How to Make Authentic Boston Baked Beans in 3 EASY Steps & VIDEO

No family gathering, backyard BBQ, or pot luck is complete without a batch of these tender and creamy baked beans. These homemade Boston Baked Beans have a sweet and tangy molasses sauce that’s fabulous with brats, hot dogs, hamburgers, smoked meats, and BBQ. This recipe comes together in just 3 simple steps and makes enough to feed a crowd!

A bowl of boston baked beans with sausages

I’m probably biased, but this is absolutely the best-baked beans recipe. In fact, I’m going to say right now that canned beans like Heinz or Bush’s Baked Beans have nothing on scratch-made baked beans fresh from the oven (or crockpot).

My inner circle of family and friends know that summer cook-outs and family gatherings are just not the same without a crock of scratch-made baked beans at the ready. These beans bring a smile to your face and evoke fond food memories.

As a former New Englander, I will give you bonus points if you have a ceramic bean pot or crock. I have my mother’s bean crock which has been handed down to me with all the nostalgia it brings, but if you do not have a bean crock, all is not lost – a Dutch oven [paid link] or slow cooker [paid link] will work just as well. I’ve included instructions on the recipe card for the different cooking vessels.

An overhead photo of a bowl of Baked Beans with sausages.

While other bean recipes may include honey, sorghum, ketchup, jalapenos, BBQ sauce, and Worcestershire sauce – those are not a traditional New England style baked bean. Those bean recipes have a mid-western flare.

Did you know Boston baked beans date back to Colonial America? The original recipe used ingredients readily available to the Boston colonists. Molasses were originally brought from the Caribbean as a bi-product of distilling rum so molasses were readily available to the colonists.
 Want the secret to making perfectly tender baked beans each and every time? I’m about to show you how!

Do I Have to Soak the Dried Beans?

For this application, the short answer is yes. Since we are slow cooking the beans over low heat, soaking the beans is optimal for a shortened cooking time. Starting with un-soaked beans adds an additional 4-6 hours to the slow cook time. This increases the cooking time from 5 or 6 hours to about 10 – 12 hours

  • Overnight soak – Place beans in a large bowl and cover with water. The water should reach at least 2 inches over the top of the beans. Allow to soak overnight or at least 8 hours. Retain the soaking liquid for cooking.
  • Quick Soak – For a quick soak, pour the dry beans into a pot and cover the beans with cold water. Place the pan on the stove over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Once the water boils, turn off the stove, and allow the beans to soak in the hot water for 1.5 hours. Retain the soaking liquid for cooking.
An image of navy beans after they have been soaked overnight in water.

Should I use freshwater or the soaking liquid for cooking my baked beans?

Both freshwater and the soaking water will produce tender baked beans. The beans cooked in the soaking liquid are much more flavorful, have a darker color, and the sauce thickened more easily.
Retain the soaking liquid for more colorful, flavorful beans with a thicker bean broth.

Boston Baked Beans Ingredients

Variations of Boston Baked Beans:

Baked beans with bacon (recipe) and Beenie Weenies are great variations on this pork and beans recipe that typically starts with salt pork as it’s meaty flavoring.

  • Salt pork – a piece of salt-cured pork belly. It’s most commonly used in Boston Baked Beans, pork and beans, and some soul-food like braised collard greens. If you use salt pork, decrease the amount of salt in the recipe by half and adjust according to your own tastes.
  • Bacon ends– These are the leftover ends from sliced slab bacon for seasoning or rendering into lard and bacon bits. These work well as a substitute for salt pork in baked beans. These are not as salty as salt pork. Adjust the salt level according to your own tastes.
  • Beanie Weenies – also called Franks and Beans or Franks n Beans. This dish is similar to pork and beans but adds sliced hot dogs instead of bacon ends or salt pork. Adjust salt in the recipe accordingly.

What Ingredients do I need for Boston Baked Beans?

  • Dried white beans like Navy beans or Great Northern – I prefer Navy beans for their size. Larger beans like great northern and white kidney beans take a little longer to cook. [See Note 2]
  • Molasses – a sweetener traditional to Boston. Unlike maple syrup or sorghum syrup, molasses was readily available to the Boston colonists making it the obvious choice in sweeteners. [See Note 3]
  • Ground mustard powder – may substitute with prepared yellow mustard. [See Note 4]
  • Dark brown sugar  – may substitute light brown sugar. [See Note 5]
  • Salt pork or bacon – salt pork is the most traditional option, but bacon, hot dogs, or sausages may be substituted. [See Note 6]
  • Salt – Beans cooked with salt are more flavorful. The amount will depend on the use of salt pork vs the other pork products and individual tastes. [See Note 7]
  • Ground black pepper – freshly cracked black pepper offers the most flavor but ground black pepper may also be used.
  • Onion – Sweet or yellow may be used. Diced finely so they blend into the thickened sauce.
  • Reserved soaking water – the reserved liquid is best for flavor, color, and broth thickness but fresh water may also be used. [See Note 8]

How to Thicken Baked Beans

Beans themselves are starchy and act as a natural thickener for the sauce.  Sometimes, however, the beans can be a little too thin at the end of the cooking time. This is especially true with slow cooker [paid link] baked beans where the cooking liquid is not lost during cooking.

If the beans are tender, but the liquid is not thick enough, you can:

  • Remove 1 cup of beans, mash them with a fork, return them to the pot, and stir to combine. The starch in the beans will act as a natural thickener.
  • Make a slurry of 2 tablespoons of cornstarch and 2 tablespoons of cold water. Whisk [paid link] the cornstarch so that it’s smooth and then stir it into the beans. The heat in the pot will thicken the cornstarch. This is a great gluten-free alternative to flour.
  • Use 2 tablespoons flour mixed with 1/4 cup cold water for each cup of liquid to be thickened. Thoroughly mix the water and flour to prevent lumps. After stirring the combined flour and water into the sauce, cook another 10 minutes until thickened.

If the beans become too thick, use some water or chicken stock to thin them back out to the desired consistency.

What to Serve with Boston Baked Beans

The list of what main dishes baked beans compliments is long. Here are a few of my favorites:

  • Homemade linguica – Portuguese mild sausage
  • Boston Brown Bread
  • Crock Pot Brats for a Crowd
  • Easy Country-Style Oven Baked Pork Ribs Recipe
An image of linguica, Portuguese smoked sausage. Homemade linguica – Portuguese Mild Sausage
A grilled bratwurst in a soft bun topped with a zig-zag of spicy brown mustard. Crock Pot Beer Brats for a Crowd
Boston Brown Bread also called Molasses Bread is a very traditional recipe dating back to Colonial times. Boston Brown Bread
Easy Country-Style Oven Baked Pork Ribs Recipe Easy Country-Style Oven Baked Pork Ribs Recipe
KD Email Graphic
Slow Cooker Baked Beans Boston Baked Beans 2

Boston Baked Beans Recipe – Slow Cooker or Dutch Oven

Ronda Eagle | Kitchen Dreaming
Tender and creamy navy beans in a sweet and tangy molasses sauce typical of New England. These homemade Boston baked beans are a true comfort food. Slow cooker and Dutch oven instructions included. This recipe requires a 6-qt slow cooker.
4.82 from 11 votes
Prep Time 12 hrs
Cook Time 6 hrs
Course Side Dish
Cuisine American
Servings 16
Calories 409 kcal

Equipment

  • 6 qt CrockPot or Slow Cooker OR
  • Clay Bean pot or Dutch Oven

Ingredients
  

  • 2 pounds Dried white beans [See Note 2]
  • 1/2 cup Molasses [See Note 3]
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon Dry mustard [See Note 4]
  • 1/2 cup Dark-brown sugar [See Note 5]
  • 12 ounces Salt pork [See Note 6]
  • 2 teaspoons Salt More or less to taste, [See Note 7]
  • 1/2 teaspoon Ground black pepper
  • 1 cup Onion , finely diced
  • 5 cups Water (reserved from bean soaking) [See Note 8]

