Fourth of July

Baked Beans Without Ketchup

March 15, 2011
0 Ratings
  • Serves 10-12
Author Notes

There are two categories of foods in this world: those that taste best when made from scratch and those that taste best out of a box or a can. Am I serious? Well, sort of, but it doesn’t make me happy. In fact, many of my zaniest and most maddening food odysseys revolve around trying to reinvent scratch and take it back from the world of the packaged. I can now see that this topic, in its entirety, is really a good one to tackle on its own. For now, let me just say that I’ve been on a mission to make some baked beans at home that taste as good as the ones that come in a can. And here we are, just in time for St. Patrick’s Day. (This might not seem so traditional, but baked beans are served on just about every plate north of the English Channel with alarming frequency). As for really great not-from-a-can baked beans? I think I just may have done it here. Oh, and here’s the taste de triomphe—no ketchup or barbeque sauce anywhere near my pot, ye haw!

Now, I know, them’s fightin’ words. Good baked beans, from home? Are they southern, sweet and barbeque? Brit-style, glossy thin mild sweet sauce? Boston baked with lots of molassas? Are they just like the ones my grandmother/uncle/father/cousin’s cousin used to make every Sunday? No, no , no and how the heck do I know (you might be surprised to learn that your relatives opened a tin, chopped some onion and added some barbeque sauce or ketchep. Just sayin’.) You might be surprised that these beans are pretty darned close to Bush’s (wondering why? Yeah, that’s the last tin of beans I bought…).

I would absolutely love to hear from more folks about their favorite beans—either in a tin, a recipe or memories from home. Now that I think of it, one of my favorite baked beans stories from childhood involves the movie “Blazing Saddles” and a campfire. ‘Nuff said.

P.S. Somehow I have always preferred vegetarian baked beans, but for those bacon lovers out there, feel free to substitute some good bacon for the oil and sauté that up as the base for the rest of the recipe.
Slow Cooked Pittsburgh

What You'll Need
  • 4 cups dried navy beans, soaked overnight
  • 2 large onions, small dice
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, smashed
  • 2 tablespoons mustard powder
  • 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 1 quart tomato puree (see *note)
  • 1 cup sucanat
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 2 tablespoons tamarind paste
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  1. Drain and rinse soaked beans and put into large pot, cover with cold water. Bring beans to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until soft (1-2 hours).
  2. In a large heavy pot (use one that has a lid) heat oil and add onions, garlic and mustard powder; sweat until onions are translucent. Add cider vinegar, stirring to release any bits from bottom of pan, add tomato puree, sugar, cloves and tamarind. Simmer, allowing flavors to combine, for approximately 20 minutes. Use an immersion blender to blend all ingredients into a smooth sauce (you can also use a blender, but be careful, this is a hot liquid!). If a very smooth consistency is preferred, strain sauce through fine mesh or a fine sieve and return sauce to your heavy pot (add water if the sauce seems too thick). Add maple syrup, stir well, then add cooked beans. Cover the pot and place in 300 F oven for 1-2 hours, stirring occasionally to check consistency of sauce.
  3. *Note: depending on the thickness and texture of the tomato puree you are using, you may need to add additional water to thin the sauce. If your sauce requires additional thickening, after baking, return pot to the stove top (without the lid) and simmer over medium low heat until desired thickness is achieved

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • boulangere
  • Slow Cooked Pittsburgh
    Slow Cooked Pittsburgh
  • Fairmount_market
  • susan g
    susan g
  • Sagegreen

9 Reviews

Jonny July 14, 2018
I have been looking for baked bean recipes with no ketchup & a lower surface profile to use as a base for making beans for my family for quite some time. I was unfamiliar and had to google succanat. After finding out it was sugar & not having tamarind paste available to me I think this recipe may need too many modifications that may make as good as yours but make it healthy for my family. Thanks for posting it and allowing me to learn about two new foodstuffs..
LizCo77 July 5, 2013
These came out great! I pretty much followed the recipe as written, although I did use Coconut Palm Suger as a sweetener, as well as Cranberry Beans instead of Navy (I had them on hand). I just got back from a trip to England, and I wanted to upgrade the somehow very satisfying "beans on toast" experience. Thank you for the great recipe!
boulangere March 27, 2011
Love the tamarind!
Slow C. March 27, 2011
@Farimount_Market... Just saw you got nominated for Editor's Pick, congrats!
Fairmount_market March 19, 2011
This is my version of baked beans:
They do have ketchup in them, I'll admit.
Slow C. March 16, 2011
Thanks everyone! I have (lovingly, painstakingly) made so many batches of hard baked beans so many times that it finally became embarassing (and I'm not embarassed too too easily). I really hope you'll enjoy them, and if you come up with a great change or addition, I would just love to know!
susan G. March 16, 2011
another one who's been trying to find 'Bush's on my stove' -- and so far been disappointed. You're next -- looks good!
Sagegreen March 16, 2011
You are so right! These look great. What really irked me this winter were the pains I took to bake a large crock of beans from scratch...when then they turned out not as good as those from the tin....that just made my day sad.
luvcookbooks March 16, 2011
thank you for the thought provoking head note and recipe. recently soaked and cooked dried beans and found i missed the soft, salty taste of the canned beans in my rice and beans.

will try ...