Sweet and syrupy Boston baked beans are a cool weather favorite in our house. They’re also a fixture at our 4th of July celebration. My friend’s grandmother made them every year for their family’s annual 4th of July picnic when I was a child. Independence Day is never the same without them.
I prefer to use small white cannellini beans in this recipe, but it will work fine with other dried beans. Make sure you allow enough time to soak the beans. On the back of the bag of beans it usually says that if you’re short on time, you can cover the beans with water, bring them to a boil, and let them sit for an hour, and they’re ready to use. This has never been my experience. The beans don’t soak up enough water this way. I always soak dried beans either overnight or for at least four hours during the day before using them. If you oversoak them, as I do sometimes, that’s OK, too. Their skins may slough off, but they’re still fine to use in this recipe.
Apple cider vinegar adds a little bite to the baked beans, taking the edge off the sweetness, which I prefer. If you like your baked beans thoroughly sweet, you should leave out the vinegar.
Easy Boston Baked Beans
Sweet, but not overwhelmingly so, these Boston baked beans are low in sugar, but high in flavor. A touch of apple cider vinegar adds a slight tart note to this traditional New England dish.
- 1 pound dried cannellini beans
- 1/4 cup coconut sugar
- 1/4 cup granulated xylitol or erythritol
- 1/2 teaspoon liquid stevia
- 5 tablespoons dry mustard
- 4 tablespoons dark molasses
- 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
- 1/4 cup ketchup
- 8 ounces thick bacon
- 4 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
Preheat oven to 300 degrees F
Pick over the beans for small sticks and stones. Rinse and place them in a large covered pot with 8 cups of water. Leave them to soak for at least four hours or overnight.
Drain and rinse the beans and put them back into the pot. Cover them with 3-4 inches of water. Bring to a boil, turn the heat down and simmer the beans for 12-14 minutes. Reserve 2 1/2 cups of the bean water.
Drain again and rinse the beans in cold water. Pour the beans into a 2-quart baking dish with a lid.
In a separate bowl, combine the sugar, xylitol or erythritol, stevia, dry mustard, molasses, Worcestershire sauce and ketchup. Pour over the beans and mix thoroughly.
Stir in the 2 1/2 cups of reserved bean water.
Lay the strips of bacon on top of the beans.
Bake, uncovered, at 300 degrees F for 90 minutes. Stir occasionally.
Remove the beans from the oven, and stir in the vinegar and salt.
Cover the beans and bake for an additional 90 minutes.
Remove the cover for the last 30 minutes, but stir frequently so the beans don't burn. Add a tablespoon or two of water if they start to look dry.
The beans are done when they are brown and soft, and the liquid has been reduced to a thick syrup.
Thick bacon laid across the top of the beans before they’re put into the oven adds fat and flavor.
After baking for 3 hours, the beans are brown and the bacon is cooked through.