The molasses-spiked flavor and wonderful texture of these old fashioned Baked Beans from Scratch is a real treat. A great potluck choice!
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.
How to Make Baked Beans From Scratch
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.
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.
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.
To learn how to pressure cook your beans to perfection, check out my recipe for Instant Pot Baked Beans and Instant Pot Mexican Pinto Beans.
Baked Beans from Scratch
- 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
- 1 1/2 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.
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.
If you are looking for a quicker method with a delicious result, you’ll want to check out my favorite recipes for baked beans made with canned beans.
Ryan’s Favorite Beans – substantial, beefy, and delicious. A long running family favorite.
Kielbasa Baked Beans – Delicious as a hearty side dish or spoon them over rice for a delicious meal!
Spicy Baked Beans – baked beans with a kick! These beans have just the right amount of sweetness and a great smoky flavor.
Questions and Reviews
Excellent! Never did baked beans from scratch, but there’s no going back now. We use the overnight soak method and the bacon.. Just some minor changes after the first time to suit our tastes – we reduced the ketchup to 1/2 cup, softened the onions in the microwave, and simmered the beans for an hour and 20 minutes. We found the 1 cup of liquid to be just right, although they do thicken up for leftovers. Thank you!
Is there a substitute for the molasses?
Molasses adds a distinctive flavor to baked beans but common subs are honey, maple syrup, or dark brown sugar. All of theses are sweeter than molasses though so I’d be careful on the amount.
I doubled this recipe using Great Northern beans, used 8 thick slices bacon (no hambone), added 15 oz can of yams (mashed) for thickness and sweetness, only 2 tsp salt. Next time I will leave out the brown sugar to lower sweetness. I’m thinking I’d rather use a couple of medium size ham hocks but cost prohibitve for me. This food is solid gold American heritage that my Chinese wife loved and our youngest who was very food picky in her pre-teens. Thanks a bunch Valerie.
Can I cook baked beans in the new pressure coke crock pots
Check out my recipe for Instant Pot Baked Beans for pressure cooker directions.
Can I put the beans in sealed jars to use at a later date?
Hi Jennifer. You should promptly refrigerate any leftovers and use them within 3 to 4 days. For longer storage, I recommend transferring the beans to freezer-safe containers and freezing them.
Delightful recipe. I used slightly less ketchup and brown sugar, and no salt. The ham bone with meat added plenty of flavor without the additional salt. Soaked the beans overnight and followed the cooking and baking instructions. Four hours in my oven and the beans were perfect.
I made these in the crock pot last night, and I absolutely LOVE them! I had a bag of pinto beans in the pantry that needed to be used up. I used vegetable broth instead of the cooking liquid and set them on low overnight. Thank you for such a delicious recipe! I am not a huge bean fan, but I am definitely adding these to my cooking rotation, much to my husband’s delight!
So glad to hear that they worked so well in the slow cooker. Thanks for your comment, Patricia. I’m sure it will be helpful to others 🙂