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U.S. Senate Bean Soup

Chock-full of ham, beans and celery, this hearty soup makes a wonderful meal at any time of year. Freeze the bone from a holiday ham until you're ready to make soup. Plus, once prepared, it freezes well for a great make-ahead supper! —Rosemarie Forcum White Stone, Virginia
  • Total Time
    Prep: 30 min. + standing Cook: 3-3/4 hours + cooling
  • Makes
    10 servings (2-1/2 quarts)


  • 1 pound dried great northern beans
  • 1 meaty ham bone or 2 smoked ham hocks
  • 3 medium onions, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 celery ribs, chopped
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh parsley
  • 1 cup mashed potatoes or 1/3 cup instant potato flakes
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Minced parsley or chives


  • Rinse and sort beans. Place beans in a Dutch oven or soup kettle; add water to cover by 2 in. Bring to a boil; boil for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat; cover and let stand for 1 to 4 hours or until beans are softened.
  • Drain and rinse, discarding liquid. In a large Dutch oven or soup kettle, place the beans, ham bone or hocks and 3 quarts water. Bring to boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 2 hours.
  • Skim fat if necessary. Add the onions, garlic, celery, parsley, potatoes, salt and pepper; simmer 1 hour longer.
  • Set aside ham bones until cool enough to handle. Remove meat from bones; discard bones. Cut meat into bite-sized pieces and return to Dutch oven. Heat through. Sprinkle with parsley or chives.
Nutrition Facts
1 cup: 229 calories, 3g fat (1g saturated fat), 12mg cholesterol, 83mg sodium, 37g carbohydrate (5g sugars, 10g fiber), 14g protein.

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  • John
    Aug 26, 2020

    To James: I recommend you soak the beans overnight to keep them from falling apart. If brought to a boil before soaking, they swell so fast that the skin is ruptured and boom you have mush. ALSO, I recommend swapping out the Great Northern Beans with Navy Beans as they have a hardier skin and are closer to the actual Senate recipe. This is a delicious recipe.

  • James
    Feb 23, 2019

    Too much liquid. I used a bit over 2 qts instead of 3 and it's still too wet. Cooking time too long. After two hours on a very low simmer. the beans have broken apart. Adding raw aromatics too late in the cooking. Beans are mush. Still smells like raw onion with 30 minutes left in the final hour. Guess we'll haveham flavored bean puree.

  • jennielou2
    Jan 20, 2018

    Perfect for a cold snowy night! Amazingly easy, sure to make your family happy.

  • frcjkc
    Aug 8, 2017

    This Bean Soup recipe is excellent. I used chicken stock instead of water like "skywaitress "As a new have to be cook, I will make it again.

  • Joyce
    Dec 31, 2016

    I have been eating this soup for well over 60 years, as this is how my mom made it, and how I make it, with a few changes. The actual Senate version uses navy beans, and for 1 lb of beans, we used 1 large or 2 medium onions and a bit more garlic. It says salt to taste, which varies depending on the saltiness of the ham, but be sure to add enough pepper, at least 1/4 tsp or more (I add at least 1/2 tsp or more), again, depending on the ham and what glaze, if any, was used. If I don't have a ham bone, I use 2 large ham hocks or 3 medium ones. Sometimes I just make ham stock from the bones/hocks and can or freeze that, so I can make this soup quickly using 4 cans of beans (drained/rinsed) and go from there. To make the stock, I just cover the bones with about 4 qts of water, bring to a boil, cover and simmer for about 4 hours. Then I pull off what meat I can, strain the stock, and can or freeze. This stock is also good in pea soup.

  • DeGramma
    Nov 15, 2014

    Have been making this very delicious soup for years, only difference I add 2 diced carrots and one diced potato & add 1/3 cup potato flakes in the last hour. (Also can use 1 cup left over mashed potatoes). Freezes well and makes about 3 to 4 quarts.

  • tammyc1023
    Jan 10, 2014

    We've made this many times, and it goes well with a nice salad and muffins or rolls.

  • Miata2
    Dec 26, 2013

    I've made this for years. I add diced potatoes and carrots in addition to the onions and celery. This is a wonderful comfort food soup. Homemade bread, something for dessert and you have a fabulous meal.

  • skywaitress
    Apr 1, 2013

    I use chicken stock for the water, add carrots, and use 5 cans of beans! delicious! have made this so many times!

  • Skane1965
    Dec 23, 2012

    No comment left