Hundred-Year-Old Bean Chowder Recipe


It’s cold and blustery here – and time to make a  hearty soup. I searched though my hundred-year-old recipes and came up with the perfect soup for a cold winter day – Bean Chowder.

This savory, comforting, filling and nutritious chowder is made with dried navy beans, salt pork, onions and tomatoes; and it hit the spot perfectly. This recipe is a keeper (though if I made it again I might shorten the prep time by using canned navy beans).

Here’s the hundred-year-old recipe:

Source: Good Housekeeping (April, 1916)
Source: Good Housekeeping (April, 1916)

And, here’s the recipe updated for modern cooks:

Bean Chowder

  • Servings: 8-10
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

1 quart (4 cups) water + approximately 2 quarts water

1 teaspoon baking soda

2 cups dried navy beans

1/2 pound salt pork, diced into small pieces

2 medium onions, thinly sized

1 quart (28 oz. can) canned tomatoes

1/4 teaspoon pepper

2 teaspoons salt

1 1/2 tablespoons sugar

In a large saucepan bring 1 quart water and the baking soda to a boil using high heat. Remove from the heat, then stir in the navy beans, and cover. Let sit overnight (10-12 hours).  Then drain the beans. Rinse thoroughly and then put into a large dutch oven or soup pot. Add one quart water, the diced salt pork, and the onions. Bring to a boil on high heat, and then reduce heat and let gently simmer for four hours. Add additional water as needed (approximately one additional quart of water will need to be added).

At the end of the four hours, add the tomatoes, salt, pepper, and sugar. Cook for an additional hour, and then serve.

51 thoughts on “Hundred-Year-Old Bean Chowder Recipe

  1. This looks super healthy, like it could ward of the worst flu. By the way, I bought a bunch of celery today with the plan to make the creamed celery this week! Still not sure if I will attempt the poached egg 🙂

    1. Just between you and me – If you are looking for a nice vegetable dish, just make the creamed celery. If you want something a bit more dramatic, add the poached eggs. 🙂

  2. Did you happen to find this recipe in Good Housekeeping? I found it there when I went searching for information on Mrs. Porter. I live only a few miles from Texas City, and met some Porters from there once. I suspected they might all be related, and it seems they are. You just never know what you’re going to find on the internet. Not only is it a good recipe, it’s “down home” in every sense of the word — at least for me!

    1. Yes, I found it in the April, 1916 issue of Good Housekeeping. Back then the magazine included lots of recipes submitted by readers. It’s amazing that you might have met some of the recipe author’s relatives.

  3. I love pinto bean soup! I use a pressure cooker when I cook dried beans, it only takes 25 minutes for pinto beans if they’ve been soaked overnight. Do you know when pressure cookers were invented?

    1. I used the amount of salt called for in the old recipe – and the soup was good, though perhaps a bit on the salty side. I’d recommend making this recipe without the added salt, and then adding salt to taste when it is done.

  4. Love bean chowder! I know that it is a great soup to make on a cold night. Here it is not cold.. but dealing with tornadoes. Unusual for this time of year.

    1. Whew, I just saw a story on the news about the tornadoes a little bit ago, but I never thought about that they might be in the area where you live. I hope that there is not too much damage. My thoughts are with you and others in your area.

    1. Your comment sent me looking for the definition of chowder. According to the Merriam Webster Online Dictionary, a chowder is: “a soup or stew of seafood (as clams or fish) usually made with milk or tomatoes, salt pork, onions, and other vegetables (as potatoes); also : a soup resembling chowder.”

      I guess the bottom line is that the recipe author gets to decide whether a soup or stew is a chowder. 🙂

  5. This sure looks good, even though it’s really hot down here at the bottom of the Earth. I grew up eating beans every Saturday night in Maine but I’ve never had a chowder. It sounds delicious!

    1. Chowders and other soups are wonderful on cold winter days, but frankly I’m looking forward to when it’s hot on this side of the earth. 🙂

    1. Fireless cookers were heavily insulated boxes that food was put into to complete cooking. The food was brought to a boil on the stove, and then quickly put into the fireless cooker for several hours where it continued to slowly cook.

    1. Fireless cookers were sort of like an early version of modern crockpots. Food was brought to a boil on the stove and then quickly moved to a heavily insulated box (i.e., the fireless cooker) for several hours to complete cooking.

  6. I have one thought about the prep time. If a recipe requires parts of two days, discard one day. It’s a mental crutch, but it works for me when making rolled out cookies.

  7. Hi, I don’t know how I’ve missed your blog until now. I love old recipes and old cookbooks and I see a few mutual “blog friends” here! I’m off to explore more of your posts.


    1. hmm. . . I don’t know. I think that sometime during the first half of the 20th century they started adding something to salt so that “when it rains it pours.” But, other than that, I have no idea if salt has changed.

      1. I was reading that larger grain salt, like kosher salt, is actually less “salty” than table salt, so it’s better for cooking. Maybe 100 years ago salt was more like kosher salt. Maybe it’s less “rainy” than Morton salt.

    1. mmm. . . This looks delicious. I think of butter beans as a really old-fashioned bean – but when combined with the chorizo, you’re probably right that it won’t have been found it in the UK a hundred years ago.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s