That you could make baked beans from scratch was news to me. I mean, I guess I knew it was possible, because it’s not like they magically appear in cans, but I had certainly never seen a recipe for them.
I didn’t much care for baked beans when I was a kid, until I arrived at someone’s house for dinner and they were on the table. Wooden Nickels taught me that you eat what’s put in front of you with a smile on your face, so I did, and I kind of liked them. There’s something satisfying about a hotdog with baked beans. And when they’re homemade, dinner feels a little more intentional than it would with the ones in the can. Like, you didn’t just resort to hot dogs because you had no time to cook, you planned them because nothing shows off the beans better.
Given my recent affinity for the slow cooker, Jessica’s recipe came my way at the exact right time. And while I drastically reduced the amount of bourbon she called for, because it’s not my favorite booze, I loved how these beans turned out. You cannot start making these too far in advance. The beans need to soak overnight, and then the slow cooker runs for 10-12 hours, and then the beans just keep sitting in that magical sauce you’re making. So my recommendation is a little different from Jessica’s: soak the beans all day, then run the slow cooker all night. In the morning, let the beans hang out until you need them at lunch or dinner. The sauce will be thick and syrupy, and you’ll keep coming back for one more bite.
To make a ton of baked beans, you will need:
- 1 pound dry navy beans
- 10 slices thick-cut bacon, cut into pieces
- 1 medium sweet onion, chopped
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 2 cups water
- 3/4 cup of your favorite barbecue sauce
- 1 cup loosely packed brown sugar
- 1/4 cup ketchup
- 2 tablespoons molasses
- 1/3 cup bourbon
- 1 1/2 tablespoons ground mustard
- 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
- 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
The night before (or not–see my recommendation above), add beans to a large pot and cover with water. Drain the next morning.
Bring beans to a boil in a large pot of water, let simmer for 30-40 minutes, then drain. While beans are cooking, heat a large skillet over medium heat and add bacon. Cook until crispy and fat is rendered, then remove bacon with a slotted spoon and let drain on a paper towel. Reduce heat to medium-low and add onion, cooking for 8-10 minutes, until caramely and soft. Add in garlic, cook for 30 seconds, then turn off heat.
Add water, bourbon, brown sugar, bbq sauce, ketchup, ground mustard, vinegar, molasses and worcestershire sauce to the crockpot and whisk well to combine. Add in beans, onions (and all of the bacon fat) and bacon to the crockpot. Cover and cook on low for 10-12 hours, stirring occasionally. After 10-12 hours, turn crockpot to “warm” setting or turn off completely and let sit anywhere from 30 minutes-2 hours, which will help the sauce for the beans thicken even more. These taste even better the next day!
Note: after 10-12 hours the liquid may still seem “liquidy.” It is imperative to let the beans sit for a while on the lower setting (or on the off setting, still covered) so they become thick and syrupy like traditional baked beans.