Pressure cooker, Sunday dinner
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Pressure Cooker Senate Bean Soup

Pressure Cooker Senate Bean Soup

Bean soup is on the menu in the U.S. Senate’s restaurant every day.

No one is exactly sure why this tradition started, but since 1903, U.S. Senate bean soup has been served in the Senate dining room every day – the only mandatory recipe on the menu.
The only exception, according to Senator Elizabeth Dole, as told to her by her husband, Bob Dole, was in 1943, during World War II rationing. It only happened for one day, and then bean soup was back on the menu.

Senate bean soup a simple recipe – navy beans, ham hocks (or ham and a hambone), onions sauteed in butter, and salt and pepper. “The Senators like their soup straightforward” said Don Perez, the Senate dining room’s executive chef back in 2003.

I’m taking a couple of liberties with the soup – Chef Perez admitted he adds a little garlic – and a recipe attributed to Senator Fred Dubois in 1903 includes mashed potatoes and parsley. I’m skipping the potatoes, but the parsley adds a splash of color that I can’t pass up.

So, why bean soup? Because I will have a ham bone and leftover ham from Easter dinner. (I’m notorious with my in-laws for taking bones home with me from family dinners.) This recipe was invented to use up leftover ham. (Well, I don’t know that for sure…but it looks like what the Senate’s chef would do the day after serving ham.) That said…the pictures have a (huge) smoked ham hock from my butcher. Don’t be afraid to use leftover ham; this recipe was made for it.

Recipe: Pressure Cooker Senate Bean Soup

Adapted from: Senate Bean Soup (via

Video: Pressure Cooker Senate Bean Soup (1:47)

Pressure Cooker Senate Bean Soup – Time Lapse []



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Pressure Cooker Senate Bean Soup

  • Author: Mike Vrobel
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 45 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour
  • Yield: 6-8 1x


Pressure Cooker Senate Bean Soup recipe. It doesn’t get more American than bean soup from the United States Senate lunchroom.


  • 1 pound dried navy beans, sorted and rinsed
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 large onion, cut into 1/2 inch dice
  • 2 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 pounds smoked ham hocks (or a hambone and some leftover ham)
  • 8 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • Salt to taste
  • Minced parsley for garnish


  1. Sort and rinse the beans: Sort the navy beans, removing broken beans, stones, or dirt clods. Rinse the beans and set aside.
  2. Saute the aromatics: Heat the butter in the pressure cooker pot over medium-high heat until it stops foaming. Add the onion, garlic, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Saute until the onions are softened and browning around the edges, about 8 minutes.
  3. Pressure cook the beans: Drain the navy beans, rinse, and add to the pressure cooker. Set the ham hocks on top of the beans, then pour the water over everything. Lock the lid on the pressure cooker, and cook at high pressure for 30 minutes in an electric PC, or 26 minutes in a stovetop PC. Let the pressure release naturally, about 20 minutes. Remove the lid carefully, opening away from you – even when it’s not under pressure, the steam in the cooker is very hot.
  4. Shred the ham hock, season, and serve: Remove the ham hock from the pot with a slotted spoon or tongs, and set aside to cool. Ladle 2 cups of beans into a blender and puree the beans, then stir back into the pot. (I use my stick blender for this step.) When the ham is cool enough to handle, shred it, then stir the ham back into the pot. Stir in the fresh ground black pepper. Now, taste the soup, and add salt until the soup tastes sweet and full of body, and you can just feel the taste of salt on the tip of your tongue. (I needed 2 teaspoons of kosher salt to get the taste I wanted.) Serve with a sprinkle of minced parsley on each bowl.


  • Want to speed up the cooking time of the recipe? Soak the beans.
  • Overnight soak: Sort the navy beans, removing broken beans, stones, or dirt clods. Rinse the beans and put them in a large container with the salt. Cover with 2 quarts water. Let the beans soak for at least 8 hours, or overnight.
  • Quick Pressure soak: Sort the navy beans, removing broken beans, stones, or dirt clods. Rinse the beans, put them in the pressure cooker pot, add the salt, and cover with 2 quarts water. Lock the lid, bring the pressure cooker up to high pressure, and cook for 3 minutes at high pressure (stovetop or electric PC). Let the pressure come down naturally (about 20 minutes – there’s a lot of water to cool down), then drain and rinse the beans.
  • Cooking soaked beans: With soaked beans, change the cooking time to 12 minutes at high pressure in an electric PC, or 10 minutes in a stovetop PC. Let the pressure release naturally, about 20 minutes.
  • Look for meaty ham hocks, if you can – the ones in the video I shot were from the end of the hock, and didn’t have much meat on them. Larger hocks are usually meatier, so if you have an option, get big hocks instead of small ones.
  • Please, do not forget to season to taste at the end! Soup tastes bland and flat without added salt. Don’t worry if it seems like a lot of salt – you’re still adding a lot less salt than you’d get in canned beans.


  • Category: Sunday Dinner
  • Method: Pressure Cooker
  • Cuisine: American


What do you think?

Questions? Other ideas? Leave them in the comments section below.

Related Posts

Pressure Cooker Black Bean Soup
Pressure Cooker Pasta and Bean Soup (Pasta e Fagioli)
Pressure Cooker Tortilla Soup (Sopa de Tortilla)
My other Pressure Cooker Recipes

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Filed under: Pressure cooker, Sunday dinner


Hi! I’m Mike Vrobel. I’m a dad and an enthusiastic home cook; an indie cookbook author and food blogger with a day job, a patient spouse, and three kids who would rather have hamburgers for dinner.


