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. You wouldn’t believe all of the stuff that Mary Poppins left at our restaurant when y’all did your last photo shoot! It was like Christmas in our refrigerator! ;0)

  2. LOL! Someone has outed my soup/stew thickener secret. I learned it when I had too much liquid in a pot of soup. As they say, “Necessity is the mother of invention.” For my navy bean soup, I just take my trusty old potato masher and mash a few beans to thicken it. When I use ham hocks, I pressure cook them first. The meat becomes very tender and the broth is a wonderful addition to the soup. I am so excited about your upcoming cookbook and can hardly wait. You have to be on cloud 9.

    1. Hey Jane, thats brilliant!

      I’m kinda on cloud 1..because everyone else is on cloud 2-9 and I’m looking around blinking and wondering how I even made it to cloud one, while they are all waving and carrying on saying “come ‘ere! come ‘ere! Join us!!” and I’m still thinking “but I’m the one who gives baths, cleans out ears, and wipes rears…I don’t belong on the upper clouds!”

      hehe
      It hasn’t really sunk in and I’ve really tried to get it to sink in but I guess it won’t ever make sense to me.
      I am awfully grateful though!!!!

      And your comment just made me so hungry… 🙂

    2. I should have clarified, I mash the beans right in the pot and I pressure cook the smoked ham hocks for about 15-20 minutes. Sorry.

  3. “By the way, where IS the Senate restaurant and how do I get to eat there on my next trip to D.C.?”

    To answer your question above, the Senate restaurant is in the Capitol Building on the Senate side. I used to work on The Hill and ate in the House restaurant alot, which is where else? — on the House side of the Capitol. They serve the bean soup there as well. It’s been many years since I worked there, but I can tell you the soup is outstandingly delicious…..

      1. sounds like fun lets go.the soup looks real good and I was wondering where the name came from thanks for explainging.have a blessed night and keep on cooking and shearing.one more question what did the marry Poppins and Bountifull mean?I know theres a good movie called trip to Bountifull.

  4. Here’s my trick for ham seasoning in soups and beans. I go to The Honeybaked Ham store and buy a ham-bone. They sell hambones with LOTS of meat left on them for about six dollars. I boil that bone in a big pot of water and I end up with enough ham and ham stock to season several pots of beans that I freeze. It’s my quick and easy way to have yummy seasoned soups, peas and greens.

  5. Christy – Did you know that you can buy ham base, not in the cubes like beef bouillon,I don’t think, but we have it here in our local grocery store in this little town I live in. It’s in a paste form with other bouillon above the canned soups and it is pretty wonderful stuff!! I always make my bean soup from scratch with northern beans and it really doesn’t take that long to get done – maybe a couple of hours. I NEVER soak the beans either. Just takes more time…. What a wonderful meal for a cold day, like today,along with those yummy looking Jordan rolls!!! I’ve made many of your recipes and your email is the first one I look for every day!!! Marlene

    1. Hi Marlene,
      What a great tip to share!! I have the little glass jars of ham base, turkey base, ckn base…all in my refrigerator right now, ready to add full-bodied flavor to whatever dish needs a particular flavor. Until now, it WAS my secret weapon. Hugs to you, SP friend, for giving everyone a shot at Chef of the Year status. The world will be a better place because of you ~winks~. Thanks to Christy for a great soup recipe too.

      1. Watch out when you buy the bases… some have MSG in them which is very high in sodium. Some have to be refrigerated and some don’t. I love them but can’t handle MSG-monosodium glutamate. You will love them, Christy!

  6. So, 🙂 I learned not only how to make another great soup, but (yep buts are allowed anywhere in a sentence) I learned you can put Mason Jars in the freezer. So (one of my favorites again) be gone all you aggravating plastic containers that are everywhere hiding in the nether regions of my home, and mostly without lids. And am writing that blessing in stone,Mason Jars can go in freezer (with plenty of head space allowed). Bless you too.

      1. Cook your corn on the cob as usual. Cut it off and freeze in Mason jars, any size. I use pints for myself. Like Christy said, leave headspace for expansion or it will break the jar! When you are ready to use, put in microwave on defrost until it comes out of the jar. Add butter and salt and pepper and heat for about 3 minutes until ready. Tastes like you just cut it off. Silver Queen corn does well with this. Sometimes I just put a dollop of butter on top and finish it off in the jars. No plastic taste!

    1. Be aware – speaking from experience – not all Mason jars can be used in the freezer. As a canner for decades, I do have some older jars. I froze quart jars of vegetable soup with plenty of headspace. When I removed and defrosted, the jar was in several pieces. There are no markings on jars to identify if they can be used in the freezer, only on the original box. Just a small heads up.

  7. this reminds me of when my grandma would have been soup waiting for us when we came in running off the bus. 🙂 good memories and instant potatoes are amazing for quick soup fixes love it love it 🙂

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