Back

Ultimate Slow-Cooked Boston Baked Beans

Delicious Slow-Cooked Boston Baked Beans Recipe

Transport your taste buds to New England with this rich, hearty classic. Our slow-cooked Boston baked beans combine tender navy beans with smoky salt pork in a sweet and savory molasses sauce. Perfect for potlucks, barbecues, or cozy winter meals!

A Beloved Boston Tradition

Boston baked beans have been a staple in New England kitchens since colonial times. This iconic dish features small white beans slow-cooked with molasses, salt pork, and aromatic spices until thick and deeply flavorful. The long, slow baking allows the beans to develop a rich, caramelized crust while remaining creamy on the inside.

While many modern recipes take shortcuts, our version stays true to tradition. We skip the ketchup and tomato paste, relying on proper technique to achieve that perfect saucy consistency. The result? Authentic Boston baked beans with complex flavors that would make any Bostonian proud.

The Secret to Perfect Baked Beans

The key to outstanding baked beans is patience. Our method involves soaking the beans overnight, precooking them with aromatics, then baking them low and slow for several hours. This allows the flavors to meld and intensify while the beans become incredibly tender.

Don’t be tempted to rush the process – good things come to those who wait! Your reward will be a pot of beans with unparalleled depth of flavor and luxuriously creamy texture.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound dried small white beans (about 2 cups; 450g), such as navy beans
  • 1 tablespoon (15g) kosher salt plus more to taste
  • Assorted peeled, halved, and trimmed aromatic vegetables (such as 1 yellow onion, 1 carrot, and 2 cloves garlic), optional
  • 2 sprigs of a woodsy herb (such as rosemary, sage, and/or thyme), optional
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 cup (120ml) dark molasses (not blackstrap)
  • 2 teaspoons (10ml) Dijon or brown mustard
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1/2 pound (225g) salt pork or slab bacon, rinsed of excess salt if necessary and cut into 1/2-inch chunks (see note)
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced (about 8 ounces; 225g)
  • Apple cider vinegar, to taste (optional)

Instructions

  1. Begin by soaking the beans. In a medium bowl, cover beans with cold water by several inches and stir in 1 tablespoon (15g) salt. Let beans soak at least 12 hours and up to 1 day. Drain and rinse.
  2. Precook the beans. Combine beans with aromatic vegetables and herbs (if using) and bay leaf in a large pot and cover with water by several inches. Add a generous pinch of salt. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook, topping up with water as necessary, until beans are fully tender, about 45 minutes. Using tongs, discard vegetables and aromatics.
  3. Prepare the molasses mixture. Pour molasses into a 2-cup liquid measuring cup. Add mustard, a very generous dose of freshly ground black pepper (let it rain!), and a pinch of salt.
  4. Combine the flavors. Drain beans, reserving cooking liquid. Add enough bean-cooking liquid to molasses mixture to bring the volume up to 2 cups (475ml) and stir until molasses is completely dissolved. Reserve remaining bean-cooking liquid.
  5. Preheat oven to 325°F (163°C). In a Dutch oven, cook pork over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until fat is rendered and pork is beginning to lightly brown, about 4 minutes. Add onion and cook, stirring, until onion is very tender and just beginning to turn golden, about 6 minutes. Add beans to pot.
  6. Combine all ingredients. Add bean water/molasses mixture and stir well to combine. Add enough reserved bean-cooking water to just barely cover beans, then stir once more, leveling out beans so that none are sticking up above the liquid level. Bring to a simmer.
  7. Bake to perfection. Transfer beans to oven and bake, uncovered, until beans are extremely tender but still mostly whole, with only a small fraction beginning to burst, about 4 hours. Check beans once or twice per hour during baking, adding remaining bean-cooking liquid (switching eventually to boiling water if you run out) as needed to prevent the beans on the surface from drying out. Stir beans twice during the baking process to submerge the top ones, leveling them out each time; over time, a dark, browned crust will form on the surface of the beans (this is good). The goal throughout is to keep the liquid level just high enough that the upper beans don’t desiccate, but not so high that the surface doesn’t brown. Stop adding liquid during the last hour of baking unless the level becomes perilously low.
  8. Finish and serve. Remove beans from oven and stir them very well. The sauce should form into a thickened, starchy glaze. If it’s too dry, add boiling water sparingly until a glaze is achieved; if it’s too wet, simmer briefly on the stovetop until reduced to desired consistency. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. If beans are too sweet for your taste, a small splash of cider vinegar can help balance the flavor.
  9. Enjoy your labor of love! Keep warm until ready to serve. Beans can be refrigerated for up to 1 week. Reheat in a saucepan, adding water gradually as needed to loosen them back up.

Recipe Notes

You can also bake the beans in a large baking dish, but if you do, skip the pork-and-onion-sautéing directions and the stovetop simmering directions. Instead, combine the cooked beans with all the remaining ingredients, adding enough liquid to just barely cover the beans, then bake in the oven as directed.

Nutrition Facts (per serving)

Nutrition Facts (per serving)
307 Calories
10g Fat
43g Carbs
13g Protein
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 6 to 10
Amount per serving
Calories 307
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 10g 12%
Saturated Fat 3g 15%
Cholesterol 15mg 5%
Sodium 767mg 33%
Total Carbohydrate 43g 16%
Dietary Fiber 7g 26%
Total Sugars 16g
Protein 13g
Vitamin C 1mg 6%
Calcium 110mg 8%
Iron 3mg 19%
Potassium 875mg 19%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.

You may also like: