We handpicked the products and tools linked in this post. If you buy from one of these affiliate links, we may earn a small commission.
This recipe was originally published on Sepetember 30, 2017.
Have you ever wondered how to make amazing Southern baked beans from scratch? It’s easier than you might think.
Baked beans are really popular in coastal Georgia. You can find them as a side dish at lots of restaurants and at potlucks all year long.
This recipe is made from scratch and is sweet, smoky and savory. The sauce is thick, rich, and flavored with molasses to give the beans a deeper reddish color.
Want to see our latest recipes? Subscribe to our email newsletter to get our latest recipes, fun food facts, food puns, and behind the scenes news about our blog.
What beans are used?
In the U.S., canned navy beans are traditionally used, but feel free to use a mix of beans of different textures, flavors, and sizes. Consider using Great Northern, Pinto, butter, and kidney.
Do you drain the liquid from the cans?
There are different opinions on this topic. It depends on if you like your baked beans soupy, saucy, or with a thick rich sauce. Many cooks don’t drain them because they want the extra liquid. If you are going for a soupy baked bean, you’ll have to keep the liquid. If you like this dish with a saucy consistency, you can drain half the cans. For our recipe, we drain all the liquid, as we like to the sauce to be thick. Draining and rinsing will also reduce the sodium and the gas.
Do you cover the dish when baked in the oven?
This depends on a few factors. If you want to put slices of bacon on top, leave the pan uncovered. If your preference is soupy, you’ll want to leave them uncovered so the sauce thickens up a bit. Our baked bean recipe starts with a thicker sauce, so we cover them the whole time they are in the oven.
How to Improve Canned Baked Beans
If you have some cans of baked beans at home that you want to doctor up, here are some ideas to make them semi-homemade.
First, start with some aromatics. Use all three ideas from the list below or just the onions, and fry them up in the fat of your choice. Add your sweeteners, cooked meat, and your liquids for a homemade sauce, then add your spices. There are lots of ideas under the liquid category, so only add what you think you’d like.
Next, choose your cooking method. Bake them on the stovetop in a Dutch oven, in the oven in two 9×13-inch pans covered with foil, or in a large crock pot.
- Fats: olive oil, bacon grease
- Aromatics: add onions, green bell peppers, garlic
- Sweeteners: molasses, brown sugar, maple syrup, honey, agave
- Meat: 1/2 cooked or fully cooked bacon, cooked hamburger, or cooked sausage
- Liquids: ketchup, BBQ sauce, prepared mustard, liquid smoke, Worcestershire sauce, apple cider vinegar, lemon juice
- Spices: salt, black pepper
What do you serve with this recipe?
In the U.S., baked bean are served with BBQ, so think grilled and smoked meats like ribs, chicken, hamburgers, and hot dogs. They are also served in the South as a side dish at Thanksgiving and Christmas potlucks alongside smoked turkey or baked ham.
If you love a pulled pork sandwich or game day eats, baked beans taste fantastic served along side it.
Can you make this ahead?
You most certainly can! They actually taste better the second day. Make them ahead, let them fully cool, and cover the pan with foil and store them in the fridge.
Take them out of the fridge 45 minutes before reheating in the oven so they can warm up to room temperature. To reheat the pan, bake covered for 30 to 40 minutes at 350 F. If you are planning on placing the half-cooked strips of bacon on top, it’s best to do that the same day.
Can you freeze this?
Of course you can! They freeze very well. To freeze, allow them to cool, then spoon them into freezer-friendly containers or freezer zip-top bags. Baked beans can be frozen for up to 3 months.
Thaw in the fridge overnight, reheat on the stovetop over medium-low heat until heated through, or place covered in a 350 F oven for 20 minutes.
How can I make this in a crock pot?
- Cook cut up bacon until crisp.
- Saute the onions and garlic in 2 tablespoons of bacon grease.
- Dump all ingredients in the crock pot and stir.
- Cover. Cook on low for 8 hours or on high for 4 hours.
How to Make
Gather all the ingredients. Rinse the beans, chop the onions, mince the garlic, cut the bacon, and measure out the liquids.
Cook the cut up bacon over medium heat in a large cast iron skillet.
If you like the bacon placed on top of the baked beans, cook it so it’s half done like below.
If you like the bacon stirred in, cook your bacon until it’s golden brown.
Pour off all the bacon grease to keep for another use. Add back 2 tablespoons.
Sauté the chopped onion until well cooked.
Add the minced garlic and saute for one minute or until fragrant.
Remove the onion mixture to a Dutch oven with a large spoon.
Rinse the canned navy beans in a colander under cold water. Rinsing helps reduce the sodium and the gas.
Add the rinsed navy beans to the Dutch oven and stir well to mix with the onion and garlic.
