Senate Bean Soup

Lunch / Dinner

Senate Bean Soup

If you’re looking for a classic ham and bean soup, look no further. This recipe is based on the popular Senate bean soup, which has been on the menu in the Senate’s restaurant every day since the early 20th century. The origin of the mandate is unclear. It might have come from a Senator from Idaho, or Minnesota, or Illinois. And, there are two versions of the soup — one includes mashed potatoes and one doesn’t.

This adaptation includes the same early American ingredients — dried white beans, onions, and ham, plus instant mashed potato flakes to help thicken the soup. When paired with cornbread and honey butter, it’s a slow cooker meal that can’t get much more American.


8 servings

Total Time

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Soak beans in 6 cups water in a large pot, covered, refrigerated overnight or at least 8 hours.

Add baking soda to pot. Bring beans to a boil and simmer 10 minutes; skim off and discard any foam. Drain and rinse beans; transfer to a 5- to 6-qt. slow cooker. Stir in 6 cups water.

Melt butter in a sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add onion, carrot, and celery; cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, 1 minute. Transfer mixture to the slow cooker.

Add ham hock and bay leaf to slow cooker. Cover slow cooker and cook beans until tender on high setting, 3½–4½ hours, or on low setting, 4½–5½ hours.

Remove ham hock. Pull meat off the bone; discard any fat. Cut meat into bite-sized chunks.

Return ham to slow cooker; season with salt and pepper. Stir in potato flakes and parsley; cover slow cooker and cook soup until slightly thickened, 30 minutes more.


Adding baking soda creates an alkaline environment, which helps the beans soften and cook faster.


A ham hock adds flavor — to keep it from drying out, submerge it into the liquid as much as possible.


Adding instant mashed potato flakes near the end of cooking slightly thickens the soup.

Nutritional Facts

Nutritional Facts

Per serving

Calories: 309

% Daily Value*

Total Fat 5g 7%

Saturated Fat 2g 10%

Cholesterol 37mg 12%

Sodium 451mg 18%

Carbs 42g 14%

Fiber 15g 60%

Protein 25g

*Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet.

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