add can bring enough salt to the dish.
  • Add Flavor with Herbs and Spices: Instead of relying on salt for flavor, use a variety of herbs and spices. Bay leaves, thyme, black pepper, and smoked paprika can add depth to your soup without adding sodium.

How Can I Make The Soup Lower In Sugar?

Senate Bean Soup is inherently low in sugar, as it primarily contains beans, vegetables, and ham, none of which are significant sources of sugar. However, if you’re looking to ensure the soup is as low in sugar as possible, here are some tips:

  • Avoid Sugary Broth: Some store-bought broths may contain added sugars. Check the ingredients label to ensure you’re selecting a sugar-free version.
  • Watch Out for Hidden Sugars in Processed Meats: Some forms of ham or other processed meats might have sugar added for flavor. Look for natural, sugar-free versions when possible.
  • Use Fresh Ingredients: Fresh vegetables and dried beans are better than canned versions, which can sometimes have added sugar for preservation.
  • No Added Sweeteners: It’s uncommon to add sweeteners to Senate Bean Soup, but if a recipe calls for it, omit it.
  • Be Aware of Your Toppings: If you add toppings to your soup, ensure they’re sugar-free too. 
bean soup

How To Serve The Soup At Its Best?

Senate Bean Soup is a hearty, comforting meal, perfect for a standalone lunch or dinner. Here’s how you can serve it best:

  • Accompaniments: The soup pairs well with a side of crusty bread or cornbread, which is great for dipping and soaking up the flavorful broth. You could also serve it alongside a simple green salad for a lighter complement.
  • Garnish: A freshly chopped parsley or chives sprinkle can add a fresh and vibrant touch just before serving. If you want to add heat, a dash of hot sauce or a sprinkle of red pepper flakes works well.
  • Temperature: The soup is best served hot. If made ahead, gently reheat it on the stove until warm. Be sure not to boil the soup as it can make the beans mushy.
  • Presentation: Serve the soup in a deep bowl to keep it hot longer. A sprig of fresh herbs or a dollop of sour cream can add a visually pleasing touch to your dish.
  • Beverage Pairing: A glass of iced tea or a strong unsweetened apple cider could work well for a non-alcoholic option. If you prefer wine, a full-bodied white like Chardonnay or a light red like Pinot Noir could complement the smoky, rich flavors of the soup.

Perfect Side Dishes To Complement Senate Bean Soup Recipe

Senate Bean Soup is a rich and hearty dish that pairs best with lighter, complementary side dishes. Here are some suggestions:

  • Crusty Bread or Rolls: This is the most classic accompaniment to any soup. A fresh baguette or warm, crusty rolls are perfect for sopping up the flavorful broth.
  • Green Salad: A simple, fresh green salad with a light vinaigrette dressing would provide a refreshing contrast to the hearty soup. It could include mixed greens, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, and maybe some shaved Parmesan.
  • Cornbread: If you’re going for a Southern-style meal, cornbread is an excellent side for Senate Bean Soup. Its sweetness balances the savory soup nicely.
  • Grilled Cheese Sandwich: A classic grilled cheese sandwich can work well for a heartier meal. Opt for a sharper cheese to contrast the soup’s rich flavors.
  • Roasted Vegetables: Seasonal roasted vegetables would be a healthy and comforting side that complements the soup’s robustness.
  • Pickles or a Pickled Vegetable Salad: The acidity and crunch can contrast the smooth, rich soup.
  • Coleslaw: Similar to pickles, a tangy coleslaw would offer a refreshing contrast in flavor and texture.
bean soup

How Long Can We Store The Soup?

Senate Bean Soup, like most soups, stores well and often tastes even better the next day as the flavors have had more time to meld together.

  • Refrigeration: Once cooled, the soup can be stored in an airtight container for up to three to four days.
  • Freezing: If you want to store the soup for longer, you can freeze it. Freeze in portion-sized containers or freezer bags for ease of use. Leave some space at the top, as the soup will expand when frozen. Properly stored, it should maintain its best quality for about 2-3 months, but it will remain safe.

Can I Make The Soup In Advance?

Senate Bean Soup is an excellent choice for making in advance. Many soups improve in flavor if made a day or two before serving, giving the flavors time to meld together.

Here’s how you can do it:

  • Prepare the Soup: Follow the recipe to prepare the soup. Once the soup is done, allow it to cool a bit.
  • Storing: Once the soup has cooled to near room temperature, you can transfer it into storage containers. If you plan on eating the soup within the next few days, refrigerate it. If you want to keep it longer, it can be frozen.
  • Reheating: When ready to serve the soup, reheat it on the stovetop over medium heat. If it’s been frozen, you can either defrost it in the refrigerator overnight before reheating or reheat it directly on low heat, stirring frequently.

What Can We Do With The Leftovers? 

