Boston Baked Beans
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- 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.
- 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!
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.
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.
- Slow Cooker BBQ Ribs
- Oil and Vinegar Coleslaw
- Cornbread Muffins
- Slow Cooker BBQ Brisket
- Chipped Ham BBQ Sandwiches
Baked Beans FAQs
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.
India has the highest consumption of beans in the world. When it comes to baked beans, however, the UK consumes the most.
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:
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! ❤️️
Boston Baked Beans
- 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
- ⅓ 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
- 1¼ teaspoons (1.25 teaspoons) salt
- 9 cups (2.25 l) water
- 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 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.)
- 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.
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.
Trying this recipe for a party and it looks wonderful.
Regarding the nutritional information: It says the nutritional information is based on one serving. However, a specific serving size is not mentioned, and the recipe yield is 4 – 6 servings. Kind of an arbitrary, non-specific measure that leaves no possible way of understanding what a person may be consuming.
I’m unclear is the mustard powder or prepared mustard?
Wonderful beans! I doubled the recipe so have plenty to freeze in portions.
Is it not necessary to soak the beans for this recipe prior to cooking?
I can’t imagine NOT soaking the beans, or at least doing the ‘quick rinse & then quick boil the beans’ method.
Not least because using the bean cooking water rather than just plain water adds so much to the taste & texture of the finished product.
I happened across this recipe because I was looking toreplicate a long lost family version, and ended up adapting/combining this one with another I found on Serious Eats.
wow, beans :) Beans are my favorite, I can eat them thrice a week :) Love love and just love this recipe. Thanks for the recipe.
Hi Michelle~ Is your mom’s baked bean recipe on your website? Years ago I made a from scratch (starting with the dried beans) baked beans recipe that had the ground beef and bacon in it. I remember loving the result, but I have no idea what recipe I used. Would love to have you do a feature on your mom’s recipe because of the ground beef. Perhaps a combination of her recipe and yours would be what I’m looking for? Have a great weekend!
This is a fantastic recipe! But I must admit that once you mentioned your mom’s recipe for beans with ground beef and bacon, I want that recipe too!
Not to be negative but these are not Boston baked beans. My family has been in the Boston area since 1624 and we have made endless pots of baked beans. Navy beans are the only beans to use. Never, ever would a true Bostonian use apple cider vinegar. Who knows, your recipe many be tasty but into can’t hold a candle to real Boston baked beans.
So you’re saying your way is the only way, then? “The Official Boston Baked Bean Recipe”?
You should highlight the part about don’t add vinegar until the end!! I’ve ended up with crunchy beans ‘cos I didn’t know vinegar causes this and didn’t notice it in the recipe
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.
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.
Hi Jimmy, It just gives the beans a little bit of a subtle tang.
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.
Those look very tasty.
Ok, I hate baked beans… BUT, these sound really good. So I’m thinking that maybe I need to give baked beans another try. ;)
MMMMMM!!! These look delicious!
these look SO good. baked beans are my weakness
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! :-)
I love baked beans. Thanks for the recipe!
I totally love blackened (AKA burnt) hot dogs on the grill too! Baked beans are a must also!
yummmm those look so delicious! perfect for summer!
You spilled the “beans,” if you will. Fatback is the secret ingredient!!
Baked beans are one of the best parts of summer! Looks delicious!!
I have been looking everywhere for a good baked beans recipe! This is perfect, thanks!
I just love baked beans with BBQ chicken! They go hand and hand with each other!
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!
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.
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!
YUM – loved baked beans. Never heard of the salt pork fatback….very interesting, I’ll have to try this!!
Mmm, I love baked beans! These look so yummy – can’t wait to try it!
In the south we just call it fatback and use it in tons of stuff!