Not-Too-Sweet Baked Beans

Baked beans are the perfect side dish for a summer bbq, family potluck, or weeknight dinner. I love that this recipe uses a sauce based on stewed tomatoes instead of ketchup. Instead of the usual 1/2 cup or more of brown sugar, it only calls for 2 tablespoons, and the molasses is enough to add a little sweetness and richness, but it’s not overpowering. I also love that you can throw everything together a few days ahead of time and then pop it in the oven an hour before you need it or, if it works better for you, you can even cook this dish in a slow cooker. Try these baked beans for your next backyard bbq!

Baked Beans in a Black Pot

Ingredient Notes

  • Great Northern Beans
  • Navy Beans
  • Baby Butter Beans
  • Pinto Beans
  • Stewed Tomatoes – One unique thing about this recipe is that the base of the sauce is stewed tomatoes, instead of super sweet ketchup like many baked bean recipes.
  • Molasses – Must a touch of molasses adds some sweetness and depth t the flavors.
  • Light Brown Sugar Again, just a little sweetness is added with a couple of tablespoons of brown sugar.
  • Yellow Mustard – This recipe calls for yellow mustard, but a nice coarse grain mustard would probably work just as well in a pinch.
  • Tabasco Sauce – Or something similar. Any hot sauce will do. This adds a little something to the sauce without being spicy.
  • Bacon – Everything is better with bacon and these beans are no exception!
  • Onion – The onion here gets cooked up in the bacon drippings to add that caramelized, smoky flavor.

How to Make Not-Too-Sweet Baked Beans

  1. Fry up a few slices of bacon, cook your onions in the bacon drippings, and rinse and drain your beans.
  2. Place beans in an oven-safe dish or a crockpot. Place the tomatoes in the jar of your blender and pulse a few times. Add them to the beans, along with the molasses, mustard, brown sugar, and salt
  3. Add the cooked onions and bacon.
  4. Cook the beans in either in the oven or the crockpot, until the flavors combine and your house smells amazingIt’s perfect for any type of festivity any time throughout the year, but there is something about a big pan of baked beans at a cookout that just fits, you know?
baked beans recipe kept warm in a crock pot

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I make these with different beans?

Absolutely. Part of the charm of this recipe is the fact that it contains multiple types of beans, but you don’t have to use the exact combination listed. Don’t like butter beans? No problem! Toss some black beans in there. It will be delicious with whatever varieties you choose.

Can I make these ahead of time?

These baked beans are perfect for making ahead! Cook your bacon and sauté your onions in the drippings. Pulse your tomatoes in the blender, then mix everything together. You can store them, tightly covered, in the fridge like this until ready to cook.

baked beans recipe kept warm in a crock pot

Not-Too-Sweet Baked Beans

5 from 11 votes
These savory baked beans are cooked in a stewed tomato-based sauce and contain just a touch of molasses and brown sugar for sweetness.
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 13 minutes
Servings10 people

Ingredients

  • 1 15 ½- ounce can Great Northern beans
  • 1 15 ½- ounce can navy beans
  • 1 15 ½- ounce can baby butter beans
  • 1 15 ½- ounce can pinto beans
  • 2 14 -½ ounce cans stewed tomatoes
  • cup molasses
  • 2 tablespoon light brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoon prepared mustard
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon Tabasco or other hot sauce
  • 6 ounces bacon ½ of an average-sized package, divided
  • 1 medium onion thinly sliced

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350. Reserving two slices of bacon, cook the remaining bacon in a large skillet. While it’s cooking, place all beans in a colander and rinse and drain. Transfer to a large baking dish.
  • Pulse the tomatoes in a blender or food processor about 5-6 times or until they are breaking down but not smooth. Pour over beans. Add molasses, brown sugar, mustard, salt, and pepper.
  • When the bacon has cooked, remove bacon from the pan and cook the onions in the bacon drippings, stirring frequently. While the onions are cooking, crumble the cooked bacon over the beans. Add onions and combine all the ingredients well. Cut remaining slices of bacon into 1″ pieces and place over the beans.
  • Cover and bake at 350 for 1 hour. Allow to stand for 5 minutes and then serve.

SLOW COOKER INSTRUCTIONS

  • Follow the instructions for cooking in the oven, except place the ingredients in the crock of a slow cooker instead of baking dish. Cook on low for 4 hours or high for 2 hours.

Notes

  • For cooked beans or leftovers, store tightly covered in the fridge and use within 4 or 5 days. They also freeze well, if you want to freeze in individual portions for later use.
  • These baked beans can be in the oven or the crock pot. The oven is the faster cooking method, but the crock pot is nice for keeping the beans warm is serving a crowd. You could always bake them in the oven and then transfer to the slow cooker for serving as well.
  • Part of the charm of this recipe is the fact that it contains multiple types of beans, but you don’t have to use the exact combination listed. Don’t like butter beans? No problem! Toss some black beans in there. It will be delicious with whatever varieties you choose.
  • Don’t skip rinsing! This step is vital, as it both improves the flavor and texture of this dish.