Leftovers of Senate Bean Soup can serve as a versatile base for various delicious meals. Here are some ideas:

  • Bean Dip: Blend the soup into a smoother consistency, warm it up, and serve it as a dip for chips or veggies.
  • Bean Pasta Sauce: Reduce the soup on the stove until it thickens, and toss it with some pasta for a hearty meal.
  • Stuffed Peppers: Use the soup as a filling for bell peppers or zucchini boats and bake until tender.
  • Bean Burritos: Use the thickened soup to fill burritos or enchiladas, then bake.
  • Bean Casserole: Mix the soup with cooked rice or quinoa, top with cheese, and bake for a warm, comforting casserole.
  • Savoury Crepes: Use the soup as a filling for savory crepes.
soup lover

Special Tools/Equipment Needed

Cooking Senate Bean Soup requires no specialized tools, but a few basic kitchen utensils and appliances will make the process smoother. Here are some you might find helpful:

  • Large Pot or Dutch Oven: A large pot or Dutch oven is ideal for making soup as it provides ample space for all the ingredients and allows even heat distribution.
  • Sharp Knife and Cutting Board: A good quality knife and a sturdy cutting board are essential for chopping vegetables, meat, and other ingredients.
  • Ladle: A ladle is useful for stirring the soup as it cooks and serving once it’s done.
  • Measuring Cups and Spoons: These are needed to accurately measure the ingredients, especially if you’re new to cooking or strictly follow a recipe.
  • Colander: If you’re using dried beans, you’ll need a colander to rinse and drain them after soaking.
  • Immersion Blender or Standard Blender: If you prefer a smoother soup, you’ll need a blender to puree some or all of the soup. An immersion blender lets you do this directly in the pot.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I Use Canned Beans Instead Of Dried Ones?

Canned beans can be a time-saving substitute for dried beans. You must adjust the cooking time as canned beans are already cooked. Be sure to rinse them thoroughly to remove any excess sodium.

I Don’t Have A Ham Bone. What Else Can I Use?

If you don’t have a ham bone, substitute it with a smoked turkey leg, a few strips of thick-cut bacon, or a smoked sausage. You could also use a bit of liquid smoke or smoked paprika for that smoky flavor.

Is Senate Bean Soup Spicy?

The traditional Senate Bean Soup is not typically spicy. However, you can add heat by including spicy ingredients like jalapenos, cayenne pepper, or hot sauce, according to your preference.

Can I Use Other Types Of Beans In This Soup?

While the traditional recipe calls for navy beans, you can use other beans like pinto, kidney, or Great Northern beans. Just note that the flavor and texture may vary slightly.

What If My Soup Is Too Thick?

If your soup is too thick, add more water or broth to reach your desired consistency. Do this gradually, stirring well after each addition to ensure it blends evenly. Remember, it’s easier to thin a thick soup than to thicken a thin one.

Senate Bean Soup Recipe - A Must-Try Timeless Recipe

Senate Bean Soup Recipe – A Must-Try Timeless Recipe

5 from 7 votes
Recipe by Hanna Barnes Course: Soup Recipes


Prep time


Cooking time





Senate Bean Soup is a hearty, comforting dish with a rich history dating back to the early 20th century. This classic soup is known for its simple, humble ingredients – navy beans, ham, and a blend of vegetables and seasonings. 


  • 6 Cups 6 Dry Great Northern Beans

  • 3/4 Pound 3/4 Smoked Ham Shank

  • 12 Cups 12 Water

  • 3 Tablespoons 3 Ham Base

  • 1 1 Onion, Chopped

  • 1 1 Carrot, Chopped

  • 2 2 Celery Stalks, Chopped

  • 1 Teaspoon 1 Garlic Powder

  • Salt (To Taste)

  • Pepper (To Taste)

Step-By-Step Directions

  • Preparation Steps
    Place beans in a large bowl and cover with water. Allow to soak overnight.
  • Cooking
    Simmer the ham shank with 4 cups of water over medium heat in a large saucepan for approximately 45 minutes.
    Once cooled, remove meat from the bone, shred the meat, and set both aside. Reserve the stock for later if desired.
  • Blending
    Drain the beans. In an 8-quart pot, combine the beans, 12 cups of fresh water, and ham base (or measured reserved stock with water to total 12 cups).
    Add the diced onion, carrot, celery, garlic powder, shredded ham, ham bone, and salt and pepper to taste.
  • Final Touches
    Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce heat to medium. Cover and simmer for about 1.5 hours or until the beans are tender. Add water as needed to achieve a thickness that heavily coats a spoon.
  • Serving
    Discard the ham bone and serve the soup hot. Garnish with fresh parsley or croutons if desired.


  • Using Canned Beans: You can use canned beans as a quicker alternative. Be sure to rinse them well to remove excess sodium.
  • Smoky Flavor: If you don’t have a ham bone, use smoked turkey, bacon, or even a dash of liquid smoke for that characteristic smoky flavor.
  • Consistency: Senate Bean Soup should be thick enough to coat a spoon heavily, but the consistency can be adjusted to your liking. If the soup is too thick, add more broth or water.
Hanna Barnes

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