New England Baked Beans are simple and complex at the same time, slow baked with molasses, maple syrup, and spices for one of the richest, most versatile bean dishes I’ve ever made.
Native Americans were baking beans and sweetening them with maple syrup long before we ever arrived, so this recipe has definitely stood the test of time. This vegan version dispenses with the salt pork or bacon but makes up for it with rich flavors like molasses, mustard, paprika, and ginger. It’s not a speedy meal, for sure, the beans cook for about 7 hours total, but it’s worth every minute ~ there’s something so satisfying about lifting that lid at the end of it all, and beholding the ultimate pot of beans!
Making traditional baked beans is a simple 3 step process
- Soak the beans overnight
- Simmer them until tender
- Slow bake with flavorings and aromatics
Types of beans to use for baked beans
You might be used to seeing navy beans in classic canned baked beans, but beans come in a dizzying array of varieties, and this recipe is perfect for trying out different types or combinations. Be aware that if you mix beans they should be of somewhat similar sizes or they will cook at different rates. Here are a few of the more common ones…
- navy or haricot
- Jacob’s Cattle
- Great Northern
Kombu is the secret ingredient in these baked beans!
- Kombu, or dried seaweed, contains special enzymes that help beans cook up extra soft, creamy, and digestible! It even adds another layer of umami flavor to the pot.
- To cook beans with kombu, just add a couple of sheets of kombu, to your water for the initial cooking time.
- Find kombu in the Asian section of larger supermarkets. It comes in paper thin, dry sheets.
Can you use an Instant Pot?
You can do the first step for baked beans in the Instant Pot if you like. Add the beans and kombu to the pot and cover with 2 inches of water. Cook on high pressure for 30 minutes. Then proceed with the rest of the recipe in the oven.
More ways to love beans!
- Italian Sausage and Bean Soup
- Chicken Thighs with Beans and Wilted Greens
- Crushed Lentils with Tahini and Cumin
- Middle Eastern Chickpea Salad
New England Baked Beans
- 1 lb dried beans (I used pinto, red kidney, and cranberry beans)
- 2 sheets of kombu ( dried seaweed)
- 1 small onion, sliced
- 1/4 cup molasses
- 1/3 cup maple syrup
- 2 tsp salt
- 2 tsp dry mustard (I used Colemans)
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- 1 tsp ground ginger
- fresh ground black pepper to taste
- 2 Tbsp cider vinegar
- Preheat oven to 350F
- Put the beans and the kombu in a large heavy pot. Add enough cold water to cover the beans by at least a couple of inches. Bring up to a boil, then cover, turn off the heat, and put the pot in the oven. Cook the beans for 60-90 minutes, or until they're tender. Test them at the 60 minute mark. I like mine to be tender but not at all soft and mushy.
- Remove from the oven and reduce the heat to 200F. Fish out the kombu and discard. Add the all the rest of the ingredients EXCEPT the vinegar and stir well. Cover and return to the oven for another 6-8 hours. Add the vinegar and taste to adjust any seasonings.
- The sauce will become thicker if you refrigerate the beans overnight, and they'll keep well for up to a week (probably longer) in the fridge.
Questions and Reviews
I’m from New England and Live in Western NY now. Couldn’t Find the Kombu, but love bacon in my baked beans. I know its not a substitute but thought Id give it a try.
Just cooking it now, so haven’t tasted yet.
Do you ever have to add liquid?
Hello! My husband and I both absolutely love this recipe and have made it several times. But last week the oven broke and, things being what they are lately, it may be a while before we’re able to replace it. So I started wondering if maybe this recipe could be made in the slow cooker. If so, how should I modify the directions? Many thanks for your help!
Hi Sue, Growing up in Maine, making my own baked beans for years, and having a Japanese mom, I just had to write after seeing your photo of kombu. As children, Mom kept kombu around all the time which we ate like candy. I also grew up eating nori. Your photo looks like nori instead of kombu. I’m just curious and certainly not meaning to sound critical. I read your blog and saw that it was to help soften the beans (instead of soaking overnight) which I found interesting as well. Also, interesting to me was using more than just one kind of bean! And I have never heard of the cranberry bean so I am learning a lot from you! I am definitely going to try your recipe as it is very intriguing to me. Thank you!
You’re right Dawn, I used what I had in the cupboard since I haven’t been to a grocery store in about 3 weeks, so I used sheets of nori. Kombu is thicker and darker, and definitely the thing to use, but nori worked in a pinch (quarantine recipe development stinks!) I found cranberry beans at my farmers market last summer…aren’t they pretty?
I love all your recipes but I haven’t tried this one yet. I just wanted to share a quick note from what’s happening in my supermarkets in the Berkshires of Massachusetts. Guess what the new TP is (as in empty shelves and don’t know when we’ll be getting more!). It’s YEAST! I found just a couple of little envelopes of it at Walmart but neither of our very big supermarkets here had any at all and there’s was very little flour left on the shelves. Everyone’s home baking bread!!! ? I made some rustic sourdough loaves (from King Arthur’s website) yesterday that would be so good with your beans! I think I know what tomorrow’s supper for my husband and me will be… your beans, my bread and some good franks I’ve got in the fridge ?
God bless you, Sue, for all the yumminess you send to us all around the world!
A warm, snug hug from Julie in New England
My rating is based on how wonderful this recipe sounds!
Rather than baking in the oven, can a crock pot be used?
Thanks for all the scrumptious things you tempt us with.
I hadn’t thought of that but yes, I think that would work well. Let me know how it goes for you and I can add that to the post.
Kombu is not something I have on hand and I don’t like to purchase ingredients for one dish. A quick Google search suggested that, although the flavor profile would be a little different, anchovies or dried mushrooms could be substituted. Since you are familiar with the taste of Kombu, which of these would be your choice to try first?
It’s not really about the flavor of the kombu, so feel free to leave it out, it’s just a little trick to help soften the beans, but the dish will be absolutely fine without it. That being said, I’m all for experimenting with flavor, so you might add a little Worcestershire sauce in its place.
Here in Western Canada we find American baked beans cloyingly sweet. We prefer a savory tomato-based bean. Would you have a recipe for beans like that?
I know, there are so many regional preferences for baked beans, and I loved these so much that I’m already planning another edition…I’ll try a tomato based recipe next!