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Once you try homemade Boston Baked Beans, you’ll never buy them in a can again! Sweet, savory, and smoky, these beans are the perfect side for your next cookout.

a bowl of the best boston baked beans recipe

Why You’ll Love This Boston Baked Beans Recipe

  • They’re Versatile. Whether you have time to give your beans an overnight soak or you need to use canned beans to get dinner on the table faster, you have options with this recipe!
  • Irresistible Flavor. Boston baked beans have so much depth thanks to the addition of molasses. (Bonus: It also gives you the chance to use the molasses bottle you have stashed in the back of your pantry.)
  • Surprisingly Healthy. Protein! Fiber! Iron! You could totally eat these on their own for dinner (I see them on toast with an egg), although they’re also perfect for pairing with Smoked Chicken Breast and Grilled Pork Chops.
  • Made with Pantry Staples. You probably have most of the ingredients already. And the ones you don’t have are all budget-friendly, making this an affordable side dish for a crowd.
boston baked beans made on the stovetop

What Are Boston Baked Beans?

Boston baked beans are a classic New England dish that dates back to colonial times; they’re based on bean dishes that date back even further, all the way to the Middle Ages!

Just like other types of baked beans, Boston baked beans are made with small white beans that are baked in the oven with a sweet-and-savory sauce. 

As the beans bake, the sauce thickens, the edges caramelize, and the flavors intensify. This is a dish that is definitely worth the wait, friends.

(Don’t have time to wait? I get it! Try my Easy Baked Beans instead.)

What Makes Boston Baked Beans Different?

One key ingredient sets Boston baked beans apart from the rest: molasses

Other baked bean recipes are made with brown sugar.

Molasses is much more robust—instead of just tasting sweetness in the sauce, the molasses brings all kinds of depth and nuance to the table.

easy boston baked beans

How to Make Boston Baked Beans

The Ingredients

  • Dry White Beans. Navy beans are the traditional choice for Boston baked beans, but Great Northern beans work as well.
  • Kosher Salt. Keep in mind that kosher salt crystals are larger than table salt, so you’ll need to use a touch less if you substitute table salt.
  • Bacon. Use regular bacon or turkey bacon to keep it light.
  • Onion. A yellow onion is perfect!
  • Garlic. Not all recipes call for garlic, but I recommend it for additional complexity.
  • Unsulphured Molasses. Do not use blackstrap; it’s a little too bitter and strong for this recipe.
  • Tomato Paste. Some recipes call for ketchup, but tomato paste has much more deep, natural tomato flavor.
  • Dijon Mustard. Another key ingredient for that signature Boston baked bean sauce!
  • Apple Cider Vinegar. Since we’re not using ketchup, we’ll add ACV to bring some tanginess.
  • Black Pepper. Add as much or as little as you like.

Substitution Tip

Salt pork is also commonly used in Boston baked beans, as it was a pantry staple during colonial times. Feel free to swap that in for the bacon!

The Directions

dried beans for boston baked beans recipe soaking method
  1. Soak Beans. Cover the beans with water and let them soak for 6 to 8 hours, then drain and rinse. (If you forget to do this, don’t worry; I have a no-soak option).
boston baked beans made with dried beans
  1. Simmer. Cook the beans over medium-low until they’re tender.
  2. Reserve Cooking Liquid. Then, drain the beans.
sauteeing onions and bacon for boston baked beans recipe
  1. Cook the Bacon. Do this in a Dutch oven on the stovetop, then add the onion and garlic.
a large pot of easy boston baked beans on the stove
  1. Add the Beans + Seasonings. Plus the bean cooking liquid.
  2. Bake. Place the Dutch oven in the preheated oven and bake the Boston baked beans until they’re soft.
  3. Finish. Stir in the vinegar, season to taste, and ENJOY!
pot of the best boston baked beans

Storage Tips

  • To Store. Refrigerate Boston baked beans in an airtight container for up to 4 days. 
  • To Reheat. You can reheat your beans in the microwave, or in a pan set over medium-low heat.
  • To Freeze. Transfer Boston baked beans to an airtight container or freezer bag and freeze for up to 3 months. Let them thaw in the refrigerator before reheating according to the instructions above.

