Senate Bean Soup (With a Shortcut)

This is an old-fashioned Senate bean soup recipe with a shortcut that includes tender beans and smoked turkey in a flavorful broth for the most hearty comfort food dish imaginable.

Bowl of Senate Bean Soup

Have you heard of Senate bean soup before? Made with navy beans, ham hocks, and onion, its name originates from the fact it’s been traditionally served in the dining room of the United States Senate daily since the early 20th century. I love this famous soup because it’s simultaneously flavorful, filling, and the ultimate comfort food dish.

But in my mind, it needed to be made a bit more accessible for folks who don’t have all day to soak their beans as you do for my pinto beans and ham recipe. So, this is my shortcut Senate bean soup recipe. Fortunately, it tastes every bit as good as the old-fashioned version. So, wondering what ingredients you need to get your hands on to make Senate soup? It’s simple: lots of navy beans, onion, garlic, celery, butter, chicken broth, instant mashed potatoes, and a smoked turkey leg is the piece de resistance!

The instructions are just as easy. We first cook the turkey leg in the broth, saute the veggies and seasonings in the butter, then combine all the ingredients together. Then we just have to patiently wait for it to simmer and for all the flavors to mingle together before we can serve it to our hungry family! Sometimes it’s the simple flavors that are the best and the combination of the beans, smoked turkey, and flavorful broth will have you coming back for more.

I don’t think you’ll find a saltier, heartier, or thicker soup recipe, which is why this easy Senate bean soup is a favorite in my household. A little goes a long way and leftovers can be reheated and enjoyed for lunch the next day. I mean, say less! 

ingredients for senate bean soup

Recipe Ingredients

  • Navy beans
  • Minced garlic
  • Onion
  • Unsalted butter or margarine
  • Chicken stock/bullion cubes
  • Celery
  • Instant mashed potatoes
  • Smoked turkey leg

How to Make Senate Bean Soup

Place bullion cubes in a pot with six cups of water (or substitute for chicken broth if you prefer) and add the turkey leg.

Cover, bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 30 minutes.

The turkey leg does not have to be covered with water/broth.

Saute onion, celery, and garlic in butter.

Place butter in a large skillet over medium heat.

Add onion, celery, and garlic, and saute until lightly brown.

Sauted vegetables.

Like this. 

Dice up turkey leg once cool.

Remove turkey leg from broth and dice it up once cool. 

Add all ingredients to pot and simmer for 30 minutes.

Add onion mixture, beans, and diced turkey.

Stir in salt and pepper.

Bring to a boil, stirring constantly, and reduce heat to simmer for 30 minutes before serving.

Bowl of Senate Bean Soup

Oh my goodness, glorious comfort food on a chilly day!

Bowl of Senate Bean Soup

I hope you get to make this Senate bean soup soon.

Storage

  • Store leftover soup in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days and reheat in the microwave.
  • It also freezes VERY well for up to 3 months. I took my leftovers and put them in a mason jar, leaving plenty of head space, and froze it to eat later. When it was time, I let it thaw overnight in the fridge before reheating in the microwave.

Recipe Notes

  • Now, you can substitute the instant mashed potatoes for actual mashed potatoes if you prefer. You’ll need to boil 1 large Russet potato and mash it with about 1/2 cup of milk before adding it to the soup. But this recipe is all about shortcuts, so I’ll stick to the instant option!
  • Another option is to substitute the turkey leg for smoked ham hocks or a meaty ham bone. You may need to simmer for another 30 minutes to ensure the meat is tender.
  • Have a leftover ham bone from Easter? Turn it into Senate bean soup!
  • You can really use any type of white beans in Senate bean soup, like cannellini beans or Great Northern beans.

Recipe FAQs

How do you thicken Senate bean soup?

With a thickening agent. In this case, I’m using instant mashed potatoes because they’re the most brilliant soup thickener. Another option is to make a slurry by stirring one teaspoon of cornstarch or all-purpose flour into cold water and adding that to the soup. You can continue to use this method a teaspoon at a time until it’s to your desired consistency.

How do you serve Senate bean soup?

Here are some soup serving suggestions:

Can I make navy bean soup in the Instant Pot?

Yes, Instant Pot Senate bean soup is just as simple. Follow Instant Pot directions for cooking the turkey leg and sauteing the vegetables if you like. Then add all the ingredients to the Instant Pot and cook on the manual setting for 45 minutes before releasing naturally.

Check out these other comforting soup recipes:

Vegan Butternut Squash Soup

Southwest Chicken Soup

Creamy Vegetable Soup (Low-Carb Version)

How To Make Chicken Noodle Soup

Loaded Potato Soup Recipe

Taco Soup (The World’s Easiest Supper)

Senate Bean Soup

Senate Bean Soup

This old-fashioned Senate bean soup with a shortcut includes beans and smoked turkey in a flavorful broth to make a hearty comfort food dish.
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
Course: Soup
Cuisine: American
Keyword: beans, soup
Servings: 4
Calories: 257kcal

Ingredients

  • 4 15-ounce cans navy beans, undrained
  • 3 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 4 chicken bullion cubes (6 cups of chicken broth)
  • 1 smoked turkey leg
  • 1 cup instant mashed potato flakes
  • 1 stick margarine or butter (1/2 cup)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper

Instructions

  • Place bullion cubes in a pot with six cups of water (or sub for straight chicken broth instead) and add the turkey leg. Cover, bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 30 minutes. The turkey leg does not have to be covered with broth.
    4 chicken bullion cubes, 1 smoked turkey leg
  • Place butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion, celery, and garlic, and saute until lightly brown.
    3 stalks celery, chopped, 1 teaspoon minced garlic, 1 onion, chopped, 1 stick margarine or butter
  • Remove the turkey leg from the broth and dice it up when cool. Add instant potatoes to broth and stir. Then add onion mixture, beans, and diced turkey. Stir in salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly, and reduce heat to simmer for 30 minutes before serving.
    4 15-ounce cans navy beans, undrained, 1 cup instant mashed potato flakes, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon black pepper

Nutrition

Calories: 257kcal
Tried this recipe?Mention @southernplate or tag #southernplate!

Gentle reminder: We don’t talk politics on any of my platforms. This post was originally published in 2010 and I updated the photos and the post in 2020.

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This recipe was featured in Meal Plan Monday and Weekend Potluck!

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185 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Years ago, I never made bean soup because I was served the canned version once and I didn’t like it at all. When I was a little older (and wiser), I tried making this version and it was so delicious that it became my “go to” soup on cold winter days. If I can’t find smoked turkey legs, I use ham or bacon; the soup is very delicious either way!

      1. My son and I love making big batches of soup together. His favorite part of a turkey is the drumsticks. We’re going to make this soup with dry beans instead of canned. Any soup that includes celery, onion and garlic is sure to be good! I do have a question – how many cans of beans would be the equivalent of a pound of dry beans?

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