Easy Baked Beans

By Ann Fulton

Don't love soupy baked beans that make everything else on your plate soggy? This easy, wholesome, flavor-packed recipe is for you! 
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Don’t love soupy baked beans that make everything else on your plate soggy? This easy, wholesome, flavor-packed recipe is for you! 

 

My family never liked baked beans. Until this recipe. 

Once I understood why they disliked the classic fare, and I reflected back on my own early opinions of baked beans, a recipe that everyone liked was within easy reach.

As a bonus, the following baked bean recipe relies on basic pantry ingredients, is quick to prepare, and complements a wide range of meals. Because my family now truly enjoys these beans, I find myself making them more often as an easy, protein-rich side dish and then enjoying any leftovers for lunch. 

But back to the main issue–and I’m wondering how many of you can relate…

Don't love soupy baked beans that make everything else on your plate soggy? This easy, wholesome, flavor-packed recipe is for you! 

Thirty minutes in the oven, give or take a few, cooks the beans to flavorful perfection. For added appeal, you can adjust the level of sauciness by cooking a few minutes shorter or longer.

 

I grew up mostly liking baked beans, but I always used the serving spoon to siphon off the excess liquid. That way, the soupiness didn’t make everything else on my plate soggy. 

Given this scenario, my husband and kids would merely pass on the beans.

My theory was that if the beans were saucy but not soupy and the flavor was really good–a balance of savory, sweet, tangy, and smoky with the right amount of tomatoey appeal–more people, perhaps including my family, would embrace what can be an easy, versatile side dish.

And it worked. The following recipe won them over. I now make these baked beans often as an easy side dish, and everyone is always genuinely happy to eat them.

Leftovers, as mentioned, are often enjoyed as a quick lunch, as is, or with a scoop of leftover rice when available. Or this slaw. Or both for a deliciously easy bowl meal.

We’ve even topped the leftover baked beans with a fried or poached egg. 

Minus the bacon, the baked beans can be the protein-, fiber-, and flavor-rich centerpiece of a meatless meal. Even if you enjoy bacon, don’t hesitate to make the beans if you have everything but that ingredient on hand. They will not be lacking in flavor. 

Perfect pairings…

The baked beans pair perfectly with hamburgers and hot dogs, grilled chicken, ribs, sausages, veggie burgers, beer boiled peel & eat shrimp, and pulled pork. Beyond the traditional, think of them anytime you need an easy side dish that’s loaded with flavor.

Or serve them, minus the bacon, with rice and coleslaw (and perhaps a few pickled onions) for a satisfying meatless meal. 

Complementary side dishes include corn bread, coleslaw, broccoli salad, quick collard greens, roasted potatoes, potato salad, fruit salad (and watermelon when in season), regular or sweet potato fries, deviled eggs, a tossed green salad, and practically any green vegetable.  

Don't love soupy baked beans that make everything else on your plate soggy? This easy, wholesome, flavor-packed recipe is for you! 

The flavorful sauce ingredients may be combined in advance. When ready to add to the beans, remember to reserve ¼ cup of the bean liquid and stir it in. This creates a sauce that’s neither too thick nor too thin. 

Don't love soupy baked beans that make everything else on your plate soggy? This easy, wholesome, flavor-packed recipe is for you! 

An 8-inch square baking dish or other 1½-quart casserole is ideal. If you’d like to double the recipe, use a 9×13-inch baking dish.

Don't love soupy baked beans that make everything else on your plate soggy? This easy, wholesome, flavor-packed recipe is for you! 

Par-cooked bacon may be added at this point, although the beans are delightful without it. Before baking, cover the dish tightly with foil.

Don't love soupy baked beans that make everything else on your plate soggy? This easy, wholesome, flavor-packed recipe is for you! 

Thirty minutes in the oven, give or take a few, cooks the beans to flavorful perfection. For added appeal, you can adjust the level of sauciness by cooking a few minutes shorter or longer. 

A fun nutrition fact from our dietitian Emily:
Beans are a great source of soluble fiber. A diet rich in soluble fiber can help the body to excrete excess LDL cholesterol from the body. This is helpful for those who may be looking for ways to reduce LDL through diet, as elevated levels of this type of cholesterol has been linked with heart disease. 

For those who are curious…
The reason we don’t list nutritional breakdowns next to each recipe is because the numbers can change significantly depending on brands people buy and how exact the measuring is. In saying that, if you email me separately, I can provide you with my best estimations on the nutrients you would like to know more about in this recipe. I’m happy to help! 

Easy Baked Beans
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes
Yield: 6 to 8 servings
Don't love soupy baked beans that make everything else on your plate soggy? This recipe is for you! Loaded with flavor and quick to assemble (with an advance prep option), I make these baked beans often as an easy side dish, and everyone is always genuinely happy to eat them! 
Ingredients
  • 4 slices bacon, optional (halved or quartered; omit for vegetarian/vegan dish)
  • 2 (15-ounce) cans pinto, navy, or other white beans, reserve ¼ cup of bean liquid and then rinse and drain
  • ¼ cup (68g) ketchup
  • ¼ cup minced onion (I typically use yellow; may use red)
  • 2 tablespoons (44g) molasses
  • 2 tablespoons (25g) brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon (15g) yellow mustard (this is my preference but I have subbed Dijon)
  • 1 tablespoon (15ml) apple cider vinegar
  • ⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper (this adds flavor without noticeable heat)
Instructions
  1. If using, cook the bacon in a skillet over medium heat until partially done. (This is the time to mostly cook it but not worry about crisping it.) Remove from the heat and set aside.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350℉ and grease or spray an 8-inch square or similar size baking dish. Set aside. (Tip: If you have a 9-inch ovenproof skillet, you could cook the bacon and bake the beans in the same pan. Note that a 10-inch would result in a thinner layer and the cooking time would require an adjustment.
  3. In a mixing bowl, stir together all the ingredients except the beans and optional bacon. (Prep ahead tip: The sauce may be mixed a day in advance, covered, and refrigerated. Stir in the bean liquid when resuming prep.) Add the beans and the ¼ cup bean liquid and toss until coated. (If you forgot to reserve the bean liquid, you could use chicken broth or water in a pinch.)
  4. Transfer to the prepared baking dish. Top with the bacon, if using, and cover tightly with foil. Bake for 30 minutes. At this point, the beans should be lightly saucy and ready to enjoy. However, if you’d like to further thicken or caramelize the top, you may remove the foil and either broil briefly or continue to bake another 5 to 10 minutes. Just take care not to over-bake and dry out the beans.
Notes

How do I know if the beans are done? The liquid mixture should be saucy but not soupy. If you’d like the sauce to be thicker, bake a few minutes more.

Conversely, you can avoid overcooking the beans by looking to see how saucy they are. If the sauce is drying up, remove the dish from the oven immediately. Once the sauce dries up, the beans will then begin to dry out too.

The recipe is easy to double. In that case, cook in a 9×13 pan and adjust cooking time up as needed.

If you skip the bacon, you could add ¼ to ½ teaspoon smoked paprika for a hint of smoky flavor.

If using the bacon and would like more bacony flavor throughout, you may stir 2 tablespoons of the bacon grease into the sauce.

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