Baked Beans

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Easy homemade baked beans recipe that goes well with your favorite barbecued foods or as an everyday side dish. The secret to making them tender and creamy in less than half the normal time is a quick simmer using baking soda then cooking them in the oven.

Baked Beans

Making baked beans from scratch is easier than you might think. This recipe has big pieces of chopped bacon that simmer in a sweet and tangy sauce. The results will make you think twice before grabbing a can of mushy store-bought pork and beans. I like to make this side dish ahead of time so that putting together weeknight meals is a breeze.

Most people hesitate to cook dried beans because it takes too long. Typically, an overnight soak is required to ensure proper hydration and creamy texture even before cooking begins.

rinsing navy beans in a colander

How to make baked beans

  • Preheat oven to 350ºF.
  • Simmer dried beans with water and baking soda in a dutch oven for 20 minutes.
  • Rinse beans with cool water and drain.
  • Add chopped bacon pieces to the pot and cook until crispy.
  • Add onions and green bell pepper, saute until tender.
  • Add garlic and sauté until fragrant.
  • Add beans, water, molasses, brown sugar, tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, vinegar, and pepper, stir to combine.
  • Bring beans to a boil on the stovetop, turn off the heat, and cover.
  • Place beans in the oven for 1 1/2 hours.
  • Remove the cover and bake until beans are creamy, about 30 minutes.

Bean selection

Baked beans are most often made with navy, white, or pinto beans. They are all smaller sized legumes that have have a thin skin and delightful creamy interior, yet hold their structure.

I recommend avoiding large beans like kidney because they take much longer to cook. Make sure to discard any broken pieces. Give them a good rinse to wash away any dirt during processing and storage.

chopped bacon and peppers cooking in a dutch oven

Faster cooking with baking soda

An easy trick to softening beans for quicker cooking is to do a baking soda pre-soak. I usually do an overnight soak in salted water when making beans, however, using this common chemical leavening agent for baked goods is an effective and fast alternative.

The dried beans simmer in an alkaline mixture of baking soda and water for just 20 minutes. This environment weakens the pectin in the outer skin, so that water can absorb quicker and cook the beans in significantly less time.

Key ingredients

  • Small dried beans like Navy, Pinto, or white.
  • Thick-cut bacon to infuse smokey and savory notes.
  • Chopped onion, green bell pepper, garlic add aromatics when sautéed in pork grease.
  • Sweet molasses and brown sugar, maple syrup can be substituted.
  • Tangy Dijon mustard, apple cider vinegar, and Worcestershire sauce.
  • Tomato paste for thickness.
  • The combination of smokey, savory, sweet and tangy flavors delivers the characteristic taste for classic baked beans.

Pouring Worcestershire sauce mixture over a pot of beans

Adding acidic ingredients

Often times it’s not a good idea to add acids early on when cooking beans because it hardens the skin. This makes it difficult for water to move in through the hilum, resulting in tough bean texture.

Since there is a brief pre-cooking and softening of the beans’ skins with baking soda, it’s safe to add acidic ingredients like vinegar, molasses and Worcestershire sauce for maximum flavor infusion.

Benefits of using the oven

The consistent oven temperature allows for even cooking. The mild yet gentle heat at 350 degrees (177ºC) ensures that water absorbs into the beans gelatinizing the starches, for smooth and creamy spoonfuls. The beans cook for a majority of the time covered to ensure proper cooking, then uncovered to reduce the sauce so that it glazes the beans.

I use a large dutch oven, but any type of pot will work as long as it’s oven-safe. Water evaporates faster in a heavy-bottomed pot, so if using a thinner cookware material you may need to slightly extend the cooking time. Add more water as needed if the water evaporates too quickly.

Baked beans inside a dutch oven

What to serve this with

Why baking soda cooks beans faster

Baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) is an alkaline ingredient. When it’s in a water solution with the beans, it can break down the tough pectin walls in the skin allowing more water in from the outside environment. The water quickly hydrates the starches inside. This “pre-cook” technique creates tender legumes in just 2 hours in the oven, compared to usually four or more hours.

