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Skip store-bought cans, because you can’t beat the sweet, savory, and smoky taste of homemade baked beans from scratch. The old-fashioned beans cook slowly in the oven with bacon and molasses, developing a rich, thick sauce. They’re the perfect side dish for your next cookout or potluck, and a simple lunch or dinner entrée when paired with a skillet of cornbread!

Side shot of a ladle serving homemade baked beans from scratch with a side of cornbread.
Table of Contents
  1. Boston Baked Beans
  2. Ingredients
  3. How to Make Baked Beans from Scratch
  4. Serving Suggestions
  5. Storage
  6. Tips for Success
  7. Homemade Baked Beans from Scratch Recipe

If you love recipes with beans, be sure to try these franks and beans, a pot of Southern lima beans with ham, these Appalachian beans and greens, a pan of cowboy baked beans, and this one-pan Southern cheesy bean casserole, too!

Boston Baked Beans

Baked beans originated with the Native Americans, who sweetened indigenous legumes with maple syrup. In 17th century New England, some English colonists adapted the Native Americans’ method to use brown sugar instead of maple syrup; however, that changed by the 18th century when American-made molasses quickly won out as the sweetener of choice. This locally produced ingredient was a great way for the colonists to avoid the high British taxes on sugar!

Boston is nicknamed “Beantown,” thanks to its close ties to the origins of the homemade baked beans (or “Boston Baked Beans”) that we know and love today. Traditional Boston baked beans include a sauce made with molasses and salt pork.

This recipe uses bacon instead of salt pork for that smoky flavor, and sweetens the sauce with a combination of molasses and ketchup, as well as savory ingredients like onion and ground mustard. These old fashioned baked beans are a nod to the origins of the dish, with a deep, rich, and modern complex flavor.

Close overhead image of the best homemade baked beans recipe in a Dutch oven on a white table.

Ingredients

This is a quick overview of the simple ingredients that you’ll need to make your own batch of homemade baked beans. As always, specific measurements and complete cooking instructions are included in the printable recipe box at the bottom of the post.

  • Dry beans: In New England, home cooks and restaurants still use a variety of indigenous legumes like Jacob’s cattle, soldier beans, yellow-eyed beans, and navy beans to prepare this recipe. Since navy beans and Great Northern beans are more accessible in the southeast where I live, these are typically the varieties that I reach for. You can also substitute with pink beans or pinto beans.
  • Bacon: for that smoky flavor. Instead of bacon, add flavor to the baked beans with a smoked ham bone or ham hock, salt pork, smoked sausage, smoked turkey wings, or smoked pork neck bones.
  • Onion: adds a savory touch. Include diced green bell pepper or garlic for more vegetables and more flavor.
  • Chicken broth: a flavorful liquid to thin and balance the sweetness of the sauce.
  • Ketchup and molasses: two different sweeteners for depth of flavor!
  • Apple cider vinegar: gives the sauce a bit of tang and cuts through the richness of the dish.
  • Dry mustard: for more savory, zesty flavor.
  • Kosher salt and freshly-ground black pepper: enhance the other flavors in the recipe.
  • Parsley, chives, or sliced green onions: an optional garnish that adds a bright, fresh touch to the finished dish.
Collage of process shots showing how to make homemade baked beans from scratch with bacon and molasses.

How to Make Baked Beans from Scratch

These homemade baked beans require very little actual hands-on prep time. The rest of the process just demands patience as the beans soak, simmer, and bake! I’ve included detailed directions in the recipe card below, but here’s the overview with my notes:

  1. Soak beans in water overnight. Soaking the beans softens them, which reduces the total time required for cooking.
  2. Simmer beans in a fresh pot of water for about 1 ½ hours. Drain and rinse.
  3. Cook bacon in a large Dutch oven on the stove top until crisp. Remove to a plate, leaving 2 tablespoons of drippings in the pot.
  4. Cook the chopped onion in the bacon grease until soft, about 5 minutes.
  5. Stir in the beans, bacon, ketchup, molasses, vinegar, dry mustard, kosher salt, and black pepper. Add enough chicken broth to cover the beans (I use just less than 2 cups).
  6. Cover the pot and bake the beans at 325°F until tender, about 2 hours.
  7. Taste and season with additional salt and pepper, if necessary.
  8. Garnish with chopped fresh parsley, chives, or sliced green onion. Enjoy!
Square side shot of a pot of old fashioned homemade baked beans recipe.

