BEST Baked Beans with Bacon and Brown Sugar

These are the Best Baked Beans ever and a must for all your summer potlucks, barbecues, cookouts and 1000X better than canned!

If you’re looking for the best homemade baked bean recipe, look no further!   This Baked Beans Recipe requires just 15 minutes of prep but delivers loads of rich, sweet and smoky flavor from a luxurious pantry friendly sauce.  Add this Baked Beans recipe to your Fourth of July menu today because it’s sure to be a hit!

top view of homemade Baked Beans in a blue 9x13 baking dish with green parsley

Homemade Baked Beans

There is nothing better than HOMEMADE Baked Beans!  I grew up loving Bush’s Baked Beans and wasn’t sure they could be improved upon, so trust me when I say this Baked Beans recipe is so much better than any store-bought canned baked beans!

These Baked Beans are rich and comforting, sweet and savory and go fabulously well with practically every main dish such as: Barbecue Ribs, BBQ Beef Brisket, BBQ Pulled Pork, Nashville Hot Chicken, steak hamburgers, hot dogs, chicken, and on and on.

And BONUS, they are super easy to make!  Simply cook your bacon, onions, and garlic then stir all the ingredients together and bake for 45-60 minutes – that’s it!  The sautéed aromatics add a layer of deep, complex flavor and the simple pantry friendly sauce infused with spices simmers in the oven to create a rich, luxuriously thickened glaze.  Hellllll-o new favorite side ever.

Scooping Homemade Baked Beans with a silver spoon

Boston Baked Beans

This homemade Baked Beans recipe is my version of Boston Baked Beans. Boston Baked Beans have been a staple in New England since the days of the pilgrims when Boston was a lead exporter of rum. Rum is created by the distillation of fermented molasses, so molasses was always on hand and subsequently, added to the local baked beans to create Boston Baked Beans.

Boston Baked Beans are characterized by their use small white beans (usually nave beans), molasses and salt pork bathed in a rich, sweet and tangy, stew-like sauce.  I’ve substituted easy-to-find thick-cut bacon in place of the salt pork, but feel free to use salt pork if you prefer.

What beans are used for baked beans?

The most popular type of beans for Boston Baked beans is navy beans.  Navy beans are a white bean also known as:

  • haricot
  • pearl haricotbean
  • Boston bean
  • white pea bean
  • pea bean

 Depending on your grocery store, you might easily find “navy beans” but sometimes they are simply labeled “white beans.”

I’ve chosen to combine both navy beans and creamy pinto beans for a variety of texture and size, but you can essentially use whatever combination of beans you have on hand from the aforementioned navy and pinto to great northern beans and butter beans (NOT kidney or cannellini – more on that later).  You will need a total of 4 (16 oz.) cans of beans.

How do you make Baked Beans from Scratch?

  • Cook bacon in a large cast iron skillet over medium high heat until fully cooked.  Remove to paper towel lined plate to drain off excess grease.
Showing How to make Baked Beans by cooking bacon in a skillet
  • Drain all but 2 tablespoons of the bacon grease that’s left in the skillet.  We cook our onions and garlic in the bacon grease so they are infused with a depth of irresistible bacon flavor.
Showing How to make Homemade Baked Beans by cooking onions and garlic in a skillet
  • Next, instead of dirtying another dish by adding our “Sauce” ingredients to a bowl, we simply add them all to our 9×13 baking dish.  The Sauce consists of sweet barbecue sauce (I like Sweet Baby Rays), ketchup, brown sugar, molasses, cider vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, Dijon mustard, liquid smoke, chili powder, smoked paprika, pepper and dried thyme.  Whisk all the sauce ingredients to combine.
Showing How to make Best Baked Beans by whisking together barbecue sauce, ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, Dijon mustard, molasses together
Showing How to make easy Baked Beans by stirring homemade sauce together
  • Add beans, bacon, onions/garlic.
Showing How to make Baked Beans by adding beans, bacon, onions to homemade sauce
  • Stir until evenly combined.   Spread into an even layer and cover with foil.  At this point you can refrigerate to bake later or continue to bake.Showing How to make Boston Baked Beans by stirring navy and pinto beans together with homemade sauce

HOW LONG DO YOU BAKE BEANS IN THE OVEN?

Bake beans for at 350 degrees for 30 minutes, stir, recover with foil and bake an additional 15-30 minutes or until hot and bubbly and the sauce is thickened to your liking.  After 45-60 minutes the beans should emerge tender, the sauce thickened and the top covered with a beautiful crust. You can serve as is but I like to give my beans a nice stir and then garnish with freshly chopped parsley.

