A dish of baked beans is a welcome addition to any backyard barbecue, family reunion potluck, or football tailgate. Even though you may not have time to start from dried beans, this recipe allows you to turn out a savory and tasty dish based on canned beans.
Photographer: Fred Hardy II, Food Stylist: Emily Nabors Hall, Props Stylist: Christina Brockman
Calling a recipe “the best” is always a risky proposition, since these things are purely subjective; so what I really should have called this is, “What Chef John Thinks is the Best Barbecue Baked Beans.” That would have been more accurate, but also kind of self-aggrandizing, and way too long, so I decided to stick to my guns, and simply proclaim this to be the best. Which it is.
Above and beyond the incredible taste, perfect texture, and impressive meatiness, this is also a very simple recipe to make, as long as you have a few hours baking time to invest. To me, the secret to a perfect dish of baked beans is a long, slow cooking time. Well, that’s one of the secrets. The other is to not kill the beans with too much sugar, which in my opinion, almost every other baked bean recipe does.
We’re only adding 1/4 cup of brown sugar here, which along with the barbecue sauce, ketchup, and molasses, provides what I think is plenty of sweetness to balance the other flavors. Feel free to add more if you want, but I want this to be as savory as it is sweet. Speaking of savory, you don’t have to use as much meat as I did, but if you do, this could certainly be served as a main course, which is a great option if the barbecue budget is a little tight. Either way, I really do hope you give this a try soon.
Start with eight slices of bacon. The thick stuff is great. The thick, peppered stuff is even better.
Cut the slices in half, then fry them on medium-low heat. You don’t want to brown or crisp the bacon at all; the point is only to render the fat and get the bacon pieces ready to bake up and turn brown in the oven.
Remove the bacon pieces once the fat is rendered, and in the name of all that is good and right, do NOT pour out the grease and clean the skillet! If you do, you’ll regret it for the rest of your days.
And a green bell pepper.
Then dice it right up.
Next, measure 3/4 cup of your favorite barbecue sauce.
And throw in 1/2 cup brown sugar.
Add 1/4 cup distilled white or apple cider vinegar.
Finally, add a couple of tablespoons Dijon mustard and mix the whole thing together.
Now. Back to the skillet. You can pour off a little of the excess grease, but leave some in there for good measure.
Put the skillet over medium heat, then throw in the onions and green peppers.
Stir ’em around and cook ’em for a few minutes, or until tender.
Then, pour in three cans of good ol’ pork ‘n beans. They’re the best beans for making baked beans. Everyone who’s anyone knows that!
I’ve made baked beans from scratch before—soaked the navy beans and everything. They just weren’t as good as the ones made with pork ‘n beans.
Does that make me a bad person?
Stir it together, then pour in the barbecue sauce/brown sugar mixture.
Bring this all to a simmer. And I think if you like things spicy, you could easily add in some chopped fresh jalapeño to the onion/green pepper mixture. That would give these some serious kick.
Then pour it into a large casserole pan.
The Pioneer Woman
Not that I’ve ever minded that big layer of grease.
I’ve never minded bacon grease in my life.
Now, here’s the key: bake this low and slow—325 degrees for two hours. You want the beans to be very, very cooked, the bacon very, very brown, and no soupiness to the dish whatsoever.
You won’t believe how delicious these are.
Labor Day: make these baked beans! I’m a serious baked bean fan, and I couldn’t get enough of these. They were absolutely perfect.
Thank you, Pamanderson. You cook reeeeel goooood. Has anyone ever told you that?
Baked beans have become relegated to the action of opening a can and pouring the contents into a serving dish. Maybe there’s a little bit of heating them up first. Some recipes may show how to “doctor up” canned beans in the hopes of fooling guests that they’re homemade. But that’s not what happens in this recipe.
Instead, I opt for truly homemade baked beans, which was one of my grandma’s terrific recipes. These aren’t hard to make and the recipe is not complicated. All that’s needed is a bit of extra time and it’s completely worth it for these beans. Their creamy interior texture is unparalleled. The flavoring is simple, made from molasses and bacon.
Don’t be fooled by the simple ingredients. These beans deliver.