Instructions
 

  • Soak the Beans:
    Soaking the beans is optimal for a shortened cooking time. Starting with un-soaked beans adds an additional 4-6 hours to the slow cook time. This increases the cooking time from 5 – 6 hours to about 10 – 12 hours. [See Note 1]
    Overnight soak – Place beans in a large bowl and cover with water. The water should reach at least 2 inches over the top of the beans. Allow to soak overnight or at least 8 hours. Retain the soaking liquid for cooking.
    Quick Soak – For a quick soak, pour the dry beans into a pot and cover the beans with cold water. Place the pan on the stove over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Once the water boils, turn off the stove, and allow the beans to soak in the hot water for 1.5 hours. Retain the soaking liquid for cooking.
    Make sure the water level is at least 2 or 3 inches above the bean level to allow for absorption. Reserving the soaking liquid [See Note 8], drain beans in a colander and remove any debris, discolored beans or empty shells. Soaking overnight greatly reduces the cooking time required.
  • Prepare the Beans in either a crock, Dutch oven, or Slow Cooker insert:
    Score the salt pork 1/4 inch deep 1 inch apart, and slice into two even pieces. Transfer to the bottom of the cooking vessel.
    Combine molasses, mustard, brown sugar, salt, pepper, onions and 5 cups soaking liquid.
    Add the pre-soaked beans. Pour the molasses mixture over beans, stir, and cover. The liquid should cover the beans by 1/2 inch. Add more water if necessary.

Cook the Beans

  • By Dutch oven or Clay Beanpot:
    Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.
    Transfer beans into the Dutch oven or Clay Bean pot and bake covered until the beans are tender and the liquid has thickened – about 6 hours.
    Check the beans every 45 minutes, adding more hot water if necessary to keep beans in broth at all times.
    For the last 50 to 60 minutes of cooking, uncover the beans to thicken the sauce. At this stage, if you are having hot dogs or sausages with your beans, you can add them into the pot to heat inside with the beans, optional.
    Once the beans are to your desired tenderness, remove from oven, adjust the seasoning with salt, pepper, and molasses, if necessary. Since Navy beans are relatively high in starch, the sauce will thicken slightly as it cools.
    If the beans do not thicken enough, See Recipe Note 9 for thickening the beans.
    If the beans become too thick, add a splash or water of chicken stock and thin to desired consistency.
  • By Slow Cooker: Soak the beans overnight and drain per step 1. Add all the ingredients into the slow cooker and stir to combine per Recipe Steps 3 & 4.
    Cover and cook on LOW for 8 to 10 hours or HIGH 5-6 hours, stirring occasionally and checking for tenderness.
    Taste and adjust molasses, salt, and other seasonings.
    The sauce will thicken as it cools. If the beans do not thicken enough, See Recipe Note 9 for thickening the beans.
    If the beans become too thick, add a splash of water of chicken stock and thin to desired consistency.

