Introducing a crowd-pleasing classic – smoky homemade baked beans. Making baked beans from scratch elevates the humble bean into something truly special.
Imagine beans simmered until perfectly tender, infused with a robust, smoky sauce that’s sweet, savory, and tangy all at once. A hint of brown sugar, molasses, and maple syrup lends sweetness, while smoky bacon, a touch of spice, and rich tomato sauce round out the flavors.
These old-fashioned baked beans are ideal for a barbecue, a comforting breakfast, or a warming dinner. It’s perfect as a hearty side dish but substantial enough to stand alone.
While making baked beans from scratch does take some time, the process is mostly hands-off, and the results are worth every minute. Plus, this dish tastes even better the next day, so it’s a fantastic option for meal prep or making ahead for an event. Get ready to enjoy a recipe that will soon become a staple in your kitchen rotation.
why you’ll love this baked beans recipe
This Baked Beans recipe has a lot to love!
Flavorful: Making baked beans from scratch allows you to layer flavors, creating a depth and richness that canned beans just can’t match. Every ingredient works together, from the smoky bacon to the sweet molasses, to create an incredibly satisfying dish.
Easy: The preparation for these easy baked beans takes all of 15 minutes; saute bacon, onions, and garlic and then mix them with the sauces, sweeteners, spices, and beans. But, you need to allocate time for the soaking and baking, both of which are totally hands-off time.
Customizable: When you make your own baked beans, you control the ingredients. I purposely made these beans less sweet than most baked beans, but if you like them sweeter, you can add more maple syrup. Want more smoky flavor? Add more smoked paprika or even a splash of liquid smoke. You can adjust this recipe to perfectly suit your taste buds. If you like your beans ‘saucy’, keep the liquid topped up while cooking.
Nutritious: Beans are high in fiber and protein, making this a filling dish. Additionally, by making it yourself, you can control the amount of sugar and sodium, making it a healthier choice than many store-bought options.
Versatile: These baked beans make a fantastic side dish for barbecues and cookouts, but they’re also hearty enough to serve as a main course. They’re perfect for breakfast, lunch, or dinner and can be served year-round.
Great for Meal Prep: This recipe makes a large batch of beans and’s perfect for meal prepping. The beans will last several days in the fridge and can even be frozen for longer storage. Plus, they actually taste better after a day or two, as the flavors have more time to meld together.
Crowd Pleaser: Lastly, but perhaps most importantly, Baked Beans is always a surefire crowd pleaser. Whether you’re feeding your family on a weekday or serving a party crowd, everyone will appreciate the home-cooked flavor of these beans.
ingredients for making baked beans from scratch
- Dried beans: Using dried beans will give your baked beans a superior flavor and texture compared to canned beans. However, they require soaking overnight, which adds to the prep time. If you’re short on time, you can use a quick soak method: add the beans to a pot, cover with water, bring to a boil, then remove from heat and let stand for one hour.
- Bacon adds a wonderful smoky flavor to your beans. You can adjust the amount to suit your preference for bacon flavor. Alternatively, you could use smoked ham hocks, turkey legs, or chorizo for a different twist.
- Onion and garlic: These ingredients provide a base flavor for your beans. Feel free to add more if you like a more pronounced garlic flavor.
- Tomato sauce gives the beans a tangy, sweet, and savory flavor. You can use store-bought or homemade tomato sauce. If you don’t have tomato sauce, here’s a list of tomato sauce substitutions.
- Maple syrup, brown sugar, and molasses give baked beans their signature sweetness. The molasses also adds a deep, rich flavor.
- Smoked paprika: This spice gives the beans a delicious smoky flavor. If you don’t have smoked paprika, you could use regular paprika with some liquid smoke or even a smoky barbecue sauce.
- Worcestershire sauce is a flavorful condiment that adds a bit of umami and complexity to the beans. It can be omitted if you don’t have any, but you might want to increase the other seasonings to compensate.
- Salt, dry mustard, and ground black pepper are basic seasonings that help bring out the flavors of the other ingredients. You can adjust these to taste.
