These Old Fashioned Baked Beans are made from scratch with a sweet and savory sauce. This is a family heirloom recipe for the BEST Homemade Baked Beans!
Baked Beans are a classic side dish for potlucks and summer picnics and pair perfectly with BBQ Chicken Legs, Chicken Burgers, Homemade Hamburgers, or Slow Cooker BBQ Chicken Thighs.
Baked Beans from Scratch
My Papa was famous for a LOT of recipes, but he was known for his Baked Beans.
And once you have his version of baked beans, you will NEVER settle for any recipe! They are sweet, savory, tangy, and smokey--all in one recipe!
Ingredients for the Best Baked Beans
- Navy Beans-- 1 ⅓ cups dried navy beans or 4 cups cooked navy beans
- Bacon--omit if looking for vegetarian baked beans
- Tomato Sauce
- Brown Sugar
- Maple Syrup
- Dried Mustard--feel free to use prepared mustard instead
- Apple Cider Vinegar--to cut through the richness of these baked beans
- Apple Juice--to help create a sweet sauce with a little less refined sugars.
How to Make Homemade Baked Beans
Step One: Prepare the Beans
- Place dried beans in large container that can be sealed shut. Cover the beans with cold water and seal the container shut. Let the beans soak for 8-12 hours.
- Drain off the soaked beans.
- Place the beans in large stock pan and cover with fresh water.
- Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Simmer beans for 1 hour or until tender.
- Alternatively, you can prepare your dried beans WITHOUT soaking in the Instant Pot.
Full disclosure, my Papa used canned beans! Feel free to take that shortcut as well! Just measure the beans AFTER you rinse and drain them!
Step Two: Fry Bacon and Onions (optional)
- Turn a large saute pan to medium heat and place bacon in heated pan.
- Once bacon begins to render off it's fat, add in the diced onions.
- Saute for 2-3 minutes, just until the bacon BEGINS to crisp up.
Feel free to omit the bacon for vegetarian baked beans. If omitting bacon, just add the diced onion directly to the bean mixture--no need to saute.
Step Three: Make Baked Beans
- Mix together tomato sauce, brown sugar, molasses, maple syrup, salt, dried mustard, and the bacon and onion mixture together.
- Add in the beans and stir gently.
- Add in the apple juice and water and stir again.
- Pour the beans into a 2 quart casserole dish or bean crock.
- If the beans look dry, stir in up to ½ cup more water.
Step Four: Bake the Beans
- Cover the casserole dish and bake for 2 hours at 300 degrees.
- Uncover, stir the beans and cook for an additional 30 to 60 minutes, until the sauce is bubbly and thickened up.
Slow Cooker Baked Beans
If you would like to keep the heat out of your kitchen or don't have enough room in your oven, you can make these baked beans in the slow cooker.
- Prepare dried beans as directed.
- Saute bacon with onions.
- In the slow cooker, mix together tomato sauce, brown sugar, maple syrup, molasses, salt, mustard, bacon, onions, and apple juice together. No need to add in extra water.
- Add in the beans and stir gently.
- Cook on low heat for 4-6 hours or high heat for 2-3 hours, stirring occasionally.
Can you use Pork and Beans for this Recipe?
I get asked frequently if you can use canned pork and beans or prepared baked beans (like Campbell's or Bush's Baked Beans) in place of the dried beans.
And the answer is YES, with a few modifications.
- Use 32 ounces of canned prepared baked beans.
- You will not need to add in tomato sauce, apple juice, or water.
- I would omit the maple syrup as well, or cut back on the sweeteners a tad as canned bake beans already are sweetened.
- Bake as directed.
The Secret to the Best Baked Beans
What truly makes these beans over the top is serving them with potato chips!
YES, potato chips!
My Papa taught me that trick and it is PERFECTION! The sweetness of the beans makes a perfect contrast to plain potato chips.
More Picnic Worthy Side Dishes
Baked Beans from Scratch
- 1 ⅓ cups dried navy beans soaked overnnight
- 3 slices thick bacon chopped
- ¼ cup yellow onion chopped
- ½ cup tomato sauce or ketchup
- ¼ cup molasses
- ¼ cup brown sugar use up to ½ cup if you like REALLY sweet beans
- ¼ cup pure maple syrup
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 teaspoons dry mustard
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- ½ cup apple juice or water
- ½ cup water
Prepare Navy Beans
- Place dried beans in a container that can be fitted with a lid. Pour fresh water over the beans until the water is at least 1 inch above the beans. Seal the container shut. Soak beans for 8-12 hours.
- After soaking, drain the beans. Add the soaked beans to a large stock pan. Cover beans by 1 inch with fresh cold water.
- Bring water to a rapid boil, and reduce to a simmer. Simmer for 1 hour. Drain cooked beans well.
- Alternatively, you can speed up the process by cooking the soaked beans in the Instant Pot after they have been soaked (Navy beans' texture is best if soaked before cooking.)
