Baked beans may come out of a can more commonly than out of a pan, but we guarantee that a great homemade baked bean recipe will win over a tin every time. Whether you’re creating a classic line-up of sides for a “play the hits” barbecue, crafting a hearty game day feast for a crowd, or serving them as part of a loaded full English breakfast, baked beans in all their glorious forms are always welcome at the table.
Thick, sweet, and savory, these beans are delicious no matter which variety you use—and you can use most types of beans. Pick your favorite, or use two kinds of beans to mix it up, and give them a full 24 hours of soaking to ensure they’ll fully tenderize during cooking (though this recipe is also a surefire way to make canned beans better if you’re in a hurry).
I like to use bacon drippings as the fat owing to the famous flavor pairing of smoky pork and beans, but these baked beans can easily be made vegetarian by using butter, or vegan using your preferred cooking oil (or porkier by adding your smoked pork of choice). If you think the flavor of your beans would benefit from a dash of Worcestershire sauce, drizzle of molasses, or even a splash of tangy barbecue sauce—go for it! I add a little chipotle powder for added smokiness and a hint of heat that pairs especially well with grilled proteins and vegetables.
- Prep time 10 minutes
- Cook time 3 hours
- Serves 4 to 6
cranberry, pinto or cannellini beans, soaked overnight
clove garlic, smashed
small onion, diced (keep the ends for the beans)
bacon fat, oil, or butter
chipotle powder (optional)
chopped canned tomatoes
apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons
packed light brown sugar
- Cover the beans by at least an inch with cold water. Add a few pinches of salt and the thyme, garlic, and onion ends, and simmer until tender, about an hour.
- When the beans are close to being done, heat the oven to 250°F. Using a heavy, shallow ovenproof pan, sauté the onion in the bacon fat over medium-low heat until soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in the spices and cook for another minute. Stir in the rest of the ingredients and simmer gently for 5 to 7 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the mixture thickens slightly.
- Stir the beans and 1/2 cup of their cooking liquid into the sauce in the pan. Cover the pan and put it in the oven for an hour to an hour and a half, until the beans are very soft and the sauce has thickened a bit.
- Uncover the pan and cook until the sauce is quite dry and the edges of the pan are slightly caramelized, another 20 to 30 minutes, and serve.