When it comes to the classic comfort foods of summer, Sweet & Tangy Baked Beans never fail to be a hit at the picnic table. This quintessential, yet simple side dish undoubtedly deserves a top spot at your next barbecue, potluck, or any gathering where you want to add a touch of homemade goodness. Pro tip: These are fantastic poured over a baked potato with a handful of cheddar cheese. Thank me later.
Bursting with that sweet tanginess and hints of smoky bacon we all expect in a good baked bean recipe. These are my absolute favorite. Most of the recipes I’ve tried over the years have been some variation of the “core ingredients” mixed in with a few cans of store-bought beans. Those core ingredients being ketchup, mustard, onion, maybe bacon and some sort of sweetener. Nothing wrong with that, but being the curious foodie that I am, I wanted to take a different route.
The more traditional approach that comes in the form of canned goods usually consists of small white navy beans. These are not something I typically have on hand, so I opted for the good ol’ pinto bean. Using fresh makes all the difference, it adds almost what I would call a “creamy” texture to the sauce. The creaminess makes it a little thicker, ideal for those situations when you need to transport food for a get-together.
I was originally inspired a few years ago by something I bought at H-E-B during my time living in Texas. (If you are from Texas, you know the love we have for H-E-B!) When I came back to Arizona, I couldn’t find that flavor of beans anywhere in my local stores. Since I refused to pay more by ordering them online, I put on my apron and got to work in the kitchen. The end result was this mouthwatering recipe for baked beans that will have you reaching for seconds and friends asking for the recipe!
The History of Baked Beans
Many of us may not realize that baked beans have such a rich history that dates back centuries. Native Americans were some of the first to prepare beans in a similar way by slow-cooking them in earthenware pots using ingredients like maple syrup and bear fat. This technique of slow-cooking beans eventually made its way to Europe, where it gained popularity in British cuisine. When settlers journeyed to the New World, they brought this tradition with them, resulting in baked beans becoming a staple in American homes. Now it seems that most families have their own take on this classic and I can wait for you to try ours!
What You’ll Need:
Dried Pinto Beans: As I mentioned before, Navy beans are more typical, but I love the hearty creaminess of freshly made pintos. To make my cooking day easier I will make these a few days ahead and pop it in the fridge so it is ready to go.
How to prepare pinto beans: Sort 2- 1/2 cups of dried beans the day before you need them. Soak in about 8 cups of cool water (add 1 teaspoon of baking powder, optional) for at least 8 hours or overnight. Drain and rinse. I cook my beans with 6 cups of cold water and 1 bay leaf in my Instant Pot pressure cooker for about 15-20 minutes. Natural release for at least 20 minutes. You can also cook them on the stove top in a Large Stockpot with 8-10 cups of water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until tender (about 2 hours). Use about 6 cups of the cooked beans and reserve the rest for another meal or toss them all in!
Bacon: I use about 10 ounces of bacon. A little extra won’t hurt.
Onion- Yellow or White.
Ketchup- Just regular ketchup is what I usually go for. I have tested this recipe with the Spicy Ketchup from Whataburger and it was delicious!
Brown Sugar- I use 1/2 cup of packed dark brown sugar. You can use light if that is what you already have on hand. Feel free to add a couple extra tablespoons if you want it extra sweet. 1/2 cup is where I ended up because I feel it gave me a good balance between that sweet & tangy.
Maple Syrup- Only the real stuff. You can add up to 1/4 cup if you like your baked beans extra sweet.
Apple Cider Vinegar- This is where the “tangy” part comes in to play. I don’t recommend any substitutions and highly suggest a decent quality vinegar that contains what they call the “Mother”.
Dijon Mustard- You can also use Spicy Brown or Cajun mustard.
Worcestershire Sauce- In a pinch, soy sauce also works as a great substitute.
Cayenne: (optional) It’s not enough to add heat, just flavor. You can replace this with additional paprika. If you want more of a kick, add extra to taste.
Ground Celery Seed- (optional) I have made this many times with and without. I think it makes a difference. It adds something special so I include it every time I make them. You can order it online if you can’t find it in stores. It also works great in potato salad and deviled eggs!
8 x 11″ Casserole Dish: about 2″ deep.
Digital Gram Scale: Measuring by volume makes my life so much easier! I take a glass measuring jug or a medium mixing bowl and place it on the scale. I add the sauce ingredients according to the metric measurements. Less dishes and quicker. Win, win. Just be sure to zero it out in between ingredients or you’ll be doing some math. I use a scale that displays grams, ounces, ml, and fluid ounces. Volume measurements are provided in the recipe card below.
Love those BBQ flavors? Looking for more side dishes? Check these recipes out!
If you try these Sweet & Tangy Baked Beans or any of my other recipes tag me on Instagram @joymakersandco, I’d love to see what you make!
Sweet & Tangy Baked Beans
- 1 6 quart Instant Pot, optional for cooking beans
- 1 Large Stockpot optional for cooking beans
- 1 Medium Stockpot
- 1 8 x 11" Casserole Dish, approximately 2 " deep
- 1 Digital Food Scale, optional if using volume/metric measurements
- 6 cups fresh pinto beans, drained, see notes below*
- 8 slices uncooked bacon, chopped
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 1 cup ketchup
- 1/2 cup dark brown sugar, packed
- 2 tablespoons real maple syrup, add up to 1/4 cup if you like yours sweet.
- 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar, add less if you like it less tangy.
- 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
- 1/2 teaspoon paprika
- 1/4 teaspoon ground celery seed, optional, but recommended
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne, optional, to taste, can replace with paprika.
- Grease the casserole dish and set aside. Pre-heat the oven to 325 F and place rack in the middle.
- In a small mixing bowl or glass measuring jug, combine the sauce ingredients. Ketchup, brown sugar, maple syrup, apple cider vinegar, mustard, paprika, cayenne, and ground celery seed. Set aside.
- Heat the stockpot to medium and add non-stick spray. Sauté the diced onions and chopped bacon for 8-10 minutes. Adjust heat as needed to prevent burning. Light browning is ok.
- After the onion and bacon have cooked, turn off the heat and add the pinto beans and gently stir in the sauce. Once combined, pour into the prepared casserole dish and cover with foil.
- Bake for 1 hour. Serve hot and enjoy!