Rich and hearty Boston Baked Beans cook low and slow in the oven with bacon, molasses, brown sugar, and white beans. Make these baked beans for your next potluck or BBQ, they are the perfect all-season comfort food.

A white dutch oven with Boston baked beans and a wooden spoon to the left.

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. Beans sometimes get a bad rap, but I’ve always been a fan. From 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 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 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!

What Are Boston Baked Beans?

Boston Baked Beans are a variety of baked beans typically sweetened with maple syrup or molasses and flavored with salt pork or bacon. This Native American recipe quickly became adopted by the early settlers because many of the ingredients were native to the area.

Their popularity also grew due to the rum production in the area. Boston had a large surplus of molasses (used in making rum) which made sweetening these beans convenient and cheap. Sweet baked beans were often made Saturday nights and left in the brick oven overnight to keep warm. This made a warm meal that didn’t break the sabbath on Sundays.

A white bowl with baked beans and a spoon on a grey counter with beans in another white bowl to the top left and top right.

Ingredients You’ll Need

  • Salt Pork: Made from pork belly this cut of pork cures in salt and tends to contain more fat than bacon giving a deep flavor to the beans.
  • Bacon: Chopped and cooked with the salted pork, the bacon adds a savory flavor to the beans.
  • Onion: Chopped and cooked in the pork grease, the onion provides a slight aromatic flavor.
  • Molasses: Thickens and sweetenes the baked beans.
  • Brown Sugar: Adds a little more sweetness to the dish, whithout making it too sweet.
  • Mustard: A brown mustard adds a rich, deep flavor.
  • White Beans: Use a dried white bean such as great northern beans. Rinse and pick out any that do not look good.
  • Water: Cooks the beans to the perfect consistency.
  • Apple Cider Vinegar: Adds a bite to the beans after they bake.
  • Salt + Pepper: Flavor, flavor, flavor.

Substitution Tips

Salt Pork

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. If you cannot find the salt pork, replace it with additional bacon.

Dried Beans

If this is your first time cooking with dried beans, here are a few helpful tips to get the best baked beans ever.

  • Use fresh beans. The frehser the beans the more they keep their shape during cooking.
  • Rinse and sort. Be sure to rinse your beans before using them in the recipe and remove any that do not look good.
  • Low and slow. Cook the beans at a low temperature for a long time. Rushing the baking process will not help you get the best baked beans.

Flavoring the Baked Beans

If you are looking to switch up the flavor in these baked beans, here are a few suggestions:

  • Spicy baked beans: Add diced jalapeño (2-3 seeded and diced) to the onion and mix in about ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper to the Dutch oven with the beans and water.
  • Maple baked beans: Substitute the molasses with maple syrup to give the beans a maple flavor.

How to Make Boston Baked Beans

These beans have a wonderfully deep, yet mild, flavor and are tender without being mushy. They’re bean nirvana. Baked in the oven at a low temperature, making these takes a little bit of forethought.

Oven Baked Directions

  • Prepare for baking: Adjust the oven rack to the lower-middle position. Preheat the oven to 300°F.
  • Cook the pork and bacon (#1-#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.
Two side by side photos of a white dutch oven with raw bacon on the left and cooked bacon on the right.
  • Add onion (#3) and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until onion softens, about 8 minutes.
  • Bring baked beans to a boil (#4): Add 1/2 cup molasses, brown sugar, mustard, beans, salt, and water to the Dutch oven. Increase heat to medium-high and bring to a boil.
Side by side photos of a white dutch oven with aromatics on the left and all other ingredients added on the right.
  • Cover and bake: Cover pot and set in oven. Bake until beans are tender, about 4 hours, stirring once after 2 hours.
  • Remove lid and continue to bake until liquid thickens to syrup consistency, 1 to 1 1/2 hours longer.
  • Add remaining ingredients: Remove beans from the oven, stir in remaining tablespoon of molasses, vinegar, and additional salt and pepper to taste. Serve.

Slow Cooker Directions

If you will be away during the day, can’t have the oven occupied for that long, or want to let them cook overnight, you could just as easily pop this into a slow cooker. To adapt this recipe for your slow cooker:

  • Prepare your slow cooker: Line your slow cooker with a crockpot liner (it makes clean up a breeze) or spray with nonstick cooking spray.
  • Cook pork and bacon: 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 softens, about 8 minutes.
  • Transfer to crockpot: Transfer the salt pork, bacon, and onion to the crockpot.
  • Stir in sweeteners, water, and beans: Add 1/2 cup molasses, brown sugar, mustard, beans, salt, and water to the crock pot.
  • Cook on low for 6 to 8 hours.
  • Add remaining ingredients: After cooking, stir in remaining tablespoon of molasses, vinegar, and additional salt and pepper to taste. Serve.

Note– 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!

A white bowl with baked beans and a yellow and white buffalo check towel to the bottom left.

Storing and Making Ahead

  • Storing: Cool baked beans entirely and store in an airtight container for up to 4 days in advance.
  • Making Ahead: You can easily make these beans up to 4 days in advance. Re-heat them in the slow cooker to keep the kitchen cool while you prep other dishes.

Serving Suggestions

These baked beans go perfectly with a summer potluck or BBQ. Here are a few of my favorite recipes to serve with these sweet Boston baked beans.

Baked Beans FAQs

What is the difference between Boston baked beans and baked beans?

The main difference between baked beans and Boston baked beans comes down to the use of molasses. Boston baked beans bake in a sauce typically made with molasses while traditional baked beans cook in brown sugar and corn syrup.

What country eats the most beans?

India has the highest consumption of beans in the world. When it comes to baked beans, however, the UK consumes the most.

Why is Boston famous for baked beans?

Boston is referred to as “beantown” because of this dish, Boston baked beans. This form of baked beans was unique to the area because they were cooked in molasses instead of maple syrup.

If you Like Boston Baked Beans, Try these Recipes Next:

A spoon with a scoop of Boston baked beans over a white bowl.

Hearty, rich and flavorful, Boston baked beans need to be on your next BBQ menu. Packed with salt pork, bacon, molasses, and beans your tastebuds will crave these sweet yet savory beans.

If you make this recipe and love it, remember to stop back and give it a 5-star rating – it helps others find the recipe! ❤️️

A top down photo of Boston baked beans in a dutch oven with a wooden spoon.

Boston Baked Beans

Sweet yet savory this Boston Baked Beans recipe cooks up with molasses, bacon, and beans for a filling and comforting side dish.
4.5 (6 ratings)

Ingredients

  • 4 ounces (113.4 g) salt pork, trimmed of rind and cut into ½-inch cubes
  • 2 ounces (56.7 g) bacon, cut into ¼-inch pieces
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • ½ cup (168.5 g) + 1 tablespoon mild molasses, divided
  • cup (73.33 g) light brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons brown mustard
  • 1 pound (453.59 g) dried small white beans, like great northern beans, rinsed and picked over
  • teaspoons (1.25 teaspoons) salt
  • 9 cups (2.25 l) water
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Instructions 

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

Notes

Nutritional values are based on one serving
Slow Cooker Directions:
  • Prepare your slow cooker: Line your slow cooker with a crockpot liner (it makes clean up a breeze).
  • Cook pork and bacon: 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 softens about 8 minutes.
  • Transfer to crockpot: Transfer the salt pork, bacon, and onion to the crockpot.
  • Stir in sweeteners, water, and beans: Add 1/2 cup molasses, brown sugar, mustard, beans, salt, and water to the crockpot.
  • Cook on low for 6 to 8 hours.
  • Add remaining ingredients: After cooking, stir in the remaining tablespoon of molasses, vinegar, and additional salt and pepper to taste. Serve.
Calories: 636kcal, Carbohydrates: 80g, Protein: 14g, Fat: 29g, Saturated Fat: 10g, Cholesterol: 33mg, Sodium: 1645mg, Potassium: 1364mg, Fiber: 7g, Sugar: 50g, Vitamin C: 2.1mg, Calcium: 229mg, Iron: 6.6mg

Did you make this recipe?

Leave a review below, then snap a picture and tag @thebrowneyedbaker on Instagram so I can see it!

Photography by Lauren Grant.