Cooking Cardiologist Get’s Political With The Official Senate Bean Soup

Recipe by Dr. Richard Collins The Cooking Cardiologist

From 1971 to 1973, I had the privilege of serving as a physician to the United States Navy, stationed at the Bethesda Hospital in Maryland, One day, I received a knock on my door and was transferred to the United States Capitol as an Assistant Physician to the United States Congress. It was a very interesting political year as President Nixon was in office. Most people are not aware that beneath lthe Capitol Rotunda is a complete medical facility for Congressional Representatives and Senators.

At this time in history, it was very interesting to see how Congress really functioned. Mark Twain said it best, “There are two things that you should never watch being made, laws and sausage”. Among other things I remembered was a very distinct soup from the Senate restaurant, the Senate Bean Soup. The soup dates back to the early 20th century. There are two stories about the origins of the bean soup which is still served daily. The soup is attributed to either Senator Fred Dubois of Idaho who was famous for his “mashed potato” bean soup version. Also he is the only Idaho Senator that served in the US Senate as a Republican and then a Democrat.

However, according to the US Senate website, the original soup recipe is attributed to the request of Senator Knute Nelson of Minnesota, who expressed “his fondness for this soup” in 1903. It did not include the potato which obviously was a political maneuver in the following years by the Idaho Senator. I like his version as it gives the soup a creamy texture which is still a technique of chefs today.

To maintain political correctness, I have included three versions of the recipe: The original with the ham hock and butter as published in the US Senate records, the Republican version (mine) made healthier and a Democrat version which I just designed for President Bill Clinton, who is now a vegan.


Original Senate Bean Soup (makes 8 servings)

2 pounds of dried Navy beans
4 quarts of hot water
1½ pounds of smoked ham hocks
1 onion chopped
2T of butter

Salt and pepper to taste

Optional: 1 chopped garlic clove and 1 chopped onion

Wash the navy beans and run hot water through them until they are slightly whitened. In a stockpot, lightly brown the onions with the butter.  Combine remaining ingredients and simmer covered for three hours. Remove ham hock and strip the ham from the bone, returning ham to the stock pot. Reheat, seasoning with salt and pepper.

Republican Styled Senate Bean Soup, healthier and faster (serves 8)

1T olive oil
1 onion chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
3 cups canned low sodium Navy Beans
3 cups reduced sodium vegetable broth
6-ounces sliced and shredded smoked nitrate-free cooked ham

In a stock pot, sauté the onions and celery in the olive oil to soften. Add the beans, water and ham. Simmer uncovered for 30 minutes to thicken. Salt and pepper to taste

Vegan Senate Bean Soup serves 8 Vegan Democrats

You will note that the ham is taken out as well as all dairy products since this is strictly vegan. The sundried tomatoes with the smoked paprika duplicate the texture and smokiness of the ham.

3 cups low sodium Navy Beans, canned, drained and rinsed, divided into 2½ cup and ½ cup
3 cups reduced sodium organic vegetable broth plus extra ½ cup (see directions below)
1T olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
2T dried parsley
1/2t black pepper
1t garlic powder
1 large bay leaf
1 medium peeled cooked Yukon Gold potato
1 package 3.5-ounces California Smoked Sun-dried tomatoes, sliced (if smoked sun-dried tomatoes are not available, sprinkle sun-dried tomatoes with 1t smoked paprika)

Salt and pepper to taste


In medium saucepan or soup pot, add the olive oil, the onion and the celery. Sauté until softened. Add 2½ cups of the beans plus all of the seasonings, bay leaf and the vegetable broth. Bring to a boil and simmer. Peel potato and quarter. In a small sauce pan with water, boil potato until fork tender. Remove from heat and drain. Place the potato in a blender with the remaining ½ cup beans and ½ cup vegetable broth. Puree until smooth and add to the soup mixture. Remove bay leaf from the soup. Add the sundried tomatoes and bring the soup to a simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes. It will thicken. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Nutritional analysis for above Bean Soup (serves 8).
Nutritional analysis for Vegan Senate Bean Soup (serves 8).

Calories: 170, Total Fat: 3 g, Saturated Fat: 0 g, Trans Fat: 0 g, Cholesterol: 0 mg, Sodium: 285 mg, Carbohydrate: 31 g, Fiber: 9 g, Protein: 8 g

Diabetic Exchanges: 2 Carbohydrate