For the Baked Beans
- Preheat oven to 300℉
- Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add in the sliced bacon. Cook until bacon begins to render fat and then stir in the chopped onion. Saute bacon and onions together until onions begin to soften and the bacon is browned and slightly crisp. This should take about 5-6 minutes. After browned, drain off the excess grease that the bacon has rendered.
- In a large bowl, mix together tomato sauce, brown sugar, molasses, maple syrup, dried mustard, vinegar, apple juice, water, and salt until well combined. Add in bacon and onion mixture and cooked beans and gently stir to combine.
- Pour the bean mixture into a 2-quart oven-safe dish. Beans should be pretty well submerged in liquid and the mixture should be relatively loose. If there does not seem to be enough liquid in the baking dish, add up to ½ cup of additional water or juice. Cover the pan with foil or an oven-safe lid.
- Bake covered for 2 hours. After 2 hours, remove the lid or foil, and bake for another 30-40 minutes, until thickened.
Can I use distilled white vinegar or red wine vinegar instead of Apple cider vinegar ?
Hi Lindsey! For the best flavor, I recommend apple cider vinegar, but distilled white vinegar will work in a bind. I would recommend using only 1/2 tablespoon rather than a full tablespoon.
I make lots oh homemade baked beans, this is definitely the best I've ever made.
I love hearing you enjoyed so much, Marie! Thanks for sharing.
I never leave reviews but this recipe is just perfect! I often use this recipe especially in the Fall & take them to field for my family while they harvest. I am even going to make this recipe for my son’s graduation party. I will be serving about 100 people and will fix them in my electric roaster so if anyone has any suggestions about making such a large volume or using an electric roaster I would love to hear them. Thanks 😊
Hi Julie!! What a huge compliment! Thank you! And congrats to your son graduating! My son graduates high school this spring--time just flew! To make this recipe in an electric roaster, soak and cook the dried beans as directed. Combine the ingredients in the roasting pan (I would think you could fit 4-5 batches). Cover and cook at 300 degrees F for 3-5 hours. Because they won't be cooked uncovered, they will be slightly looser than when made in the oven, but this will be perfect for holding warm for several hours during a graduation party. I would then hold warm at 200 degrees F, covered, as people help themselves.
Delicious!!! The first time I used great northern beans and little hot dogs. The second time I used pinto beans with ham. Once with ketchup because I didn't have tomato sauce but the second time I used 1/4 cup tomato paste with 1/4 cup water. Thank you so much for sharing your Papa's wonderful recipe! This is most definitely a keeper.
I love hearing you enjoyed it so much Donna! Thanks for sharing!
What kind of molasses do you use?
I use Unsulphured Molasses typically the Grandma's brand.
Can this be cooked in a slow cooker instead of the oven?
Hi Margi! Yes, there are modifications in the post for making these in a slow cooker. You will want to prepare dried beans as directed and then saute bacon with onions in a skillet over medium-high heat. In the slow cooker, mix together tomato sauce, brown sugar, maple syrup, molasses, salt, mustard, bacon, onions, and apple juice together. No need to add in extra water. Add in the beans and stir gently. Cook on low heat for 4-6 hours or high heat for 2-3 hours, stirring occasionally.
Hi can the beans be soaked longer then 12 hours or would that be to long?
I have soaked them 24 hours before with no issues 🙂 Enjoy!
Does the recipe call for apple juice or apple cider vinegar?
Apple Juice 🙂
I’d just like to comment on the “nitrate free bacon”. Bacon isn’t bacon unless it’s cured by having nitrates in it. Celery is full of nitrates which is why the so calked “nitrate free” or “uncured” meat products use celery. Because the celer cured product isn’t recognized by the USDA, it must be calked “uncured”. It's all a mess, misleading and confusing to the public. If using salt to cure pork belly, then that is called salt pork. If no salt or cure, it’s called pork belly or side pork. Bacon is also naturally or chemically smoked. Without smoke/flavoring, it’s called one of the above or it’s unsmoked cured bacon. I’ll be making mine with homegrown organically raised pork belly, cured and smoked by me. 🙂 I look forward to trying your fabulous looking recipe!
Yes, I guess a better term would be "naturally-cured" not "uncured" or nitrate free. Regardless, enjoy!
This is the most awesome recipe!! I get compliments every time I make it. I’m trying the pre soaked recipe for navy beans cooked in the instapot first. Thank you for that recipe as well. I hope it comes out with the beans a bit firmer. I will let you know how it goes. But, this is the best recipe I’ve ever found for baked beans. I’m also trying your barbecue sauce today as well. Thanks for sharing!
I love hearing this Robin! Enjoy the BBQ sauce as well!
Fantastic but farted like bugles sounding on independence day. Wife wasn't happy and made me sleep outside with the goats. Jad a very peaceful night so would highly recommend..
Can this recipe be canned?
Hi Megan! I am not a canning expert, but I do know that Baked Beans are a low-acid food and must be pressure canned. They can not be canned in a hot water bath or steam canned.