Leftover Ideas

It may sound a little out of left field, but Boston baked beans make an outstanding sandwich—kind of like a bean-based sloppy Joe! I also love spooning leftovers over Roasted Sweet Potatoes, a Baked Potato, or Instant Pot Sweet Potatoes.

What to Serve with Boston Baked Beans

  • Dutch Oven. Although you can buy a bean pot if you’re really dedicated to making Boston baked beans, I recommend using a Dutch oven.
  • Colander. Use this to rinse, sort, and drain the beans.
  • Measuring Spoons. I love these magnetic measuring spoons!

Recipe Tips and Tricks

  • Add More Water If Needed. Check the beans every 45 minutes and pour more water into the Dutch oven if they seem dry.
  • Let The Beans Cool. Naturally, they’ll be hot straight out of the oven, but letting them cool also allows the sauce to thicken a bit.
  • Don’t Overcook. The beauty of baked beans is that this is a much gentler cooking method than using the stovetop, which means it’s less likely to make your beans mushy. Still, make sure you don’t leave your Boston baked beans in the oven too long; they should be tender but still hold their shape.
  • Scrape the Sides. Drizzle in the vinegar along the sides of the Dutch oven; the acid will help loosen up the browned edges so you can scrape them off and stir them into the beans. Those browned bits have so much flavor!
  • Make It With Canned Beans. While I love using dried beans for their texture and flavor, you can follow the instructions in the recipe card for making Boston baked beans with canned beans instead.

Boston Baked Beans

5 from 2 votes
Sweet, savory, and smoky, these Boston baked beans are the perfect side for your next cookout. You'll never buy them in a can again!

Prep: 5 minutes
Cook: 3 hours
Total: 3 hours 5 minutes

Servings: 8 servings

Ingredients
  

  • 2 cups dry white beans rinsed and sorted to remove any debris, see notes for canned beans
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt plus more to taste
  • 6 ounces bacon chopped into 1/4-inch pieces (about 6 strips)
  • 1 medium onion diced into 1/4-inch pieces
  • 4 garlic cloves finely minced (about 4 teaspoons)
  • 1/4 cup unsulphured molasses do not use blackstrap
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Instructions
 

Overnight Soak Method:

  • Place the beans in a large bowl or pot and cover by at least two inches of cool water. Soak the beans at room temperature for at least 6 hours and up to overnight. Drain and rinse beans.
  • Place the drained beans in a large saucepan and cover by at least two inches with water. Stir in 2 teaspoons salt. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, covered, for 30-40 minutes, until the beans are tender but not mushy. Drain, reserving the liquid.
  • Preheat the oven to 375°F. If necessary, rearrange the oven racks to make room for a pot or Dutch oven.
  • Place the bacon in an oven-safe Dutch oven or similar large pot with a lid (if you don’t have a lid, you can use a double sheet of aluminum foil). Saute over medium to medium-low heat until the fat is rendered and the bacon is crisp, about 8 minutes, adjusting the heat as needed so the bacon does not burn. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring, until the onion is softened, about 5 minutes.
  • Add the beans, molasses, tomato paste, and mustard. Stir to combine, then stir in 2 cups of the reserved bean cooking water.
  • Cover the pot and carefully transfer it to the oven. Bake until the beans are nice and soft and ultra flavorful, about 3 hours. Check the beans every 45 minutes or so and add more bean cooking liquid (or water if you run out) if the beans are drying out.
  • Remove the pot from the oven. Stir in the vinegar and season to taste with salt and pepper. Cool for 5-10 minutes before serving.