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Baked Beans

Easy homemade baked beans recipe that goes well with your favorite barbecued foods or as an everyday side dish.
Pin Print Review
4.5 from 8 votes
Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time2 hrs 45 mins
Total Time3 hrs 5 mins
Servings 8 servings
Course Side
Cuisine American

Ingredients

  • 1 pound dried navy beans
  • 15 cups water, divided
  • 1 tablespoon baking soda
  • 8 ounces thick-cut bacon, cut into ½-inch thick pieces
  • 1 cup diced yellow onion, ¼-inch dice
  • ¾ cup diced green bell pepper, ¼-inch dice
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • cup molasses
  • cup dark brown sugar
  • ¼ cup tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper, plus more for seasoning
  • kosher salt, for seasoning

Instructions 

  • Place oven rack in the center position and preheat to 350ºF (177ºC).
  • Pick over any broken or old beans and discard. Rinse and then add to a large dutch oven.
  • Add 3 quarts of water and baking soda to the dutch oven.
  • Bring water to a boil, and then reduce to medium-high and simmer for 20 minutes.
  • Drain the beans in a colander and rinse with cool water.
  • Rinse and dry the dutch oven then add bacon and turn to heat to medium. Saute until browned, stirring occasionally, 10 minutes.
  • Add onion and bell pepper, saute until vegetables are tender, for 5 minutes.
  • Add garlic, cook for 30 seconds.
  • In a small bowl whisk together molasses, brown sugar, tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce, Dijon mustard, apple cider vinegar, and pepper.
  • Add beans, molasses mixture, and 3 cups of water to the dutch oven, stir to combine. Bring liquid to a boil, turn off heat and cover.
  • Transfer to the oven and bake until the beans are nearly tender, about 1 ½ hours.
  • Remove the cover and bake until beans are tender and creamy, about 30 minutes.
  • Taste and season with salt and pepper as desired.

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Nutrition Facts
Baked Beans
Amount Per Serving
Calories 407 Calories from Fat 108
% Daily Value*
Fat 12g18%
Saturated Fat 4g20%
Cholesterol 19mg6%
Sodium 761mg32%
Potassium 1116mg32%
Carbohydrates 59g20%
Fiber 15g60%
Sugar 24g27%
Protein 17g34%
Vitamin A 187IU4%
Vitamin C 15mg18%
Calcium 149mg15%
Iron 5mg28%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

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Jessica Gavin

I'm a culinary school graduate, cookbook author, and a mom who loves croissants! My passion is creating recipes and sharing the science behind cooking to help you gain confidence in the kitchen.

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12 Comments Leave a comment or review

  1. Raynold Jackson says

    I like your recipe detail with weights and measures including why certain ingredients are used. I am going to make the beans for this coming weekend.
    Thankyou
    Raynold Jackson

  2. Judy Caywood says

    Hi Jessica

    My mom made the best baked beans and sadly she never wrote any of her recipes down. Now at 89 she can’t recall how she made my favorites but you have some recipes that taste like hers so I’m grateful always to you.
    It’s been a lesson to me to write down all my favorite recipes for my kids. Their ultimate favorite is my Chicken Curry Rice Casserole. I have also shared a lot of your recipes with them. 🥰

    • Jessica Gavin says

      I would start from cooking the bacon and following the rest of the instructions on the stovetop. I would not at 3 cups of water. Just add a little if needed to thin the sauce. Cook the beans over medium heat until hot.

  3. Robert Heintzen says

    Many years ago I was taught to never soak dry beans in salt because salt reacts with the seed coat, forming a barrier which prevents absorption of liquids. Has that idea been debunked? I would appreciate your scholarly feedback regarding current science on this. I admire your science and learn so much from you.

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Great question! I’ve found that soaking the beans in salted water helps to soften the thick outer skin. This yields creamier centers and beans that don’t burst as much. The sodium ions in the salt replace the calcium and magnesium ions on the skin. The new abundance of sodium ions weakens the pectin in the cell walls and allows more water to infuse through the skin which softens the core and cooks the starches. And they are better tasting too!

  4. April says

    I just finished making this recipe for a barbecue I’m going to have in 2 days. This recipe is on point! I am never buying canned baked beans again! The only thing I added extra to it was 1 teaspoon of salt.
    I was wondering what do you think would be the best to reheat this? Could I just add some water put it in the oven at 350, for 20 minutes? Also would this recipe work for a crockpot as well?

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Thanks for your feedback April! To reheat I would gradually add some water as needed to thin out the sauce, then reheat on the stovetop over medium-low heat until warmed through. I haven’t tried it in the crockpot, but I’m sure it would work well. I would still saute the bacon and vegetables before adding into the crockpot.

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