Monday, November 9, 2009

Boston Baked Beans

The Boston tradition of smokey, sweet, molasses-infused, slow cooked, oven baked beans dates back to colonial times. Boston's thriving rum trade was fueled by processing sugar cane which left the region awash in molasses byproduct.  Abundant molasses and the need to do something with it, gave rise to this regional specialty dish, which gave rise to Boston's nickname, Beantown.  While the usual omnivore versions of this dish include salt pork, it is not necessary.  Shaker communities developed a wonderful adaptation that is fully vegetarian.   All versions of Boston Baked Beans take a long, long, time.  It matters not whether cooked in the oven or in the crock pot, the time is the same.  The oven requires frequent checking to make sure burning does not occur, the crock pot does not.  Advantage crock pot.

This entire huge batch is several cans worth of commercially prepared beans and tastes much better.  The total cost: $2.48 for the entire pot.  I get all rummy inside just thinking about it.

Winner, Loser or Meh

This was very good.  It took every bit of the 12 hours at the tail end of the suggested cooking time.  I got up early in the morning, after soaking the beans all night, to accomodate the 1 1/2 hour cook on high, and then set the timer for the full 12 hours, before leaving for work.  I was famished having to wait so long for dinner.  I suggest making this the day before you want to eat it, and taking the lid off in the last half hour to let some of the moisture evaporate. This will get nothing but better as it sits for a day before reheating.


I used a 6 quart crock for this.

  • 1 pound navy beans (small white beans)
  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup (dark grade)
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp dried thyme 
  • 2 dashes mint
  • 1 yellow onion, peeled, end chopped
  • 4 whole cloves, stuck into the bottom of the onion
  • 1/2 cup butter or (margarine for vegans)
  • liquid smoke to taste (optional, use sparingly)
Rinse and pick through the beans to remove stones and discolored beans. Soak the beans overnight covered by 3 inches of water.  Rinse and drain.  Cover with fresh water by 3 inches and cook on high for 1 1/2 hours.  Drain.  Return the beans to the crock.  Add ketchup, molasses, maple syrup, pepper, salt, and savory.  Stir. Push the onion studded with cloves into the center of the beans.  Pour boiling water over the beans to cover by 1/2 an inch.  Cook on low for 10-12 hours.  Remove the onion, remove the cloves mash in the onion with the beans, stir in the butter, adjust seasonings.  Serve warm.


  1. Ooh I've been looking for a Vegetarian alternative to homemade beans! My biggest stumbling block was seasonings, so this is very awesome. I might make this for Thanksgiving, actually.

  2. These were good, they just really need every bit of soaking time they can get and all the cooking in the crock to make them tender and soft. They were even better after a day.

  3. Try putting the beans in a pressure cooker after soaking - 3 minutes at high with a 10-12 minute natural pressure release. This essentially cooks the beans so that the ingredients that impede cooking beans in the slow cooker (salt and acid) don't impact the results.

  4. What do you mean by a "dash" of mint?

  5. this sounds excellent. I'm so glad I found your site. just getting a slow cooker and I am a long time vegetarian and cookbook author. I'll be back. :<)

    my cooking blog: