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Senate Bean Soup is a beloved American recipe chock full of hearty navy beans, mashed potatoes, and a delicious and tender hambone. My goodness, it’s a tasty and comforting meal for chilly winter nights. Even better, this soup is easy to make and uses simple ingredients! 

Senate Bean Soup in a shallow white bowl on a plate with a wedge of cornbread and a spoon.

Have you wondered what to do with the leftover hambones from Christmas or New Year’s? I’ve got you covered — there’s no better way to use hambone than adding it to this cozy soup recipe.

This classic senate bean soup is only served at the Senate cafeteria of the Dirksen Senate Building. So, to experience this delicious recipe, you only have two options — take a road trip to the Nation’s Capital or make the soup at home!

Suppose you want the entire experience and nostalgia of eating this traditional recipe in the same room people have enjoyed for decades. In that case, you’ll want to pack your bags for Washington, DC.

Seeing how January is National Slow Cooking Month, could there ever be a better time to make senate bean soup? It is just as delicious at home!

If you’re craving more savory steaming winter soups to make in the slow cooker, check out this copycat Outback Potato Soup and these easy Slow Cooker Pinto Beans.

ingredients for Senate bean soup on a table.

Key ingredients & substitutions for Classic American Senate Bean Soup

  • Navy Beans | For perfectly tender beans, start with dried navy beans. If necessary, Great Northern beans or white kidney beans work well as substitutes.
  • Water | Water is the base of the simple soup recipe. You’ll use it to soak the navy beans, then add it to the soup to make it fluid. 
  • Hambone | Hambones are delicious ingredients for soup. Use a leftover hambone from the recent holidays, or grab one at the store.
  • Onion | Diced onion brings a deeper flavor to the recipe and compliments the ham taste. You may use a yellow or white onion.
  • Garlic | Freshly minced garlic adds a subtle savory spice to the senate bean soup. Try swapping the fresh garlic cloves for garlic powder if you’re in a pinch.
  • Celery | Celery brings earthy and slightly bitter notes to the soup, expanding and enhancing the taste.
  • Potatoes | Cook and mash a couple of potatoes to thicken the soup and add texture. If desired, use dry potato flakes instead.

Equipment needed

How to make Senate Bean Soup in a Slow Cooker

Senate Bean Soup is easy to make and uses simple ingredients. It’s a great busy weeknight meal, perfect for cooking during the day as you work from home, care for the children, or complete some chores.

soaking beans in a pot of water; a ham bone in a slow cooker.

STEP 1 | Soak the beans

This soup recipe requires a little prep before diving into the rest of the recipe. Begin the night before by simply adding the dried beans to a large bowl.

Next, cover them with cool water and allow the beans to soak through the night. That way, they are soft and ready to use in the morning!  

STEP 2 | Place the hambone and beans in the slow cooker

The following day, set out the slow cooker and nestle the hambone in the center. Then, pour the beans into the pot. Also, add enough soaking liquid to cover the beans by about 2 inches.

a slow cooker with ingredients for senate bean soup ready to cook.

STEP 3 | Add the veggies and cook

Chop up the spicy garlic, crunchy onion, and crisp celery. Toss the ingredients into the slow cooker and stir until they are evenly incorporated with the beans and hambone.

Next, cover with the lid and cook on low for 6 to 8 hours until the beans are nice and tender. At the last hour or so of cooking, wash, bake, and mash the potatoes to add later.

adding chopped ham and mashed potato to a crock pot of cooked white beans.

STEP 4 | Chop the ham

Now, remove the hambone and place it on a plate or cutting board. Carefully pull the meat from the bone, and chop it coarsely.

If you’re using your fingers to tear the meat from the bone, you may need to wait just a few minutes until the ham is cool enough to handle.

STEP 5 | Mix all the ingredients and season to taste!

Finally, stir the chopped ham and add the cooked mashed potatoes into the soup. Taste and season with salt and pepper, and it’s ready to serve!

tips

  • Did you forget to soak the beans the night before? No problem! Toss the beans into a large pot and cover them with water. Then bring to a boil and remove the pot from the stove. Set the beans aside for about one hour to soak them in hot water. Lastly, drain and continue with the recipe as directed.
  • You may store senate bean soup leftovers in the refrigerator for up to five days. When ready to enjoy this meal again, simply reheat it in the microwave. 
  • You may also freeze this recipe for longer storage. It will keep in the freezer for about three months.

a bowl of Senate Bean Soup on a table with a plate of cornbread in the background.

Frequently asked questions

How do you thicken senate bean soup?

If your soup is a little thinner than you prefer, you can thicken it with additional mashed potatoes. Many people also thicken the soup by adding mashed potato flakes, instantly and effortlessly giving the recipe much more texture.

Can you overcook bean soup?

When you overcook senate bean soup, it’s certainly still edible. But the dish loses much of its flavor, and the beans aren’t the ideal texture. To prevent overly mushy and flavorless beans, follow the cooking directions I provide and be sure not to simmer them to the point of becoming overly soft.

What other ingredients can you add to navy bean soup?

