This southern-style Easy Baked Beans recipe includes instructions for using canned or dried beans, plus directions for the oven, stove top and slow cooker (crockpot)!
These beans are the perfect mix of savory, sweet and smoky! Packed with brown sugar, bacon and bold BBQ flavor, they taste a billion times better than the stuff in a can! They are always a hit at a party and perfect for your next potluck, picnic, barbecue or summer soirée!
Update: This post was originally published in June 2015. I tweaked the recipe to perfection and updated the post below to include more information about bacon baked beans. Plus, I added step by step photos and a recipe video to show you how easy these homemade barbecue beans are to make!
Hi, friends! I hope you are ready to get your grub on! Today I am sharing a recipe for magical fruit! Because really, no summer gathering is complete without some epic barbecued beans! While canned beans are cheap and convenient, they just can’t compete with the complex, robust flavor found in these homemade beans!!
Easy Baked Beans Recipe
These homemade beans are the perfect side dish for any BBQ, pool party, picnic or potluck! And, they are so delicious you will want to eat them with every meal this summer!
I know everyone has a recipe for baked beans, and everyone claims theirs is the best. I’m not bold (or naïve) enough to stake a claim that mine are the absolute best in the entire world. I mean, I haven’t tried every single bean recipe out there. However, I can confidently state that these beans right here, they are pretty darn epic! They are absolutely jam packed with bold, bodacious barbecue flavor and always a hit at any and every party!
My better half is incredibly picky when it comes to baked beans. And, he has been devouring these melt-in-your-mouth, magically delicious homemade bacon baked beans twice daily for a week. And, he keeps requesting that I make more!
What do southern-style beans taste like?
These saucy beans are the perfect mix of sweet, savory, spicy and smoky flavors with a hearty, meaty taste and an unbelievably tender texture! Not to mention, they are a billion times better tasting than that crap in a can.
While these beans are all that jazz in the taste department, they can be made even better for those of you looking for a truly ultimate baked bean experience. How? By adding a generous sprinkling of candied bacon! The sweet crispness of candied bacon takes the flavor to a stratospheric level of yum!
Trust me, you haven’t had epic baked beans until you have had these beans!! So, stop reaching for a can of preservative-filled beans and cook up these easy and ultimately delicious brown sugar and bacon baked beans instead!
What are baked beans made of?
Baked beans are a popular American comfort food perhaps best known for being served as a side dish at barbecues. Baked beans are typically prepared using dried or cooked white beans (known as haricot beans in the U.K.) and other enriching ingredients, such as molasses, brown sugar, ketchup, mustard and vinegar along with flavorful seasonings.
The exact ingredients and overall flavor of baked beans can vary greatly depending on the region or country. While traditional Boston beans originally contained pork (salt pork or pancetta), British beans are simply made in a tomato sauce.
The best thing about making beans from scratch is you can control the ingredients! If you prefer a sweeter taste, add more brown sugar! Do you like a lot of smokey flavor? Add in some liquid smoke! This easy recipe is the perfect starting point to preparing the best baked beans of your life!
Which type of beans are used?
Navy beans, also known as haricot beans in the U.K, are traditionally used for baked beans. However, you can also use pinto beans or great northern beans if needed!
What you will need to make beans from scratch:
- Bacon: Classic southern-style baked beans contain bacon. Bacon provides an incredibly delicious smokey and slightly salty flavor. However, you can omit the bacon and make these beans vegetarian if desired!
- Navy Beans: You can use dried or pre-cooked canned beans in this recipe. Dried beans result in the best texture and taste. However, canned beans are definitely more convenient. Dried beans will need to be soaked and cooked before you proceed with the recipe. I have included full instructions for both dried and canned beans in the recipe below.
- Vegetables: Sautéed sweet onion, bell pepper and garlic provide a flavorful base for the beans.
- Bourbon: Bourbon is slightly sweet with notes of vanilla and caramel. The bourbon enhances all the overall flavor of the beans. Save expensive single-barrel and small-batch bourbons for drinking. Use a regular bourbon such as Jim Beam or Wild Turkey in this recipe. If you want to make these beans without alcohol, use 1 tablespoon of pure vanilla extract instead.
- Ketchup: Sweet and tangy ketchup help provide the base for the beans classic barbecue taste!
- Sugar: Light brown sugar provides a rich sweetness and moist texture. If you prefer a stronger molasses flavor in your beans, feel free to use dark brown sugar instead!
- Molasses: Thick molasses adds a touch of warm, sweet, somewhat smoky flavor. I recommend a medium or dark molasses for the most robust flavor. However, I avoid blackstrap molasses as it has a distinct bitter flavor.
- Mustard: Yellow mustard offers the beans a clean, sharp mustard flavor. You can swap out yellow mustard for spicy brown or dijon if desired!
