Classic American Senate Bean Soup

Senate bean soup recipe

The Spruce Eats / Cara Cormack

Prep: 8 hrs
Cook: 3 hrs
Total: 11 hrs
Servings: 8 servings
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
219 Calories
8g Fat
26g Carbs
8g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 8
Amount per serving
Calories 219
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 8g 11%
Saturated Fat 5g 23%
Cholesterol 24mg 8%
Sodium 1081mg 47%
Total Carbohydrate 26g 9%
Dietary Fiber 7g 27%
Total Sugars 4g
Protein 8g
Vitamin C 11mg 55%
Calcium 87mg 7%
Iron 2mg 12%
Potassium 509mg 11%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

A version of this classic bean soup has been served in the U.S. Senate dining room for over 100 years. It can be made with Navy beans or Great Northern beans, and is best with a meaty ham hock. The traditional recipe calls for a cup of mashed potatoes, but 2/3 cup of instant mashed potato flakes will do the job — and makes your job simpler.

Braising the onion, celery, and garlic with a little wine develops more flavor than simply adding the chopped vegetables to the simmering soup. If you have leftover mashed potatoes, you can certainly use those instead. The addition of potatoes is attributed to a senator from Idaho. Potatoes and beans are seen together in soups from other regions, such as Galician bean soup (​caldo Gallego) from northwestern Spain, where cabbage or kale is also included. You can change this soup to your liking by adding other vegetables.


  • 1 pound dried navy beans, or Great Northern beans

  • 3 quarts  vegetable stock, or broth

  • 1 ham hock

  • 2 ounces (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter

  • 2 large onions, roughly chopped

  • 4 large celery stalks, chopped

  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped

  • 1/2 cup dry white wine

  • 1/2 cup parsley, chopped

  • 2/3 cup instant mashed potato flakes

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients for senate bean soup
    The Spruce Eats / Cara Cormack
  2. Soak the beans in water overnight. Make sure the beans are covered with a couple of inches of water, as they can expand somewhat.

    Soak beans in water
    The Spruce Eats / Cara Cormack 
  3. Drain the beans.

    Drain the beans
    The Spruce Eats / Cara Cormack
  4. In a heavy-bottomed soup pot, combine the vegetable stock, the drained beans, and the ham hock. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer.

    The Spruce Eats / Cara Cormack
  5. Simmer, covered, for 2 hours, occasionally skimming off any scum that forms on the surface.

    The Spruce Eats / Cara Cormack
  6. In a separate saucepan, heat the butter over a low-to-medium heat.

    Heat butter
    The Spruce Eats / Cara Cormack
  7. Add the onion, celery, and garlic to the butter and cook for 2 to 3 minutes or until the onion is slightly translucent, stirring more or less continuously.

    Add onion
    The Spruce Eats / Cara Cormack
  8. Add the wine and cook for another minute or two or until the wine seems to have reduced by about half.

    Add wine
    The Spruce Eats / Cara Cormack
  9. Add the onion mixture, parsley, and the potato flakes to the soup and simmer for another hour or until the beans are tender.

    Add spices
    The Spruce Eats / Cara Cormack
  10. Remove the ham hock, pull the meat off the bone, and chop it up.

    Remove hamhock
    The Spruce Eats / Cara Cormack
  11. Return the chopped meat to the soup. If necessary, add more stock or water to the soup to adjust the thickness.

    Return chopped meat to soup
    The Spruce Eats / Cara Cormack
  12. Season to taste with kosher salt and white pepper.

    Season to taste
    The Spruce Eats / Cara Cormack
  13. Serve right away and enjoy!

    Serve right away
    The Spruce Eats / Cara Cormack


  • If you don't want to soak the beans overnight, you can use a quick-soak method. Bring the beans to a boil in a large pot. Take them off the heat and let them stand for 1 hour. Then drain the beans and continue with the recipe.
  • You can refrigerate leftover soup for up to five days and reheat it in the microwave. You can also make a large batch, portion it and freeze it. The soup will keep in the freezer for three months.