Serving Suggestions

If you’re offering these old fashioned baked beans as a main course, pair them with cast iron cornbreadbuttermilk biscuits, or Boston brown bread and a crisp green side salad, corn on the cob, baked potatoes, or coleslawHoe cakespumpkin bread, and pumpkin muffins are tasty options, too!

Baked beans are also a classic side dish to serve at a picnic, cookout, bbq, or potluck. Pair them with fried chicken, grilled hamburgers, grilled barbecue chicken breast, grilled pork chops, and Crock Pot pulled pork, or use them to top chili dogs.

Overhead shot of a cast iron Dutch oven full of homemade baked beans.

Storage

  • How to Store: Store leftover baked beans in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. You can also freeze them in an airtight container in the freezer for up to 3 months.
  • How to Keep Warm in a Slow Cooker: Set the slow cooker to its “warm” setting. Add the homemade baked beans, cover with the lid, and periodically stir the beans to ensure even heat distribution. This is a great option if you’re at a potluck or party and want them to stay warm for a couple of hours.
  • How to Reheat: If frozen, thaw the baked beans in the refrigerator overnight. Reheat gently over low heat on the stovetop or loosely covered in a microwave-safe container the microwave until warmed through.
Square side shot of a pot of baked beans with bacon.

Tips for Success

  • Don’t add too much salt. The bacon and the broth provide a good amount of salt to this baked beans recipe, so start slowly, and gradually add more seasoning to taste.
  • The total cooking time may vary, so keep an eye on your beans and pull them out of the oven when they’re tender. I find that 2 hours is perfect, but you can pull them out sooner if you like your beans a bit firmer. For really soft, broken-down beans, you might like to leave them in the oven beyond the 2-hour mark.
  • The beans and sauce will continue to thicken as they cool, so don’t worry if it looks a little bit soupy when it first comes out of the oven.
  • For added heat, season the beans with Cajun seasoning or Creole seasoning, some hot sauce, or a dash of cayenne.
  • A splash of Worcestershire sauce or soy sauce adds salty, umami flavor.
Ladle serving homemade baked beans from a Dutch oven.

More Popular Bean Recipes to Try

Square close up side shot of homemade baked beans from scratch in a Dutch oven.

Homemade Baked Beans from Scratch

5 from 1 vote
Prep: 14 hours
Cook: 2 hours
Total: 16 hours
Servings 16 servings (1/2 cup each)
Calories 215 kcal
You'll love the sweet, savory, and smoky flavor of these old fashioned baked beans with bacon!

Ingredients
  

  • 1 lb. dried navy beans or great Northern beans, rinsed and sorted
  • ½ lb. bacon, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • ½ cup ketchup
  • ¾ cup molasses
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons dry mustard
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • Kosher salt and freshly-ground black pepper
  • Optional garnish: chopped fresh parsley, chives, or sliced green onions

Instructions

  • Place beans in a large bowl or pot. Cover with water by 2 inches. Cover and let stand overnight. Drain and rinse the beans. Place the beans in a large pot and cover with fresh water (about 1 quart). Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat so that the liquid is at a gentle simmer. Cover the pot and simmer the beans until tender, about 1 ½ hours. Drain and rinse.
    Soaked great northern beans in a colander for baked beans.
  • Preheat oven to 325°F. In a large Dutch oven over medium heat, cook the bacon until crisp, about 7-8 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to remove the bacon to a paper towel-lined plate; reserve 2 tablespoons of drippings in the pot (discard any excess).
  • Add the onion to the drippings in the pot and season with a pinch of salt. Cook over medium-high heat until the onion softens, about 5 minutes. Stir in the beans, bacon, ketchup, molasses, vinegar, dry mustard, ½ teaspoon kosher salt and ¼ teaspoon of black pepper.
    Whisking together the molasses and sauce for a batch of homemade baked beans.
  • Add enough of the broth to cover the beans (if necessary, add water as well to cover the beans).
    Process shot showing how to make baked beans from scratch.
  • Cover and bake until the beans are tender, about 2 hours, stirring the pot halfway through. Taste and season with additional salt and pepper, if necessary. Garnish with chopped fresh parsley, chives or sliced green onions.
    Square side shot of a pot of old fashioned homemade baked beans recipe.

