Pot of beans

I’ve been on the lookout for a good baked bean recipe. The main requirement? That it not be sweet. I’ve tried several recipes, some sweetened with just a touch of molasses or a couple glugs of maple syrup, but they were always too bland, too blah.

I love sweet baked beans, really I do, so I was starting to give up hope. Maybe I was destined to be a sweet baked bean eater only? Perhaps my taste buds were conditioned to expect lots of brown sugar and ketchup with my white beans and I would never be able to do better?

But then I tried this recipe and my baked bean lot was revolutionized. A tomato-based baked bean dish with a bit of bacon and onions and garlic, these beans only use a couple tablespoons of honey to sweeten them up. And that’s all they need! They’re rich and flavorful, and absolutely delicious. Now I have a baked bean dish I can serve without feeling guilty.

A side note: my kids didn’t go for them—but then, they don’t go for any baked beans—and they did eat up their no-thank-you serving easily enough so I have hope. And my husband said, “These could really grow on me. Regular baked beans are way too sweet.” That reserved statement, my friends, was as good as any royal stamp of approval. These beans will be our summer staple. Amen.

Baked Beans
Adapted from Simply Recipes

I used my roasted tomato sauce—it was, of course, divine (you really must can some for yourself this summer)—but you can use a standard tomato sauce, or extra tomato paste and more broth. Play around with what you have on hand.

The bacon adds good flavor—so good, in fact, that I think a quarter pound of ground sausage would be a lovely addition. I love pork.

I did not have fresh parsley on hand so I used a couple teaspoons of dried. It was fine, but I think the fresh would add a delightful kick, so if you have it, use it.

1 pound dried white beans (I used Great Northern)
1/4 pound bacon, cut in half lengthwise and then chopped into smallish pieces
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon fresh sage (or rosemary), minced
½ teaspoon chili flakes
2 tablespoons honey
2-4 tablespoons tomato paste
1 pint roasted tomato sauce
2 cups chicken (or beef) stock
½ cup chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

Soak the beans overnight. In the morning, rinse them and then simmer till soft. (Don’t forget to salt them while they’re cooking—it adds much more flavor to the final dish.)

Heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven (or other heavy cooking pot) and add the chopped bacon. Once it has browned, add the onion and saute till golden brown. Add the garlic, sage, and chili and cook for one minute. Add the honey and tomato paste and cook for another minute. Add the tomato sauce and stock and stir well. Bring the beans to a simmer and check for salt.

Put a lid on the pot and slip it into a 325 degree oven. Bake for an ample hour—if the beans are still too soupy, take the lid off and let the moisture evaporate while it bakes a bit more.

Immediately before serving, stir in the fresh parsley and vinegar.

These beans can be made ahead of time, stored in the refrigerator or freezer, and then reheated in a crock pot. So stock up now—it’s summer time!

This same time, years previous: meet the gang, shredded wheat bread, rhubarb jam (this jam is best eaten fresh)


  • Anonymous

    There might be something wrong with me then, as I prefer a slightly salty taste to my baked beans. I don't really see the need to sweeten them. Each to their own I suppose.

  • JUDY

    I'm gonna try this recipe. it has to be better than mine—although I COULD start up a GAS station with my beans. I did use a tomato based recipe at Easter but still missing that "something"

  • Margo

    never thought of making tomato-based baked beans – but I agree: most baked beans are too sugar sweet. We like ours with a bit of mustard and molasses, bacon and onion. . .and I bake rice pudding in the oven at the same time. yum.

  • Mama Pea

    Thank you! I, too, have been chasing the elusive perfect baked bean recipe for years. My hubby doesn't like them with much sweetness either so these may prove to be a winner in our house! Thanks again.

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