The traditional navy bean soup recipe is quite simple — it requires only some beans, a hambone, potatoes, water, and seasonings. If you want to boost the flavor, try adding bay leaves, parsley, carrots, or peas. For a spicier soup recipe, sprinkle cayenne pepper or add jalapenos. 

Serving suggestions

For Senate Bean Soup, saltine crackers are classic. However, this recipe is also delicious with a fresh salad — like my Chicken Kale Caesar Salad or Lightened Up Broccoli Salad — or homemade bread.

Try this easy Peppery Cheese Quick Bread or these traditional Homemade Dinner Rolls, perfect for dipping into the tasty bean soup!

a spoon in a bowl of Senate Bean Soup.

Behind the recipe: Senate Bean Soup

Beginning in the early 20th century, the cafe at the U.S. senate has served Senate Bean Soup every single day! There aren’t many restaurants where you can still order this favorite dish from years ago.

Today, this traditional menu item remains the most popular item sold at the cafeteria. Now, that’s impressive!

There are a couple of stories of how this recipe has made it in every congressional dining room for over 100 years. The tale that seems to be the most common is as follows:

On a particularly warm day in 1904, Speaker of the House Joseph Cannon visited the cafeteria with his mind set on enjoying a cozy bowl of bean soup, regardless of the toasty weather.

He was very upset when he was informed that they were not serving the soup that day. So, from this day on, senate bean soup was served each day without fail to please the request of Cannon.

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Senate Bean Soup in a shallow white bowl on a plate with a wedge of cornbread and a spoon.

Senate Bean Soup (Slow Cooker)

Senate Bean Soup is a beloved American recipe chock full of hearty navy beans, mashed potatoes, and a delicious and tender hambone. My goodness, it's a tasty and comforting meal for chilly winter nights.
5 from 9 votes
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 8 hrs
Soaking Time 8 hrs
Total Time 16 hrs 10 mins
Course Soups & Stews
Cuisine American
Servings 8 servings
Calories 263 kcal

Equipment

Ingredients
  

  • 1 lb. dried navy beans
  • 4 qts. water
  • 1 ham bone
  • 1 cup diced onion
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 cup diced celery
  • 3 medium potatoes cooked and mashed

Instructions
 

  • Add dried beans to a large bowl and cover with cool water. Soak overnight.
  • Nestle the ham bone into the center of the slow cooker, then add the beans along with enough of the soaking liquid to cover the beans by 2 inches.
  • Stir in the onion, garlic, and celery. Cover and cook on low for 6 to 8 hours, until the beans are tender.
  • Remove the ham bone to a plate, pull the meat from the bone, and chop coarsely.
  • Stir the chopped ham and cooked, mashed potato into the soup. Taste and season with salt and pepper, if desired.

Notes

  • If your soup is a little thinner than you prefer, you can thicken it with additional mashed potatoes. Many people also thicken the soup by adding mashed potato flakes, instantly and effortlessly giving the recipe much more texture.
  • Did you forget to soak the beans the night before? No problem! Toss the beans into a large pot and cover them with water. Then bring to a boil and remove the pot from the stove. Set the beans aside for about one hour to soak them in hot water. Lastly, drain and continue with the recipe as directed.
  • You may store senate bean soup leftovers in the refrigerator for up to five days. When ready to enjoy this meal again, simply reheat it in the microwave. 
  • You may also freeze this recipe for longer storage. It will keep in the freezer for about three months.

Nutrition

Calories: 263kcalCarbohydrates: 51gProtein: 15gFat: 1gSaturated Fat: 0.1gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 0.1gSodium: 42mgPotassium: 1073mgFiber: 16gSugar: 4gVitamin A: 59IUVitamin C: 18mgCalcium: 118mgIron: 4mg
Keyword beans, ham, navy beans, white beans
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was.
sheila thigpen in her kitchen

About Sheila Thigpen

Recipe Developer, Food Photographer, Food Writer

Sheila Thigpen is the publisher of Life, Love, and Good Food — a Southern food blog — and the author of Easy Chicken Cookbook and The 5-Ingredient Fresh and Easy Cookbook. After 20+ years in the publishing industry, she retired in 2018 to focus on her own creative endeavors full time. She and her husband live near the beautiful Smoky Mountains and have a precious little granddaughter who has stolen their hearts. As an influencer, Sheila has collaborated with brands like Creamette, Kroger, HERSHEY’S, Hamilton Beach, Garafalo Pasta, OXO, Smithfield, Valley Fig Growers, and more.

6 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Love how simple this delicious soup is and the history behind it is so fun! Who knew!? Have this on my to-make this week list! Thanks!

  2. 5 stars
    The mashed potatoes are the ingredient you didn’t know you needed in your bean soups! Perfectly creamy! Thanks for the great recipe.

  3. 5 stars
    I’d never heard of this soup but we just loved it. The slow cooker is a secret weapon for busy days and this recipe smelled so good while cooking,

  4. 5 stars
    This is my mom’s favorite soup, so I made some when we hosted my parents this weekend. Really good and perfect for the chilly weather we’re having now!

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