  1. Susan Blanton says

    I’m excited to make this great-looking recipe today when I get home from work. My Instant Pot is brand new, and I love finding recipes like this that will help me learn to cook my old favorites in my new pot. I’m going to use some leftover turkey that my husband smoked in place of the ham hock. I think it will shred and be delicious. If not, there’s always another time, right? Thank you!

    • Leftover turkey will work great – I just posted a Pinto Beans with Turkey Drumstick recipe today, in fact…

      • Susan B says

        My husband gave this a 10 out of 10! It was perfect with the smoked turkey legs. He’s sold on the Instant Pot now, and we’re both enjoying your blog. Thank you.

  2. Greg says

    Hi Mike –

    Thanks for this recipe, just made it today and it was fantastic! I followed all directions and just added:

    – 2 bay leaves
    – 3 Tbsp of tomato paste to add a little more flavor
    – 4 carrots, chopped in 1/4″ segments.

    I will definitely make this again. So simple and a great use of left over ham and ham bone.

  3. Gloria Algeo says

    my understanding is you should always cook your beans first and then add the salt second otherwise the beans will not get done. I have seen this over and over – in Southern Living and elsewhere. FYI Great recipe, though. I have cooked Senate Bean Soup for years but use Great Northern Beans rather than Navy.

  4. Carol Voigts says

    On another site, I found the suggestion that when soaking the beans, double the amount of beans and then divide them in half to make the bean soup recipe and freeze the other half in a plastic freezer bag labelled “soaked” . I’ve been doing that lately and it is such a great suggestion.

  5. Kristen says

    Not sure if you’ll answer soon, but I’m confused on instructions of heating everything and bringing everything to high heat, then lowering but still at high pressure. Can you explain that please? When will my pot each high heat and when do I know to lower heat but keep pressure?

    Thanks a lot! Looking forward to making this!

    • Those instructions were written for a stovetop PC – you have to control the heat manually. In an electric PC, just set to to Manual mode for the specified time and the cooker will take care of the rest.

  6. I received an Instant Pot for Christmas. I have been making navy bean soup the “long, slow, all-day way” (on the stovetop) for years, and I needed to know how to adapt that recipe to my new pressure cooker. Your adaptation was the best I found. Made the soup tonight in 12 minutes and it turned out the same as if I had cooked it all day. Thank you, thank you!!

  7. Cindy B says

    Very good results following this recipe, the only change : substitute two cans of veggie broth for two cups of water for cooking and didn’t add any salt.

  8. Tricia says

    I just had the bean soup for dinner – outstanding! I skipped soaking and precooking my beans. I actually had to put them back in for an additional 5 minutes to get them all the way done. So I would probably go 40 minutes on my Instant Pot next time. I’m excited to try your other recipes now. Thanks for a great resource.

  9. Sheila B says

    Love this Blog!This bean soup recipe is fantastic!simple and yet turned out perfect.This Blogger puts directions in a concise and easy to follow format.

  10. I would cook at high pressure for 15 minutes stovetop/18 minutes electric PC, because there are some bigger beans in those 15-bean bags, and they’ll take longer. (Chickpeas, for example)

  11. Since you still have time, go with the speed soak – it takes a little longer than the 25 minute cooking time version, but it helps make sure the beans come out evenly cooked.

    If I have a batch of older beans, and I cook them straight, without soaking, I sometimes get uneven cooking – part of the beans are a little crunchy. If this happens, I bring the PC back up to high pressure for an extra five to ten minutes. But, with the speed soak (or an overnight soak), I’ve never had that happen.

  12. Chris Lukowski says

    I’m making the soup tonight and of course I forgot to soak the beans overnight! Your recipe indicates 2 backup plans: either doing the “speed soak” in the PC before the main recipe or upping the cooking time to 25 minutes as indicated in the notes section. Which do you recommend?

  13. Grilling Wino says

    Really love your blog! I am self taught as well. Just received a rotisserie kit for my Weber Kettle for my birthday and have cooked some of my best chicken ever. I look forward to trying this recipe.

  14. Howard Thompson says

    No worries at all. I figured something like that happened. I’m really glad you put your stuff out here on the interweb. You’ve been a tremendous help to me.

  15. Whoops again…I started with a different idea for a recipe (including carrots, thyme, bay leaves, and baking soda), and changed to Senate bean soup when I read about it. Unfortunately, I removed things from the ingredient list but not the instructions. Thanks for letting me know,

    I’m having a stern talk with my editor about quality control…and, unfortunately, I edit my own writing. So I’m reading myself the riot act.

  16. Howard Thompson says

    Hope this isn’t a double post.
    I delighted you posted this recipe. I just knew you’d have a great way to use my ham hock! And I’ve been wanting to do Senate bean soup for a few years. Now’s my chance!

    I am a bit confused though by some discrepancies between the ingredient list and the directions. Butter or olive oil? Are Navy beans and Great Northern beans the same? If not, which do you recommend? I’m assuming 1 bay leaf – how many sprigs of thyme? From your earlier comment I see I can eliminate the baking soda.

    Thanks Mike

  17. Whoops – I meant to remove that. (I did the recipe without baking soda, and it tasted fine, so I removed it from the instructions…but not the ingredients list.)

  18. chickenfeet says

    Just received my Instant Pot Duo and I am finding your site more informative than any books I’m scouring for info on using an Electric Pressure cooker. Wonderful site!

    I’m not seeing when to add the baking soda in the Senate Bean soup….. Am I just missing it?

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