The ingredients in this recipe
- Navy beans are the traditional bean for baked beans. This small white bean needs to be soaked for eight hours. The soaking quickens the cooking time but also ensures that they cook evenly.
- Onion is essential to create a delicious baked bean flavor. The onion slowly bakes in the oven alongside the beans and takes on all the flavors.
- Yellow mustard adds a little tanginess to balance out the sweetness of the molasses. While mustard may seem surprising, without it the beans would taste flat and boring. Trust me on this one.
- Molasses is iconic as an ingredient in baked beans. And why is that? It’s both sweet and savory with a depth of flavor.
- Bacon imparts a smoky flavor and is a nod to those store-bought pork and beans recipes. But instead of limp and tasteless pork, the bacon is pre-cooked until crispy. While these beans cook, the bacon maintains its texture.
Make these beans once and the store-bought version will be forgotten forever. These beans have texture and flavor, all with simple ingredients. I find that these beans are never forgotten about or pushed to the back of the table. They get eaten right away.
Watch how to make this recipe
- dried navy beans
- reserved cooking liquid
- cooked and chopped
- Once the beans are fully cooked, preheat the oven to 375°F.
- Remove the beans from the heat. Drain and reserve the cooking liquid. Return the beans to the stockpot. To the beans, add the chopped onion, yellow mustard, ketchup, molasses, salt, pepper, reserved cooking liquid (if the cooking liquid is less than 1 ½ cups, add water to make the 1 ½ cups needed), and bacon. Stir to combine and pour into a greased 9×13-inch baking dish.1 medium onion, 3 tbsp yellow mustard, 3 tbsp ketchup, 6 tbsp molasses, ½ tsp pepper, ½ tsp salt, 12 oz bacon, 1 ½ cups reserved cooking liquid
- Cover the beans with tin foil and place them in the preheated oven. Cook for 45 minutes with the cover on and then remove the cover and cook for an additional 15 minutes. At this point, the sauce will be mostly reduced. Remove the beans from the oven and serve.
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I’m Kaleb! I’m not a chef, professional baker, landscaper, or designer, but I like to play each on Knollgate Farm. Come join me on my journey and let’s learn together!
The best Baked Beans recipe is loaded with sweet and smokey flavor and baked saucy or thick, depending on your preference. They’re easy to make (even make in advance!) and a great side dish to feed a crowd.
Why I love this recipe
- Delicious – These easy baked beans are packed full of flavor and so good! You will never just heat up a can of beans again!
- Easy – Only 15 minutes of prep and then it goes in the oven. Perfect side dish!
- Large Gathering – This recipe makes a 9×13 pan, so it’s perfect to take to a potluck or party; or just freeze the rest for later! It’s also a great one to make a day or two ahead of time.
How to make Baked Beans
Cook Bacon: Add bacon to a large pot on medium heat and cook, stirring often until crisp. Remove to a plate.
Sauté Veggies: Remove only some of the bacon grease then add onion and saute for 4 minutes. Add bell pepper and garlic and cook for 2 more minutes.
Combine Ingredients: Add remaining ingredients and bacon to the pot and stir to combine. Taste and add additional salt and pepper, if needed.
Bake: Pour homemade baked beans into a 9×13 baking pan and bake, covered with foil, for one hour (or up to 2 hours, if you want them thicker). Uncover and bake for 10 more minutes. Allow to cool for at least 15 minutes before serving, for the sauce to thicken as it cools.
Make Ahead and Freezing Instructions
To Make Ahead: Prepare the beans up until the baking step. Refrigerate in a covered container for 3-4 days, depending on the freshness of ingredients used. Remove from fridge 30 minutes before baking. Bake as instructed.
To Freeze: These baked beans from scratch can be frozen in an air-tight freezer safe container or bag for up to 3 months. Thaw completely in refrigerator before baking.
- Saucy Baked Beans: Cook for recommended 1 hour.
- Thick Baked Beans: Add an additional 30 minutes to 1 hour onto the cook time.
- Sweetness: I like my beans on the sweeter side, but if you don’t, you can cut down the brown sugar to ⅓ cup.
- Instant Pot Baked Beans: Try my instant pot recipe that uses dry beans.