No-Soak Method:

  • Preheat the oven to 325°F. If necessary, rearrange the oven racks to make room for a large pot or Dutch oven.
  • Place the bacon in an oven-safe Dutch oven or similar large pot with a lid (if you don’t have a lid, you can use a double sheet of aluminum foil). Saute over medium to medium-low heat until the fat is rendered and the bacon is crisp, about 8 minutes, adjusting the heat as needed so the bacon does not burn. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring, until the onion is softened, about 5 minutes.
  • Add the beans, molasses, tomato paste, mustard, and salt and stir well to combine. Add 4 cups of water, stir, turn the heat to high, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, partially cover the pot, and simmer for 30 minutes. Cover the pot and carefully transfer to the oven.
  • Cook until the beans are soft, 4-5 hours. Check every 45 minutes to stir and add more water if the beans are not fully covered.
  • Add the vinegar, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Cool for 5-10 minutes before serving.

Notes

  • TO SWAP CANNED BEANS: Instead of dried beans, substitute 2 (15-ounce) cans of white beans (such as cannellini) that are rinsed and drained. Saute the bacon, onion, and garlic in a large pot or Dutch oven as directed. Add 2 cups water, the beans, and all of the remaining ingredients except for the vinegar. Cover at bake at 375°F until the beans are soft and the mixture is thickened about 40-60 minutes, depending on the size of your pot (wider pots will evaporate liquid more quickly). Stir in the vinegar and salt and pepper to taste.
  • TO STORE: Refrigerate Boston baked beans in an airtight container for up to 4 days. 
  • TO REHEAT: You can reheat your beans in the microwave, or in a pan set over medium-low heat.
  • TO FREEZE: Transfer Boston baked beans to an airtight container or freezer bag and freeze for up to 3 months. Let them thaw in the refrigerator before reheating according to the instructions above.

Nutrition

Calories: 312kcalCarbohydrates: 43gProtein: 15gFat: 9gSaturated Fat: 3gPolyunsaturated Fat: 2gMonounsaturated Fat: 4gTrans Fat: 0.03gCholesterol: 14mgSodium: 836mgPotassium: 930mgFiber: 13gSugar: 12gVitamin A: 136IUVitamin C: 3mgCalcium: 111mgIron: 4mg

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Frequently Asked Questions

Why Do They Call them Boston baked beans?

During the 18th century, molasses was imported to Boston from the Caribbean in order to make rum. Because molasses is the ingredient that makes this recipe unique and that ingredient was associated with Boston at the time, they became known as Boston baked beans.

What is the Difference Between Navy and Great Northern Beans?

Navy beans are smaller and chewier than Great Northern beans, which are larger, softer, and have a slightly nutty flavor to them. Both varieties of beans work well in this Boston baked bean recipe.

What are the Little White Things in Baked Beans?

Those little white things in cooled Boston baked beans are bits of salt pork or bacon. When the beans are warm, the fat will melt.

Are Boston Baked Beans Vegan?

Boston baked beans are not usually vegan, but you can omit the bacon in this recipe if you’d like. A little bit of liquid smoke or smoked paprika will give your vegan Boston baked beans some bacon-y flavor, or you can cook your favorite plant-based bacon and add it to the beans after they’re done cooking. (It would lose its texture if you added it before putting the beans in the oven.)

How Do You Thicken Boston Baked Beans?

If your Boston baked beans seem a bit too soupy, you can either bake them longer, or place them on the stovetop and bring them to a simmer until the sauce thickens. If you’re in a time-crunch, you can boil the beans, but this risks over-cooking them and making them mushy, so be careful!

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Erin Clarke

Hi, I'm Erin Clarke, and I'm fearlessly dedicated to making healthy food that's affordable, easy-to-make, and best of all DELISH. I'm the author and recipe developer here at wellplated.com and of The Well Plated Cookbook. I adore both sweets and veggies, and I am on a mission to save you time and dishes. WELCOME!

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  1. I made the canned version of these, and they turned out great! I had to have them in the oven for extra time, so I turned the heat down to 300 and left them in for about an hour and a half. I added water later to reheat so they didn’t dry out. They were delish!5 stars

  2. Made for a potluck dinner and everyone loved them! Plus the house smells like a bbq which is a good thing5 stars