Video

Notes

  1. Both fresh water and the soaking water will produce tender baked beans.  Retain the soaking liquid for more colorful, flavorful beans with a thicker bean broth.
  2. Dried white beans like Navy beans or Great Northern – I prefer Navy beans for their size. Larger beans like great northern and white kidney beans take a little longer to cook.
  3. Molasses – a sweetener traditional to Boston. Unlike maple syrup or sorghum syrup, molasses was readily available to the Boston colonists making it the obvious choice in sweeteners.
  4. Ground mustard powderIn most cases you can use 1 tablespoon of prepared yellow mustard in place of 1 teaspoon dried ground mustard. In this recipe, you would need to substitute 4 tablespoons of prepared yellow mustard for the ground mustard. Ground mustard is also called powdered mustard, mustard powder or mustard flour.
  5. Dark brown sugar – The difference between the light brown sugar and dark brown sugar is just the amount of molasses added to each. Dark brown sugar has more molasses. For this recipe, light and dark brown sugar can be used interchangeably. If desired, adjust for the use of light brown sugar by adding an extra tablespoon of molasses to the pot.
  6. Salt pork or bacon – Baked beans with bacon (recipe) and Beenie Weenies are great variations on this pork and beans recipe that typically starts with salt pork as it’s meaty flavoring.
    1. Salt porka piece of salt-cured pork belly. It’s most commonly used in Boston Baked Beans, pork and beans, and some soul-food like braised collard greens. If you use salt pork, decrease the amount of salt in the recipe by half and adjust accoring to your own tastes.
    2. Bacon endsThese are the leftover ends from sliced slab bacon for seasoning or rendering into lard and bacon bits. These work well as a substitute for salt pork in baked beans. These are not as salty as salt pork. Adjust the salt level according to your own tastes.
    3. Beanie Weeniesalso called Franks and Beans or Franks n Beans. This dish is similar to pork and beans, but adds sliced hot dogs instead of bacon ends or salt pork. Adjust salt in the recipe accordingly.
  7. Salt – Beans cooked with salt are more flavorful. The amount will depend on the use of salt pork vs the other pork products and individual tastes. Start with a minimum amount of salt and increase to your desired level. Typically, 2-pounds of beans start with about 1 tablespoon of salt. However, this can be too salty when using salt pork. Start with less and you can always add more.
  8. Reserved soaking water – the reserved liquid is best for flavor, color, and broth thickness but fresh water may also be used.
  9. How to Thicken Baked Beans if they are too watery:
    1. Remove 1 cup of beans, mash them with a fork, return them to the pot, and stir to combine. The starch in the beans will act as a natural thickener.
    2. Make a slurry of 2 tablespoons of cornstarch and 2 tablespoons of cold water. Whisk the cornstarch so that it’s smooth and then stir it into the beans. The heat in the pot will thicken the cornstarch. This is a great gluten-free alternative to flour.
    3. Use 2 tablespoons flour mixed with 1/4 cup cold water for each cup of liquid to be thickened. Thoroughly mix the water and flour to prevent lumps. After stirring the combined flour and water into the sauce, cook another 10 minutes until thickened.
    4. Beans themselves are starchy and act as a natural thickener for the sauce.  Sometimes, however, the beans can be a little too thin at the end of the cooking time. This is especially true with slow cooker baked beans where the cooking liquid is not lost during cooking.

Nutrition

Serving: 0.5cupCalories: 409kcalCarbohydrates: 49gProtein: 14gFat: 17gSaturated Fat: 6gCholesterol: 18mgSodium: 876mgPotassium: 1208mgFiber: 8gSugar: 16gVitamin C: 0.5mgCalcium: 167mgIron: 6.6mg
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

43 thoughts on “How to Make Authentic Boston Baked Beans in 3 EASY Steps & VIDEO”

  1. Hi, If I choose to skip soaking and opt to cook in Dutch oven with dry beans, is the water used to start with the same?

    Reply
    • Hi Philip,

      I have never tried this method but the beans will soak up liquid as they cook but also this will add time onto the cooking time. You would have to plan on extra hours in the oven and also to add extra water throughout the cooking time. I cannot say how long or how much since I have not tried this variation.

      Reply
  2. Sorry, But Have to be honest….Beans were bitter, and the cooking time is waay off. Followed the recipe exactly, but after 8 hours on high in the crockpot, beans were still hard, and sauce watery. Beans soaked overnight for 14 hours. Had to transfer to a dutch oven after 8 hours on high. Beans still too firm, and the flavour was very bitter, and not at all enjoyable by any means.No problems with my crockpot with any other recipes. I’m 69 and have cooked baked beans many times before. Thought I would try this recipe, but would not recommend. Sorry, but have to tell it like it is.

