Senate Bean Soup (With a Shortcut)

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

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.


  • 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


  • 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


  • 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


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.


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

Similar Posts


  1. I just made the Senate Bean Soup and was it good! My husband swears it’s the best he’s ever had. I did cheat some and replaced a little of the onions with some chives to add a little color to the soup.
    Thank you for your wonderful posts, and delicious recipes.

  2. I’m going to try this very soon.

    I have a question concerning butter. When I grew up my mom always used margarine but called it butter. I always used margarine. My son came home from school one day and told me how margarine was made. Now, I buy butter. I can’t help it. I wonder if it might increase our chances of cancer. Have you ever heard of how margarine is made or why it was first manufactured?

    I’m not trying to open a can of worms. Just curious on your thoughts.

    1. Hey Charlene!
      No worries, I’m happy to talk with you about this. We actually studied margarine and other depression era foods in college so I’m pretty familiar with the story of it’s origins. It was innovative food science in it’s time. I’m sure you happened upon that one molecule away from plastic story. That is a bit of an exaggeration to make a point and it’s widely spread by folks. However, don’t get me wrong. I’m not here to defend margarine as healthy or good for you. Nope, nope, nope.
      Margarine is widely chosen over butter primarily for monetary reasons, it can be less than 1/4 of the price. Also, people in earlier generations were told it was an excellent option, healthier than butter, even. Is this true? No, but it also makes us aware that the same techniques are going on today with other products so margarine is a great reminder to be careful which sources we trust. I’m digressing, I’m sorry.
      I used to use margarine exclusively when my kids were younger and every penny of our grocery budget was accounted for. In that respect, I defend the person who purchases margarine and will not allow anyone to defame him or her because I know, firsthand, that sometimes we are just doing the best that we can do- and folks who have never been in a position to understand that should count themselves blessed rather than look down on others (I see a lot of those folks in my line of work). I know that is why my mother bought margarine and it is likely the case with yours as well. Do I think margarine is good for us? Absolutely not. Do I use butter now? Pretty much exclusively. Will I ever use margarine again in the future? If the need arises, yup. If I had my way, would everyone use butter instead? Yes.

      It’s a crazy world we live in. I got my tap water report this morning and just five minutes before I hopped on to answer you I said a little prayer thanking God that I have a gravity fed water filter in my kitchen and my family hasn’t been drinking tap water for the past few years.
      My recap: Crazy world. Buy butter if you can. Don’t drink tap water. Love on your family and thank you for being here!

  3. I have passed this recipe to so many people! I have never wrote it down because I love coming back here every time to get it and reread the funny story! Tonight I’m using a ham steak and freeze dried onions because that is what I have I’m a bummed that I have no real onions because onions cooking in that butter is truly the best smell in the world! I know your not judging me because I’m doing as you say… using what I have! 🙂 Love you and all your wonderful recipes! Now where is my coffee concentration… momma needs an iced coffee while I work!

  4. This soup is amazing and I love your butter story. I’m glad you have a butter budget nowadays.

  5. Love these! The original that I remember was from Mary Starr. I remember my mama watching her on a local news channel every morning ( in black and white ! 😮 ). this is her recipe, almost exactly! like yours Christy :)..

    Mary Starr, Starr Recipes from Greystone
    Published: September 30, 2003, pm


    1 lb. dried beans – great northern, navy or marrow
    water to make 5 quarts
    Smoked ham bone
    3 medium potatoes, cooked and mashed
    1 cup chopped onion
    1 cup chopped celery
    2 cloves garlic, minced


    Soak beans overnight in water to cover.

    Next morning add enough water for the beans, soaking liquid and added water to equal 5 quarts. Add the ham bone and simmer for about 2 hours or until beans begin to mush.

    Add cooked and mashed potatoes, onion, celery and garlic. Simmer for 1 hour.

    Remove bone, cut up meat and return to soup. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

    Makes about four-and-a-half quarts.

  6. I love this recipe!!! I’ve made it before and never commented! Made it tonight with no ham, just because I don’t care if it has that, I added some smoke paprika and to me it gives it a bacon flavor b/c of the ‘smoked’ I guess and it was just fine!! Had to make cornbread too, it was fabulous!! Rainy day in Virginia!! Love your site Christy

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe or Post Rating