The molasses-spiked flavor and wonderful texture of these old fashioned Baked Beans from Scratch is a real treat. A great potluck choice!
I loved a good canned bean recipe, but there’s nothing like a great big pot of baked beans from scratch. It’s the way my mom used to make them 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.
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.
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The Best Dried Beans for Baked Beans
When making baked beans from scratch, certain dried beans stand out for their flavor, texture, and ability to absorb the rich, savory flavors of the sauce. Any of the varieties listed below are a great choice for this recipe.
- Navy Beans: These small beans are the most popular choice for making homemade baked beans. They hold their shape well but become tender and creamy after a long cooking time.
- Great Northern Beans: These are the beans pictured in this post. They are slightly larger than navy beans but have a similar creamy texture.
- Pink Beans: I’ve had great success using pink beans as well. They are very similar to pinto beans in flavor and texture.
How to Soak Dried Beans
All dried beans must be soaked in advance of cooking them in a conventional oven to begin the process of softening them.
If you have the time, the overnight soak method is an easy choice. But, if you want to make and serve the beams the same day, you’ll want to opt for the quick soak method.
Overnight Soak Method
- 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-inches. 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. Drain the beans, reserving the cooking liquid.
Quick Soak Method
- Rinse and sort through the beans, place them in a large pot, and add enough water to cover them by about 2-inches. Bring to a boil then reduce the heat and simmer for 3 minutes. Remove from heat and let the beans stand for 1 hour.
- Drain and rinse the beans and return them to the pot.
- Add the same amount of fresh water and bring it to a boil once more. Then, reduce the heat and simmer for 30 to 60 minutes, or until the beans are beginning to get tender. Drain and reserve the cooking liquid.
How to Make Baked Beans From Scratch
- To the drained beans, add chopped onion, ketchup, molasses, Dijon mustard, brown sugar, apple cider vinegar, salt, pepper, and one cup of the reserved cooking liquid. Be sure to reserve any remaining cooking liquid for later.
- Tuck a ham bone (if using) down into the beans and add a bay leaf.
- Cover and bake at 300 degrees F for 4 ½ to 5 hours or until the beans are very tender and the sauce has thickened. Stir occasionally and add more of the reserved cooking liquid if needed during cooking time.
- Remove and discard bay leaf. Transfer the ham bone (if using) to a cutting board and pull off any good meat with a fork and return it to the beans. Discard the bone and fatty meat. Taste the beans and adjust the seasonings, if needed.
This recipe does not require a leftover ham bone. 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. See below for substitutions.
Tips for the Best Homemade Baked Beans
Reserve the cooking liquid: Reserving the water that the beans cooked in is a tip that I learned from my mom. The starchy water creates sauce with the best texture and flavor.
Sweetness How sweet or not sweet you like your beans is a very personal matter. Adjust the amount of sugar called for in the recipe to suit your taste. Then, taste and adjust the seasonings as needed before serving. You may need to add more salt, sweetness, or an extra splash of vinegar to suit your preferences.
Ham bone: To keep your the ham bone from your holiday ham nice and fresh until you are ready to use it, 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.
Substitutions: If you don’t have a leftover ham bone, you can substitute a ham hock purchased at the grocery store. Or omit it altogether and use cooked, crumbled bacon or a chopped ham steak for a meaty bite.
Don’t overdo the liquid: Be cautious with adding the reserved cooking liquid to avoid ending up with soupy baked beans. The sauce should be thick and cling to the beans.
Stir occasionally: Stir the baked beans occasionally during cooking to prevent sticking and ensure even cooking.
Rest before serving: Allow the baked beans to rest for a few minutes before serving, as this will help the flavors to settle and meld even further and the sauce will continue to thicken slightly.
Refrigerate: Transfer the cooled beans to an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 3 to 4 days.
Freeze: When I made this batch, I doubled the recipe and used my vacuum sealer to seal up individual packets of the leftovers. No vacuum sealer? Just transfer them to any freezer-safe container, like plastic storage bags, and freeze them for up to 3 months.
Reheating leftover baked beans: It is incredibly convenient to be able to grab vacuum sealed 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 in in a pot on the stove.
More Bean Recipes You’ll Love
My Calico Beans and Spicy Baked Beans are quick and easy canned bean recipes that I turn to over and over again for summer potlucks. Kielbasa Baked Beans are a hearty side dish or spoon them over rice for a delicious meal!
Baked Beans from Scratch
- 1 pound package dry great northern, navy, or pink beans
- Lots of water
- 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
- 1 cup ketchup
- ⅓ cup brown sugar, packed (see notes below)
- ⅓ cup molasses
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- 1 ½ teaspoons salt, plus additional if desired
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus additional if desired
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 meaty ham bone, omit if using bacon (see notes below)
- 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-inches. 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 and sort through the beans, place them in a large pot, and add enough water to cover them by about 2-inches. Bring to a boil then reduce the heat and simmer for 3 minutes. Remove from heat and let the beans stand for 1 hour. Drain and rinse the beans and return them to the pot. Add the same amount of fresh water and bring it to a boil once more. Then, reduce the heat and simmer for 30 to 60 minutes, or until the beans are beginning to get tender. Drain and reserve the cooking liquid.
To Cook The Soaked Beans
- Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.
- In a large oven safe pot, Dutch oven or baking dish, combine the soaked beans, 1 cup cooking liquid, onion, ketchup, brown sugar, molasses, mustard, apple cider vinegar, salt, 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 for 4 ½ to 5 hours or until the beans are very tender and sauce has thickened to desired consistency. Stir occasionally and add more of the reserved cooking liquid if needed during the cooking time.
- At end of cooking time remove and discard bay leaf. Transfer the ham bone (if using) to a cutting board and pull off any good meat with a fork and return it to the beans. Discard the bone and fatty meat. Taste beans adjust seasonings, if needed.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated using generic ingredients, and is an estimate not a guarantee. For more accurate results, please refer to the labels on your ingredients at home.