    Reply
      • Jan 1st. The giant crock pot turned on at 12 noon yesterday. At 1:15 my city had a massive outage so there the crock sat till 4 pm. By midnight the beans were still smaller than I thought they should be, not soft and tender and a bit grainy to the chew. I left the pot on low all night. It is now 9:15 Jan. 2 and the pot has been on all night. The beans are still a bit grainy. Will this 2 lb. Boston Baked Bean batch ever be edible? It does taste delicious. Thanks for your help. Ruth

        Reply
  3. I’m trying your recipe and can’t wait to try eat these beans. Unfortunately, I don’t have a dutch oven so I’m using my crock pot insert in the oven and using a stone cookie sheet to cover it (as mom says, ‘necessity is the mother of invention’). Question: Should I stir the beans when checking for liquid amounts or just pour the extra hot water in if it seems like there isn’t enough water during cooking? Thanks!

    Reply
  4. Just discovered your site and I love it! I tried the jerk recipe just for the rub and it was amazing and comes very close to what I thought jerk seasoning should taste. I want to try all your recipes including this baked bean recipe. What type of molasses is used? There’s a black strap molasses and fancy molasses in the supermarket where I shop. Thanks

    Reply
    • Hi Shirley
      No fancy molasses needed unless you’ve been wanting to give that brand a try! I use the regular “grandma’s” brand molasses that’s available here in my grocery but any molasses will work. I’m so glad you liked the jerk seasoning. :) Let me know if I can help in any other way!

      Reply
  5. Did I miss the instructions for how to bake in a bean pot? Do i keep the lid on or off, same as dutch oven? Panic ensues!!!

    Reply
  6. This recipe is wonderful! My question is, I have already soaked the beans as I have much to do before wednesday, tomorrow. Can I do the water, molasses sauce part today and keep it in the fridge and reheat tomorrow and place in oven? Or, can these beans be made 9vernight tonight and reheated tomorrow? Will I need to add a bit of hot water to loosen them up a bit? I don’t want them to be pasty. I always layer my beans with diced onion, apple and lean bacon. Isn’t cooking such a labor of love? Ahhhhhh

    Thank you for a reply.

    Reply
    • Hi Kim,
      Honestly, I’ve never made them overnight and I’d hate for them to dry out while you were sleeping. As for adding the molasses mixture and refrigerating overnight, I fear the beans would soak up all the liquid and become very soft with little to no color.
      I think if you covered the beans in a bowl “dry” and combined the two tomorrow and baked would be the safest bet for taste and texture.

      I wish I could be of mote help. Enjoy your beans. I hope you like them.

      Reply
  7. I made this but that is too much salt. I think that 2 tsp (1/2 of what is listed) would be plenty.
    Otherwise the beans were delicious and easy to make. I made them in the oven… next time I’m trying the crockpot

    Reply
  8. Just like grandma used to make. My mom never made them from scratch but I am returning our family to scratch cooking like my grandma made and this is an excellent recipe! thanks so much.

    Reply
    • Hi Laura,
      I have never made these baked beans from scratch in the slow cooker/crockpot though it can be done. If you want to cook them in the slow cooker, soak the beans overnight and drain, add all the ingredients into the slow cooker and stir to combine. Then cover, and cook on LOW for 8 to 10 hours, stirring occasionally and checking for tenderness. I have added these notes to the recipe. Thanks for taking the time to ask. I hope you enjoy them.

      Reply
  9. Hi wondering how many people does your traditional bean recipe serve? I’m having a group of 12 for dinner. We will also be serving brisket, coleslaw and cornbread. The party is tomorrow and I’m not sure if I should increase the the ingredients in the recipe or not! Help!!

    Reply
    • Hi Alison,
      I believe along with your brisket and sides that this recipe should be able to easily feed 12 people. As a rule, we generally figure between 1/2 cup to 1 cup per person. According to the California Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom, a one-pound bag of dried beans provides 10 servings of 1/2 cup of cooked beans.
      Hope this helps and that your brisket dinner is a success. It sure sounds delicious.

      Reply
  10. You have got interesting posts here. I love Boston Baked Beans! I don’t have a crock like that though — can I make them in another dish instead?

    Reply

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