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 []




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. 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?

  2. 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

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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?

  7. 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.

  8. 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)

  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. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. 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!!

  13. 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.

  14. 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.

  15. 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.

  16. 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.

  17. 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.

  18. Thank you for this wonderful recipe! Unfortunately, I purchased the 5 qt. Instant Pot-any suggestions for adapting these amounts?

  19. My mouth is watering! I’m confused about one thing…in the recipe introduction it gives the cooking time as 75 minutes. I can find only half that in the actual recipe.

    • That’s just an estimate of the total time, including the pressure cooker coming up to pressure. The specific timings in the recipe are the ones that matter.

  20. Ann Beery says

    I am eating this right now… I speed cooked the beans…and cooked the soup for 30 minutes after rinsing the pre cooked beans.. added celery, onion, carrots and 4 cups chicken broth and 4 cups water… so yummy… I didn’t blend any of the beans yet…
    so yummy and directions were sooooo clear… thank you

  21. Karissa says

    I’m so glad you included instructions for non-soaked beans because I am a terrible planner! I wanted to make a simple ham and bean soup tonight, but of course I didn’t soak my beans ahead of time. Your recipe was a great guide for me and even worked with some necessary substitutions I made since I didn’t have everything exactly. I only had about a cup of northern beans so I added about the same amount of pintos and it was perfect. 100% better than the awful attempt I made last month that resulted in unevenly cooked beans and terribly gassy tummies; I had to throw the rest of that batch out all together to save myself the tummy aches.

    I am thankful for you and other chef bloggers who do the trial and error so we don’t have to!

  22. Mike Cozine says

    I was visiting my Congressional representatives in DC today and had lunch in the Dirksen Senate Building cafeteria, just so I could try the original version of Senate Bean Soup. I must report that your recipe here tasted so much better. My family absolutely​ loves when I make this. Keep the great recipes coming.

  23. Teresa says

    Wow!! That was amazing! Took a long time to come to pressure, then a very long time to release the pressure, but was it ever worth the wait!

  24. Judy says

    This bean soup is delicious. I followed the recipe as given except I forgot the parsley and added a chopped carrot with the onion and garlic. I am just learning to use my Instant Pot and this recipe is another reason to love it.

  25. Frank Fulmer says

    Yo,I had cooked this before using a pot on the stove. Tried it in my new electric. I soaked the beans over night. They were great. I am from the south, if the beans don’t fall apart they an’t no good. These did.

  26. Adam Crews says

    Just got my instant pot and this was the 1st recipe I tried. It’s amazing! Thank you!
    Substituted half the water with vegetable broth and the ham hock with 1 lbs of chopped up ham steak (there were no good ham hocks at the store and saved time shredding anyways) , 1tsp of kocher salt after cooking.
    Took about 17 min to come to pressure and I allowed 45 min NPR before I finally just did QR. I just did manual pressure normal because I didn’t know better but was still awesome!

  27. Did you change the recipe? In the past it told how to do a quick soak of the beans in the pressure cooker, also I think it called for removing 1 or 2 cups of beans and puree them and add them back in. Was it 1 or 2 cups?

  28. Alicia Shields says

    Made this tonight and it was delicious. I will definitely be following your blog! Thanks for the great recipe.

  29. Jo Linhard says

    Best and easiest Senate bean soup recipe I have ever tried! Loved it!!

  30. Karen Beghly says

    I’m making the soup today. I have an 8 quart pot. Could the recipe be doubled without any problem? Also, if I speed cook the beans you say to cook the soup for 12 minutes. If the ham hocks are frozen, should I still add 5 minutes to the cook time? Thank you!

    • There will be too much liquid if you double the recipe. You can double everything except for the water – put everything else in the pot, and fill up to the max fill line on your 8 quart pressure cooker. (I think you’ll get about 10-12 cups of water in there, which is plenty to cook the beans.)

      If you’re going with frozen ham hocks, I’d go with the unsoaked beans, 30 minutes under pressure version of the recipe, and not do the overnight soak or quick soak. 30 minutes under pressure is plenty of time to cook the frozen hocks.

      • Angela Brown says

        Thank you Mike. I was wondering the sane question about doubling it for Christmas dinner. I will go with your advice on the water and since my ham is not frozen then I am going to do 25 minutes. I will post back to let everyone know how it turned out. About to start it now. Merry Christmas!

  31. Brooke Kubath says

    I have made this so many times and every time, my husband says this is the best bean soup he has ever had. So quick and easy. Thanks!

  32. Trish Farano says

    Excellent recipe and I have been recommending your website/videos to new IP owners on the FB IP page. I always soak my beans with a pinch of baking soda to reduce the gassiness associated with them. Then I drain and rinse with fresh water before adding to the IP.

    I did add a couple of diced carrots because I like carrots in my bean soup. Next time, thinking I’ll add a little celery and also a bay leaf. It won’t be Senate Bean Soup, but it will be good.

    Thank you for the excellent base recipe.

  33. SusanM says

    Thanks for sharing this recipe, we just made it in our Instant Pot here at the office and it was an instant hit! We had soaked the beans the night before, and the 12 minute time was spot on. Added a bay leaf, because I rarely cook any kind of beans without one, and used half sea salt and half Tony Cachere’s Cajun salt to add a little spice. If I had a piece of fresh lemon I would have squeezed that in to brighten it up, but used 3 drops of Doterra lemon oil instead. Served with some rosemary flatbread crackers, we are keeping this recipe in our favorites binder!

  34. Made this soup twice now and I love it. Wish my husband liked bean soup but he doesn’t. So I freeze it and it makes a great quick meal for me. Thanks so much for sharing your recipe and techniques. Next I’m trying the black bean soup.

  35. Larry says

    Very good and simple navy bean soup. Instead of blending some beans at the end for thickening, I added instant potato flakes after the cooking was complete and the ham shredded. Just sprinkle some instant potato flakes in and stir until you get the consistency you want.

  36. Rosalie says

    I’m still learning how to use my stove top pressure cooker. I made this soup yesterday and cooked with high pressure (my cooker allows 8psi and 15 psi) for 26 minutes – maybe a minute or so longer; took it off the heat and opened it 20 minutes later to remove the ham hock. I should have checked the beans then, but instead let the hocks cool and tried getting meat off of them. I checked the beans before I planned to serve them – and they were pretty crunchy! I ended up cooking them at least another hour and a half. The soup eventually turned out fine, but how did I get such raw beans? I don’t think they were ~that~ old. Thanks,

    • Are you sure your cooker is pressurizing and cooking at high pressure? A total cooking time of 2 hours is about what navy beans would take on the stovetop without any pressure.

  37. Laura says

    Thank you for posting this great recipe. It is easy to make & is a meal in itself, and my husband and kids all love it (along with your lentil, chicken, and bacon recipe).

  38. I’ve done ham and beans in the crock pot before and always been disappointed. The flavor was good, but the texture turned out closer to refried beans. I’d end up throwing the leftovers away.
    I just tried your recipe on my stove top PC, so good! The beans came out al-dente, and the broth was the best part. I had it for lunch and dinner today, and I’m already looking forward to lunch tomorrow!

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