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
- 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.