Boston Baked Beans

When it comes to summer picnics, I look forward to a handful of things: blackened hot dogs on the grill, sweet corn on the cob, watermelon and baked beans. I’ve always heard rumblings that beans get a bad rap, especially among kids, but I’ve always been a fan. Whether it was refried beans or black beans in a Mexican dish, kidney beans in chili, cannelini beans in minestrone, garbanzo beans ground into hummus or baked beans during the summer, I’ve always loved them all. My mom has a barbecued beans dish that she’s famous for – it involves ground beef, bacon, some canned beans, and a homemade barbecue sauce. I can’t ever get enough of it when she makes it, but this summer, after getting my feet wet soaking and cooking beans from scratch, I wanted to nail down a great baked beans recipe. I’m thrilled to have finally done so, and what a keeper this recipe is!

Boston Baked Beans are a variety of baked beans that are typically sweetened with molasses (because it was readily available in the Boston area in the 1700’s) and flavored with salt pork or bacon (both are used in this recipe).

Have you ever used salt pork? I hadn’t heard of it before this recipe, so I wasn’t even sure what I was looking for at the store. I thought a photo of the packaging would help in case you’re in a similar situation – I found the salt pork in the refrigerated case next to the chicken, beef and pork, where you would buy ham steaks or whole hams. My mom said that my grandma used it in a lot of recipes back in the day, which made me feel that this particular recipe was right on track!

These beans have a wonderful deep, yet mild, flavor and are tender without being mushy. They’re bean nirvana. Making these takes a little bit of forethought, as they are baked in the oven on a low temperature for many hours. If you will be away during the day, can’t have the oven occupied for that long, or want to let them cook overnight, I think you could just as easily pop this into a slow cooker and let it go on low for 6 to 8 hours. Just don’t be tempted to crank it up to high or rush the cooking process… the beans definitely benefit from the “low and slow” cooking method. Once you taste them, you’ll be infatuated and so glad you were patient!

Now that I have Boston and molasses on the brain, I think I need to try my hand at some Boston brown bread soon!

One year ago: Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie
Four years ago: Thick and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

Boston Baked Beans

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 5 hours 30 minutes

Total Time: 5 hours 45 minutes


4 ounces salt pork, trimmed of rind and cut into ½-inch cubes
2 ounces bacon, cut into ¼-inch pieces
1 medium onion, finely chopped
½ cup + 1 tablespoon mild molasses, divided
1/3 cup light brown sugar
2 tablespoons brown mustard
1 pound dried small white beans (like great northern beans), rinsed and picked over
1¼ teaspoons salt
9 cups water
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
Salt and pepper, to taste


1. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position; preheat oven to 300 degrees F.

2. Add salt pork and bacon to a large Dutch oven (at least 7 quarts); cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned and most fat is rendered, about 7 minutes. Add onion and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is softened, about 8 minutes.

3. Add ½ cup molasses, brown sugar, mustard, beans, 1¼ teaspoons salt, and 9 cups water; increase heat to medium-high and bring to boil. Cover pot and set in oven. Bake until beans are tender, about 4 hours, stirring once after 2 hours.

4. Remove lid and continue to bake until liquid has thickened to syrupy consistency, 1 to 1½ hours longer. Remove beans from oven; stir in remaining tablespoon of molasses, vinegar, and additional salt and pepper to taste. Serve. (You can make the beans ahead of time, letting them cool to room temperature, and then storing in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.)

(Recipe adapted from Cook's Illustrated)


22 Responses to “Boston Baked Beans”

  1. katie on June 21, 2012 at 12:20 am

    In the south we just call it fatback and use it in tons of stuff!


  2. amanda @ fake ginger on June 21, 2012 at 12:40 am

    Mmm, I love baked beans! These look so yummy – can’t wait to try it!


  3. Ashley @ Wishes and Dishes on June 21, 2012 at 12:59 am

    YUM – loved baked beans. Never heard of the salt pork fatback….very interesting, I’ll have to try this!!


