Although I have a couple of very good recipes for baked beans that call for the canned variety, there’s nothing like a great big pot of baked beans from scratch. It’s the way my mom used to do it and that distinctive slow-cooked, molasses spiked taste takes me straight back to my family dinner table. There’s a little more labor involved and definitely more time is required but the effort is so worth it.
When I made this batch, I doubled the recipe and used my vacuum sealer to seal up individual packets of the leftovers. It is incredibly convenient to be able to grab those packets straight from the freezer to add to our dinner menu at the last minute. Just run them under warm water for a few minutes, snip open the packets, and finish warming them in the microwave. I think they are almost even better on the reheat.
There are several varieties of dried beans that I like to use when I make beans from scratch. The beans you see above are great northern beans but I’ve also had great success with navy or pink beans.
Start by rinsing the beans with cool water and picking out any pebbles or debris (if any). Transfer the beans to a large Dutch oven and cover with cold water by about 2″. Cover the pot and let it sit overnight. The next day, drain the beans and cover with the same amount of fresh water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low, cover the pot, and let the beans simmer for 1 hour.
I’ve included two methods for prepping the beans on the printable recipe below. I’m describing the old school, overnight method here but if you want to make and serve them the same day, you’ll want to opt for the quick soak method.
Drain the beans, reserving the cooking liquid.
To the drained beans, add chopped onion, ketchup, molasses, Dijon mustard, brown sugar, salt, pepper, and one cup of the cooking liquid; reserving the rest. For the precise measurements, see recipe below.
If you happen to have a ham bone on hand, it goes in now. This recipe does not require a ham bone. Most of the time that I make these, I substitute cooked, crumbled bacon but when I bake a ham for the holidays I use it as an excuse to make a batch of baked beans the following day. Here is a great tip to remember if you are not in the mood to cook a pot of baked beans the day after a ham holiday. Wrap the ham bone, with meat attached, tightly with plastic wrap and then with heavy duty foil or, even better, vacuum seal it. Pop it in the freezer and next time you’re ready to cook some beans, just thaw it out and you’re ready to go.
Tuck that ham bone (if using) down into the beans and add a bay leaf.
Cook, covered, in a 300 degree oven for a long, long time. I did these for about 4-1/2 hours. They are ready when the beans are very tender and the sauce has thickened to your liking. You should check them periodically while they cook and add additional cooking liquid if necessary to be sure they have a nice, saucy consistency.
Remove the pot from the oven and transfer the ham bone to a cutting board. Much of the meat will have come off the bone and be left behind in the beans, which is precisely what we want. Pull of the remaining meat and cut it up into small bite-sized pieces. If there are any larger pieces in the beans, you can remove those and chop them as well.
Transfer the chopped ham back to the beans and you are ready to serve.
Trust me, anyone who has been in or near your house while these are cooking will be waiting anxiously to eat them. Beans from scratch cooking in the oven make your house smell incredible.
Baked Beans from Scratch
- 1 1 pound package dry great northern, navy, or pink beans
- Lots of water
- 1 medium onion chopped
- 1 cup ketchup
- 1/2 cup brown sugar packed
- 1/3 cup molasses
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 2 teaspoons salt plus additional if desired
- 1 teaspoon fresh ground pepper plus additional if desired
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 meaty ham bone omit if using bacon
- 4 slices thick-sliced bacon cooked and crumbled (omit for ham bone)
Overnight Soak Method:
- Rinse and pick through beans removing any small pebbles or debris. Transfer beans to a large pot and pour in enough water to cover by about 2". Cover the pot and let the beans soak overnight.
- The next day, drain the beans and cover with the same amount of fresh water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low, cover the pot, and let simmer for 1 hour. Drain beans, reserving liquid.
Quick Soak Method:
- Rinse beans; place in a large pot and add enough water to cover by about 2". Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer for 3 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand for 1 hour. Drain and rinse. Return beans to pot and add same amount of fresh water; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer for 1 hour or until beans are tender. Drain, reserving cooking liquid.
To Cook The Soaked Beans:
- In a large oven safe pot, Dutch oven or baking dish, combine soaked beans, 1 cup cooking liquid, onion, ketchup, brown sugar, molasses, salt, mustard, pepper, bay leaf, and bacon (only add bacon if not using ham bone). Mix well. If using ham bone, tuck it into the beans. Cover and bake at 300 degrees for 4-1/2 to 5 hours or until beans are very tender and sauce has thickened to desired consistency. Stir occasionally and add more of the reserved cooking liquid if needed during cooking time.
- At end of cooking time remove and discard bay leaf. Remove ham bone (if using) to a cutting board and pull off any good meat with a fork and return it to the beans. Discard bone and fatty meat. Taste beans and season with additional salt and pepper, if needed.
If you are looking for a quicker method with a delicious result, you’ll want to check out my two favorite recipes for baked beans made with canned beans.
Ryan’s Favorite Beans – substantial, beefy, and delicious. A long running family favorite.
Spicy Baked Beans – baked beans with a kick! These beans have just the right amount of sweetness and a great smokey flavor.