Boston Baked Beans

Here’s the question of the day:
When it comes to baked beans, are you a lover or a hater?

By simple virtue of the fact that I am posting a baked beans recipe, you’ll probably already guess that I’m among the lovers. There is something so classic and delicious about baked beans at a BBQ. What’s funny is that if you pulled out a big pot of baked beans and put them on the table alongside, say, manicotti or a slice of pizza, I’d probably think you are crazy and might even have a slight gag reflex going on, but man, serve them at a good old-fashioned BBQ and eat them outdoors (that’s the key!), well, then, yes, I’m definitely a lover.

This recipe is a star because thanks to a few key beginning steps (i.e. boiling in a water/baking soda solution), the beans can skip extra hours (hours!) of baking and still come out of the oven tender, creamy and absolutely packed with flavor.

A simple dish to be sure, these baked beans may just steal the show at your next BBQ (but for all that is good and lovely in the world, please don’t serve them with manicotti or pizza, people).

Boston Baked Beans

Boston Baked Beans

Yield: Serves 6

Boston Baked Beans

Note: Because liquid evaporates faster in the oven in heavy cast-iron Dutch ovens than in lighter pots, add an additional 1 1/2 cups water before cooking the beans in the oven if you are using a cast-iron Dutch oven.


  • 1 pound dried navy beans, about 2 cups, picked over and rinsed
  • 1 tablespoon baking soda
  • 6 ounces bacon, chopped
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped fine
  • 3 cups water
  • 4 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon molasses
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 teaspoon cider vinegar


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F, positioning an oven rack in the center. In a large Dutch oven or pot, bring 3 quarts water, beans and baking soda to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-high and simmer vigorously for 20 minutes. Drain the beans in a colander. Rinse the beans and set aside. Rinse the pot and return it to the stovetop.
  2. Heat the pot over medium heat and add the chopped bacon, stirring occasionally, until browned, about 6-8 minutes. Add the onion and cook until the onion is softened and translucent, about 5 minutes. Drain off bacon grease, if desired. Stir in the 3 cups water (use 4 1/2 cups if using a heavy cast-iron pot), rinsed beans, sugar, 1/4 cup molasses, Worcestershire, 1 tablespoon mustard, vinegar, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper and bring the mixture to a boil. Cover, transfer to the oven and cook until the beans are tender, about 1 1/2 hours.
  3. Remove the lid and continue to bake the beans until they are completely tender, about 30 minutes. Stir in the remaining 1 tablespoon molasses and remaining 1 teaspoon mustard. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve.

Recipe Source: adapted from Cook’s Country June/July 2011

31 Responses to Boston Baked Beans {A Quicker Version!}

  1. Lauren says:

    I made these for 4th of July, & they were a huge hit. I don’t even like beans, & I loved them! People commented, the following day, that there were zero ill effects from these beans~

  2. Diane says:

    We really loved these beans! Very easy and so good vs canned beans. I was surprised at no ketchup called for and added half a bottle of chili sauce and powdered mustard vs dijon. Really good! Thanks Mel!

  3. J says:

    Last night it was my 10yo son’s turn to make dinner. He decided on pork ‘n’ beans and scalloped potatoes (gross!). He was thinking of the Van Camp’s canned variety so I went in search of a homemade version in an effort to rescue dinner. We made these and they were delicious! They even cooked a bit faster than called out so it turned out that the beans and potatoes were done at the same time. At first my kids turned up their noses before tasting them but then they all had at least thirds and were sad when the beans were gone. It was nice to pop the beans in the oven mid afternoon and then not have to worry about them till dinner time. Thanks for another delicious recipe!

  4. Carla says:

    I can report back on crockpot results! I soaked the beans overnight and omitted the baking soda. (I also omitted the molasses–didn’t have any to hand, and added 150g of ketchup–I like a bit of a tomato-ey flavor.) They were cooked in just over 4.5 hours (on high) and I added a bit of water before serving to loosen them up a bit.

  5. Shannon says:

    I have made this recipe a couple of different times, and the flavor is really good, but they always take way longer to cook than the 20 min. simmer and then 2 hours in the oven. They are always still on the crunchy side after 2 hours and I have to keep adding water so they don’t cook dry. By the time they are done I have lost track of how much water and cooking time they are actually taking. Is it possible that I am supposed to soak the beans overnight first or something? Any other ideas what I am doing wrong? For reference, I’ve used a stoneware deep covered baker, and not a cast iron dutch oven. Could that be my problem?

