Not-Too-Sweet Baked Beans

So I’ve lived all over the US–I grew up in Utah, live in the South, and have lived briefly on the West and East coasts. And no matter where I go, there are baked beans and no matter where I go, everyone truly believes that baked beans originated in that particular region or in their family. I like them okay–if you’ve ever served me baked beans, I’ve probably enjoyed them. But one issue I have with them is that they are almost always way too sweet; most recipes are simmered in ketchup, which is already quite sweet, and then they have a generous amount of brown sugar as well as molasses. Usually I have a few bites and call it good.

Well, a few years ago, I found this cookbook in a used bookstore and I have loved nearly everything I’ve made from it (although that BLT pasta salad was way better in concept than reality). One of my favorite recipes has been for the baked beans. I love that instead of ketchup, the sauce is based on stewed tomatoes. Instead of the usual 1/2 c. 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 these puppies in a slow cooker. Not to mention the fact that my (semi-picky and super-picky) kids will inevitably eat these rather than whatever we’re eating as a main dish. Normally that wouldn’t fly at my house, but this side dish is relatively balanced and I’m more than happy to let them fill up on beans.
 
One kind of unique thing about this recipe is that, in addition to Tabasco, plenty of mustard, and just a little brown sugar, a lack of ketchup (and using stewed tomatoes instead), it uses 4 different varieties of beans:

 Now…this picture may look like an advertisement for Bush’s beans, but really, it’s an illustration of my OCD tendencies. See, I’m all about getting a deal and am totally all for generic brands. However, the pinto beans were the only ones available as the store brand; the rest were Bush’s and I couldn’t have a picture of 3 cans of Bush’s beans and 1 can of Walmart beans.

You’re also going to need some bacon and some thinly sliced onions.

All you have to do is fry up a few slices of bacon, cook your onions in the bacon drippings, rinse and drain your beans.
Place them 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. You’re going to cook the bacon and then add it to the beans and tomatoes. 

Sautée the onions in the bacon drippings and then add those, too.

And then cook it, either in the oven or the crockpot, until the flavors combine and your house smells amazing. It’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?

 
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Description

Tired of overly sweet baked beans? This particular recipe combines a tomato base with a few varieties of beans, and the end result is so so good!


Scale

Ingredients

  • 1 15 1/2-oz. can Great Northern beans
  • 1 15 1/2-oz. can navy beans
  • 1 15 1/2-oz. can baby butter beans
  • 1 15 1/2-oz. can pinto beans
  • 2 14 1/2-oz. cans stewed tomatoes
  • 1/3 c. molasses
  • 2 Tbsp. light brown sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. prepared mustard
  • 1 tsp. Kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp. Tabasco or other hot sauce
  • 6 oz. bacon (1/2 of an average-sized package), divided
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced

Instructions

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

Notes

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.

 
 *Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links.
 

 

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45 comments

  1. 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!

  2. 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!

  3. 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!

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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!

  7. 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……

  8. 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

  9. 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!

  10. 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!

  11. 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!

  12. 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!!

  13. 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! 🙂

  14. 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!

    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.

  15. 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.

  16. Hi! I made these today for a get together and they were delicious. I prepped it all the night before and then stuck it in the oven in the afternoon. My husband, friends, and I enjoyed it. The only thing though is that they came out runny. Would you know why that is?

  17. I have resesrching bsked Lima Bean recipes for awhile now and this is the closest recipe yet I hsvr found. I was going to go with tomato sauce but stewed tomatoes sounds much better. There is only one place in LA that serves lima beans this way and they are great at lunch with a glass of fresh brewed ice tea.
    I am going to use dried lima beans and soak them over night…
    Im having a problem converting the dried measurement of beans to 4-15 1/2oz. Cans…but I’m going to use one bag of beans and this will go along side the Easter ham, carrots and brussel sprouts.
    Thanks for sharing this recipe. Im not a big fan of store bought baked beans.

  18. My grandma used to make these for every family gathering, including Christmas Eve. So these beans remind me of Christmas! I’m glad to have a recipe and can’t wait to try it!

  19. This was really good. I was fed up with too-sweet baked beans. These were really delicious and tasted like baked beans without being so ooey-gooey sweet. Thanks for the recipe.

  20. My husband & I don’t care for traditional baked beans because they are so sweet. I found these & they were great. I chose to dice the onion instead of slicing it & added about 1/2 Tbs cornstarch stirred into the entire mixture before baking. I baked them almost 2 hrs which got them a consistency that I wanted. We liked this recipe so much that I’ve made them 3x since summer. The 1st time was for a group, the other times just for us. Tyty

  21. After searching for a baked bean recipe that would meet a very restrictive diet due to numerous food allergies (it is almost impossible to find a recipe that does not use ketchup), we stumbled upon “Our best bites” website and their “Not So Sweet Baked Beans” recipe. To our surprise, this recipe tasted much better than any pre-made baked beans we ever ordered from a store or restaurant! They were relatively simple to make, using our slow cooker, and tasted wonderful! No one suffered from allergic reactions and we did not miss any of the artificial ingredients typically included. Thank you so much for allowing us to enjoy one of our favorite side dishes again!

  22. I haven’t made these yet but I’m excited to see a not so sweet bean recipe. That’s my biggest complaint about baked beans.

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