This Slow Cooker Boston Baked Beans recipe is everything baked beans should be: thick, saucy, savory with a touch of sweet. Come see how I made the classic Boston Baked Beans recipe easier by making it in the slow cooker!
I wanted to post this baked beans recipe earlier in the summer for you folks, but I ended up needing to test it a few times to make sure I had it just right. This recipe is adapted this recipe from Cook’s Country, and the first time I made the recipe it came out too sticky and definitely not saucy enough for my taste.
I love my Boston Bakes Beans thick but still saucy so I tinkered with the boiling water amount added to the slow cooker. The original recipe called for 2 cups, but that wasn’t enough in my opinion. I then tested batches with 3 and 4 cups of boiling water, and 3 cups were the clear winner-the beans were thick, saucy, and tender.
Next, I played with sweetness. My family and I prefer slightly sweeter baked beans so I increased the molasses and sugar slightly, and added a touch of maple syrup. After all of the testing and adaptations, I can now say with confidence that this is the best baked beans recipe out there!
This homemade baked beans recipe is SO much better than canned baked beans from the grocery store. Plus their incredible aroma will waft through your house something fierce!
Boston Baked Beans Questions Answered:
Why do they call them Boston baked beans?
The answer to this question is a bit of a history lesson. According to Wikipedia, in the 18th century during slave trading, Boston became an exporter of rum. The rum was sent to West Africa to buy more slaves. Rum is made by the distillation of fermented molasses. With all that molasses Bostonians began adding it to their baked bean recipes giving it a sweeter flavor and thus creating Boston baked beans!
What goes with Boston baked beans?
Boston Baked Beans are the perfect side to any summer bar-b-que without heating up your kitchen! I love to serve these with my Slow Cooker Root beer Pulled Pork. They would also go well with Grilled Chicken Breasts or any other grilled meat really.
Whenever I make Boston Baked Beans, I also want some sort of salad to go along with them. A few ideas that come to mind are my Italian Pasta Salad, Hawaiian Macaroni Salad, Spinach Salad, and Creamy Cucumber Salad. Any of these recipes will be the perfect compliment to my Boston Baked Beans recipe. I can’t wait to hear what you pick!
Why are my baked beans hard?
The short answer is chemistry! If there is a high level of calcium within the water the beans are cooking in, they may take an extremely long time to cook and may remain hard. There are pectins between cells in the beans which then combine with the calcium, resulting in a tightened bond which means firmer beans. Acidic ingredients typically added to the recipe such as ketchup and vinegar can also impede the process of the beans getting soft.
Sugar can act in the same manner as calcium so molasses is actually very tricky to cook with because it contains sugar, is acidic and contains calcium. Yikes! So the trick in soaking the beans prior to cooking. Beans should be covered in three times as much water as there are beans. You can slow soak or quick soak them on the stove. Either way, the soaking water should be drained off the beans before beginning the Baked Beans recipe.
More slow cooker bean recipes:
Disclosure: This post for Slow Cooker Boston Baked Beans Recipe includes affiliate links.
Cook’s Note – Slow Cooker Boston Baked Beans:
- You can double this baked beans recipe, just make sure you use a large slow cooker with a capacity of at least 6.5 quarts.
- The maple syrup is completely optional in this recipe. I know it’s not authentic, but I love my baked beans with a little shot of maple syrup. Try it, I think you’ll like it, too!
- Traditional Boston Baked Beans recipes use salt pork. I opted for bacon because that is what’s readily available in stores near me. If you use salt pork, use a 4-ounce chunk and remove the rind. Follow these directions instead of in step 2:
- While the beans are boiling in the Dutch oven, score the fatty side of salt pork and cut into 2 pieces. Place scored side down in a medium nonstick skillet over medium heat and cook until fat is rendered, 8-10 minutes. Turn salt pork over, add onion, and cook until lightly browned about 5 minutes. Transfer to slow cooker. At the end of cooking remove rind, shred (removing any fat), and return to slow cooker.
- Using the aluminum foil on top of the beans ensures that the heat stays at the bottom of the slow cooker and in the beans themselves instead of the heat rising to the lid. DO NOT SKIP THE FOIL! If you do you run the risk of your beans not softening.
- I like to cook these beans on low as the directions indicate below, but you can cook them on high for 5-6 hours.
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Slow Cooker Boston Baked Beans Recipe
- 1 pound navy beans picked over and soaked in cold water for 8 to 12 hours
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- 2 bay leaves
- 4 ounces thick sliced bacon
- 1 medium onion minced
- ⅓ cup mild molasses + 2 additional tablespoons
- ⅓ cup packed dark brown sugar
- 3 cups boiling water
- 3 Tablespoons pure maple syrup optional
- 1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 2 teaspoons cider vinegar
- Salt and pepper
- Turn slow cooker on high to preheat. Drain beans and pour them into large Dutch oven along with 8 cups water, baking soda, and bay leaves. Bring to boil over medium-high heat, and use a slotted spoon to skim foam off of the top. Boil 15 minutes.
- While beans cook, chop bacon into 2-inch pieces, and in large non-stick skillet sauté bacon and onion over medium-high heat until fat is rendered from bacon and edges of onion begin to brown slightly about 7-8 minutes. Place bacon and onion in slow cooker. Stir in 1/3 cup molasses, brown sugar, and boiling water.
- Once beans are done boiling, drain beans and transfer to slow cooker, discarding bay leaves. Give everything a good stir and place aluminum foil directly on the surface of beans, then cover slow cooker with lid. Set slow cooker to LOW and cook until beans are creamy and tender 10-12 hours.
- Turn off slow cooker and remove the lid and discard aluminum foil. Stir in remaining 2 tablespoons molasses, maple syrup (optional), mustard, and vinegar. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cover slow cooker lid and let beans sit until sauce has slightly thickened about 15-20 minutes. Serve.
This post first appeared on Food Folks and Fun on August 29, 2016. I have since updated the photos and added a video. The original pictures are below.