Remember, recipes can usually be adjusted to your personal taste and the ingredients you have on hand.
variations and substitutions
Beans: I used pinto beans, but you could also use dried navy beans or Great Northern beans. I guess there’s no reason you couldn’t use kidney or even black beans.
Vegetarian/Vegan Options: For a vegetarian or vegan version, omit the bacon and use a vegan Worcestershire sauce or soy sauce for the umami flavor. You could also add smoked paprika or liquid smoke for that smoky flavor.
Sweeteners: If you don’t have maple syrup or molasses, you could use either of these to substitute for the other.
Spices: Feel free to adjust the spices to your liking. For a spicier version, add some chili powder or cayenne. Add a bay leaf, thyme, or other herbs for a more complex flavor.
Tomato Products: If you don’t have tomato sauce, check out these tomato sauce substitutes.
Add-ins: Add diced bell peppers, jalapenos, or even a bit of bourbon or beer for additional flavors.
Remember, recipes are a guideline, and one of the joys of cooking is making your own dish. Feel free to experiment and adjust to your taste.
step-by-step baked beans from scratch
how do you know when your beans are ready?
I’ve referred to the Tamar Adler book, An Everlasting Meal, before. It’s one of those books I like to re-read occasionally for inspiration. Here’s what she says about knowing when your beans are ready to be eaten:
Beans are done when they are velvety to their absolute middles. You should feel, as soon as you taste one, as though you want to eat another. The whole pot is only ready when five beans meet that description. If one doesn’t, let the beans keep cooking…TAMAR ADLER
know the freshness of your dried beans
Dried beans lose flavor and ‘cookability’ after a certain time. If you’ve ever cooked beans that wouldn’t soften up, you most likely had some old beans, my friend. It seems the window for using beans after they have been dried is 2-3 years. All that said, it is important to test your beans as they cook. It is impossible to set a specific time for them to be cooked.
how to make ahead and store your baked beans
You can make your baked beans ahead of time! In fact, many people find that baked beans taste even better the next day because the flavors have had more time to meld together.
After you’ve made this baked beans recipe, let the beans cool completely. Transfer them to an airtight container. If you plan on eating the beans within a few days, you can store them in the refrigerator. For longer storage, freeze the baked beans.
When you’re ready to serve your baked beans, reheat them gently on the stove over medium heat or in the microwave, stirring occasionally. If you’ve frozen the beans, it’s best to move them to the refrigerator to thaw the night before serving them.
Generally, refrigerated cooked beans can last for 3 to 5 days, while they will be fine for up to 3 months in the freezer.
Making baked beans from scratch ahead of time can be a great way to prepare for a party or a busy week. It’s a hearty, comforting dish that’s always good to have on hand.
frequently asked questions
Do I have to soak the beans overnight?
Soaking beans overnight is generally recommended as it reduces the cooking time and helps the beans to cook more evenly. However, if you forget to soak them, you can use the quick soak method I mentioned earlier.
Can I make baked beans in a slow cooker?
Yes, you can make baked beans in a slow cooker. After sautéing the bacon, onions, and garlic on the stove, transfer everything to the slow cooker and cook on low for 6-8 hours or until the beans are tender. If they still aren’t done after 8 hours, check every 30 minutes. Set your cooker on ‘warm’ to keep your slow cooker baked beans warm until they are ready to be enjoyed.
The beans are cooked, but the sauce is still thin. What should I do?
If the sauce is thin after the beans are cooked, you can remove the lid and cook for a little longer to allow some of the liquid to evaporate and the sauce to thicken.
How can I make my baked beans more flavorful?
Baked beans can be flavored in many ways. For more heat, add jalapeños or chili powder. Add more mustard or a splash of apple cider vinegar for a tangier taste. For a smokier flavor, try adding chipotle in adobo, liquid smoke, or even smoked meats like sausage or pulled pork.
looking for more bean recipes?
These Brothy Beans are a staple in our home. I make them once a month. I love that you can make them yours by adding your favorite ingredients.
Crockpot Pinto Beans, flavored with onions, jalapeños, garlic, and spices, are also regularly made because they are effortless and versatile. Typically, they top a bowl of black rice with avocado and roasted butternut squash. They are fantastic over a baked sweet potato, where their spiciness perfectly balances the sweetness of the sweet potato.