Nutrition

Calories: 322kcal, Carbohydrates: 49g, Protein: 16g, Fat: 8g, Saturated Fat: 2g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g, Monounsaturated Fat: 3g, Trans Fat: 0.02g, Cholesterol: 11mg, Sodium: 788mg, Potassium: 936mg, Fiber: 11g, Sugar: 13g, Vitamin A: 89IU, Vitamin C: 6mg, Calcium: 117mg, Iron: 5mg
Course: Side Dishes
Cuisine: American, Feeding a Crowd
Keyword: baked beans
Calories: 322kcal
Author: Kate Jones
Cost: $10
Did You Make This Recipe?Snap a picture, and hashtag it #ourbestbites. We love to see your creations on our Instagram @ourbestbites!

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Meet The Author

Sara Wells

Sara Wells co-founded Our Best Bites in 2008. She is the author of three Bestselling Cook Books, Best Bites: 150 Family Favorite RecipesSavoring the Seasons with Our Best Bites, and 400 Calories or Less from Our Best Bites. Sara’s work has been featured in many local and national news outlets and publications such as Parenting MagazineBetter Homes & GardensFine CookingThe Rachel Ray Show and the New York Times.

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Questions & Reviews

  1. Do you think turkey bacon will work in this? I am trying to “lighten up” my eating.

    Thanks!

  2. 5 stars
    I made this recipe prior to eliminating pork from my diet and remember it being very tasty. I’d like to make this again, without the bacon. Any suggestions for substitutions/alterations? I’m thinking maybe a few dashes of liquid smoke and perhaps a tiny bit of chipotle chili powder.

  3. 5 stars
    I made these for a potluck last weekend. They were a huge hit… People wanted the recipe. Thanks!

    1. It’s up to you and your bacon. 🙂 If it seems like there’s a lot of grease, go ahead and drain some of it, but a leaner cut will render less fat. You’ll want in the neighborhood of at least 2-3 tablespoons.

  4. 5 stars
    Just made these for a BBQ to go w/briskit (sp?) they were a hit & perfect w/the meat..yum!!

  5. 5 stars
    My husband and I threw this together in the crockpot on the morning of Mother’s Day and enjoyed them with dinner that night. So easy and just the right amount of sweetness. Thanks so much!

  6. Kate … I love your ideas!! Thanks!! THe meal of side dishes is fun and different, I'm starting there 🙂

  7. HWFA–What about barbecued chicken? Or the fauxtisserie chicken here on the blog? There's ribs, turkey burgers, or maybe a cobb or chef salad. Or you could make a meal out of side dishes like the baked beans, corn on the cobb, cornbread, coleslaw, etc. Hope that helps! 🙂

  8. I want to use these as a main dish … is there something else I could serve them with to make that work that isn't hamburgers and hot dogs??? thanks!!

  9. 5 stars
    I made these last night and they were really good! I couldn't find baby butter beans, so I just used the regular sized ones. I cooked them in the oven in a 9 x 13, but next time, I'm going to try them in the slow cooker. Thanks!

  10. How do these store? Can you freeze them at all so that you can have them throughout the summer? Just curious. 🙂

  11. I've actually been looking for a good baked beans recipe for a while now. The Hubble hates them because they are too sweet. Maybe I'll give these a try and see if they pass his test. Thanks for sharing!

  12. 5 stars
    Coming back to report that these are AWESOME. I couldn't find baby butter beans so I added a second can of navy beans instead. I put them in the crockpot and my house smells SO good!

  13. I love your OCD tendencies! Getting all one brand just for the picture is totally something I would do–your fellow bloggers totally understand! This recipe sounds wonderful–I'm gonna try it out at a family cookout in a few weeks. Thanks! ~Veronica

  14. I have to say I have never made baked beans with so many different kinds of beans at once! I love the variety in this! I am now craving baked beans like mad……

  15. Lisa, I would probably say 8-10 generous servings and 10-12 smaller ones.

  16. I am SO going to try these! I'm not a fan of baked beans. My number one complaint is that they are WAY TOO SWEET. Eeeeew! These look perfect. Thanks so much!

  17. Suzanne–The tomato taste really isn't overpowering–really, after it's cooked and once it's combined with the sugar and molasses, it tastes like traditional baked beans, only a little more "natural," you know? The tomatoes definitely aren't overwhelming or pasta sauce-like at all.

  18. Thanks! I've been wanting a good recipe for these. My friend makes a good recipe too, but she adds hot dogs to hers with bacon, and I'd rather not have hot dogs in mine.

  19. How much do you taste the tomatoes? The thing I like most about the sweet baked beans is that there isn't a lot of acidity, but I love the sounds of these beans.

  20. I too am excited to try this – I have a pressure cooker baked bean recipe that I love but it is really sweet – I know this will taste great b/c EVERYTHING I have tried on this site has been DEE-licious. Thanks!

  21. Just in time for BBQ season! And I'm with you, I always thought they were a little too sweet. I'll have to try these!

    [PS: I totally get the OCD thing!]

  22. jmommy08–I've never tried dry beans, but if you do use them, you'd have to cook them up before you cook everything together.

    Jen–Mind reading is a hobby of mine… 🙂

  23. Can you use dry beans for this? Or should you cook them up seperately and then add them in?

  24. Well this is timely! I have to take baked beans to a potluck tonight and got online to find a recipe!

  25. I agree with you. Most BB are too sweet. Having hamburgers and hot dogs tonight, think I'll put on batch right now into the slow cooker!

  26. I like the fact that these beans are tomato based rather than ketchup based. Might gives these ago without the sugar, as hubby dislike sweet beans completely, but I think the flavor of these could stand on it's own. Thanks for the idea!