Pressure Cooker Senate Bean Soup

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




Pressure Cooker Senate Bean Soup

5 from 4 reviews

It doesn’t get more American than bean soup from the US Senate.

  • Author:
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
  • Yield: 6-8
  • Category: Sunday Dinner
  • Method: Pressure Cooker
  • Cuisine: American


Soaked beans

  • 1 pound dried navy beans, sorted and rinsed
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 2 quarts water

Soup ingredients

  • 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 hambone and 1 pound of leftover ham)
  • 8 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • Salt to taste (2 teaspoons more kosher salt?)
  • Minced parsley for garnish


  1. 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.
  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: Rinse the navy beans, drain, and add to the pressure cooker. Add the ham hocks to the pot, then pour the water over everything. Lock the lid on the pressure cooker, and cook at high pressure for 12 minutes in an electric PC, or 10 minutes in a stovetop PC. Let the pressure release naturally, about 15 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, and ladle the beans into a quart pyrex container). 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 added 2 teaspoons of kosher salt to get the taste I wanted.) Serve.


  • I tried quick-soaking the beans with and without salt for this recipe – the results were pretty close. The salted quick soak beans were a hint sweeter; unsalted were a hint “beanier” in flavor. I don’t think the salt in the quick soaking is mandatory, but I liked the results.
  • Forgot to soak? Sort and rinse the beans, then put them in the pressure cooker and increase the cooking time to 25 minutes at high pressure in a stovetop PC, 30 minutes in an electric PC. Let the pressure come down naturally.
  • 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.


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

Enjoyed this post? Want to help out DadCooksDinner? Subscribe to DadCooksDinner via eMail or RSS reader, recommend DadCooksDinner to your friends, buy something from through the links on this site, or donate through my tip jar. Thank you.


  1. chickenfeet /

    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. 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.)

  3. Howard Thompson /

    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

  4. 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.

  5. Howard Thompson /

    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.

  6. Grilling Wino /

    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.

  7. Chris Lukowski /

    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?

  8. 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.

  9. Stephanie Lashley /

    Will this work the same with the 15 bean soup bag?

  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. Sheila B /

    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.

  12. Tricia /

    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.

  13. 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.

  14. 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!!

  15. Kristen /

    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.

  16. Carol Voigts /

    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.

  17. Gloria Algeo /

    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.

  18. 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.

  19. Susan Blanton /

    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…

      • 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.

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

  21. 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.

  22. Ann Beery /

    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

  23. 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!

Leave a Comment

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