- Vinegar: Apple cider vinegar provides the perfect tart, dry flavor to balance all the sweet!
- Worcestershire Sauce: While not a classic ingredient in beans, Worcestershire sauce adds a delicious savory and sweet flavor with a distinct tangy taste.
What can I add to beans for more flavor?
This recipe is very forgiving and flexible! You can easily adjust the recipe to your specific taste, or add any flavor-enhancing ingredients you love!
- Spicy Peppers: Jalapeño and chipotle peppers are a wonderful way to spice up these beans!
- Dried Spices: Smoked paprika is my favorite seasoning to add. It will enhance the sweet and smoky flavors without adding any heat.
- Fresh Herbs: Minced fresh parsley will brighten up the beans and balance out the savory flavors.
- Liquid Smoke: A few dashes of liquid smoke is a great way to add more smoky flavor! Just be cautious, as it is very strong in flavor. Start with 1/2 teaspoon and taste the beans before adding more.
- Ground Beef or Sausage: For incredibly hearty, meaty beans, add either ground beef or ground sausage!
How to make baked beans?
Preparing these saucy, smoky and sweet beans is a total breeze! This recipe only requires 15 minutes of hands on preparation and can be made in the oven or slow cooker (crockpot) or on the stove! Canned or tinned beans may be cheap and convenient, however they just can’t compete with the complex, robust flavor found in these homemade beans!!
- Partially cook bacon. Cook diced bacon halfway through in large pot.
- Add vegetables. Sauté the peppers, onions and garlic with the bacon and bacon fat.
- Add beans, bourbon, ketchup, sugar, molasses, mustard, vinegar and Worcestershire. Stir to combine and bring to a simmer.
- Cook beans according to desired method – oven, slow cooker or stove-top. Either cover the beans and continue to cook on the stove-top or transfer beans to a preheated oven. Or, transfer the beans to a slow cooker and cook on low.
- Taste. Adjust for seasoning with salt and pepper if desired.
- Serve and enjoy!
How to make the best beans step by step photos:
What do baked beans go with?
Homemade baked beans are a wonderfully versatile side dish and a delicious complement to any number of different dishes! Traditionally, beans are served with sausages, however they really do taste delicious with any kind of barbecued main or protein off of the grill!
Main dishes to eat with baked beans:
- Black Bean Burgers
- Chicken Wings
- Pulled Pork Sandwiches
- Hot Dogs
- Pork Chops
- Grilled Chicken
If you are throwing a backyard BBQ or summer party and need more side options to make a complete meal, check out below!
Sides that pair well with beans:
- Fresh Salads
- Macaroni Salad
- Potato Salad
- Grilled Corn
- Green Beans
- Macaroni and Cheese
How long will beans keep?
Allow leftover baked beans to cool completely. Transfer beans to an airtight container and store in the refrigerator. Leftover beans will last 1 week if properly stored.
Can baked beans be frozen?
These easy homemade baked beans freeze beautifully! In fact, I always make sure I prepare extra baked beans just to have leftovers!
Freezing baked beans is ridiculously easy as long as you follow a couple of rules:
- Cool the beans: Allow baked beans to cool completely to room temperature before freezing. If you try to freeze beans while they are still hot, it will cause the container to expand and possibly break in the freezer.
- Use a freezer safe container: Once cooled, transfer the beans into an airtight, freezer-safe container.
- Leave headspace: Make sure you leave a little bit of space at the top of the container to account for expansion. Gently push down on any floating pieces of bacon to ensure they are covered by the sauce (this will prevent the meat from drying out). Cover the baked beans with an airtight lid and transfer to the freezer.
Baked beans will keep for up to 3 months in the freezer.
To use: Remove the baked beans from the freezer and thaw overnight in the refrigerator. Reheat according to instructions below.
Pro-tip: Make sure you write the date you prepared the baked beans on the container, plus the 3 month mark, so you know when they expire!
How to reheat baked beans?
You can absolutely reheat baked beans! In fact, some people prefer reheated baked beans and claim they have more flavor since they have had a chance to develop more flavor!
Reheating homemade baked beans is incredibly easy! There are two ways you can do it:
- The oven: Remove the baked beans from their storage container and transfer them to an oven-safe container. Cover the container with foil and bake in an oven preheated to 350 degrees F for 18-20 minutes, or until their internal temperature is 165 degrees F.
- The stovetop: To do so, remove the prepared baked beans from their storage container, transfer them to a sauce pot and reheat them over medium to medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until warmed throughout and an internal temperature of 165 degrees F (about 10-12 minutes).
Chef’s Note: The amount of time listed above is a guideline. The precise length of time will depend on the strength of your oven or stove and the amount of beans you are reheating.
These easy, perfect baked beans rock the dang house! Why?
- The recipe below includes instructions for utilizing both dry and canned beans.