- Slow Cooker Baked Beans: Cook bacon and sauté onion in a skillet on the stove. Add all ingredients to slow cooker and stir to combine. Cook on LOW for 4-6 hours or high for 2-3 hours.
- BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwiches
- Steak or Chicken Kabobs
- Instant Pot Ribs or Slow Cooker Ribs
- Sloppy Joes
- Tuna Melt
- Classic Juicy Hamburger Recipe
- Turkey Burgers
- Easy Grilled Chicken Burgers
- French Dip Sandwiches
- Air Fryer Baked Potato
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
- Add bacon to a large pot. Turn heat to medium and cook, stirring often until crisp. Remove to a plate. Remove only some of the excess grease. Add onion to pan and sauté for 4 minutes. Add bell pepper and garlic and cook for 2 more minutes. Add remaining ingredients and bacon to stir to combine. Taste and add additional salt and pepper, if needed.
- Pour mixture into a 9×13 baking pan and bake, covered with foil, for one hour (or up to 2 hours, if you want them thicker consistency). Uncover and bake for 10 more minutes. Allow to cool for at least 15 minutes before serving, for the sauce to thicken as it cools.
- Store leftovers in the fridge for up to 1 week.
For Saucy Baked Beans: Cook for recommended 1 hour.
For Thick Baked Beans: Add an additional 30 minutes to 1 hour onto the cook time.
Sweetness level: I like my beans on the sweeter side, but if you don’t, you can cut down the brown sugar to ⅓ cup.
Instant Pot Baked Beans: Try my instant pot recipe that uses dry beans.
To Freeze: Baked beans can be frozen in an air-tight freezer safe container or bag for up to 3 months. Thaw completely in refrigerator before baking.
Slow Cooker Instructions: Cook bacon and sauté onion. Add all ingredients to slow cooker and stir to combine. Cook on LOW for 4-6 hours or high for 2-3 hours.
Did You Make This Recipe?
Welcome! I’m Lauren, a mom of four and lover of good food. Here you’ll find easy recipes and weeknight meal ideas made with real ingredients, with step-by-step photos and videos.
You don’t have to wait for the summer barbecue to get your bean fix. Enjoy baked beans all year round!
I got this recipe from my aunt and made a couple of changes to suit our tastes. With ground beef and bacon mixed in, these satisfying beans are a big hit at backyard barbecues and church picnics. I’m always asked to bring my special beans. —Julie Currington, Gahanna, Ohio
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Easy Baked Beans
My family enjoys this easy baked beans recipe with cornbread, but it also rounds out any cookout. Canned pork and beans make meal prep quick. —Phyllis Schmalz, Kansas City, Kansas
Tangy Baked Beans
Different, delicious and sized exactly right for two people, this easy, breezy home-style side dish is sure to please!—Dean Copeland, Ochlocknee, Georgia
Sweet and Spicy Baked Beans
This recipe is a hit with guests and family. It’s sweet, simple and delicious, and someone always asks for the recipe. —Elliot Wesen, Arlington, Texas
Smoky Baked Beans
They’ll be standing in line for this saucy bean recipe, full of campfire flavor. A variation on colorful calico beans, it’ll make a delightful side dish with many of your favorite entrees. —Lynne German, Cumming, Georgia
Molasses Baked Beans
These hearty, from-scratch baked beans with molasses taste like they were simmered over an open fire. Their sweet and zippy flavor is as big as the great outdoors. No matter what kind of meal you’re “rustling up”, this satisfying side dish is certain to please. —Sandra Thorn, Sonora, California
Baked Beans Mole
My son and husband love this hearty side dish that is quick and easy to prepare but yet so flavorful. Chocolate, chili and honey mingle to create a rich, savory flavor that’s not too spicy and not too sweet. —Roxanne Chan, Albany, California
New England Baked Beans
For a potluck or picnic, you can’t beat this classic side that starts with a pound of dried beans. Molasses and maple syrup give it a slight sweetness. —Pat Medeiros, Tiverton, Rhode Island
Fourth of July Baked Beans
We always choose this family recipe for July Fourth or any picnic because it’s a meaty twist on everyday baked beans and it has a nice sweetness. —Wendy Hodorowski, Bellaire, Ohio
Hearty Maple Beans
