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

Close up shot of a ladle of homemade baked beans with bacon and molasses

Baked Beans from Scratch

Old-fashioned baked beans are small white beans (often navy beans or Great Northern beans) that are baked in a sweet, smoky sauce at a low temperature for a long period of time. The beans soak overnight to soften, simmer on the stovetop until tender, and then finish with the sauce in the oven. Baked beans are a popular side dish at picnics and cookouts throughout the United States (especially on the Fourth of July), and are sometimes served as an affordable main course alongside Boston brown bread (in New England) or cornbread (in the South).

History

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 Baked Beans

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.

Overhead shot of a pot of homemade baked beans with bacon

What kind of beans are baked 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 are more accessible in the southeast where I live, that’s what I always use. You can also substitute with Great Northern beans, pink beans or pinto beans.

Boiled navy beans in a colander

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.

  • Dried navy beans: you can also substitute with Great Northern beans, pink beans or even pinto beans.
  • Bacon: for that smoky flavor.
  • Onion: adds a savory touch.
  • 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.
Sauce mixture for the best baked beans recipe

How to Make Baked Beans from Scratch

These easy 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!

  1. Soak beans in water overnight.
  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 until crisp. Remove to a plate, leaving 2 tablespoons of drippings in the pot.
  4. Cook the onion in the drippings 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!
Process shot showing how to make baked beans from scratch
Square image of a green Dutch oven full of Boston baked beans

What to Serve with Old Fashioned Baked Beans

If you’re offering the baked beans as a main course, pair them with skillet cornbreadbuttermilk biscuits or Boston brown bread, and a crisp green side salad or coleslawHoe cakespumpkin bread or pumpkin muffins are tasty options, too!

Baked beans are also a classic side dish to serve at picnics, cookouts, barbecues and potlucks. Here are some entrees that go well with the beans:

Overhead image of Boston baked beans in a Dutch oven with a serving spoon

Storage

Store leftover baked beans in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. You can also freeze the baked beans for up to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight and reheat gently over low heat on the stovetop or in the microwave until warmed through.

Homemade Baked Beans Recipe Variations

  • I use navy beans, but you can substitute with Great Northern beans, pink beans or pinto beans.
  • Add diced green bell pepper to the onion in the pot for more vegetables and more flavor in the dish.
  • 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.
  • For added heat, season the beans with Cajun seasoning or Creole seasoning, some hot sauce, or a dash of cayenne.
Side shot of a pot of homemade baked beans.

Tips for the Best Baked Beans Recipe

  • Don’t add too much salt. The bacon and the broth provide a good amount of salt to the dish, 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.
Hand holding a ladle full of homemade baked beans with bacon

More Bean Recipes to Try

Close up shot of a ladle of homemade baked beans with bacon and molasses

Homemade Baked Beans

5 from 1 vote
Prep: 14 hours
Cook: 2 hours
Total: 16 hours
Servings 8 cups total (approximately)
Calories 215 kcal
Skip store-bought cans, because you can't beat the sweet, savory and smoky taste of homemade baked beans with bacon and molasses. The perfect picnic, potluck or cookout dish!

Ingredients
  

  • 1 lb. dried navy 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.
  • Preheat oven to 325° F.
  • In a large Dutch oven over medium heat, cook 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. Add enough of the broth to cover the beans (if necessary, add water as well to cover the beans).
  • 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.

Notes

  • I use navy beans, but you can substitute with Great Northern beans, pink beans or pinto beans.
  • Add diced green bell pepper to the onion in the pot for more vegetables and more flavor in the dish.
  • 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.
  • For added heat, season the beans with Cajun seasoning or Creole seasoning, some hot sauce, or a dash of cayenne.
  • Don’t add too much salt. The bacon and the broth provide a good amount of salt to the dish, 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 up as they cool, so don’t worry if it looks a little bit soupy when it first comes out of the oven.

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, boston baked beans, homemade baked beans
Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: American
Author: Blair Lonergan
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!

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Comments

  1. 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. 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!

  2. 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. 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!

  3. 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. 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. 🙁