CAN I MAKE BAKED BEANS AHEAD OF TIME?

You can completely assemble the baked beans and cover with foil and refrigerate until ready to bake.  Bake at 350 degrees F and add an extra 10 minutes of baking time for a total of 55-70 minutes.

Scooping Homemade Baked Beans with a silver spoon

Tips and tricks for Homemade Baked Beans

Baked Beans are very simple to make but here are a few tips and tricks:

  • Rinse and drain beans. This is a MUST!  Rinsing the beans reduces the sodium which in turns reduces your gassiness 😊.  To rinse beans, add them all at once to a large colander and gently rinse with cold water.  You don’t want to use the spray setting or it can break your beans apart.  Take care your beans are thoroughly drained before adding to the sauce.  You may need to dab them with paper towels to get rid of excess moisture.
  • Use Thick Cut bacon. It is essential to use thick-cut bacon and not traditional bacon in this recipe so it retains its meaty texture and doesn’t get lost in the beans. If you decide to use salt pork, make sure it is RINSED.
  • Don’t use kidney beans. As previously discussed, you can essentially use whatever beans you have on hand from navy beans to generic white beans to pinto beans to Northern beans to butter beans.  I don’t however, recommend kidney beans or cannellini beans because they have a tougher skin so they require longer cooking to time to soften and therefore will not be done at the same time as the rest of your beans.
  • Liquid smoke. I love adding liquid smoke to my Baked Beans because they add a baked-over-an-open-flame taste and smell to our already scrumdiddlyumptious beans.   Liquid Smoke can be found next the barbecue sauces at your local grocery store.  I prefer Mesquite liquid smoke for these baked beans but you are welcome to use hickory if you prefer.
  • Salt to taste. Do to the salty nature of bacon, I didn’t find it necessary to salt these beans.   If you feel like something is missing at the end of cooking, then you may need to add salt to taste.
  • Adjust Baking time to Adjust Sauce Thickness. If you like thicker sauce, bake beans for a total of 60 minutes OR longer until the sauce is thickened to your liking.  For a thinner sauce, bake closer to 45 minutes total.
Homemade Baked Beans in a casserole dish with a silver spoon

How to Customize Baked Beans

There are many differing opinions as to what makes the “Best” Baked Beans from Baked Beans with Bacon to Baked Beans with Salt Pork to Baked Beans with Sausage.  Some people like their baked beans more tangy, some more sweet, some more spicy.  So here are just a few ways you can customize your homemade baked beans recipe to make them YOUR Best Baked Beans.

  • You can make your baked beans sweeter by adding additional brown sugar, tangier by adding more apple cider vinegar or spicier by adding hot sauce.
  • You can make them thicker by baking them longer or thinner for baking for less time. (See Tips and Tricks)
  • If you are looking to make this a vegetarian recipe, you can omit the bacon. You will want to use 2 tablespoons olive oil in place of the bacon grease and deeply caramelize your red onions.

Try adding any of the following: 

  • Sausage
  • Bratwurst
  • Hot dogs
  • Ground beef
  • Red or green bell peppers
  • Cayenne pepper or hot sauce

Slow Cooker Baked Beans

Lazy Slow Cooker Baked Beans:  Brown bacon (Step 2) then add to slow cooker along with all Baked Beans ingredients.  Stir to combine.  Cook on LOW for 6-8 hours, stirring occasionally. If the beans are too thick, stir in a little water, if not thick enough, then remove lid, increase heat to high and continue to cook until thickened, up to 1 hour.

Proper Slow Cooker Baked Beans:  Brown Bacon AND then caramelize onions according to recipe directions (Steps 2-3).  Add all Baked Bean ingredients to slow cooker and stir to combine.  Cook on LOW for 6-8 hours, stirring occasionally. If the beans are too thick, stir in a little water, if not thick enough, then remove lid, increase heat to high and continue to cook until thickened, up to 1 hour.

Can you Double this Baked Beans Recipe?

You can definitely double this Baked Beans recipe but I would divide the recipe into two 9×13 pans OR a larger, baking dish/roasting pan.  If you try and bake them all in one dish then they can overflow and/or they won’t thicken properly due to the depth to surface area ratio.

HOW DO I TRANSPORT THESE BAKED BEANS?

Baked Beans are a popular potluck side so if you plan on bringing them to serve a hungry crowd, I suggest transferring them to a slow cooker and then keep them on the warm setting, stirring occasionally.