This Tuscan White Bean Soup proves that the most simple ingredients often combine to make the most flavorful soups.
- 1 pound dried beans (pinto, navy or great northern), soaked overnight and drained
- 1/2 pound bacon, chopped
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 3 cloves of garlic, minced
- 2 cups (or 1 15-ounce can) tomato sauce
- 1/4 cup maple syrup
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons molasses
- 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
- 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
- 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 2 teaspoons dry mustard
- 1/8 teaspoons ground black pepper
- Place the soaked beans in a large pot and cover with water to cover beans by about 2 inches.
- Bring the pot to a boil, then reduce the heat to simmer the beans. Add water as needed to keep the beans covered.
- Gently simmer beans until tender but not mushy. This should take between 45 minutes and 1 hour.
- Preheat oven to 325°F.
- While the beans cook, saute the bacon for about 10 minutes until it browns. Add the minced garlic and chopped onions and saute for 10 more minutes, until onions are translucent.
- Mix tomato sauce, maple syrup, brown sugar, molasses, Worcestershire sauce, salt, pepper, smoked paprika, and dry mustard.
- Once beans are pre-cooked, drain and reserve the cooking liquid.
- Add the beans to a large, oven-safe casserole or a Dutch oven with a lid. Aluminum foil can be used instead of a lid.
- Stir in the tomato sauce mixture, the bacon mixture, and enough reserved bean cooking liquid to cover the beans by 1/4 - 1/2 inch, depending on how saucy you like your beans.
- Put beans in the preheated oven and bake for 3-4 hours, occasionally checking to ensure that liquid covers the beans. If you don't see liquid just covering the beans, add a little of the reserved cooking liquid until it does. Beans are finished when beans are finished. There is wide variability in beans, so it is important to check them often to ensure some sauce is still on top of them.
- You can remove the lid or foil for the last 20-30 minutes to help thicken the sauce if needed.
- Remove from oven and serve immediately or let cool. These baked beans can be reheated easily on the stovetop.
To make baked beans in a slow cooker: After sautéing the bacon, onions, and garlic on the stove, transfer everything to the slow cooker and cook on low for 6-8 hours or until the beans are tender. If they still aren't done after 8 hours, check every 30 minutes. Set your cooker on 'warm' to keep your slow cooker baked beans warm until they are ready to be enjoyed.
Make ahead and Store: After you've made this baked beans recipe, let the beans cool completely. Transfer them to an airtight container. If you plan on eating the beans within a few days, you can store them in the refrigerator. For longer storage, freeze the baked beans.
When you're ready to serve your baked beans, reheat them gently on the stove over medium heat or in the microwave, stirring occasionally. If you've frozen the beans, it's best to move them to the refrigerator to thaw the night before serving them.
Generally, refrigerated cooked beans can last for 3 to 5 days, while they will be fine for up to 3 months in the freezer.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 10 Serving Size: 1/2 cup
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 216Total Fat: 9gSaturated Fat: 3gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 5gCholesterol: 23mgSodium: 775mgCarbohydrates: 25gFiber: 3gSugar: 16gProtein: 11g
Bookmark this page or pin the following image to refer baked to this recipe for Baked Beans from Scratch.
Thanks so much for spending a few minutes of your busy day with me!
If you want to ensure you don’t miss future content, pop your email in the pale green box on the right or click here. I usually send one email weekly so I won’t inundate your inbox. I’m sensitive to an overflowing email inbox!
We will only use your email address to send you emails, no more than 1-2 weekly. In addition, you will have access to my growing library of knit & crochet patterns and other printables. Check back often as this library will continue to grow. Please know that you can unsubscribe anytime by emailing me or clicking on the “unsubscribe” link at the bottom of all emails.
And you can access many of the products I refer to on my Nourish and Nestle Amazon Page. You can access it here.
So, if you’d like to get in on the ‘subscriber benefit’ action, simply subscribe to Nourish and Nestle here or use the form on the right sidebar. It’s towards the top a bit.
I have sent all my subscribers the link to the Subscriber Benefits Library. If you missed it or misplaced it, drop me a line.
Until next time…