The Best Baked Beans

In the South, you can’t help but eat baked beans once a week between April and December. The dish is at every event from ballgames to baby showers. Everyone has a different family recipe and the flavors can range from extremely sweet to extra spicy.

I’ve developed a recipe that strikes the right balance between spicy and sweet and has an earthy flavor that sets it apart.

Here’s everything you need:

Chad’s BBQ Baked Beans

  • 1 53 oz can Van Camp’s Pork & Beans (with 1 cup of liquid removed)
  • 1 14.5 oz can Cannellini Beans (a.k.a. Great White Northern Beans), drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 pound Bacon, diced
  • 1 large Bell Pepper, diced
  • 1 medium Onion (red or yellow or both), diced
  • 5 cloves Garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup Ketchup
  • 1/2 cup Light Brown Sugar (packed)
  • 3 tablespoons Worcestershire Sauce (I usually buy low sodium)
  • 2 tablespoons Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons Ancho Chile Powder
  • 1 teaspoon Smoked Spanish Paprika
  • Salt & Pepper to taste

Lots of people start their recipes with cans of Bush’s baked beans, but I think that makes it hard to control the sweetness of the sauce. Van Camp’s is tomato-based and very mild-flavored, so it makes a better base. Let the can settle for a while so all the solids sink to the bottom. Open the can and scoop out 1 cup of the liquid. Next, drain and rinse the cannellini beans. They have a meatier taste than navy beans and add a white-ish color to the dish. Then chop the bell pepper, onions and garlic.

Chop the bacon and cook it over medium-high heat in a dutch oven until crisp. Remove the cooked bacon pieces and let them drain on a paper towel.

Pour off all but a few tablespoons of the bacon fat and return the pot to the stove top. Add the chopped pepper, onion and garlic and a pinch of salt. Cook them until their juices evaporate and they start to brown around the edges. All you’re doing is getting rid of the excess moisture and cooking the raw taste out of the medley.

Next, mix the sauce ingredients (ketchup, worcestershire, sugar, vinegar, chili powder, paprika) in a separate bowl. Make sure to break up any lumps. If you wanted to use this mixture as a base for a Midwestern-style barbecue sauce, you’d just have to thin it with water and bourbon, add a little mustard powder, and simmer it until the sugar melts and the spices mellow.

When the onion mixture is finished cooking, add the beans and sauce to the pot. Simmer on low with the top off for about an hour. When you’re ready to serve, mix the bacon pieces back into the pot.

I usually make this dish a day early. An hour before my guests are supposed to arrive, I pop it into a 375° oven for 30 minutes covered, then remove the lid for another 30 minutes to let the sauce thicken. Add the cooked bacon at the 30-minute mark and mix well

People rave about this recipe.

The Best Baked Beans
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2 thoughts on “The Best Baked Beans

  • May 21, 2012 at 1:10 pm

    I got RAVE reviews from your recipe that I made for a Ladies Retreat!!!! They were getting 3rds and 4th servings. They even asked for it the next day!!!!

    I had already purchased before I found your recipe so I did not use the Cannellini Beans and I doubled the rest of the ingredients. I did not have the Ancho Chile Powder on hand so I substituted the 2 tablespoons Chile Powder with 1 Tbsp of Chipotle Chile Powder.

    Great recipe Chad! Thanks for sharing!

  • May 21, 2012 at 1:41 pm

    I’m glad you liked it, Annie. The cannellini beans are mostly there for color, so you didn’t miss much. For anyone else out there who doesn’t have ancho chili powder (dried and pulverized poblanos), you can just substitute regular chili powder and add a dash of cayenne pepper to simulate the taste.

    If you like southern picnic food, you might also want to try these recipes:


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