Capital Hill Bean Soup Recipe (AKA “Senate Soup”)

I picked up Southern Living magazine and was reading through it when I came upon this recipe for bean soup. Thank goodness! This recipe came at a perfect time! “Senate Soup” was a delight to make and made the house smell amazing. Not too many ingredients, and the few that are in this recipe come together beautifully. With just two of us here, we should have dinner for several days! #winwin

We don’t normally have a ham bone sitting around. We went to Honey Baked Ham and bought a “small” ham bone (it only needed to be about 1#). It felt heavy. Got home and opened it up, it was over 3#!!! But guess what? There was so much ham on the bone, we could have made sandwiches with it. Instead we cut off all the big sections and I froze it for the next pot of soup. (Which got the weight of the bone down to 1#). After 2 hours of cooking the ham fell (literally) off of the bone. The flavor was outstanding!

The Southern Living recipe version of Capital Hill Bean Soup is HERE. There is a version without potato and one with a potato. I highly recommend making the version as I did below, using the one russet potato. It was outstanding, unexpected and oh-so-good! This soup has been served in the senate restaurant every day since 1903 with the exception of one day during World War II due to food rations. This soup has a fan following for a reason!

📒 My sticky note version – to print my version, click HERE.

SENATE BEAN SOUP (Capital Hill Bean Soup)


  • 1 pound dried navy beans (I use Camellia brand), sorted, rinsed, soaked overnight*, then rinsed and drained
  • 1 (about 1#) ham bone (I used Honey Baked Ham bone)
  • 2 1/2 quarts water
  • 1 large russet potato
  • 3 stalks celery
  • 1-2 medium onions, chopped (not too small)
  • 1 garlic clove, minced/microplaned (optional)
  • 2 teaspoons Diamond Crystal kosher salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • Carrot (tiny bit, minced, for color) (optional)


  • Place beans in soup pot (such as Dutch oven, or other pan with high sides); add water to cover – soak 8 hours or overnight. Then drain beans and give a quick rinse. Add to soup pot with ham bone and water. Cover the pot and bring to boil over high heat, then reduce to medium-low (see little bubbles not boiling) and simmer 1 hour.
  • Wash potato, pierce with fork several times, wrap in paper towel and microwave 4-5 minutes or until done (temp 211F), then peel and mash the potato.
  • Add diced celery, onion and garlic if using, along with salt and pepper to the mashed potato. Add to soup pot and stir. Simmer over medium-low until beans are tender, about 1 hour.
  • Remove the ham bone and set on plate. Once cool enough to handle, cut off ham meat (removing fat/bones). Stir ham into soup pot.
  • Serve!

If you like your soup thicker you can start with a little less water OR you can remove the lid towards the end of cooking. First pass at making this, I sautéed onion and garlic in butter, but it was too soft, so just add as it is to the mashed potatoes and then into the pot of soup.

I know, most people say, bean soup… meh. Let me tell you, my photo may not look like much but there is SO MUCH flavor in this soup. It was a cool and rainy day. Luckily I had soaked my beans the night before (I have to set out the pot and the beans so there is a visual reminder, otherwise… it’s not going to happen). It was nice having this on the stove for a few hours. I popped a baguette that I had in the freezer into the oven, poured a little olive oil and pepper for dipping and dinner was born!

We ate so early, it was 2:30 and this one small bowl held me for hours and hours. It was crazy! Note, I did pull most of this ham out of my bowl and I put it in Fred’s, hehe. It would have great flavor even if there wasn’t any ham pieces. Making this without a ham bone however would be detrimental. Give this a whirl, I think you will LOVE it!

👩‍💻 Until next time…

7 thoughts on “Capital Hill Bean Soup Recipe (AKA “Senate Soup”)

      1. No potatoes in mine, more carrot, the rest is the same. There is one major thing I do with any ham bone, turkey or chicken carcass. I make a broth out of it the day before, I strain it, pick the meat, and throw the rest out. I refrigerate the strained broth over night and remove all the fat the next day. I then use the broth and the meat to make the soup the next day. I add a little butter to the soup to replace the fat. If my memory is correct the recipe has been around for over a hundred years.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. The recipe I make is one of the earliest posts on my blog. That was about 4 years ago. I use the same recipe and substitute pearl barley for the beans. The pearl barley makes a great soup also. It’s a couple of months ago on my blog. Gets kind of hard after over 700 recipes to remember how long ago I posted something.

        Liked by 1 person

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