I modified this recipe to suit my family’s taste. It’s a great side dish for a backyard barbecue with hamburgers and hot dogs. It can be made in advance and kept warm in a slow cooked for hours without losing any flavor. —Margaret Glassic, Easton, Pennsylvania
Hearty Baked Beans
This saucy dish is flavorful and filling, chock-full of ground beef, bacon and four varieties of beans. I’ve had the recipe for years, and I make it often for big appetites at home and for potlucks at work and church. —Cathy Swancutt, Junction City, Oregon
Jen’s Baked Beans
My daughters wanted baked beans, so I gave homemade ones a shot. With mustard, molasses and a dash of heat, I made these beans absolutely delicious. —Jennifer Heasley, York, Pennsylvania
Tangy Baked Seven Beans
Everyone needs a go-to side dish for school events, picnics and potlucks. Here’s mine. Freeze leftovers for future outings. —Rod Lundwall, Tooele, Utah
Best Ever Beans and Sausage
When my wife asks what she should make for a gathering, she’s always told to bring this—and a couple of copies of the recipe! — Robert Saulnier, Clarksburg, Massachusetts
Baked Beans with Pineapple
This marvelous recipe is a staple at our neighborhood’s annual barbecue. —J. Hindson, Victoria, British Columbia
Pressure-Cooker BBQ Baked Beans
I was under doctor’s orders to reduce the amount of sodium I was eating, but I just couldn’t part with some of my favorite foods. After many experiments I came up with this potluck favorite—now everyone’s happy! —Sherrel Hendrix, Arkadelphia, Arkansas
Boston Baked Beans
Simmered in molasses, these slow-cooker Boston baked beans are perfect to take to your next potluck. The sauce is sweet, dark and rich and they complement anything you serve with them.—Darlene Duncan, Langhorne, Pennsylvania
Simple Maple Baked Beans
I came up with this recipe in a pinch after running out of baked beans at our oldest daughter’s birthday party. I dressed up canned beans with maple syrup and a few other ingredients to produce this sweet, saucy version that tastes like homemade. They’re so easy to fix that I rarely make baked beans from scratch anymore.
Sweet N Sour Beans
This recipe is popular on both sides of the border. It came from a friend in Alaska, then traveled with me to old Mexico, where I lived for 5 years, and is now a potluck favorite in my Arkansas community. It’s easy to keep the beans warm and serve from a slow cooker. -Barbara Short, Mena, Arkansas
This side dish always gets compliments. It’s easy to make ahead and simmer in the slow cooker, so it’s super convenient to take to potlucks and church get-togethers. —Susanne Wasson, Montgomery, New York
Baked Cannellini Beans
My sister developed this baked cannellini beans recipe after a Christmas holiday. We were still all together but nobody wanted to go to the grocery store, so we made do with what we could find in the kitchen—it turned out delicious! This baked beans recipe would be great with a combination of beans, too (like half black beans and half white). —Debra Keil, Owasso, Oklahoma
Long ago, Johnny Appleseed passed through this part of the country. Now, nearly every hill is crowned with ancient apple trees. Cider is abundant in the fall, and my family looks forward to having it in this bean dish! —Mara Mcauley, Hinsdale, New York
Western-Style Beef and Beans
This hearty, crowd-pleasing dish doesn’t take long to make but tastes as if it simmered all day. With bread and a salad, it’s an entree. —Jolene Lopez, Wichita, Kansas
Pineapple Baked Beans
Tangy pineapple dresses up these hearty baked beans. Brown the beef while you open the cans and chop the vegetables—it doesn’t take long to get this side dish ready for the slow cooker. —Gladys De Boer, Castleford, Idaho
Chuck Wagon Beans with Sausage
Jump to Recipe
These Easy Southern Baked Beans have the perfect balance of sweet and smoky flavors with plenty of crispy bacon! Starting with a can of store-bought baked beans saves a ton of time, but don’t worry, they will taste better than homemade when we are done!
Table of Contents
Stop buying cans of baked beans and doing nothing with them! Listen, we get it – it’s all too easy to warm up a can of beans by itself and dig in. However, dressing up a store bought can makes it about a million times better and it’s SO easy to do!
