This Easy Baked Beans recipe is a lightened-up version of everyone’s favorite backyard barbecue recipe. Naturally sweetened with maple syrup and flavored with homemade bbq sauce, these are the BEST baked beans from scratch, in less time!
While I like to assume that my husband married me for my irresistible charm, girlish good looks, and sparkling personality, I know better: he married me for my easy baked beans (and this Jalapeno Cornbread).
Broadly speaking, he actually married me for Kansas City barbecue, of which baked beans are a critical component.
Whenever we head back to my hometown, at least two barbecue runs are a mandatory part of our travel agenda.
Back home in Milwaukee, we survive on a few imitator recipes of my own (sorry Wisconsin, you just don’t do BBQ like Kansas), among my favorites are today’s healthy and easy baked beans (as well as this Grilled Corn Salad).
5 Star Review
“My family loved these beans! We paired them with smoked brisket. Will definitely make again!”— Bonnie —
Although I might lack the proper equipment, meat supply, and beard to be a serious barbecue contender, these barbecue beans still scratch our barbecue itch, and they are always a sure hit at potlucks too.
I have full respect for traditional baked bean recipes, which start with dried beans (like my Crockpot Baked Beans), but they take hours and are usually on the heavy side.
Thanks to canned beans (one of my fave pantry staples), these short-cut baked beans are:
- Ready in 30 minutes—which means more time to socialize and sip with your guests (or sneak a few scoops of this Greek Layer Dip).
- Don’t require you to turn on the oven and bake—so if you want to be technical, these are stove top “baked” beans, but the spirit is there.
- AND are much, much healthier for you too—no corn syrup, brown sugar, or bacon (bacon grease) to be found. (This Greek Yogurt Ranch Dip is another slimmed-down version perfect for cookouts.)
How to Make Easy Baked Beans
Making these delicious baked beans is as simple as sautéing onions, stirring everything together, then letting it simmer on the stove.
In just 20 minutes, the ingredients transform into a sweet, smoky, savory pot of healthy barbecue bean satisfaction.
- Canned Beans. Making this baked beans recipe with canned beans cuts out hours of cook time. I usually opt for low sodium great northern for baked beans because they have a creamy texture and are mild so the BBQ flavors can shine. Bonus: beans are low in fat, high in protein and just 1/2 cup provides more than 20% of the daily recommended amount of fiber. (This Three Bean Salad made with kidney beans, is another fiber-rich cookout salad to try.) See more bean options in the FAQs below.
- Barbecue Sauce. To keep these easy baked beans on the more wholesome side, I used my favorite homemade Barbecue Sauce. It’s the best way to skip the excess sugar and additives found in most store-bought sauces and control exactly what’s going into these dreamy beans.
- Ketchup. Adds body to the sauce along with some tang and natural sweetness.
Try took for a product that uses natural sweeteners and is free of high fructose corn syrup. There are so many great healthy ketchup brands out there now that contain only limited natural ingredients.
- Tomato Paste. For thickness and the robust tomato flavor.
- Maple Syrup. Instead of making this baked beans recipe with brown sugar or molasses, I swapped pure maple syrup. It adds natural sweetness and a bit of extra smokiness too.
- Onion. For a little zip and added layer of complex flavor.
- Worcestershire. Adds some savory umami flavor.
- Spices. I flavored these babies with smoked paprika, a little dry mustard (no need for yellow mustard), and cumin. It’s my secret to building big barbecue bean flavor without the extra heft is spice.
While this is an easy baked beans recipe without bacon, you can certainly saute chopped bacon slices with the onions for another layer of meaty, smoky flavor.
- Rinse and drain beans.
- Mix up the sauce.
- Sauté the onion in pan.
- Add the sauce to the onions, stir, bring to a boil, then toss in the beans.
- Simmer the bean mixture, stirring occasionally, until the liquid has reduced and the beans have thickened and are tender. ENJOY!
- To Store. Place baked beans in an airtight storage container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
- To Reheat. Gently rewarm beans in a Dutch oven on the stove over medium-low heat until hot. You can also reheat this dish in the microwave.
- To Freeze. Store leftovers in an airtight, freezer-safe storage container in the freezer for up to 3 months. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating.
Recommended Tools to Make these Easy Baked Beans
- Whisk. I love this set of three whisks so I always have the right-sized whisk for the task at hand.
- Mixing Bowl. This nested set of glass bowls is my fav!
- Saucepan. This one is an investment but worth every single penny.
Better-for-you, easy baked beans means an extra serving of Instant Pot Ribs is a must.
It’s all about balance, right?
Frequently Asked Questions
I personally love the size, texture, and taste of great northern beans so that’s my go-to for any homemade baked bean recipe from scratch. However, navy beans and pinto beans are also excellent choices and are used in countless easy baked bean recipes.
You will need to cook the beans prior to using them in this recipe. For a suggested cooking method, check out my Instant Pot Refried Beans for tips.
While many store-bought and homemade baked beans are not healthy, this easy baked bean recipe is a great lightened-up alternative that’s packed with flavor and protein. Baked beans often contain large amounts of sweeteners like cane sugar, brown sugar, or corn syrup in addition to bacon which adds both fat and calories. This recipe minimizes those, without sacrificing that sweet, smoky barbecue goodness.
Burgers and hot dogs are always a good main dish for baked beans. To make it a full meal you could include healthy potato salad as well.
Easy Baked Beans
- 2 cans Great Northern Beans (15-ounce cans)
- 1/4 cup, plus 2 tablespoons barbecue sauce recommended: Homemade Barbecue Sauce
- 1/4 cup ketchup
- 3 tablespoons maple syrup
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce (omit, adding extra salt to taste, to make vegetarian)
- 1 1/2 teaspoons smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon dry mustard
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 small yellow onion finely diced
- Rinse and drain beans. Set aside.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the barbecue sauce, ketchup, maple syrup, tomato paste, Worcestershire, paprika, mustard, cumin, salt, and pepper. Set aside.
- Heat the olive oil in a small saucepan over medium-high. Once the oil is hot, add the onion and sauté until fragrant and soft, about 2 minutes.
- Add the barbecue sauce mixture and bring to a boil. Add the drained beans.
- Reduce heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Serve warm.
- TO STORE: Place baked beans in an airtight storage container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
- TO REHEAT: Gently rewarm beans in a Dutch oven on the stove over medium-low heat until hot. You can also reheat this dish in the microwave.
- TO FREEZE: Store leftovers in an airtight, freezer-safe storage container in the freezer for up to 3 months. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating.
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