Make Ahead

Best Boston Baked Beans

March 19, 2011
5 Ratings
  • Serves 6-8
Author Notes

As a native Bostonian living on the West Coast, I sometimes get homesick for baked beans. This is a recipe I made for an heirloom variety called Ireland Creek Annie beans, a lovely golden legume that hold up well during cooking, but this dish would work well with a number of beans including small navy beans or anasazi. The key for creating a rich, syrupy dish is to bake the beans on low heat in the oven, and then raise the temperature and removing the lid for the last half hour so the liquid reduces and the beans develop some charred flavors. - Fairmount_market —Fairmount_market

Test Kitchen Notes

The sauce is smoky, not overly sweet, and earthy and the fragrance is intoxicating. The beans are tender in texture, but cooked quicker than expected (2 1/2 hours -- they must have been super fresh!). I love the smooth onions and tangy sauce (I used homemade ketchup, so much more flavorful than bottled). This was wonderful as a side dish, but would need more ham or bacon for a main dish -- I’d eat it for breakfast. I can see it as a vegetarian dish with bacon omitted, but more smoked paprika and garlic, and a little soy sauce. For the mustard, I used Dijon. Two thumbs up. - sarah k. —sarah k.

What You'll Need
  • 2 cups dried beans such as Ireland Creek Annie, if you can find them, or navy or anasazi beans
  • 4 strips bacon
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon spicy smoked paprika
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 1 tablespoon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon molasses
  • 1/4 cup cider vinegar
  • 4 cups water, heated
  1. Preheat the oven to 250 degrees. Cut the bacon into small strips (most easily done with scissors) and saute in a Dutch oven until the strips are fairly crispy. Reserve the bacon and drain off all but about 2 Tbsp bacon fat. Add the chopped onion and saute until soft. Add the garlic, cumin, paprika, and brown sugar and saute for another couple of minutes. Meanwhile, mix together the ketchup, mustard, molasses, and vinegar. Pour this mixture into the pot. Rinse the mixing cup with some of the hot water and add this and the remaining water to the pot. Add the rinsed beans and bacon bits, mix and heat the contents of the pot to a simmer. Then cover the pot and transfer to the oven.
  2. Cook the beans in the oven for about 3 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally, until they are soft, but not falling apart. Add a little more water if they get too dry during the cooking process. Raise the heat to 400 degrees, remove the top, add salt if needed, and cook for another half hour until the sauce becomes thick and caramelized.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • delicia.sampson.7
  • luvcookbooks
  • Fairmount_market
  • Slow Cooked Pittsburgh
    Slow Cooked Pittsburgh
I'm a biology professor and mother of two, and in my (limited) free time I love to cook, which is much more forgiving than laboratory science. Last year I helped start a farmers market in my neighborhood, and to promote it, I created a food blog: I enjoy the challenge of coming up with recipes for local, seasonal ingredients and finding fun ways to cook with my children.

14 Reviews

katie N. July 6, 2017
I was really excited about making these for 4th of July this week. I soaked the beans overnight and cooked them for EIGHT HOURS and they still are crunchy :(
Michael B. May 30, 2016
We made these yesterday and while this is a good recipe I wouldn't exactly call the resulting beans Boston Baked ( I'm a native and life long New Englander :-) ). It is much too heavy on the vinegar and much too light on the brown sugar and molasses.
Kitspy October 11, 2015
Cooked mine for 6-7 hours tonight and most of them still have a pretty healthy crunch to them. The bacon is almost dissolving! I'm serving them tomorrow so I'm hoping they soften up a bit in the meantime. I'm thinking I probably picked up some older beans. The flavor is great though!
delicia.sampson.7 August 9, 2015

Soak beans Over night, or just cook dried as written?
ginam March 24, 2014
I feel like I'm missing something. No need to pre-soak? I'll be using dried navy beans. Thank you so much...
mpm6228 June 1, 2012
Cooking now. Cranberry beans, balsamic rice vinegar ( didn't have cider, and am on a kick of using what I have), half the sugar plus grated ginger........

BKordik April 3, 2012
A batch is in the oven. Smells great...brings back memories of family get-togethers on the farm.
Digitalmikey January 18, 2012
Other than burning them slightly in my slow cooker. I agree these are fantastic. YUM
Fairmount_market March 13, 2012
I'm glad you liked them!
sarah K. March 29, 2011
I made this recipe tonight, and have to say, as a baked bean lover, these are the best baked beans I've ever had. I admit that I added a ham bone, so there were large chunks of ham, but the recipe is really great. I grew up on baked beans out of a can, those super sweet ones with the floaty pieces of fat, and, though I loved them at the time, they're nothing to yours. These are adult baked beans. I almost hope my family doesn't really like them, so I will get to have all of them. They're delicious.
Fairmount_market March 29, 2011
I'm so glad you liked them! They are a crowd pleaser with my family.
sarah K. April 6, 2011
Curses! The family did like them. Even my husband, who thought he could never like baked beans.
luvcookbooks March 23, 2011
thanks, saved this along with the "look ma no ketchup" baked bean recipe to try for a homemade baked bean trial
Slow C. March 27, 2011
I'd love to hear about your results!