Senate Bean Soup

Senate Bean Soup

🇺🇸 Senate Bean Soup 🇺🇸

Today, March 30, 1940, we are dining at the United States Senate Office Building Restaurant. We choose a bowl of “Old-Fashioned Bean Soup” for 15 cents, a “Lettuce Salad” for 15 cents, “Iced Tea” for 5 cents, and a cup of “Coffee” before we go back to the office, for another 5 cents. The bill for our very pleasant luncheon in the Senate dining room is 40 cents each.

Bean soup has been a required and beloved menu tradition in Senate restaurants for well over a century. There are competing stories about the origin of the mandate that bean soup be served daily.

According to one story, the Senate’s bean soup tradition began early in the 20th century at the request of Senator Fred Dubois of Idaho, who as chair of the committee overseeing the Senate Restaurant, passed a resolution in the committee requiring that bean soup be on the menu daily.

Another story attributes the request to Senator Knute Nelson of Minnesota, who expressed his fondness for the soup in 1903 and insisted that it be on the menu each day.

Lunch in the Senate Dining Room

The name change from “Old-Fashioned Bean Soup” to “Senate Bean Soup” on the Senate menu occurred in 1977. This change was part of a broader update to the Senate restaurant’s offerings and menu presentation, aiming to modernize and capitalize on the soup’s long-standing popularity and association with the U.S. Senate.

Senate Bean Soup Menu

There are two official recipes for Bean Soup on the government website here. My recipe combines elements from both of them.

One includes mashed potatoes, celery, garlic, and parsley, the other does not. One includes butter, the other does not. One uses ham and a ham bone, the other uses smoked ham hocks.

In my recipe I add celery and garlic but do not include potatoes. And because we are fans of onion, celery, garlic and smoked ham, my recipe includes proportionally more of these ingredients than the originals. I also finish the soup with a sprinkling of parsley.

P.S. There are no carrots in Senate Bean Soup.

Senate Dining Room Menu

Senate Bean Soup Recipe

Senate Bean Soup

Senate Bean Soup Recipe

  • 1 lb. dried navy beans
  • 2 smoked ham hocks (about 1 1/2 lbs.)
  • 2 T. butter
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced
  • 2 celery stalks, diced
  • 5 garlic cloves, smashed
  • fine sea salt

How to Make Senate Bean Soup


Rinse and sort beans. Place in a large pot and cover with about 2 quarts of cold filtered water. Let stand 6 to 8 hours. Drain and rinse.

Put rinsed beans in a soup pot with 2 quarts of cold filtered water and ham hocks. Bring to a boil, skim the scum, then immediately turn heat to a simmer and cook gently, partially covered with lid tilted, for a total of about 2 1/2 hours or more.

Meanwhile, sauté onion, celery, and garlic in butter.

At 2 hours, remove ham hocks from the pot. Add onion mixture (including butter) to the pot.

When the hocks are cool enough to handle, discard bones, skin, and excess fat. Chop the meat, then return the meat to the soup.

When the beans are completely tender and the soup has thickened, season soup with salt to taste. A bit more water can be added if a thinner soup is preferred.

Senate Bean Soup

To Serve
  • fresh ground black pepper
  • parsley

Ladle soup into warm bowls. Top with fresh ground black pepper to taste, chopped parsley, and a parsley sprig.

Senate Bean Soup Meal

More Navy Beans

Sablefish in Navy Bean Emulsion and the USS Abraham Lincoln here.

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