From scratch Boston Baked Beans are a thing of beauty. Perfect for potlucks, picnics, and anytime you need to bring a hot side dish. White beans cooked from scratch in a sweet molasses and tomato sauce with plenty of bacon. You will love these homemade baked beans!
While I am not from Boston, I can assure you that my love of beans is so authentic, I have been granted permission from a Bostonian to share this recipe for Boston Baked Beans.
True, authentic Boston baked beans are hard to come by lately. They have been replaced with soupy canned varieties of beans with minuscule pieces of bacon floating in the overly sweet sauce that sometimes doesn't even contain molasses or tomatoes! I love a good canned bean product, like I use in my Black Bean Dip, but today, we must start with dried white beans and make an entirely from-scratch baked bean dish.
How to Make Boston Baked Beans
It is a process to make this recipe, I will not pretend like this is a quick and easy recipe. We're soaking one pound of dry white navy beans overnight before even beginning this recipe.
The beans are cooked until tender, and then cooked again in a tangy, spiced tomato sauce peppered with plenty of bacon pieces. The acidity of the tomato (in the form of ketchup) and the acidity of molasses keeps the beans from over-cooking and turning into mush, even though they're technically cooked twice.
We do not like mushy, over-cooked beans are here, trust us!
- Navy Beans. One pound of dry white navy beans (sometimes called small white beans), that have been picked over and checked for stones or broken beans. Rinse and drain the beans just before soaking.
- Onion. One large yellow onion diced is about 1 ½ cups of diced onion.
- Bacon. Reach for thick-cut bacon, and especially one that has pepper on the edges. We need 4 slices, or about ¼ of a pound, and then cut it into ½-inch pieces.
- Molasses. Please use regular molasses that you would use for baking molasses cookies. Don't use anything labeled 'black strap,' as it is too bitter and has an unsavory 'ham' flavor in this dish.
- Dark Brown Sugar. You can use light or dark, but my preference is dark for its rich molasses flavor.
- Mustard. Regular prepared yellow mustard, like you use on a sandwich. You can use Dijon, if you prefer.
- Worcestershire Sauce. Don't skip this--it brings incredible umami flavor to this dish.
- Apple Cider Vinegar. Just one tablespoon brings balance to the sweet and tangy flavors in the whole dish.
- Gather all ingredients needed for the dish. Then, pick through the beans to ensure no small stones or broken beans remain, rinse, drain, and soak the beans in cool water for 8 hours.
2. Drain the beans after 8 hours, and place them in a stock pot. Cover them with fresh cold water that comes two inches above the beans.
3. Bring the beans to a boil, and then lower the heat to a simmer and cook for 60 minutes, stirring occasionally. Taste 5 beans from the pot to ensure they're all tender throughout. If not, continue simmering about 20 minutes, and taste again. Make sure the beans are done in the middle, but not mushy because we will be baking them again. Remove the beans from the liquid, but SAVE THE LIQUID that they were cooked in!
4. Preheat the oven to 325-degrees Fahrenheit, and have ready a 2-quart casserole baking dish with a lid. If it doesn't have a lid, you can use foil. Give the dish a quick spray with cooking spray, just to help with clean-up later on. Place one-third of the cooked beans in the casserole dish, and spread them out into an even layer. Top with half of the diced onion and half of the chopped bacon. Pour another one-third of the beans on top, followed by the rest of the diced onion and chopped bacon. Finally, add the last one-third of beans on top.
5. In a small sauce pan, combine the molasses, brown sugar, salt, pepper, ketchup, mustard and Worcestershire sauce. Bring this mixture to a boil. Remove from the heat, and finally, stir in the vinegar.
6. Pour this molasses sauce mixture evenly over the beans in the dish.
7. Then, gently pour over 2 cups of the reserved bean cooking water.
8. Place the lid on the beans, or cover with aluminum foil. Slide the dish into the oven, and bake for one hour. After one hour, stir the beans gently, and add another one cup of the reserved bean cooking water, and stir again to combine. Place the lid back on, and cook for another hour. Stir, and cook for another hour, adding more liquid, if they seem dry.
