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 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 nitrate free bacon chopped
- ¼ cup 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 beans until the water is at least 1 inch above beans. Seal container shut. Soak beans for 8-12 hours.
- After soaking, drain beans. Add 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.
- Instead of soaking beans overnight and simmering, you can speed up the process and cook dried beans right in the Instant Pot, no soaking required.
For the Baked Beans
- Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
- 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 bacon is browned and slightly crisp. This should take about 5-6 minutes. Drain off excess fat off bacon.
- Mix together tomato sauce, brown sugar, molasses, maple syrup, dried mustard, vinegar,apple juice, water, and salt together. Add in bacon and onion mixture and cooked beans and gently stir to combine.
- Pour bean mixture into a 2-quart oven-safe dish. Beans should be pretty well submerged in liquid and mixture should be relatively loose. If there does not seem to be enough liquid in the baking dish, add up to ½ cup additional water or juice. Cover pan with foil or oven-safe lid.
- Bake covered for 2 hours. Uncover and bake for another 30-40 minutes, until thickened.
- Navy Beans are traditional for baked beans, but pinto beans or great northern can be used in a pinch.
- In place of dried mustard, feel free to use 1 tablespoon prepared mustard.
- For really sweet baked beans use ketchup in place of the tomato sauce OR add up to ½ cup brown sugar instead of a ¼ cup brown sugar.
- If you want these to be Vegetarian Baked Beans, omit the bacon and add the onions raw to bean mixture. You may need to increase the salt by up to 1 teaspoon as the bacon has quite a bit of sodium.
- In place of dried beans, you can use 4 cups rinsed and drained navy beans--measure after draining.