Notes

    • Don’t add too much salt. The bacon and the broth provide a good amount of salt to this baked beans recipe, so start slowly, and gradually add more seasoning to taste.
    • The total cooking time may vary, so keep an eye on your beans and pull them out of the oven when they’re tender. I find that 2 hours is perfect, but you can pull them out sooner if you like your beans a bit firmer. For really soft, broken-down beans, you might like to leave them in the oven beyond the 2-hour mark.
    • The beans and sauce will continue to thicken as they cool, so don’t worry if it looks a little bit soupy when it first comes out of the oven.
    • For added heat, season the beans with Cajun seasoning or Creole seasoning, some hot sauce, or a dash of cayenne.
    • A splash of Worcestershire sauce or soy sauce adds salty, umami flavor.

Nutrition

Serving: 1/2 cupCalories: 215kcalCarbohydrates: 32gProtein: 8gFat: 6gSaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 9mgSodium: 277mgPotassium: 656mgFiber: 7gSugar: 15gVitamin A: 45IUVitamin C: 3mgCalcium: 80mgIron: 2mg
Keyword: baked beans from scratch, baked beans with bacon, boston baked beans, homemade baked beans
Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: American
Author: Blair Lonergan

This recipe was originally published in May, 2021. It was updated in May, 2024.

blair

Hey, I’m Blair!

Welcome to my farmhouse kitchen in the foothills of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. Inspired by local traditions and seasonal fare, you’ll find plenty of easy, comforting recipes that bring your family together around the table. It’s down-home, country-style cooking!

Read More

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Comments

  1. Linda says:

    5 stars
    Easy to follow and adjust as needed. Thank you

    1. Blair says:

      Great! Thanks, Linda!

  2. Ally says:

    It seems like this would be great in the crock pot– plus keep the kitchen cooler! Have you tried these beans in the crock pot?

    1. Blair says:

      I haven’t, but I think it would probably work fine! You’ll just have to keep an eye on them and cook until tender, because I can’t provide a specific cooking time for the slow cooker. Let us know if you give it a shot!

  3. Sally Phelps says:

    Can these be made ahead of time? I am making beans for a side dish for 80 people (wedding) in my yard next month. Anything I can do ahead of time is welcomed.

    1. Blair says:

      Yes! I would make them 2-3 days in advance and then keep them covered in the fridge until you need to reheat them gently on the stovetop. You can freeze leftover beans, but I feel like the quality isn’t quite as good when thawed, and I know that you’d want them to be the best when serving them at the wedding. Have a wonderful celebration!

  4. Heather says:

    Hello!! I cooked my beans as directed at the 2 hour mark in the oven my beans were still crunchy so I have cooked an additional 3 hours and they are still crunchy. Any advice?! The flavor is great just the beans aren’t right! I soaked for almost a day then boiled for 1.5 hours

    1. Blair Lonergan says:

      Hi, Heather! That’s really odd that they are still crunchy after soaking, boiling for 1 1/2 hours, and then baking for 5 hours. Sounds like maybe the beans are old?
      Here’s some more info from a Food52 article: https://food52.com/blog/19158-it-s-time-to-replace-the-bag-of-beans-in-your-pantry-here-s-why#:~:text=Old%20beans%20will%20take%20longer,beans…not%20you.
      Old beans will take longer to cook, and the oldest beans will stay tough and chewy no matter how long (within reason), they simmer. If you find yourself cooking soaked beans for more than two hours, and they just will not soften, it may be your beans…not you.

      That’s my guess, since I haven’t had that particular issue with getting the beans to soften. 🙁

    2. Marcia says:

      My mother told me a secret I did not know about beans. They do not get softer in the oven. You have to cook them to the desired consistency when you boil them in water. The time in the oven is mostly for the sauce to soak in for flavor. I had no idea. So my next batch of beans will be perfect lol. Mine was a little harder than I like.

  5. DeLaine Nehlich says:

    How many servings does 32 ounces of northern beans serve? If I cook them for a hour and then ad the rest of the ingredients, how long can I have them in the crockpot on low and do you have a recipe for me?

    1. Blair Lonergan says:

      Hi, DeLaine! Serving sizes are so subjective, so it’s hard to say. As a side dish, I suggest that 1 lb. is about 16 servings (so 32 servings if using 32 ounces). If the beans are more of an entree or main focus, I’d say 32 ounces is about 6-8 servings. I don’t have a recipe for slow cooker great northern beans, but you can use this pinto bean recipe as a general guide: https://www.theseasonedmom.com/crock-pot-beans-and-cornbread/