Usually, a can of baked beans is pretty sweet, and doesn’t have a lot of other flavors going on beyond that. When you season them up at home, you can both enhance that sweetness and balance it out with more savory flavors. With just a few extra ingredients, the flavors will really pop!
Oh, and did we mention there’s bacon in the mix too?! Crispy fried bacon adds the perfect amount of savory and salty flavor to the mix. It also gives the beans a great bite with its chewy consistency. Plus, the bacon flavor is infused into the sautéed onions, which adds SO much more flavor these baked beans as a whole. Let’s get started!
- Bacon – We love using classic pork bacon for this recipe, but you can opt for turkey or even a plant-based alternative if that better fits your dietary needs.
- Onion – Use a yellow onion! Yellow onions have a natural sweetness to them that compliments the other ingredients perfectly.
- Baked Beans – You can use any brand you’d like. We typically use Bush’s Original Baked Beans.
- BBQ Sauce – Again, any brand you like will do the trick! Make sure you use whatever your favorite BBQ sauce is, that way, you know you’ll like the end result.
- Worcestershire Sauce – This ingredient adds a deliciously savory, tangy note to the beans.
- Yellow Mustard – For a little bit of a spicier taste, you can use Dijon mustard instead.
- Brown Sugar – The beans are already a bit sweet, so make sure you don’t go overboard with how much brown sugar you add. You can also skip it completely if you don’t like your baked beans sweet.
These baked beans are incredibly quick and easy to make. The hardest part is sautéing the onion and bacon, the oven does the rest of the work for you!
- Preheat. Preheat your oven to 350°F.
- Combine the ingredients. Add the baked beans, bbq sauce, mustard, Worcestershire sauce and brown sugar. Stir until well combined.
- Bake the beans. Place dutch oven into the preheated oven and bake, uncovered, for 40 minutes. (You can also transfer the beans into a sprayed 9×13 casserole pan.) Bake for 30 minutes. If you use a 9×13, check beans at 30 minutes – they are more spread out, so they’ll cook faster.
- Enjoy! Let beans rest for 5 minutes, then serve!
Tips For Best Baked Beans
- Dutch Oven: If you use a dutch oven, these beans are a one pot recipe. You can sauté the onion and bacon in the skillet and then bake the beans in that same skillet. However, if you do not own a dutch oven, you can use a regular skillet and then place the beans into a large casserole dish (like a 9×13) to bake.
- Extra Crispy Bacon: If you like a lot of crispy bacon in your baked beans, we recommend making double the amount of bacon. Add half of the bacon before baking and stir in the other half of bacon before serving. That way you get tons of bacon flavor AND crispy bacon!
Can I Make These Baked Beans In A Crockpot?
Here’s how to make baked beans in a crockpot:
- Cook on LOW for 5 hours or HIGH for 3.5 hours.
- Leave crockpot on warm, if not serving immediately after cooking.
Variations to Try
- Make it vegetarian. You can make these beans vegetarian friendly by skipping out on the bacon or replacing it with a plant-based alternative. Also, make sure you buy a can of vegetarian baked beans, and see if you can find a vegan Worcestershire sauce. If you can’t, replace it with tamari.
- Omit the sugar. Not a big fan of the sugar here? Omit it! The sugar that’s already in the baked beans might be enough to satisfy your sweet tooth, so you might not want the additional dash of brown sugar in the mix.
- Make it spicy. Like it hot? Add some cayenne pepper or crushed red pepper flakes to the beans! Hot sauce also works well here too.
What To Serve With Baked Beans?
Here are some of our favorite dishes to serve with these delicious baked beans:
- Fridge: Once your beans have cooled to room temperature, store them in an airtight food storage container and pop them into the fridge. Properly stored, your leftovers should stay fresh for up to 3 days. And yes – these beans reheat very well in the microwave!
- Frozen: yes, you can freeze these slow cooker baked beans! Let them cool complete, then transfer them to freezer-safe bags or containers. Freeze the beans for up to 3 months. To reheat, let the beans thaw in the refrigerator before heating them on the stovetop.
- 4 slices bacon, chopped
- 1/3 cup chopped yellow onion
- 2 cans (28 oz) baked beans (I used Bush’s Original Baked Beans)
- 1/2 cup bbq sauce
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tablespoon mustard
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- Add the baked beans, bbq sauce, mustard, Worcestershire sauce and brown sugar. Stir until well combined.