Add the cooked bacon, BBQ sauce, ketchup, and the prepared mustard. Next add the Worcestershire sauce and the secret ingredient: liquid smoke. With a large spoon, stir everything together.
Add the sweeteners (maple syrup, brown sugar and molasses), then stir to combine.
Add the salt and black pepper and stir. If you are making the stovetop version, cover with a lid and simmer for 1 to 2 hours, stirring every 15 minutes to prevent the bottom from sticking.
If you are making the oven version, pour the beans into a 9×13-inch baking pan.
Cover with foil and bake for 1 hour at 300 F.
When it comes out, be ready to stir it. Serve warm in the pan or place in a serving dish and garnish with extra bacon and chopped green onion.
- Want this to be vegetarian? Omit the bacon, use olive oil, and caramelize the onions.
- Want to save time? Use canned navy beans. Make sure to rinse them well to help with gas and to reduce the sodium.
- Want to double this? Go ahead and make a big batch. It freezes well.
- Need to make this ahead? They actually taste better the second day.
- Want to know the secret ingredient? It’s liquid smoke.
- Need your sauce to thicken because it’s too soupy? Bake it in a shallow pan to help thicken the sauce.
- Cast Iron Skillet: this old fashioned favorite is perfect for sauteing veggies.
- Set of Serving Spoons: this set contains both slotted and un-slotted spoons.
- 9×13 Pan: this pan is the perfect size for baking the beans in a shallow layer.
- Liquid Smoke: this is an easy way to add an amazing smoky flavor to your beans.
Have a tasty BBQ spread with these other dishes.
The pleasure of a 5-star review would be greatly appreciated.
These Southern baked beans are sweet and smoky with the amazing flavors of bacon, brown sugar, molasses, and maple syrup. They’re simple to make in the crockpot, stovetop, or baked in the oven. There is enough for a crowd, so make this ahead for your next BBQ or party.
- 1 pound applewood smoked bacon, cut in 1-inch pieces (455g)
- 2 tablespoons melted bacon fat (30 ml)
- 3 1/2 cups yellow onions, chopped (610g)
- 2 tablespoons garlic, minced
- 7 15.5-ounce cans navy beans, rinsed and drained (3 kg 75g)
- 1 1/4 cups ketchup (300 ml)
- 1 1/4 cups BBQ sauce (Heinz’s Kansas City Sweet and Smoky) (300 ml)
- 1/2 cup prepared yellow mustard (120 ml)
- 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce (60 ml)
- 2 teaspoons liquid smoke (10 ml)
- 1 1/2 cups light brown sugar, packed (300g)
- 3/4 cup molasses (175 ml)
- 1/2 cup maple syrup (120 ml)
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- Cook the cut up bacon in a large cast iron skillet over medium heat until it’s crisp, frequently stirring with a wooden spoon. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon and place in a bowl. Pour out all the grease into a small bowl and keep in the fridge. Reserve some of the bacon pieces for a garnish.
- Add two tablespoons of the reserved bacon fat back to the skillet and turn the heat to medium-high. Saute the onion for 8 minutes over medium high heat, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly.
- Drain all 7 cans of navy beans in a large metal colander. Rinse well under cold water.
- Place the onion mixture into a Dutch oven or large bowl. Add the rinsed navy beans and stir well to combine.
- Add the cooked bacon and the ingredients for the sauce (ketchup, BBQ sauce, prepared mustard, Worcestershire sauce, and liquid smoke) to the Dutch oven and mix that in really well.
- Next, mix in the sweeteners (brown sugar, molasses, and maple syrup) until it is well mixed.
- Finish up with the spices (salt and black pepper). Stir again so everything is mixed in well.
- Transfer them to two 9×13-inch baking pans and cover with foil.
- Bake at 300 F for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until the beans are soft and the sauce has thickened. Taste and season, if necessary.
- Follow steps 1 to 7 from above.
- Place the lid on the Dutch oven and simmer for one hour. Stir every 15 minutes to prevent the bottom from sticking to the bottom of the pot.
- Next, taste it and season if necessary. Simmer again on the lowest heat for 2 hours with the lid on, stirring every 15 minutes.
- Follow steps 1 to 3 from above.
- Place all the ingredients into a large crock pot. Stir with a large metal spoon until well mixed.
- Place the lid on. Cook on low for 8 hours covered or 4 hours on high.
- Taste. Season if necessary.
- If you want to save some time, use canned navy beans. Make sure to rinse them well to help with gas and to reduce the sodium.
- This recipe doubles well, so go ahead and make a big batch. It also freezes well.
- Make this the night before, as the flavor will improve the second day.
- My the secret ingredient is liquid smoke.
- Bake it in a shallow pan to help thicken the sauce if it is too soupy.
- Category: Side Dishes
- Method: Baked
- Cuisine: American
Keywords: easy baked beans recipe, baked beans with bacon