  4. Angelyn on June 21, 2012 at 2:06 am

    Not a big fan of beans in general, but I do love baked beans! Yours look delicious and I’ve always wanted to try making them at home!


  5. IdaBaker on June 21, 2012 at 3:20 am

    It’s almost funny seeing baked beans here because I’ve been thinking about making them myself. It’s been several years since I’ve cooked them, but they do add just the right touch to BBQ dinners for the summer.


  6. michelle @ The Village Cook on June 21, 2012 at 6:50 am

    I’ll definitely be trying this on the next cold day… without heat in my house, my oven is my heater & I’m always on the hunt for cook all day in the oven recipes in the winter! Thanks!


  7. Jennifer @ Peanut Butter and Peppers on June 21, 2012 at 7:28 am

    I just love baked beans with BBQ chicken! They go hand and hand with each other!


  8. Ellen @ The Baking Bluenoser on June 21, 2012 at 7:28 am

    I have been looking everywhere for a good baked beans recipe! This is perfect, thanks!


  9. Liz @ Tip Top Shape on June 21, 2012 at 11:43 am

    Baked beans are one of the best parts of summer! Looks delicious!!


  10. Riley on June 21, 2012 at 12:36 pm

    You spilled the “beans,” if you will. Fatback is the secret ingredient!!


  11. caralyn @ glutenfreehappytummy on June 21, 2012 at 1:41 pm

    yummmm those look so delicious! perfect for summer!


  12. Julia on June 21, 2012 at 2:25 pm

    I totally love blackened (AKA burnt) hot dogs on the grill too! Baked beans are a must also!


  13. ellenbcookery on June 21, 2012 at 2:30 pm

    I love baked beans. Thanks for the recipe!


  14. Susan on June 21, 2012 at 2:41 pm

    I love baked beens, unfortunately my hubby & 2 boysd do not! Maybe I will make them for an uocoming picnic.
    Side note: Michelle, I don’t even remember exactly how I found your page last week, but boy I am addicted! There are at least 10 recipes that I have to try! Frustrating because I just started a diet! 🙂


  15. what katie's baking on June 21, 2012 at 10:45 pm

    these look SO good. baked beans are my weakness


  16. Taylor on June 22, 2012 at 12:54 am

    MMMMMM!!! These look delicious!


  17. Cathy @ Savory Notes on June 22, 2012 at 1:40 am

    Ok, I hate baked beans… BUT, these sound really good. So I’m thinking that maybe I need to give baked beans another try. 😉


  18. Debra Kapellakis on June 26, 2012 at 7:25 am

    Those look very tasty.


  19. Mei-i @ gastronomic nomad on June 26, 2012 at 5:30 pm

    You sold me with pork fat and bacon. Yummmmmmm. I made Boston bread some time back for a holiday party and it was delicious and easy. You’ve just reminded me that I must try it again.


  20. Jimmy on January 25, 2014 at 2:05 pm

    Just out of curiosity, why the teaspoon of apple cider vinegar? Ive never heard of it in a boston baked bean recipe and was wondering what difference you found it to make.


    • Michelle on January 25th, 2014 at 10:15 pm

      Hi Jimmy, It just gives the beans a little bit of a subtle tang.


  21. Lynne on June 20, 2014 at 9:06 am

    Just saw that this was the recipe 2 years ago, I guess I beg to differ that true Boston baked beans need to be made in a bean pot. I own 2. It’s a little more work – a two step process of boiling the beans (btw, have to be “small white beans” which are a type of bean on their own), and then layering the pork, onion, and beans in the pot. You then pour the molasses mixture that has had the bean water added to it over the beans until you can just see it floating the beans (not cover), then cover the pot and bake low and slow. So good, and nothing like scooping them out of the bean pot. My recipe dates back to my great grandmother. We not only eat them for cook outs, but for big breakfasts too.


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