- Place dutch oven into preheated oven and bake, uncovered, for 40 minutes. (You can also transfer the beans into a sprayed 9×13 casserole pan. Bake for 30 minutes. If you use a 9×13 check beans at 30 minutes. Because they are more spread out they’ll cook faster.)
- Let beans rest 5 minutes and then serve!
The Brits also have a tomato-based baked bean dish, but with two main differences: The British version isn’t made with any meat and is much less sweet than the American one. Brits also like to eat their baked beans slathered onto toast in the morning, alongside scrambled eggs, cooked mushrooms, and cooked ham or sausage.
How Are Southern Baked Beans Different From Boston Baked Beans?
Boston baked beans and the Southern version are similar, relying on a smoky flavor from bacon, ketchup, and molasses for sweetness, and onion and other seasonings. Southern recipes include more molasses or barbecue sauce to sweeten the baked beans, while Boston baked beans may be sweetened with brown sugar or maple syrup instead.
How Long Do You Cook Baked Beans?
If you’re using dried beans, you’ll need to plan in advance, as they should soak for at least six hours or overnight in a bowl of water. After the required soaking time, drain the beans. Fill an oven-safe pot with water, and add a teaspoon of salt. Add beans and bring the pot of water to a boil, lowering it to a simmer and cooking for 30 to 40 minutes.
Alternatively, you can use an Instant Pot or pressure cooker to speed up the process. Add dried beans and water, and cook for 25 minutes at high pressure. Remove the water and rinse well with cold water.
Canned navy beans are a superb short-cut and nutritionally equivalent to dried, albeit there can be more salt. In this recipe, add canned beans directly to the rest of the ingredients. No further prep is required. But be sure to drain the salty mixture.
Any dry bean will work, but red beans are my recommendation.
Baking time will depend on amount of liquid, as well as size and shape of pan, so start checking doneness after 1 1/2 hours, but may need to go much longer.
How to Use Leftover Baked Beans
Need any ideas for leftover baked beans? Serve on top of pulled pork and slaw on a bun, stir in leftover chicken (or ground beef or sausage) with cooked rice or another grain for a quick hash-like dish. You can also add to a soup for extra taste and texture.
Editorial contributions by Alexandra Emanuelli.
- Cook bacon in a skillet over medium-high heat 4 minutes; drain, reserving 1 teaspoon drippings in skillet.
- Sauté onion in hot bacon drippings 7 minutes or until tender. Stir together pork, onions, beans, and next 5 ingredients in a lightly greased 11- x 7-inch baking dish. Top bean mixture with bacon.
- Bake at 350°F for 45 minutes or until bubbly.
Which Type of Beans Do You Use?
- small onion, diced
- (15-ounce) cans pork and beans in tomato sauce, drain
- firmly packed brown sugar
- sorghum syrup or molasses
How to Cook Baked Beans
Start by frying up some bacon (because we believe that most things taste better with bacon) and sautéing an onion.
Make a sweet and spicy sauce using brown sugar, ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, dry mustard, and your choice of sorghum syrup, or molasses, two of the South’s favorite sweeteners.
Stir the sauce and onions into the beans, top with bacon, and bake.
Can you make baked beans ahead of time?
Yes, you can make these baked beans the night before you plan to serve them. Just omit topping the beans with bacon until you are ready to put the dish in the oven. Bake beans for 45 minutes at 350°F.
- Add dry beans to a bowl, cover with water, and let soak for 8 hours, or overnight.
- While beans simmer, combine barbecue sauce, ketchup, vinegar, brown sugar, molasses, mustard, Worcestershire, smoked paprika, cayenne, black pepper, kosher salt, and garlic powder in a bowl with a whisk. Set aside until needed.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
- Transfer tender bean mixture to a deep, 15×10-inch baking dish using a spider strainer. Pour in barbecue sauce mixture and 2 ½ cups of the bean cooking liquid. Place bacon slices on top.
- Bake uncovered in the center of the preheated oven until the liquids have reduced into a thick sauce, 2 to 3 hours.