- You can make these homemade baked beans in the oven, slow cooker (crockpot) OR on the stove.
- And if that wasn’t reason enough, I have three words. Bacon! Bourbon! Brown sugar!
But, instead of taking my word for it, you should most definitely make this Easy Baked Beans recipe for dinner tomorrow! I can guarantee you and your family will love them!
Until next time, friends, cheers – to the magical fruit.
More side dishes perfect for a summer barbecue:
Or, try these side dishes from around the web:
Macaroni Salad from Sugar Spun Run
Grilled Parmesan Potato Foil Packets from The Recipe Critic
Summer Tomato Salad from The Kitchn
How to make Easy Baked Beans recipe and video👇
Easy Baked Beans Recipe with Bacon
- Large Pot or Dutch Oven
- Slow Cooker or Crockpot (OPTIONAL)
- Large Rimmed Baking Sheet (OPTIONAL)
- 12 ounces Bacon - chopped
- 1 medium Sweet Onion - finely diced
- 1 small Green Bell Pepper - finely diced
- 3 large Cloves Garlic - minced
- 2 (28 ounce) cans Navy Beans - drained and rinsed (SEE NOTES)
- 1 Cup Bourbon
- 1 Cup Ketchup
- ½ Cup Light Brown Sugar - packed
- 1/3 Cup Molasses
- 2 TBS Yellow Mustard (can substitute Dijon)
- 2 TBS Apple Cider Vinegar
- 1 TBS Worcestershire Sauce
- Kosher Salt and Pepper - to taste
- 1 Cup Hot Water or Broth - more as needed (SEE NOTES)
Candied Bacon: (optional)
- ½ pound Thick Cut Bacon
- ½ Cup Dark Brown Sugar , packed
- ¼ tsp Cayenne Pepper
- 1/8 tsp Cinnamon
Optional Garnish: More Cooked Diced Bacon, Chopped Parsley
- Heat a large pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat and add chopped bacon. Cook for 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add in the onion, bell pepper and season generously with salt and pepper. Cook until softened, about 4-5 minutes. Add in the garlic and cook until fragrant and the bacon is browned, about 1 minute.
- Add in the remaining ingredients (if using slow cooker method, reduce water to ½ cup*), stirring to make sure everything is well combined. Season generously with salt and pepper. Bring everything to a simmer and cover with a tight fitting lid.
- OVEN: Cover pot and transfer it to a preheat 300 degree F oven (make sure oven rack is set to lower-middle position). Bake for 45 minutes, stirring once halfway through cooking. Remove the lid, stir, and continue to bake until the sauce is thickened and sticky, about an additional 30-45 minutes. If needed during baking, add more water to adjust consistency.
- STOVE TOP: Cover pot and reduce heat to maintain a simmer (between medium to medium-low). Cook, stirring at 30 minute intervals, for 1 ½ hours, or until the sauce is thickened and sticky.
- SLOW COOKER: (Make sure you reduced water to ½ cup in step 2) Transfer everything to the slow cooker and cook for 6 hours on LOW.
- Taste beans and adjust for salt and pepper to taste. Top with crumbled candied bacon if using.
- Optional - For the candied bacon: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a rimmed sheet pan with aluminum foil for easy clean up. Place a wire rack insert into the sheet pan. In a shallow dish combine the sugar, cayenne, cinnamon and a pinch of black pepper. Working one slice of bacon at a time, press and rub the sugar mixture onto the bacon. Transfer to the wire rack. Repeat with remaining slices of bacon. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until bacon is crip and cooked through. Remove to a paper towel lined plate to drain. Allow to cool. Cut or crumble bacon into desired sized pieces.
- You can substitute any kind of beans you would like: Northern, Pinto, Red Kidney Beans, or use a mix of two!
- If your bacon is lean, add a small drizzle of oil to the pan before adding the bacon.
- If the beans aren’t thickened and sticky, continue to cook them with the lid OFF until mixture thickens to desired consistency.
- If you want to cook the beans in the oven AND garnish with candied bacon, cook the candied bacon in advance. It will keep in a zip-closure bag, or container with a tight fitting lid, in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
- Soak Beans:
- Overnight method: Whisk together 8 cups of water with ½ tsp baking soda and 2 TBS kosher salt in a large pot. Add the beans, cover, and let soak at room temperature overnight (or about 8 hours). Transfer to a colander to drain and rinse well with running water.
- Quick soak method: Place beans in a large pot with ½ tsp baking soda and 2 TBS kosher salt. Add enough water to cover the beans by 2-3’’. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook 3 minutes. Remove beans from heat, cover and let stand for 1 hour. Transfer beans to a colander to drain and rinse well with running water.
- Cook Beans: Add beans back to the pot and add enough water to cover the beans by 3’’. Bring beans to a simmer over medium heat and cook for 1 hour. Drain and proceed with recipe as instructed.
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