    • Mel says:

      Hmmm, I’m not sure, Shannon. I think if you are having this consistent issue, it would probably be worth soaking them overnight to see if that helps. I’ll keep an eye on it next time I make them (it’s been a long time, I have to confess!).

  6. Jenn says:

    I’ve never really had much luck with beans but I made these today and they were great! And so easy too!

  7. Adrienne K says:

    Can this recipe be made with red beans?

  8. Meg says:

    What kind of molasses do you use? I don’t really know. There’s fancy and ones without sulphate…. Thanks!


    • Mel says:

      Meg – I use the everyday molasses sold in the baking aisle – usually Brier or Grandma’s (or something like that, yellow label on the jar) brand. I don’t use the blackstrap molasses which have a really, really strong flavor.

  9. Kelly says:

    Ok, so I made these in my stainless steel pot in the over. It took a lot longer then 2 hrs to bake. However, it was well worth it! I could have licked the pot clean! I’ve already made them twice for two different cookouts!

  10. Katie says:

    How would these fare made in the morning and reheated?

  11. Mel says:

    Stephanie – I’ve never tried it that way, sorry! My guess is that it might work ok since the beans are dried not canned (canned might get too soft in the crockpot). I don’t know what to recommend on time, though. If you try it, good luck and let me know how it goes!

  12. Stephanie says:

    Would I be able to cook these in the crock pot? Or, would they end up too mushy?

  13. grace says:

    oh, i’m a lover! correction: i’m a lover if they’re done properly. if i wanted mush, i’d just pop open a can of refried beans. i like a little texture and a lot of sweetness and pigginess. 🙂

  14. bdubz says:

    This is an amazing recipe! Of course, because I’m on the other side of the pond and beans are something we have for breakfast, we had them this morning with eggs and bacon 🙂

  15. I love nor hate, only like with BBQ and dipped with potato chips! My kids and hubby however love. Really easy to make homemade and good for you too!

  16. kristy says:

    Oh man, this looks really tempting. This version is quite unique. Thanks for sharing & hope you’re enjoying your day.
    Blessings, Kristy

  17. Lauren at Keep It Sweet says:

    I love baked beans and this easy version looks great!

  18. Kim in MD says:

    These baked beans look delicious, Melanie. I agree with you about when and where baked beans should be consumed! 🙂 I had no idea that heavy cast iron dutch ovens allow more moisture to escape than thin dutch ovens- I thought it would be just the opposite. Does this hold true for enamel coated cast iron dutch ovens (Le Creuset)? Leave to CI/CC to enlighten me once again! 🙂

    • Mel says:

      Kim, I know, the whole evaporation thing was news to me, too. To be honest, I’m not sure about the enamel-coated dutch ovens. I have an enamel-coated dutch oven but the one I used for the baked beans recipe was an uncoated one. Sorry I can’t be of more help! My guess is to err on the side of adding a little additional liquid because at the end, if they are still too liquidy, you could leave the pot uncovered while baking for even longer to evaporate off some of the extra liquid. (In my opinion that would be better than letting the beans dry out…do you agree?)

  19. I love baked beans but have not had very good luck with making them (beans too dry, too mushy, too crunchy)! But maybe this whole baking soda thing is the long lost trick I have been looking for!

  20. Hi Mel, I love baked beans! Homemade baked beans along the side of BBQ chicken, and coleslaw makes for a perfect BBQ! Great post. I love the recipe 🙂

  21. Liz says:

    Thank you for a good baked bean recipe! I made some recently and they were okay but I definitely want to try this one! I think I could eat hot dogs and baked beans every day of my life and be totally happy. Gross, but true.

  22. Love baked beans! Thanks for a quicker version 🙂

  23. Mel, those look so good! I’ve had a craving for baked beans and brats lately. I’m thinking it’s going to have to be on the dinner menu one night this week.
    I love how it takes less cooking time, too!

  24. I’m making a baked beans recipe for the 4th! This looks great!

  25. StephenC says:

    I love baked beans, but I have taken a vow to avoid dried ones. I just hate all the time they takes, in spite of your excellent recipe. You have inspired me however to put together a batch with canned navy beans. I think they will be swell.

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