If you are going to be at a location without electricity for your crockpot, a crockpot is still nice to have to keep your beans well insulated and slosh mess free.  Alternatively, you can keep them in your 9×13 dish, cover tightly with foil then cover with towels to insulate.

Scooping Best Baked Beans with a silver spoon

WHAT SIDE SHOULD I BRING TO A POTLUCK?

If you’re looking for more potluck sides in addition to these fabulous Baked Beans, I suggest:

Happy 4th of July!

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top view of homemade Baked Beans in a blue 9x13 baking dish with green parsley

Best Baked Beans

The BEST Baked Beans EVER! These are the perfect combo of tangy, sweet and savory with only 15 minutes of prep! They are a MUST at every potluck, cookout and summer barbecue!
Servings: 10 -12 servings
Total Time: 1 hr 5 mins
Prep Time: 5 mins
Cook Time: 1 hr

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Ingredients

  • 8 oz. thick cut bacon chopped small (1/4”)
  • 1/2 large red onion chopped
  • 2-3 garlic cloves minced
  • 2 16 oz. cans pinto beans drained and rinsed
  • 2 16 oz. cans navy beans drained and rinsed
  • Sauce
  • 1/2 cup sweet barbecue sauce like Sweet Baby Rays
  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons molasses
  • 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon liquid smoke
  • 1/2 tsp EACH chili powder, smoked paprika
  • 1/4 tsp EACH pepper, dried thyme

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  • Cook bacon in a large cast iron skillet over medium high heat. Remove to paper towel lined plate.
  • Drain all but 2 tablespoons of the bacon grease. Add onions and cook until they begin to caramelize, approximately 5-7 minutes. Add garlic and cook an additional 30 seconds. Remove from heat.
  • Add all of the “Sauce” ingredients to a 9×13 pan. Whisk to combine. Add beans, bacon, onions/garlic and stir until evenly combined. Spread into an even layer and cover with foil.
  • Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes, stir, recover with foil and bake and additional 15-30 minutes or until hot and bubbly and the sauce is thickened to your liking. (For thinner sauce, cook closer to 15 additional minutes, thicker sauce, closer to 30 additional minutes).

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14 Comments

  1. Brande says

    Oh my goodness, these baked beans look so good. I will be making them for the 4th!

    • Jen says

      Thank you so much Brande, I’m so excited you are going to make them! Happy 4th!

  2. Jody Jackson says

    Hi Jen,

    I absolutely love your recipes!!!! I will definitely be making these beans on the 4th!!

    Thank you and may God continue to bless you!

    Jody

    • Jen says

      Thank you so much Jody! I hope you have a fabulous and delicious 4th! God bless! xo

  3. sauceaddict says

    I like my beans saucy! Does this recipie have a lot of sauce? hard to tell in the picture, wondering if I should double the sauce part haha

    Thanks

    • Jen says

      Hi there! They are not super saucy, I would double the sauce if you like them really saucy 🙂 Enjoy!

  4. Natasha Minocha says

    Great post on baked beans , i am going to try this at home soon .Thank You!

    • Jen says

      You are so welcome! I hope you love them as much as us!

  5. Debbie says

    Good Morning! I haven’t tried these beans yet but I’ve tried many of your recipes in the past and they always come out great. I have one problem though, it’s kind of a pet peeve of mine…inaccurate/unrealistic prep times! This recipe is a good example: prep time 5 minutes. It takes longer than that to cook the bacon, followed by 5-7 minutes for the onions, then gathering and measuring all the sauce ingredients. Perhaps you start timing after the onions are sliced , bacon is chopped and garlic minced, but all those actions are part of the prep and the time should , in my humble opinion, include all these.
    This is kind of a running joke in my house, when I say I’m making another of my 30 minute meals my husband laughs and starts the timer. For the record you are certainly not the only (or the worst) at shorting prep times but with your recipes I can be sure, regardless of the time required, the outcome is always delicious. Thank you !

    • Jen says

      Hi Debbie! I include much of what you call prep in the cook time – for example cooking the onions and bacon is included in the cook time. Enjoy!

  6. Rosemary says

    Sounds delicious! I will be trying it.

  7. Stephanie says

    This was a super easy and delicious recipe to throw together for a bbq this weekend. I baked for 45 minutes and pulled it out, it was perfect sauce amount, any longer would have gone to the too dry side for me. Great flavor and will totally make again.

    • Jen says

      Awesome Stephanie, I’m so pleased these baked beans were a repeat winner! Thank you!

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