The Very Best Boston Baked Beans Recipe
The Best Boston Baked Beans recipe is as close to tradition as it gets. Layers of beans, salt pork, onions and tangy sauce are baked until soft, bubbling and perfect. Simple and amazing.
Summer parties and potlucks were a regular occurrence when I was growing up. I think it was more of an excuse for the adults to get together and drink while the kids babysat each other. At least that’s what’s happening now that I’m older.
Food was always the highlight of any gathering and everyone had THEIR dish that they consistently brought to the party. From potato salad to my favorite Strawberry Pretzel Salad Dessert, the staples were always represented time and time again. Especially the BEST Boston Baked Beans recipe ever.
I had forgotten about Boston Baked Beans for years until recently when I was cleaning out my recipe box. There, inside the little file folders, were all my relatives favorite recipes. Tucked away and categorized by course, I flipped through the cards like a trip through memory lane until I found the baked beans I remembered from long ago.
Now, don’t get me wrong….I HAVE made baked beans in the past few years but I made THESE baked beans which take much less time because there’s no presoaking and I added bacon. But they’re just not the same as a traditional Boston Baked Bean recipe because the flavors in a slow cooked baked bean recipe are nothing short of magical. And because the beans are not from a can, the flavor is much more pronounced with each and every bite.
Also, since you’re starting with dry beans….the beans tend to hold up much better and don’t become mushy like in most baked bean recipes. They beans in Boston Baked Beans have a little bite to them and don’t dissolve in the sauce. They’re hearty, sticky sweet and totally addicting.
They do take a bit of time to bake but, as with many slow cooked recipes, your time will be rewarded with each and every single bite you take. You may never buy canned baked beans again. Ever.
What are Boston Baked Beans?
You may know that Boston is also called “Bean Town” and it’s actually the result of a publicity stunt….not because they corner the bean market. BUT Boston Baked Beans did originate in Boston and are, basically, navy beans that are combined with onions, salt pork and a sweet, molasses based sauce. Stewed for hours, these beans are the OG of baked beans.
How to Make Boston Baked Beans
Old Fashioned Boston Baked Beans are cooked slowly, more like a braise than a bake, to extract maximum flavor from the simple ingredients used in the recipe. You can certainly make a quick Boston Baked Beans recipe using canned beans but trust me when I say….you must at least try the traditional recipe once in your life. You won’t open canned Baked Beans ever again.
Here’s how to make them:
- Soak your navy beans overnight. Rinse and discard the liquid.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Stir together the molasses, brown sugar, ground mustard, garlic powder, salt, ground cloves, and pepper.
- In the bottom of a heatproof casserole or bean pot, layer 1/3 of the onion and 1/3 the salt pork.
- Spoon half the beans over the onion and salt pork in an even layer and pour half the sauce over the beans.
- Add another layer 1/3 of the onions, 1/3 of the salt pork, the remaining beans and cover with the sauce.
- Arrange the remaining onion and salt pork on top of the beans.
- Cover and bake for 2 hours. Uncover and continue to bake for an additional hour or until the liquid has started to thicken.
The sauce for Boston Baked Beans is a little looser than most baked bean recipes I’m used to. If you want to thicken the sauce for your beans you can remove 1 cup of the sauce from the cooked beans. Create a slurry with 2 tablespoons cornstarch and 2 tablespoons cold water. Stir the slurry into the reserved cup of sauce until smooth and then return the thickened sauce to the beans. Stir them all together and allow to sit for 10-15 minutes. The sauce will begin to thicken as the beans cool a bit.
What is Salt Pork
Salt Pork is a salt cured pork usually from the pork belly and has a high fat content. It is used in traditional baked bean recipes and to flavor water for cooking vegetables, as with greens in southern cooking.
Because of it’s high fat content and excess saltiness, you can actually use less salt pork than other types of meats without sacrificing flavor. This is one of those times when Less is More.
It is generally cooked or seared before using. However, since we are braising our beans for a long period of time, I skipped the precooking of my salt pork and just chopped it into bite size pieces to toss into the dish. This is one of those times when laziness prevails.
Can I substitute bacon for salt pork?
You can definitely substitute bacon for salt pork but just be sure to use a very thick sliced bacon or it will just melt into the sauce due to the long cooking time.
What to Serve with Boston Baked Beans
I love to serve these alongside any type of barbecue because they cut the sweetness of the sauce so well.
But here are a few more reader favorites:
- Baked BBQ Chicken Thighs
- Carolina Style BBQ Chicken
- Best Ever Pulled Pork Sandwiches
- Sweet and Spicy Ribs
- Super Easy Rotisserie Style Chicken
MORE EASY SIDE DISHES
- Sauteed Green Beans with Everything Spice
- Asian Ramen Noodle Salad
- Traditional Greek Salad Recipe
- Old Fashioned Potato Salad
- BEST EVER Cole Slaw
- Easy Broccoli Salad with Bacon
The Very Best Boston Baked Beans Recipe
The perfect potluck dish, Boston Baked Beans are hearty, sticky sweet and addicting. So simple to make.
- 1 pound dried navy beans
- 1/2 pound salt pork diced
- 1 large onion cut into 1/2 inch slices
- 3/4 cup light brown sugar
- 1/2 cup molasses
- 1 tbsp ground mustard
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1/2 tsp ground cloves
- 1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper
Place the beans in a bowl and cover with water to about 2 inches above the beans. Soak overnight.
Drain and rinse the beans. Discard the soaking liquid.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a small bowl, stir together the sugar, molasses, mustard, salt, cloves and pepper. Set aside.
In the bottom of an ovenproof casserole dish or bean pot, layer 1/3 of the onions and 1/3 of the salt pork.
Top the onions with 1/2 the beans and arrange in an even layer.
Pour half the sauce over the beans. Layer another 1/3 of the onions and 1/3 of the salt pork on top of the sauce.
Top with the remaining beans and pour the rest of the sauce on top of the beans.
Arrange the remaining onions and salt pork on top of the beans. Cover and transfer to the oven for 2 hours.
Uncover the beans and continue cooking for an additional hour.
Allow the beans to stand at room temperature for 15 minutes before serving. Sauce with thicken slightly upon standing.
To thicken sauce, remove 1 cup of the sauce from the beans. In a small bowl, whisk together 2 tablespoons cornstarch with 2 tablespoons cold water until smooth. Stir the cornstarch mixture into the sauce and then pour the thickened sauce back into the beans.
Stir the beans to combine and allow the beans to sit for 10 minutes until the sauce begins to thicken.