Just about anything other than the oven comes to mind when most people think of baked beans. Open the can, throw its contents in the skillet, and heat until not disgusting--that’s standard operating procedure for this classic barbecue side dish. Yuck!
Photo: Shelley Pauls on Unsplash
The best baked beans really do come from the oven, though, as it provides the long cooking time needed to develop a thick consistency and complex flavor. They’re amazing: sweet, spicy, tangy, and savory all at the same time.
When you make this dish, try to use as many natural ingredients as possible. Soak dry beans overnight instead of using canned products. Add flavor, texture, and color with onion and bell peppers. Even make your own homemade (slightly spicy) barbecue sauce if you’re up to the challenge, or add your own chicken broth.
Ready to try it? Here’s an easy recipe you can use to make fantastic baked beans at home.
Cook Time: 4 hours
Active Time: 30 minutes
Yield: 8-10 servings
1 pound dry white beans
4 tablespoons pork lard, separated (substitute olive oil for a vegetarian option)
1 quart salt-free chicken broth (skip this for a vegetarian option)
6 cloves garlic, minced and separated
2 medium-to-large onions, diced and separated
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 yellow bell pepper, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
7 ounces yellow mustard (about half a bottle)
1 cup spicy barbeque sauce
1 cup sweet barbeque sauce
2+ tablespoons brown sugar
salt, to taste
Soak the white beans for at least 12 hours, ideally overnight, and then drain them in a colander. (Remember: the beans will expand as you soak them, so use lots of water!)
Next, heat two tablespoons of the pork lard (or olive oil) in a large pot over a stove set to medium-high heat. Add about one-third of the diced onion (nearly a whole onion) and let it cook until soft, about five minutes. Then add a third of the garlic (about two cloves’ worth) and cook it until toasty, about one minute. Pour the drained beans into the pot and add the chicken broth. Add water until the beans are completely covered. Stir in a generous helping of salt, turn the stove to its hottest setting, and let the beans boil for two to two and a half hours.
Once the beans have cooked, drain them in a colander and set them aside. Rinse and dry the large pot, then put it back on the stove over medium heat. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (or 190 degrees Celsius).
Heat the remaining two tablespoons of lard or olive oil in the clean pot. Add the diced bell pepper and remaining onion, letting them cook until soft, which should take about five minutes. Next, add the remaining garlic and let it cook until toasty, which should take about one minute. Now add the beans and barbecue sauce, stirring until everything is well mixed.
Next, start stirring mustard into the mixture to adjust the flavor. Keep going until the mixture gets sour enough to make you pucker a little bit when you smell it. (The flavor will get milder as the beans sweeten in the oven). Finally, stir in about two tablespoons of brown sugar.
Pour the bean mixture into an eight-by-eight-inch baking dish and place it in the oven. You should let the beans bake for at least 30 minutes. If you notice a dramatic change in smell (they should get sweeter), you’ll know they’re done. Otherwise, remove them from the oven after an hour.
Quickly taste the beans after removing them from the oven. If they’re still too sour, sweeten them to your liking by slowly stirring in brown sugar. You can also stir in additional salt or pepper at this point, if needed.
Now, your baked beans are ready to enjoy. Serve them hot with your favorite barbecue dishes, as a dip for nachos, or on their own! You can also keep them in the refrigerator for up to five days as leftovers.
Alex Moore is a professional writer and editor who is currently teaching communicative English at a private university in Chile. Before moving abroad, he worked as a writer and editor at the Association for Talent Development (ATD). In his free time, you can find him cooking, eating, reading, traveling through Latin America, or playing chess with his fiance.