How to Make Baked Beans From Scratch (And Better Than Anything from a Can)
Baked beans are a quintessential American side dish, often popping up at picnics, barbecues, and potlucks. Learn how to make baked beans from scratch using dried beans, or opt for quicker canned beans. Some of the best baked bean recipes don't even need an oven! You can make delicious beans on the stovetop or in a slow cooker, too.
Traditionally made from navy beans or pea beans and flavored with pork, molasses, and brown sugar, most baked bean recipes are descendants of Boston Baked Beans. Although starting with dried beans is a little more time-consuming than using canned beans, there's nothing quite like the authentic taste of homemade baked beans made fresh in your kitchen. (Don't worry, we've got all the info on how to make baked beans from canned ones, too.) Follow these four easy steps and you'll know everything you need about how to make baked beans and spice them up with your favorite flavors to be the hit of your next gathering.
Step One: Soak the Beans
Dried beans are very hard, so soaking allows them to rehydrate and soften.
- For 10-12 side dish servings, rinse 1 pound (about 2¼ to 2½ cups) dried navy beans or Great Northern beans in a colander (Cook Pro Stainless Steel Colander, $10.99, Walmart) under cool running water. Be sure to sort through the beans to remove any debris.
- In a large Dutch oven combine the beans and 8 cups water. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, uncovered, for 2 minutes.
- Remove from heat. Cover and let stand 1 hour.
- Drain and rinse the beans, discarding the soaking liquid.
Baked Beans Tip: If you have a little extra time, rather than boiling the beans, you can simply place them in the 8 cups water in the Dutch oven (Lodge 6-qt. Dutch Oven, $59.90, Amazon). Cover and let them soak in a cool place overnight. Drain and rinse the beans; discard the soaking liquid.
Step Two: Cook the Beans
Even though the beans are soaked, they still need to be cooked until tender before adding the other ingredients and baking.
- Return the rinsed beans to the Dutch oven. Stir in 8 cups of fresh water.
- Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer 1 to 1½ hours or until the beans are tender, stirring occasionally.
Test Kitchen Tip: You can get a head start on baked beans by soaking them (Step One) and cooking them (Step Two) in advance. Cover and store the soaked, cooked beans in the refrigerator up to 3 days, then continue as directed below.
- Drain beans, reserving the liquid.
- Preheat the oven to 300°F.
Step Three: Add Flavorings to Your Baked Beans
Want to learn how to make baked beans with bacon? It's as simple as adding it in after cooking the beans! Add as much or as little bacon as you want (but you can never have too much bacon, can you?), along with other flavorings:
- In a 2½-quart casserole (Pyrex 2-qt. Glass Bakeware Dish, $17.31, Amazon) combine the beans with ¼ pound bacon or salt pork, cut up; 1 cup chopped onion; ½ cup molasses or maple syrup; ¼ cup packed brown sugar; 1 teaspoon dry mustard; ½ teaspoon salt; and ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper.
Step Four: Bake the Beans
Cover the casserole and bake 2½ hours or to desired consistency.
Test Kitchen Tip: Some cooks like their baked beans saucy, while some prefer them drier. If you like them saucy, add additional reserved bean liquid during cooking. If, at the end of cooking time, the beans are not as dry as you like, continue to bake them, uncovered, until some of the liquid has evaporated. Keep in mind, though, that beans will continue to soak up the liquid after cooking.
How to Make Baked Beans from Canned Beans
Looking for a shortcut to making great baked beans? With a prep time of just 20 minutes and a cook time of 45 minutes, this easy method on how to make canned beans better is easy to prepare. With a few simple additions, no one will know they're not made from scratch.
1. Prep the Bacon and Onions
Get your add-ins ready to amp up the flavor of your shortcut homemade baked beans.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. In a very large skillet, cook 6 slices bacon over medium heat until crisp.
- Drain bacon on paper towels, reserving 2 tablespoons of the drippings in the pan. Crumble the bacon; set aside.
- Add ½ cup chopped onion (about 1 small) to the reserved drippings.
- Cook and stir over medium heat about 4 minutes or until the onion is tender.
2. Choose and Prep the Beans
No need to fret over not having the "right" beans in your pantry, most any will do after a quick rinse.
- Pouring each can in a colander held over the sink, drain and rinse one 15- to 16-ounce can butter beans and one 15- to 16-ounce can kidney or pinto beans. (Draining and rinsing helps reduce the sodium in the bean recipe.) Let the salty liquid drain from the beans, then rinse the beans under cool running water and allow the water to drain. Repeat with each can.
- Baked Beans Tip: Almost any kind of canned beans may be substituted for the butter beans or kidney beans. Substitute an equal amount of black beans, garbanzo beans, Great Northern beans, cannellini beans, pinto beans, or lima beans.
3. Bake the Beans
They just wouldn't live up to the “bake” in baked beans without this final step.
- Combine the drained butter beans and drained kidney or pinto beans in a 2-quart casserole with a lid.
- Stir in one 15- to 16-ounce can undrained pork and beans in tomato sauce, ½ cup packed brown sugar, ⅓ cup ketchup, and 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce.
- Stir in the crumbled bacon and the onion.
- Bake, covered, about 45 minutes or until bubbly around the edges. If desired, garnish with additional strips of crisp-cooked bacon.
How to Make Slow Cooker Baked Beans
For larger crowds, or for easier toting to and from potlucks and tailgates, you can also make baked beans in your slow cooker. Technically, they shouldn’t be called baked beans anymore, but the taste is so similar that we'll let it slide.
- Refer to the canned baked beans recipe above, but double all the ingredients.
- Prepare bacon and onion as directed.
- In a 4- to 5-quart slow cooker combine the beans, brown sugar, ketchup, and Worcestershire sauce. Stir in bacon and onion mixture.
- Cover and cook on low-heat setting for 5 to 6 hours or on high-heat setting for 2½ to 3 hours.
How to Make Instant Pot Baked Beans
Being able to use an electric or stove-top pressure cooker will allow you to make baked beans from scratch in less time by using dried beans. There's no overnight soaking required (though you can if you have the time). To get them softened up and ready for pressure cooking, here's how we prepped the dried beans in our pressure cooker apricot-bacon beans recipe.
- In a 4- to 5- quart Dutch oven or large pot, combine 8 cups of water with 1 pound of beans.
- Bring to boiling, reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, 10 minutes. Remove from heat.
- Cover and let stand 1 hour. Drain and rinse beans.
- In a 6-qt. electric or stove-top pressure cooker combine beans with flavorings and 2½ cups of fresh water.
- Cook on high pressure for 45 minutes and allow for a 15-minute natural release before manually releasing the remaining pressure.
Unique Homemade Baked Beans Recipes to Try
Once you learn how to make classic baked beans, you can add flavorings and extra ingredients to create your signature baked beans recipe. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Apple-Cheddar Baked Beans: Core and cut up 1 tart apple (such as Granny Smith or Rome Beauty) and stir it into the bean mixture before baking. Sprinkle the beans with ½ cup (2 ounces) shredded smoked cheddar cheese after baking.
- Barbecue Baked Beans: Substitute bottled barbecue sauce for the ketchup.
- Hawaiian Baked Beans: Stir one 8-ounce can pineapple tidbits, undrained, into the bean mixture before baking. Bake the beans uncovered for the last 10 minutes.
- Apricot Baked Beans: Substitute apricot preserves for the brown sugar, and stir ½ cup coarsely chopped dried apricots into the bean mixture before baking.
- Maple-Pecan Baked Beans: Substitute maple syrup for the brown sugar. Sprinkle ½ cup chopped toasted pecans over the bean mixture before serving.
- Salsa Baked Beans: Substitute black beans for the kidney beans, and substitute salsa for the ketchup. Top with 1 cup coarsely crushed tortilla or corn chips before serving.
- Molasses Baked Beans: Substitute molasses for the brown sugar.
Don't stop here. There's so much more you can learn, including some of our favorite baked beans recipes. Learn how to make BBQ baked beans to pair with your barbecue eats, or just find your next go-to recipe for potlucks and picnics. No matter which ones you try, these homemade baked beans will all be side dish standouts at your table.