9. After 3 hours of cooking, the beans should be dark brown, the onions should be tender, and the bacon should be cooked. You can stop here, or you can add another hour for additional depth of flavor, for a total of 4 hours. Give the beans a taste and decide.
Serve and Store Tips
- This recipe makes quite a lot of Boston baked beans, so you can store leftovers in the freezer. Portion out servings into freezer-safe containers, and freeze for up to 6 months. Defrost overnight and then microwave to warm back up.
- My favorite thing to serve with baked beans is burgers! Try my Black Bean Burgers with these beans on the side for a classic summer dinner.
- Leftover beans can be stored for up to 5 days in the fridge, tightly sealed. Just warm them up and use them as a side dish all week long.
FAQ Boston Baked Beans:
If a baked beans recipe contains molasses, it can be called Boston baked beans. A recipe using the same beans with just tomato sauce, brown sugar and spices is just called 'baked beans.' And similarly, it's called 'pork and beans' when it has a higher ratio of meat in it. Boston baked beans only have a small amount of meat, plus molasses to give them their authentic flavor.
Yes, there is also a candy called Boston baked beans! They're individual peanuts coated in crunchy sugar that is dyed to look like a baked bean. They're delicious!
Yes, Boston baked beans are naturally gluten-free, even though the sauce is nice and thick. However, check all of your ingredient labels on the sauces and spices just to be safe. It's definitely not vegan, because it contains bacon. As for health, check the nutritional facts in the recipe card below.
- 1 pound navy beans, soaked for 8 hours
- 1 large yellow onion, diced
- 4 slices of thick-cut bacon, about ¼ pound, cut into ½” pieces
- ⅓ cup molasses (not black strap)
- ⅓ cup dark brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons salt
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- ½ cup ketchup
- 2 tablespoons prepared yellow mustard (or Dijon, your choice)
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- Gather all ingredients. Rinse the beans, and soak the beans for 8 hours in cold water.
- Then, drain the beans and place them in a stockpot. Cover them with cold water that comes two inches above the beans. Bring the beans to a boil, and then lower to a simmer and cook for 60 minutes. Taste 5 beans from the pot to ensure they’re tender throughout. If not, continue simmering for another 20-30 minutes. Make sure the beans are done in the middle, but not overly soft or mushy, because we will be baking them again. Remove the beans from the liquid, but reserve the liquid. We will use the bean cooking liquid later!
- Preheat the oven to 325, and have ready a 2 quart casserole dish. Give it a quick spray with nonstick spray. Place one-third of the beans in the dish, and spread them out evenly. Top the beans with half of the diced onion and half of the chopped bacon evenly. Place another one-third of the beans on top. Top with the remaining diced onion and chopped bacon. Finally, layer the last of the beans on top.
- Next, in a small saucepan, combine the molasses, brown sugar, salt, pepper, ketchup, mustard and Worcestershire sauce. Bring this mixture to a boil.
Remove from the heat, and stir in the vinegar.
- Pour this mixture evenly over the beans.
- Add 2 cups of the reserved bean cooking water. Cover the beans with a lid or a layer of aluminum foil that doesn’t touch the beans. Bake for 1 hour, and then check the beans. Add another cup of the reserved bean water and give things a gentle stir. Cover again and then cook for another hour. Check after another hour, adding more bean cooking water if necessary. After 3 hours, the liquid around the beans should be dark brown, the onions should be tender, and the bacon should be cooked. If you’d like the sauce a little darker, you can cook it for one more hour, a total of 4 hours. Keep the beans covered while they cook.
Navy Beans: One pound of dry white navy beans (sometimes called small white beans).
Onion: Aabout 1 ½ cups of diced onion.
Bacon: Reach for thick-cut bacon with pepper on the edges is best.
Molasses: Please use regular molasses, not anything labeled 'black strap,' as it is too bitter.
Dark Brown Sugar: You can use light or dark.
Mustard. Regular prepared yellow mustard, like you use on a sandwich, or Dijon works, too.
Worcestershire Sauce: Don't skip this.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 10 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 162Total Fat: 2gSaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 1gCholesterol: 5mgSodium: 669mgCarbohydrates: 31gFiber: 5gSugar: 18gProtein: 6g