best baked beans with a bite

Homemade baked beans are a staple in our house. I put a crock of beans in the oven once a month. Sadly for Ralph, I’ve never made the same baked beans recipe twice. It’s too much fun trying to come up with the best recipe. I’ve made them too watery, too thick, too soft, too hard [which caused a very noisy night!], too sweet and too bland. No matter how not-the-best the beans where, Ralph kindly ate them. He’s such a good guy!

After so many attempts to find the magic, I have a pretty clear idea as to what we do and don’t like. We like our beans firm but not mushy. Italians describe this texture as ‘al dente’ – firm to the bite. The insipid texture of canned beans is probably why so many children shudder at the thought of beans and wieners! Then there’s the molasses verses tomato debate. When most people refer to homemade baked beans, they’re alluding to Boston baked beans which calls for molasses as the predominant flavour. I prefer a smoky, hot tangy tomato character rather than the sweet sticky quality created from molasses.

And so after years of trials and toots. I give you my ‘best baked beans with a bite!’

My bean of choice is the Great Northern. A large white bean with a delicate distinctive flavor. You can substitute whatever dried bean you prefer. They will need to be soaked over night in cold water then drained and rinsed before using.

I use an old bean crock that I bought at a yard sale years ago. The thick walls of the crock create a perfect environment for the beans to bake slowly and evenly. You can use either a casserole dish or an oven proof pot as long as they have a well fitted lid. You want the steam created during the baking process to re-penetrate the beans.

Remember the roasted garlic recipe that I shared last week? This is a great place to try it out. If you don’t have roasted garlic on hand, fresh minced garlic will do the trick as well! I wanted a salty, smoky zing so I chose bacon, shallots and a whole dried cayenne chili pepper to add with the tomatoes. Instead of using regular canned tomatoes, I used  passata di pomodoro which is an Italian tomato purée, which has been “passed” through a sieve to remove seeds and lumps.

 best baked beans with a bite

1 lb dried Great Northern beans

2 shallots, peeled and chopped

1 heaping tablespoon roasted garlic or 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced

1/4 lb bacon, chopped

1 1/2 cups passata di pomodoro or canned tomatoes passed through a food mill with a medium disc

1 whole dried cayenne chili

1 teaspoon sea salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

  • soak beans over night in cold water then rinse thoroughly and return drained beans to the  crock.

  • preheat oven 325*F

  • Add all other ingredients, stir well then add enough water to cover the beans by 1″

  • cover and place in preheated oven

  • check beans every 2 hours until they reach the desired texture – my beans took 5 hours

THE LOVE: don’t allow the the liquid to drop below the level of the beans. If your beans are drying out too frequently reduce the temperature of your oven by 25*. I only had to add water once near the end of the cooking time!

Thanks for reading

  • David D.

    I love baked beans and I have attempted to make them on 14 occasions. I have thrown beans out on 14 occasions. I have have soaked them, drained them, boiled them and cooked numerous recipes and EVERY time they are too hard. (kind of like molasses flavoured jelly beans) I have switched crock pots, tried stove top, and everything in between, I even cooked them for 3 days once. (I know that over cooking can make them hard, but I did keep adding water). I will try this recipe in the hopes that my never ending quest to have baked beans will finally be successful.

    • yikes! That’s a lot of pressure for that poor little recipe…lol Good luck! xo

  • Love baked beans. Hard to get the recipe right. Glad we found the best recipe!

  • Anonymous

    Baked beans bring me back to my childhood. The smell of beans baking in the oven brought five hungry kids to the table in a hurry…mmmmmmm. The added bonus was the fresh home made bread that accompanied them that immedidately got smothered in margarine (butter was too expensive). Thanks for the walk down memory lane 🙂

    • Thank you for sharing such a personal and wonderful memory!

  • JVT

    Good Morning Michelle… I am always very excited to try a new baked bean recipe. I would like to try and duplicate what looks to be a beautiful crock of baked beans pictured above. Where would I find a can of passata di pomodoro? Thank you for Bite and the mouth watering recipes & images!

    • I think that Sister’s Italian Foods might carry passata. If not, you could try the Superstore. Thank you so much for reading!

  • Hi Michelle!

    Thank you for being such an inspiration!

    here’s my gift to you!
    I’ve just nominated you for the Beautiful Blogger Award!


    • Thank you so much! I’m literally heading out the door for a little trip with my mom and daughters and won’t be back at my desk until nest week. Hope it’s OK for me to follow the rules then…

      You made my day!

      • Have a wonderful weekend with your mum & daughters!! I’m sure it’ll be a lovely girls’ time out!!



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